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Syria — Cui Bono?

Stan Goff

liban-beyrouth-attentat-contre-rafic-hariri-14fevrier2005-12.jpg

If you Google News "Syria" today (December 13, 2005), you’ll get more than 1,400 stories. The overwhelming majority of these stories suggest that Syria was behind the murder of Rafik Hariri — the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon, a multi-billlionaire, and the fourth richest politician who ever lived. Hariri was killed with a 1,000 kilogram TNT bomb-ambush against his motorcade on Febrary 14, this year.

The US, of course, already attempting to deflect blame for its serial politico-military failures in Iraq on to Syria, and seeing Syria as the last vestige of secular Arab nationalism to be expunged from the region (a goal shared by local US ally, Israel), rushed to implicate the Syrian government as the architect of the assassination.





December 13, 2005

Syria — Cui Bono?



By Stan at 12:20 pm, 12/13/05


Sabra & Chatila

Gebran Tueni, a Lebanese legislator and newspaper tycoon, was killed yesterday in a bombing. Before a shred of evidence has been evaluated, the Syrians are already being blamed. This story requires the context of Rafik Hariri’s assassination last February.

If you Google News "Syria" today (December 13, 2005), you’ll get more than 1,400 stories. The overwhelming majority of these stories suggest that Syria was behind the murder of Rafik Hariri — the ex-Prime Minister of Lebanon, a multi-billlionaire, and the fourth richest politician who ever lived. Hariri was killed with a 1,000 kilogram TNT bomb-ambush against his motorcade on Febrary 14, this year.

The US, of course, already attempting to deflect blame for its serial politico-military failures in Iraq on to Syria, and seeing Syria as the last vestige of secular Arab nationalism to be expunged from the region (a goal shared by local US ally, Israel), rushed to implicate the Syrian government as the architect of the assassination.

A whole script was written — as is the wont of the US government’s PR contractors — transforming the complexity of the situation between Syria and Lebanon into a TV docu-drama, with Harari as the good-guy and the Syrians the bad guys. A compliant investigator was hired by the UN, in accordance with that body’s general subservience to the US, to find supporting evidence for the Syrian assassination hypothesis, innuendos were liberally deployed, and the whole script was eagerly lapped up by the capitalist press and regurgitated to the somnabulent consumer as "news."

Before the slightest bit of evidence had been collected or assessed in the assassination, the US withdrew its diplomats from Syria, an obvious grandstand play designed to focus suspision on Syria.

Exceptions included Patrick Seale, of "The Guardian," who made the unwelcome point in a February 23 article, "If Syria killed Rafik Hariri, Lebanon’s former prime minister and mastermind of its revival after the civil war, it must be judged an act of political suicide. Syria is already under great international pressure from the US, France and Israel. To kill Hariri at this critical moment would be to destroy Syria’s reputation once and for all and hand its enemies a weapon with which to deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down."

Syria’s President Bashar Assad has been called many things, but "stupid" is not one of them.

The docu-drama version of events painted Hariri as a Lebanese patriot who was strongly opposed to Syria’s strong influence in Lebanon, and implicated Syria alone as an enemy of Hariri. This utterly ignored the fact that Hariri worked closely and well with the Syrians throughout his tenure for two terms as the Lebanese PM.

The events leading up to the "split" between Hariri and Syria were also more nuanced than the breathless headlines about Syria’s "probable" handin the assassination.

Syria pushed, unwisely, for a constitutional change that would extend the mandate of pro-Syrian Lebanese president Emile Lahoud. Hariri opposed this change.

"Syria’s military intelligence chief in Lebanon, General Rustum Ghazalah, was reported to have threatened and insulted Hariri to force him to accept the extension. This caused great exasperation among all communities in Lebanon. Hariri resigned as prime minister in protest.

"Syria appears to have recognised its mistake. President Bashar al-Assad last week sacked General Hassan Khalil, head of military intelligence, and replaced him with his own brother-in-law, General Asaf Shawkat. A purge of the military intelligence apparatus in Lebanon is expected to follow." (Seale, February 23, 2005)

The fact is, Hariri was negotiating BETWEEN the US-financed and supported "Cedar Revolution" opposition and Syria just days before the assassination. Putting this context out there, the list of suspects grows quite wide, and includes Israeli allies among Lebanese Christian Falangists, Israel, and the US itself… because the only loser in this scenario IS Syria.

Hariri himself must be seen as a partisan of Saudi interests at least as much as Lebanese. He was actually granted Saidi citizenship in the course of his warm relations with the Royals. The Saudis, more than anything else, want stability. The assassination of Hariri becomes a two-for-one deal to anyone who wants his (and Saudi) influence curtailed, and at the same time wants to undermine the position of Syria. Ask the question: Who might that be?

Syria’s influence in Lebanon is very powerful, but this too has to be placed in hisotricl context… a history that has been incessantly rewritten by the Rendon-esque spin operatives of the Bush-Cheney regime. The same people who decry the Syrian presence in Lebanon were nowhere to be found when the much more heavy-handed Israeli military presence was part of Lebanon’s virtual destruction in the 1980s. This was, of course, when now PM Ariel Sharon of Israel was the Defense Minister presiding over the cordon sanitaire around the Sabra and Chatila Palestinian refugee camps, while Israeli Falangist allies massacred every man, woman, and child therein during two solid days of savage butchery.

The agreement that ended this externally influenced civil war in 1989, the Taif Agreement, included the provision that allowed a Syrian military and political presence in Lebanon as a counterweight to the Israeli allies there.

As explained in "Syria - The Rush to Judgement," by Chris Sanders, this agreement was the basis of the stability seen as necessary for any forward motion on an Israeli-Palestinian accord.

"In retrospect his assassination should probably be less of a surprise than the fact that he survived as long as he did. He and his patron [Saudi Prince] Fahd symbolise an old equilibrium in the politics of the region that became untenable once the United States decided on a global offensive informed by the regional priorities of its client Israel. The Taif Agreement of October 1989 legitimised the presence of Syrian troops in Lebanon and committed Saudi largesse as part of a larger strategic plan to stabilize the region under the aegis of the United States, an important part of which was the commitment of the latter to bring about a peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. It was this basic framework that made possible the coalition assembled by the US during the Gulf War in 1990, which, be it not forgotten, included Syrian troops.

"The adoption by Messrs. Cheney, Rumsfeld & Bush of a strategic plan that is basically Israeli in origin and orientation swept away the basis for the existing regional equilibrium. Indeed, sweeping away the equilibrium is exactly what that plan is intended to do. The Taif equilibrium bound Israel to find a settlement with the Palestinians toward which Israel’s leadership was at best equivocal, because that equilibrium neutralised Israeli freedom of action to unilaterally define its role in the regional political economy. With the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the assumption of power by Binyamin Netanyahu in the mid-90s, equivocation became open hostility. The Israeli, or rather Zionist, dilemma was and is really quite simple. A settlement with the Palestinians and regional peace means openness, openness means Palestinian access to Saudi funding, and Saudi funding plus the Palestinian birthrate spell the end, ultimately, of an Israeli state defined by a Jewish as opposed to a national identity."

This is, at least what is seen as, the nub of the matter… the perceived necessity to secure the long term survival of Israel as a US aircraft carrier in the region.

On the so-called UN investigation, overseen by Detlev Mehlis, his report was recently reviewed by Seymour Hersh — who has the time and inclination that the rest of us don’t to look into these things — and Hersh’s verdict is that "there is no there there."

"The report hangs on two witnesses that Mehlis in his report debunks, and one of which, about a week ago, four or five days ago, publicly admitted in Damascus – we, of course, don’t accept [that] anything that’s said publicly there is true – one of the two witnesses said he’d been paid off by the Saudis and been terrorized and been forced to face some of the statements he made through the Mehlis commission. So it’s a very, very less-than-persuasive report played to a fare-thee-well by the United States. My old newspaper the New York Times, I thought, did a terrible job reporting it. The night before the report was officially made public, there was a leaked version, given to the UN – Mehlis was doing this for the UN, the United Nations – and the New York Times quoting a diplomat, not even an American diplomat, not even a Western diplomat, just a diplomat who clearly was either John Bolton or one of his aides, saying this report makes it clear that the leadership of Syria was running a Murder Incorporated – this goes right to the top. The report did nothing like that when it came out the next day. The Times never apologized for the slanderous stuff it wrote based on the sources they did not identify. You know, there is nothing wrong with using anonymous sources as long as once it’s clear they are misleading you, you take a second’s breath. Anyway, the reality is there’s no empirical evidence of who killed him." (Hersh, December 13, 2005)

The US wants to paint Syria a Lebanese occupier, as a pretext for building a case to eventually attack Syria. But Pepe Escobar, writing for Asia Times in October, pointed out that the occupation of Iraq presents some deep difficulties in sellingh that story.

"Neo-cons widely praised the so-called "Cedar" revolution, dubbed by cynics the Gucci Revolution. Before the latest elections, a poll conducted by social science students from the Lebanese University in Greater Beirut revealed that only 26% supported UN Resolution 1559 ? which called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops - while a whopping 68% were against it. And only 18% were in favor of disarming Hezbollah, while 72 % were against it.

"This raises the question, why should the Syrians leave Lebanon when nobody says the US must leave Iraq? This is even more nonsensical when one considers that the majority of Iraqis want the US to leave, while only a relative minority of Lebanese - according to the polls - wanted the Syrians to leave."

The US and Israel are seen as too great a threat for Lebanon to sever ties with a more well-armed and organized Arab ally. This pan-Arab consciousness has also consolidated Assad’s populairty in the face of a rightly perceived US threat. Assad’s most important popular base in the internal politics of Syria is a minority. Yet another gross political miscalculation by the Bush-Cheney clique.

And the beat goes on. Here are some sample lead lines from the obsequious press today:

"The latest United Nations report on the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri confirms that Syrian officials are key suspects.

"German investigator Detlev Mehlis, who wrote the second report by the UN, criticizes Syrian cooperation and urges Damascus to arrest the suspects, Reuters says." (AHN)

"A UN commission investigating the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri has uncovered a new witness who reaffirms suspicions that Syria ordered his killing.

"The unnamed person came forward two months ago with evidence that, according to UN chief investigator Detlev Mehlis, points to an organised plot to kill Hariri and efforts by Syrian and Lebanese spies to recruit conspirators." (The Australian)

This is how it works. No one asks the simple question: Cui bono?


:: Article nr. 18676 sent on 14-dec-2005 02:37 ECT

www.uruknet.info?p=18676

Link: stangoff.com/?p=226#comments



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