From : Ty Farooque <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent : Monday, March 14, 2005 5:44 PM
To : email@example.com
Subject : Who killed Rafik Hariri?
Who killed Rafik Hariri?
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.
So attributing responsibility for the murder to Syria is implausible. The
murder is more likely to be the work of one of its many enemies. This is not
to deny that Syria has made grave mistakes in Lebanon. Its military
intelligence apparatus has interfered far too much in Lebanese affairs. A
big mistake was to insist on changing the Lebanese constitution to extend
the mandate of President Emile Lahoud - known for his absolute allegiance to
Syria - for a further three years. 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.
It remains to be seen whether this will calm Syria's opponents in Lebanon,
who have declared a "democratic and peaceful intifada for independence" - in
other words, a campaign of passive resistance to drive Syria out.
Hariri was not a diehard enemy of Syria. For 10 of the past 12 years he
served as Lebanon's prime minister under Syria's aegis. A few days before
his murder on February 14 he held a meeting with Syria's deputy foreign
minister, Walid Muallim. They were reported to have discussed a forthcoming
visit by Hariri to Damascus. Hariri had not officially joined the opposition
in Lebanon, but was thought to be attempting to mediate between Syria and
If Syria did not kill Hariri, who could have? There is no shortage of
potential candidates, including far-right Christians, anxious to rouse
opinion against Syria and expel it from Lebanon; Islamist extremists who
have not forgiven Syria its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 80s;
and, of course, Israel.
Israel's ambition has long been to weaken Syria, sever its strategic
alliance with Iran and destroy Hizbullah. Israel has great experience at
"targeted assassinations" - not only in the Palestinian territories but
across the Middle East. Over the years, it has sent hit teams to kill
opponents in Beirut, Tunis, Malta, Amman and Damascus.
Syria, Hizbullah and Iran have stood up against US and Israeli hegemony over
the region. Syria continues to demand that Israel return the Golan Heights,
seized in 1967. Damascus will not allow Lebanon to conclude a separate peace
with Israel unless its own claim is also addressed.
Hizbullah, in turn, is possibly the only Arab force to have inflicted a
defeat on Israel. Its guerrillas forced Israel out of south Lebanon after a
22-year occupation. Hizbullah continues to be a big irritant to Israel
because it has acquired a deterrent capability. Israel can no longer attack
Lebanon with impunity - as it did for decades - without risking a riposte
from Hizbullah rockets.
Iran's nuclear programme threatens to break Israel's regional monopoly of
weapons of mass destruction, which is the main reason it is under immense
pressure to abandon uranium enrichment.
The US and Israel have been trying to rally international support against
Iran, Syria and Hizbullah. The US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has
condemned Iran as a prime sponsor of international terror. Syria has been
condemned as a "destabilising" force in the region, and is in the dock
because of Hariri's assassination.
The US and Israel have also been urging European governments to declare
Hizbullah a "terrorist organisation". France has its own quarrel with Syria,
and President Jacques Chirac is outraged at the murder of his close friend
Hariri, but Paris does not consider Hizbullah a terrorist organisation. For
France, and for the vast majority of Arabs, Hizbullah is a national
liberation movement as well as a big political actor in Lebanon.
There is far more to this crisis than a struggle between rival clans in