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Assassination of Hariri - Campaigning Middle-East Style


The huge explosion which killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is a reminder of how "elections" are usually conducted in most of the Middle East. In case you forgot, this campaign style is what is proposed as the local alternative to the admittedly defective Iraqi elections.

Reports of the bombing gave many details of the explosion, but few details of the causes, so it is necessary to give some background. Hariri was a mutlimillionaire who as Prime Minister, oversaw the reconstruction of Lebanon and for many years cooperated with "sister Syria" and legitimized its role in Lebanon. However, Hariri resigned in protest when the election law was changed to allow Syria's candidate for the presidency, Emile Lahoud to continue in office. Hariri joined the increasing Lebanese opposition to the Syrian occupation, which has become worrisome to Syria. The goal of the opposition is to reduce Syrian influence in Lebanon ahead of the parlaimentary elections scheduled for May. Hariri's demise was part of the normal way that election campaigns are conducted in this part of the world, and in particular in Lebanon.

The huge explosion had the marks of the masterful Syrian intelligence. This esteemed group's last major contribution to good government in Lebanon was probably assisting in the assassination of Bashir Gemayel in 1982. If not Syria, then perhaps one of the parties beholden to Syria is responsible for the assassination, with technical assistance from Syria. Bashir, in turn, had been elected with generous "help" from a different neighbor, Israel. What are neighbors for, after all?

Today's explosion is the Lebanese version of a campaign advertisement. It is a very effective advertisement that sends a clear message, "Opposition to Syria is hazardous to your health."

It is not as if there was no warning. On February 4, 2005, Al-Jazeera carried a story entitled "Lebanese PM warns anti-Syrian lobby." PM Umar Karami, a puppet of "sister Syria," said, according to Al-Jazeera:

"Is this talk of trucks taking away Syrian forces acceptable after all the sacrifices of our Syrian brothers?" "This is totally unacceptable."
"They are wrong. Syria and the nationalists in Lebanon are not weak ... we will show them."

Aljazeera noted:

Asked what the government planned to do to deal with the situation, he said: "You will see in the next couple of days."

The Lebanese were ungrateful to sister Syria for their great sacrifices. So Karami (or Syria) promised and Karami delivered. He really showed them, didn't he? You can rely on that sort of people to keep that sort of promises. That is more than we can probably say for the US and the EU. The US will probably meet this latest Syrian exploit with an innocuous State department warning, and the EU will reward Syria with another economic or cultural agreement.

Karami and his friends were not the only ones interested in "showing" the opposition. Nasser Kandil, a Lebanese MP is quoted as saying quite frankly on Al Jazeera:

If the opposition wants to pay for their American and Western position in blood we are quite ready to make them pay this price! Lebanon is not only the Opposition. The majority and the nationalists are here and we will never make the Resistance (i.e. Hezbollah) give in its weapons.

Not surprisingly, Iran which supports the Hizbollah, has lined up behind Syria.

The "best" may be yet to come, as is disingenuously explained in a CNN report:

"Lebanon's pro-Syrian government, which counts on its neighbor for security, has come under fire from the anti-Syrian opposition, which says Lebanon can take care of its own security."

It would be just like Syria to claim that the assassination of Hariri proves that Lebanon needs the Syrian occupation to maintain order. It is a very old melodrama, played out many times in cities like Chicago and New York:

"You need protection. An accident could happen to you or your family," says the beefy gentleman with a carnation in his lapel.

"Whom do I need protection from?", asks the innocent storekeeper.


This "incident" will very likely be forgotten, just as the assassination of Bashir Gemayel has been forgotten, or else it will somehow be blamed on Israel or the United States, and Lebanese will continue to "enjoy" the "protection" of "sister Syria." If this one campaign advertisement did not suffice, rest assured there will be more.

Since I wrote the above, the Lebanese have buried Hariri in a huge national funeral procession. Lebanese had no doubts who killed Hariri. They chanted "F-- Sister Syria" and held signs demanding that Assad take his dogs (Syrian intelligence) out of Lebanon. The US recalled its ambassador to Syria, but almost everyone except Lebanese has been coy about saying who carried out the attack. The UN has produced a bloodless and disingenuous resolution calling for investigation into the murder of Hariri to find the real culprits and bring them to justice.

Predictably, the Syrians and the Iranians were not so coy about fingering a culprit, the usual culprit. They showed their ironic sense of humor by blamic Israel for the murder of Hariri. Other theories and "official announcements" variously claimed the murder was carried out by a suicide bomber or by an underground bomb placed in the sewage system, by an obscure Jihadist group which never existed before or by local Lebanese. Of course, by now all the evidence that could be used in determining the culprits has been destroyed, and anyone who could bear witness has joined Hariri in the afterlife.

When you read that Middle Eastern countries need to build democracy without outside influence, or that the election in Iraq is very unsatisfactory, contemplate the fate of Lebanon.

It is not realistic to expect that the US or UN or EU will do anything significant about the assassination or about Syrian presence in Lebanon. It might be realistic to demand that the coming elections in Lebanon must be subject to international supervision. That would rob the Syrians and their agents in Lebanon of their goal in killing Hariri, which was to silence the opposition and make it clear who must win the elections, and it would turn the tragedy into a victory for the Lebanese people.

Ami Isseroff

See also - 1,2,3 Why Kill Hariri?
[Updated Feb 16]

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000332.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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Replies: 7 comments

I have always thought that Israel must keep forever the Golan Heighs as a reward for all the destruction Siria has caused to Israel directly, undirectly and in all possible ways. Palestinians got involved in the conflict but Siria went on purpose and keep on purpose. I think that Israel must make peace with palestinians to be able of handling Siria properly. But I do not think that USA invading Siria is a good idea. Lebanon must be liberated by multilateral smart diplomacy.

Posted by Aleph @ 02/15/2005 09:22 PM CST

In the Middle East elections have been like this for a while. When someone comes in that opposes the interest of other powers then that opposition must be destroyed. Iran was an example of that when the Shah took power.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/15/2005 11:02 PM CST

Mr. Ami Isseroff should name all the possible perpretors of Sheikh Rafik Al-Hariri assassination, not only one. A writer has to inform, not to be partial. Israel is probably behing the assassination: Israel's interest is clear and Israel's past deeds in Lebanon are known. Israel and Syria have the same reason to kill Al-Hariri: the confusion in Lebanon serves both their interests.

Posted by Jose Farhat @ 02/20/2005 01:04 PM CST

I agree with Mr. Farhat in suggesting that Israel could have done the attack.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/21/2005 09:19 PM CST

Dear friends,
Mr. Farhat and Mr. Dahu, who think that we Zionist devils killed Hariri - I do not see how you conclude that Israel is "probably" behind the assassination, except based on the idea believed by certain people that the "Zionists" are responsible for every calamity that has befallen the world.

I do not have enough time or space to name all the "possible" perpetrators as you ask, unless I narrow it down to likely suspects. Like detectives in NYPD Blue, I look for motive, means, opportunity. So here on the one hand we have the Syrian-supported PM saying just a few days before that he would take care of the opposition. We have a large explosion caused by a quantity of explosive that could not have been acquired and moved without the knowledge of the excellent intelligence of "sister" and their help. Ask someone to try to acquire and move and set up some explosives in Beirut and find out how long it takes before the Mukhabarat reaches you. In addition, it is probable that the explosion was done underground. This required extensive preparation. A fake "construction site." All this in downtown Beirut, under the watchful eyes of the friendly agents of "sister." So we have motive means and opportunity.

On the other hand, we have Israel (or the USA or France or anyone) which would have to go to tremendous risk and expense to carry out this operation, against a man who was working to remove one of their biggest enemies from Lebanon, and who was not unfriendly to Israel. If Israel had chosen a target, it might have been Hariri when he was PM, or more likely Nasrallah or even Jumblatt. So let's say that Israel wanted to destabilized Lebanon to embarrass sister. Why would they choose that target? The motive is shaky. The means and opportunity are virtually nonexistent.

It gets better. All the time that Hariri was in power and powerful, he was just as vulnerable, but was not hurt. Lebanon under the watchful eyse of "sister" and with Hariri's work was becoming rich and prosperous again and a haven for the Hizbullah. But all this time Hariri was not touched. The Israeli warmongers with horns and tails and the all-powerful international Zionist conspiracy did nothing. Hariri was killed when he resigned and lost the protection of "sister," when he spoke out against the occupation. Even the Lebanese puppets of "sister" didn't try to frame Israel, because it is so silly nobody would believe it, but instead invented a story about 6 or 12 men with beards or without beards who travelled to Australia and eventually turned out to be harmless, and someone invented a different story about a cockamamie Islamist resistance movement. Even that nonsense was more believable than "the Jews did it."

But it gets better than that. If there was the slightest jot of evidence that Israel or the USA or any of the other villains of Middle East mythology were involved, the Lebanese puppets of "sister" would produce this evidence. But they did not give any evidence. They didn't give information about what explosive was used, or how it was detonated or any other detail. They invented a story about a suicide bomber that is impossible. Very probably, in the first moments after the explosion, every trace of evidence was removed. Israeli agents could not do that. They aren't part of the security team in Lebanon. The international investigating team will find nothing, or they will find things planted by the agents of "sister."

The biggest fantasy I heard was that the CIA did it. The CIA could not kill Saddam Hussein for over ten years. Just before the war they dropped huge bombs on every place where Saddam wasn't. If they had continued in that way, everyone in Iraq would be dead except Saddam. The Mujahedin are blowing up the behinds of the US troops in Iraq and of Iraqi troops and civilians at every opportunity and the CIA is clueless about how to stop them. The CIA cannot tie its shoelaces in an Arab country, let alone assassinate a major political figure. Anyhow, they had no motive to kill Hariri, who was a friend of the sort of people that Washington likes. Jumblat or Nasrallah would serve much better to create chaos if that was what was desired.

So we are left with "sister" and the "Hizbollah" and perhaps some local opposition factions who might have a motive. But remember that "sister" watches every move. Anyone could do it, but "sister" had to be in on the secret, and had to allow access and look the other way. It doesn't matter if the President of "sister" did it or if it was some dissident factions, as they are trying to claim.

In any case, the Lebanese people know the truth, and they shouted the truth at Hariri's funeral. Even if "sister" did not perform this crime. "sister" had assumed responsibility for the security of Lebanon in the Tayif agreement and was supposed to protect Lebanon from the evil Zionist devils. For this they take very heavy taxes, but their protection failed. So they are responsible. The same people who say "sister" is not responsible for Hariri's death, insist that Israel is responsible for the Sabra and Shatila massacres, because Israel was the occupying power. Who is the occupying power in Lebanon right now? Who is responsible? Is it not "sister?"

Ami Isseroff

Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 02/22/2005 01:46 AM CST

What about St. George owners as colaborators in the killing? They hate Hariri because the docks affair.(Bearing in mind that it is self-evident that the green light came from Siria).

Posted by Aleph @ 02/25/2005 02:59 PM CST

To Mr. Issarof
I find it odd how after this attack there was an incident on Iraqi television an incident regarding I believe a Syrian training Iraqi resistence. Now supposedly it is Syria's fault for the recent attack. Why would Syria make so many blunders in so little time? Also I remember that one man who was going to testy against Sharon in Belgium about the attacks in Sabraa and Shatila claiming he knew enough that it would the incident 180 degrees regarding the incident itself. He claim he knew much about Sharon's involvement. The fallowing day after agrreeing to testify, a car bomb killed him. Although no one knows who killed him it was obivious that either former Lebenese militants or Israel would have the motive to do such a thing. Whether or not Israel would have a motive to kill Harriri is I'm not sure but would why would Syria commit two more acts that would get them into deeper trouble? Also i can't believe Israel doesn't have good enough operatives in Lebenon to create such an incident. Especailly when Seymore Hirsch reported some time ago about Israeli intelligence creating problems in the Kurdish regions of Syria.

Posted by Butros Dahu @ 02/27/2005 08:22 AM CST

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