Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Funeral

The Lebanese army is on alert the day of Hariri’s funeral. Reuters says the funeral turned into an anti-Syria protest. People were chanting "revenge" and "Syria out." The country is shut down for mourning. This assassination was a major operation. The former PM traveled with bodyguards in armored vehicles. A carbomb weighing nearly one thousand pounds blasted them apart. This was a major operation requiring complex logistics and communications. Obviously Hariri was under surveillance for some time.

When anything like this happens in Lebanon you have to look at the major players: the Syrians, who still have thousands of troops in the country; and Iran, Syria’s partner in Lebanon and the patron of Hezbollah, the terrorist group that is also a major Lebanese political party.

Syria. In France, Lebanon's most prominent exile, former army commander Gen. Michel Aoun, said Tuesday that he suspects Syria was behind the assassination. The Syrians "totally control the country," Aoun said on France-Info radio. "Nothing moves without it being controlled by the Syrians."

Could something like this assassination have occurred without the consent or involvement of the Syrians? Not likely unless they are far less competent than anyone imagines. But the Syrian regime is not monolithic. Parts of the Syrian government could have been involved without the knowledge of other parts. Indeed it doesn’t take a conspiracy minded person to see that this assassination could be the symptom of rivalries within the Syrian regime.

If this assassination occurred without the knowledge of Assad, the ophthalmologist dictator of Syria, then he should be shitting in his pants. This could very well be a ‘proof of concept’ for his very own assassination. If he approved of the assassination then he isn’t particularly good at this sort of thing. This bombing looks like it is strengthening anti-Syrian sentiment among the Lebanese.

Iran. What did the Iranians know and when did they know it? If they knew nothing then perhaps the Syrians are not quite the lapdogs some may think. If they didn't know then you have to wonder just how pissed off they are. What are their next steps? If they did know, then what are their motives? Are the Shiite theocrats punishing the Sunnis (Hariri was a Sunni as all Prime Ministers must be) for allying with the Maronite Church in calling for a full Syrian withdrawal? Is the Iranian government (or part of it) trying to destabilize Lebanon? Are hardliners making a move by proxy against whatever "moderate" forces are still inside the Iranian regime?

This assassination was a signal. But who is sending it to whom?
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