February 15, 2005
WARNING JEAN-CLAUDE, FACING W:
HARIRI MURDER WAS SYRIAN WARNING TO FRANCE, SAY COMMENTATORS (AFP, 2/15/05)
The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri was a deliberate blow to France, whose president Jacques Chirac was a personal friend and has sponsored UN moves to end the Syrian occupation, Paris-based commentators said Tuesday.
While the French government refused to point a finger of blame -- adhering publicly to Chirac's call for an international investigation into the murder -- analysts and Middle East specialists were less circumspect about who they thought was behind it.
"I have not the shadow of a doubt that Syria is responsible," said Antoine Basbous, president of the Observatory of Arab Countries.
"It was a message to the Lebanese opposition -- but also to France: this is our colony, we are masters here and we intend to stay. So keep out," he told AFP.
Syria does seem exactly this stupid.
Death of a Salesman: Was Rafik Hariri's assassination a Syrian hit? (Michael Young, Feb. 15, 2005, Slate)
Outside Rafik Hariri's home Monday evening there was no doubt in the minds of mourners—most from the former Lebanese prime minister's Sunni Muslim community—who had committed the crime. "Syria out," they cried.
The same message was echoed inside Hariri's home, where a broad alliance of groups opposed to the Syrian presence in Lebanon, Christian and Muslim, issued a statement holding "the Lebanese regime and the Syrian regime, as the authority having tutelage over Lebanon, responsible for this crime, and for other similar crimes." After the passage was read, Hariri supporters inside the room began shouting, "God is great!"
Whether Hariri will be remembered as great is another matter. [...]
If the Syrians were responsible, their risk is great. Having alienated the Druze, they have now made an enemy of the generally mild-mannered Lebanese Sunnis. The irony is that both communities were close to Syria; violence was never required for their cooperation. But where the Syrian regime had to show toughness was with the United States and France over their demands for a Syrian withdrawal. What better way to do so than to go after those vulnerable Lebanese offering a serious alternative leadership to Syria's cronies? That, at least, is what is widely believed in Beirut.
If his murder leads to a free Lebanon and the fall of the Ba'athist regime in Syria he'll be remembered as great. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 15, 2005 5:29 PM