February 15, 2005



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

Between Iran, Syria and North Korea, there sure does seem to be a lot of pushing and shoving regarding who gets to be next off the island.

Posted by: Timothy at February 15, 2005 5:40 PM

Ohhh, you talkin' to me, Baby Assad?? He might have to send the DeGaulle to give them radiation poisoning. Or win-win, pull the frogs out of the IC.

You know what would put cherry on top??

Bekka Valley WMD. A present from the president of our "historic ally" to the cowboy. And cut Gerhard out.

Posted by: Sandy P at February 15, 2005 6:14 PM

somewhere in damascus, a light post waits patiently...

Posted by: cjm at February 15, 2005 7:08 PM

You gentlemen are certainly aware of this, but Syria is not run by one person, but rather by a collection of criminal gangs with Assad as nominal chief criminal. You can try to hold Assad responsible for everything the Syrians do but he is only one crook of many.

In other words, there are multiple criminal factions running things in Syria, including the military and intelligence agencies which have liasons with al qaida, hezballah, hamas, etc.

That's the Baath way, the way Iraq was run before the invasion.

Posted by: Bill Funt at February 15, 2005 7:41 PM

Mr. Funt:

And Iraq fell in a week.

Posted by: oj at February 15, 2005 8:14 PM

Syria does seem exactly this stupid.

Only if GWB gets upset, which it looks like he is. Babyface Assad and his cronies, I'm sure, weren't worried about the French reaction.

Posted by: Steve White at February 15, 2005 8:20 PM

oj pegged this one last year. Syria is NEXT!

Posted by: Bartman at February 15, 2005 9:31 PM

Whoever gave the green light for this may have actually given Chirac a chance to get out of GWB's doghouse, if the French show their anger at Assad by partnering up with the U.S. to change things in Lebanon and Syria. Of course, this assumes their anger with Syria can overcome the desire apparently buried in their national DNA to try and show they can do things just as well without American help (Ivory Coast), or in other cases to try and subvert American goals as much as possible (Iraq, just for starters). That's probably the French reaction Assad is counting on.

Posted by: John at February 15, 2005 9:33 PM

Why does anybody think that Chirac is upset about this? Because he said so? and you believed him?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at February 16, 2005 12:37 PM