“Hariri Killed in Huge Car Bombing in Beirut,” by Juan Cole, Informed Consent, http://www.juancole.com/2005/02/hariri-killed-in-huge-car-bombing-in.html, 14 February 2005.
“U.S. Warns of U.N. Penalties After Lebanon Killing,” by Steve Holland, Reuthers, http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=7625023, 14 February 2005.
The former Prime Minister of Lebanon was killed in a bomb blast. He resigned his position after Syria changed Lebanon’s constitution to keep its man President. Hopefully, PM Rafik al-Hariri’s death will not be in vain
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States condemned the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in Beirut on Monday and said it would consult with the U.N. Security Council about taking punitive measures against those responsible.
At the same time, the 15-nation Security Council planned a formal meeting on Tuesday about the killing as well as its resolution demanding Syrian troops get out of Lebanon.
But in a thinly veiled warning to Damascus, which has occupied Lebanon for years, McClellan said the United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council about “measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack.”
A goal, he said, will be “to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people and to restore Lebanon’s independence, sovereignty and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation.
“We continue to be concerned about the foreign occupation in Lebanon. We’ve expressed those concerns,” McClellan added.
The attack came at a sensitive time for U.S. policy in the Middle East. The Bush administration is hoping Iraq’s elections will produce a representative government that will ultimately pave the way for a U.S. withdrawal, and is working with Israel and the Palestinians on a peace deal.
The United States and France had engineered a resolution in September telling Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon and refrain from intervening in Lebanese affairs. They sought unsuccessfully to head off a constitutional amendment that extended the term of the Syrian-backed president of Lebanon, Gen. Emile Lahoud, by three years.
“This murder today is a terrible reminder that the Lebanese people must be able to pursue their aspirations and determine their own political future free from violence and intimidation and free from Syrian occupation,” McClellan said. (Additional reporting by Adam Entous and Evelyn Leopold)
Juan Cole reports the Syrians were probably not behind the bombing
A shadowy and previously unknown group called “Aid and Jihad in the Lands of Syria” claimed responsibility in a videotape that I saw on al-Jazeerah. The spokesman reading the message was dressed as a Muslim fundamentalist big posters were behind him with Muslim fundamentalist slogans.
Personally, I find the likelihood of the Saudi connection generating al-Qaeda-type violence against him somewhat more plausible than that it came out of local politics, since local politics had been fairly civil in Lebanon.
That’s probable. The Iraq War is spreading the fire of freedom and salafism throughout the Middle East. The status quo, shattered during the invasion of Iraq, continues to melt away. Good.
But given the fluid situation, how should we shape it? Syria should be our target. They support anti-Israeli attacks from Lebanon. They support anti-Iraqi attacks from Syria. They have harbored anti-Turkish terrorists. As the joint Franco-American resolution made clear, their geeky dictator has squandared his father’s network of friends. The only thing that keeps Syria in the game is Iran.
But Iran’s foreign relations are in flux. Iran is well positioned to be Iraq’s long term guide. Further, Iran is placed to cause trouble by supporting the Shia’s in Saudi’s Eastern Province.
Iran has big interests in the Middle East. Between the present Iraq and a future Eastern Arabia, Persia is looking to be a permanent regional hegemon. How does supporting a diplomatically inept Syria help Iranian interests? It doesn’t.
We should use the tension of Iran’s quest for the Bomb, along with events like al-Harari’s assination, to make a deal with Iran: the Bomb for Syria. It’s in their interests. It’s in our intersts. It’s in the interests of the peace of the world.
And the Bush administration may be bright enough to see this.
Update: Cliff May quotes Walid Phares with another take
â€œRafiq Hariri was close to Syria in the 1990s; he distanced himself from Syria after the war in Iraq. Last summer, he resigned in protest of the continuing Syrian occupation of Lebanon. As a consequence, he was threatened by the Syrian Baathists. Hariri was close to the French and the more moderate Saudis, and was seeking rapprochement with the Lebanese Christians and Druze, and with the United States.
â€œLast fall a car bomb â€“ almost certainly planted by Syrian intelligence agents in Lebanon — missed one of his allies, a Druze former minister. In September 2004, the United States and France introduced UN Security Council Resolution 1559, calling for Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. Hariri supported the resolution. Media in Lebanon yesterday quoted French and Western sources warning the Syrians not to harm Hariri. Today, sources from the Lebanese opposition charge that the Syrian regime was behind the assassination.
â€œOther sources have said that Hariri endorsed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbasâ€™ plan to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It is known that Hezbollah, a close ally of Syria, has vowed to support the radical Jihadists against Israel, and against any settlement between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
â€œThis assassination may trigger a significant confrontation between the Lebanese opposition and the Syrian military occupiers.â€