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Wednesday, February 16, 2005


beating the drum against syria

as events continue to unfold in the aftermath, it's becoming obvious that rafiq hariri's killing has become a rallying point for lebanese opposition politics, much as ukrainian opposition politics found a focal point in yushchenko's loss.

the passing of un resolution 1559, which followed an overreaching lebanese government effort to constitutionally extend the term of pro-syrian president lahoud -- a move which breathed new life into the lebanese opposition and moved hariri and others to the political forefront -- evidently jeopardized hariri's life.

but the question of guilt remains. evidence -- the bomb's size and complexity, primarily -- indicates state sponsorship of the act. but syria is so obvious an accusation that the way was open for other nations who would wish to unsettle lebanese and syrian political stability -- or simply machinate a cause celebre for intervention -- to act under that political cover. many religious groups within lebanon opposed the western-style secularist hariri. moreover, there's the question as to whether bashar assad has full control of all the syrian political elements that could have perpetrated such a crime. none of this is to say that assad could not be so brazen; but the political risk of this event for syria seems so high that there is certainly room for speculation regarding other actors.

but the united states hasn't missed a beat, taking the opportunity to raise the ante with syria -- a ba'athist autocracy which is certainly on the neoconservative hitlist for global democratic revolution.
U.S. deputy ambassador Anne Patterson urged Syria to pull out its troops from Lebanon and said the United States would be following up with Secretary-General Kofi Annan immediately to see how the statement is going to be implemented.

"The United States is calling on Syria to comply immediately with the provisions of resolution 1559, and that is totally consistent with the statement the Security Council has just passed," she said.

Asked whether the United States blamed Syria for Hariri's assassination, Patterson replied, "We don't know who did this horrible act at this point, but let it be clear that the message (from) the council is that other countries should get out of Lebanese affairs."

The U.S. envoy became angry when a reporter asked whether the United States was politicizing the assassination by referring to 1559.

"Well good grief, a man just got blown up in downtown Beirut in the middle of the day and hundreds of people have been injured," Patterson shot back. "This is not a political act on our part and what I think that you need to take on board here is that the Security Council has a long history of engagement on this issue. The message has been very consistent -- that other countries need to stop interfering in Lebanon."
which is obviously not an answer to the question.

the drumbeat in the american press has been to associate the syrians not only with guilt but belligerence, as though the causal link was evident a priori:

"I have been very careful to say we really don't know who committed this murder at this point, but we do know what effect the Syrian presence in Lebanon has," Boucher said. "And we do know that it doesn't bring security for Lebanese."
these are three factual statements -- but how is the first necessarily connected to the latter two? no evidence exists yet, but that hasn't stopped the united states government from implying the link -- much as they've done under other circumstances quite effectively for political and ideological expediency. soon enough, i suspect, the rabble-rousers will be unleashed.

lebanon is not an inherently stable place. many lebanese wonder if this now is not the beginning of darkness there, and openly talk about the iraquization of lebanon. one can only hope that stability prevails -- and that lebanon does not fall victim to the fire.

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