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Tuesday, February 15, 2005


rafiq hariri

a couple of articles on the death of former lebanese prime minister rafiq hariri, which has brought sabre-rattling from the united states and retributive riots in sidon and beirut and a mobilization of the lebanese army. the beirut daily star even laments the possible death of democracy in lebanon, which has scheduled elections for may, and the abyss of civil war again looms large in many opinions.

why such a big deal? tim cavanaugh explains:

He was the Middle East's single most persistent and energetic advocate for civil society, for unrestrained media, for business-based solutions to the Levantine dilemma, and for a free, capitalist, forward-looking Arab world.
in a world where the united states is laboring for global democratic revolution with military excursions, this is a severe blow to peace. the pre-emptive conclusion -- which may be right -- is that syrian interests in the lebanese government are responsible, as the attack came on the heels, as michael young notes, of an article published in Al-Hayat yesterday suggesting that he any attack against him was a "red line" for the Syrians as far as the international community was concerned.

syria controls the current lebanese government and much of lebanese politics to this day as a legacy of their intervention in lebanon's 16-year civil war. the united nations called on syria to withdraw under un resolution 1559, which the united states and france (from whose sykes-picot dominion syria and lebanon were cut) are increasingly pressuring syria to comply with. hariri was certainly pro-western operator and backed 1559.

there's also a second theory, based on cui bono analysis which suggests that israel and mossad may have been working to destabilize the international situation with respect to syria in an effort to force american intervention against its enemy in syria. this is thusfar entirely unevidenced, as far as i know, but the syrian and iranian governments have forwarded the idea noting that this would have been particularly obtuse timing:

Maan Abdul Salam, the director of a Damascus-based publishing house, Etana Press, said that Hariri's death was not only shocking, but of no conceivable long-term benefit to Syria.

"Everyone seems to be in such a hurry to accuse Syria," Abdul Salam said. "I don't know who is doing this, but I can't see how this can benefit us. If anything, it will be used as an excuse to be harder on Syria."
UPDATE: via yglesias, blog commentary from joshua landis at syria comment and the arabist.

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