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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Past Theories on Hariri's Murder

On February 24, when others were blogging and I was coping with being so far from home, I wrote this to a friend. It's somewhat naive in places but I was very distraught still.

You are probably following the latest developments in Lebanon. I never
thought they would kill him. I and probably hundreds of thousands of Lebanese
are still in shock and in disbelief. Is he truly dead? I don’t think anybody
ever underestimated him or his role in rebuilding the country. But really, he
was everybody’s safety net since that war was brought to an end. I remember
seeing him in a Syrian hotel in the late 80s, meeting with what was left of the
Lebanese parliament then. He had been working diligently to bring those people
together. I remember seeing him, Jumblat and others. It was at the Sheraton in
Damascus where we were staying, or maybe I should say hiding? My father had
negotiated a cheap rate thanks to friends of his to allow us to stay here until
things calmed down in Beirut. I don’t have fond memories of Syria. I hated it
there. You always felt somebody was watching you- those white Peugeots that
served as the mokhabarat terror vehicles were constantly roaming the otherwise
beautiful streets of Damascus. I met Hariri a couple of times after that. The
last time was at a Future TV dinner in his palace in Beirut. I shook hands with
him- he seemed cold and distant, and very tired. But I saw him all the time. On
TV, in pictures, and everywhere you looked in downtown Beirut. It was his and
his presence could be felt at all times... Having said that, I never idolized
him. He was a business man, and he believed that money could buy everything. His optimism was overwhelming and at times naïve. I don’t know what he knew that I don’t know so I can’t allow myself to judge him now that his secrets are buried with him. Politics in Lebanese were never transparent.

Now who killed him? So many people asked me for my “gut feeling”. How should I know? I think people want to believe it was the Syrians. A Kuwaiti newspaper even published the names of those Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officers who carried it out. Why so stupid an act? My work on the Sabra and Shatila massacre taught me that intelligence agencies never follow what you and I know as logic. What seems illogical sometimes is the logical choice for them. Sometimes they mess up, but sometimes they concoct clever games. Someone in Syria’s intelligence agency might have thought of two possible scenarios that could follow Hariri’s assassination:

The world would never believe Syria would be stupid enough to carry it out. The Lebanese would point the finger at Israel, or better, some fundamentalist organization which can be easily created to serve as a cover. Unlikely outcome but Good for Syria nevertheless.

More likely scenario. There will be public uproar and international pressure will increase. Syria will be accused of the murder and will be forced to withdraw from Lebanon. Considering that Syria was going to withdraw ANYWAY due to American and French pressure secretly supported by Hariri, Syria should never leave Lebanon for Hariri and his clan to run. Hariri and the opposition would steer it in a direction more in line politically with France and to an extent, the US plan for the region. With Hariri gone, the opposition will never be strong enough to
unite and if it did unite, it will, sooner or later, disintegrate and self destruct. Hariri’s death can only unite Lebanese people for a short period of time and then they will eventually return to their usual squabbling. If Hariri could not unite them in his life, his death will surely not cause long term miracles. After all, one cannot underestimate Hizbullah, Berri and the Shias, who will never turn against Syria. The Sunnis and the Maronites can never challenge the Shias' new acquired power- this is not 1943, the Shias are no longer the passive majority. Hariri’s death might appear catastrophic to Syria in the aftermath of the assassination, but the long term benefits are there. Since Syria will withdraw anyway, it should not leave behind a Lebanon with Hariri type connections to the world. A divided Lebanon has always helped Israel, and now it will help Syria.

Wild but who knows! There is also the possibility that it was a CIA/Mossad thing. Hariri’s death would push the country politically in their direction. Hizbullah would lose the Syrian umbrella and it will be forced to disarm. Syria would be completely surrounded- Iraq, Israel and an anti Syrian Lebanon. Hariri might be the US’s best friend, but he is more useful as a dead man. His assassination is the only event that will trigger a chain reaction in that country and possibly in the region. Syria would have to withdraw and Israel/US will finally dominate the region. Iran would be dealt with next.

It is hard to believe that Hariri’s death served both US and Syrian interests. But when many appear to benefit, then they are probably all guilty. Only one needs to pull the trigger, but they all allowed it to happen. His best friends and his enemies killed him. Future TV has this new slogan: He died for Lebanon. No, he was a pawn in an international game of chess. External factors again? Oh well, I am Lebanese aren’t I? Maybe this time it is true that external events do at least shape Lebanon’s history.

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