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Friday, October 14, 2005

Kanaan: opponent or scapegoat?

It seems that opinion is divided on whether Ghazi Kanaan had posed a serious threat to the regime, or was one of a group of people whom the regime made as scapegoats for the Hariri assassination.

A version of the first is (or was? I can't keep track) being advanced by Joshua Landis, whose earlier dismissal of a coup possibility in Syria has evolved into this:

Landis said he did not believe the suicide had anything to do with the upcoming publication of the UN report, since Mehlis informed him that Kenaan was not a suspect in the Hariri assassination. He "speculates" that if Assad is behind Kenaan's death, it was to neutralize his only opponent. As one of the last Allawite officers from the old guard, Landis suggested Kenaan fitted the bill. According to Landis, "If I was a CIA officer, I would certainly have the name Kenaan in my rolodex."
Two obvious questions here: Was Kanaan powerful enough in “new guard” Syria to have posed such a threat?

And if so, like many are suggesting, would he have allied himself with the Americans against Bashar? I don’t know about you, but a Kanaan-US marriage seems very unlikely to me, given the US had frozen his assets, and his bloody history in Lebanon (what Lebanese would accept him as ruler of Syria? Certainly not the Maronites-- not that Lebanese opinion matters).

Landis's last remark about the CIA shows you how much faith Landis has in the US administration picking a better replacement for Bashar (not that they should be engaging in something like that). That Landis thinks the US could be willing to replace Bashar with a blood thirsty vampire like Kanaan is telling of his perceptions of US policy.

"I've become a defender of the Assad regime," Landis said, "as many Syrians have, because I look over to Iraq and see the mistakes the U.S. has made. Syrians are terrified that the U.S. will squeeze too hard and there will be some sort of ethnic civil war."
Of course, Kanaan could have been eliminated in a pure power-consolidation effort, and we don’t have to stick the US in this.

Unless Kanaan was so weak he was made a scapegoat.

Elaph on Friday published an elaborate report on Kanaan’s last day on earth. According to the London-based publication, Kanaan received a call early in the morning from a "western ambassador", summoning him to his embassy. Kanaan left his office at the ministry and went to meet that person, who told him that the US had brokered a deal with Bashar under which Kanaan and others would be offered as scapegoats, placed under house arrest and perhaps detained on that same day, and specifically after the Assad CNN interview airs.

Elaph adds that the embassy official told Kanaan to watch the CNN interview, and wait for Amanpour’s question on whether the Syrian President would be willing to punish/hand over Syrian nationals if they were implicated in the Hariri assassination. According to the ambassador, this question was written by the US State Department, which arranged that interview and asked Amanpour to ask it twice. Enraged, betrayed, Kanaan returned to his office, called Voice of Lebanon to deny the NTV report, then shot himself. (the Elaph report was entitled “Kanaan fled through suicide”)

The Elaph source is based on a statement they received from a Syrian opposition group that calls itself the Truth. The statement claims the above scenario explains why Kanaan left his office in a hurry-- Syrian officials have said he went home to get his gun, an unlikely thing, the group said, given that kanaan never parted with his gun.

This story does not explain why Kanaan would be offered as a scapegoat when, as many seem to suggest, he was not even a suspect in the Hariri murder. The scapegoat theory also requires us to believe that he actually pulled the trigger himself.

Obviously, both theories fail to convince. But then, we are not dealing with "rational actors" here, as Tony pointed out in a comment on my previous post. Seeking a rational explanation, then, might not lead us anywhere satisfying for the time being.

Kais, what's the source of the quotes about Landis? Was it his lecture at AUB?
yes, it was the debate at AUB (from yesterday's Daily Star). I forgot to post the link, it's there now.
Yes, you could tell Joshua's position by reading his blog. He made it clear that he was afraid of chaos in Syria.

"Enraged, betrayed, Kanaan returned to his office, called Voice of Lebanon to deny the NTV report, then shot himself. (the Elaph report was entitled “Kanaan fled through suicide”)"

That's it? A guy like Kanaan simply suicided himself without even fighting back? It's inconsistent with Kanaan's personality. Either you're wrong, either the stroy is not complete.
Too many speculations. I have a feeling that the story about Bashar striking a deal with the US could be true...

Bashar has no mean of denying his involvement, especially since high-ranking officials are soon to be incriminated. Striking a deal with the US is not unlikely.
"Either you're wrong, either the stroy is not complete."

That wasn't me speculating, Vox. That was Elaph.
Landis: I've become a defender of the Assad regime....

So it's the old "between bloody dictatorship and chaos, I'll take the first".

Weak argument, and one that led to the defense of Stalin, Hitler, Saddam, etc...in the past.

No easy choices, and I can see the argument if Assad were, even slowly, moving Syria in a direction where a few years down the road , peaceful change could occur. He is not. On the current path, chaos will be worse when change happen, and it will..
I know, so either it's wrong, either it's incomplete. :)
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