Monday, February 14, 2005

Syrian Reactions to Hariri's Assassination

Syrian reactions to Hariri’s assassination:
My sister-in-law called me at 12:00 noon to tell me to turn on Jazeera. Harriri had been killed. My mother-in-law and I turned on the TV. I immediately suspected the Syrians and said to Umm Firas, “The Syrians will be blamed for this.”

She responded, “Why Syria? It is the Israelis.” Both my sisters-in-law later concurred with this analysis. They could not believe Bashar would do this. They both know him fairly well from time spent together in Lattakia in the Late 1990s.

My father-in-law, who was a General in the Syrian Navy for 10 years, arrived from Lattakia later in the evening. He was visibly worried and depressed. He would not say who he thought was behind it, but said the bomb was clearly sophisticated. This was not something planned yesterday. It needed detailed intelligence about Hariri’s movements and real experience. He left it at that. He was clearly disgusted at the barbarity of the act and worried about world reaction and the effect it would have on Syria.

This morning, I said to my wife, “How can it be the Israelis?” It doesn’t make sense for them to do it. They had everything going their way in Lebanon and they didn’t have to do a thing. America and France were doing all the heavy lifting for them. The Lebanese opposition was organizing against Syria in a way that Israel had failed to achieve in 1982. If the world discovered there was Israeli involvement it would be devastating for Sharon.”

My wife responded: “But it doesn’t make any sense for Bashar to do it. A leader who is trying to develop his country and has been working with the Americans on the Iraqi border, why would he do this? It is not like him. This is something that Saddam or Qadhafi would do, not Bashar. It will bring the whole world down on him. If the UN imposes sanctions, it will kill Syria and everything Bashar has been trying to achieve. He doesn’t need force to control Lebanon.”

She asked, “If the Syrians were going to kill someone, why didn’t they kill Jumblatt? He is the one who has been speaking out and is anti-Syria, but even he said that if the Americans hit Syria, he would be the first to side with Syria. Why would Syria jeopardize this sentiment in Lebanon?

I suggested that perhaps no one sees Jumblat as a real threat. The Druze are only 5% of the registered voters in Lebanon. The Sunnis are roughly 23% of registered voters, and Hariri and his supporters were slated to win all of the Beirut seats in Parliament in the coming elections. They are the seats that count, and the Sunnis are the important swing factor in Lebanon. Hariri, for all intents and purposes, is the Lebanese opposition. Without him the Sunnis will be leaderless and fragmented just as they were during the Lebanese civil war.

She pointed out that just yesterday in the Tishreen newspaper the front page article was an interview with the Lebanese Defense Minister, who said that the opposition was not the majority and would not win the elections as they were insisting they would. He argued that Syria did not have to fear Lebanon going over into the American and Israeli camp. Why would Syria over-react? Bashar is trying to take our country away from this kind of violence and lawlessness. This will be a disaster for Syria,” she insisted.

I suggested, “Well, perhaps Bashar isn’t in control?”

She looked at me with disgust. We left it at that and she went off to teach at the Canadian School. Frankly, I am stumped. My in-laws have given up trying to blame it on the Israelis now. It just doesn’t make any sense. “Perhaps it was a Palestinian group or Hizballah?” they suggest, still determined that Syria could not be behind it.

There is great worry here and nervousness.

One Lebanese friend wrote:

I couldn't believe it... The Syrians were told this stuff is off limits. I hope they [the Americans] crack down hard on them now... regime change all the way, these assholes will never change.

I love how all this is somehow blamed on the Lebanese! The crap that bothers me most is exemplified by this passage by Helena Cobban on her site, which in a sense is what is being hinted at by all the Arabist morons:

It would be much, much easier for the Lebanese to prevent all these kinds of externally generated destabilization operations from succeeding if they could come to some kind of a durable national understanding among themselves. But they have never been able to do that yet. That has left their country extremely vulnerable to the often brutal machinations of their neighbors.
Really!? Gee thanks Helena. It didn't dawn on her or the Arabist network that Hariri was to be part of PRECISELY that cross-sectarian coalition that was asserting Lebanese independence and sovereignty.
Another Lebanese journalist friend wrote:
I'm never one to protect the Syrians, and I actually believed they remain the most likely suspects. However, the key question is which Syrians, because I cannot imagine that Bashar would have okayed a hit that will in fact prove disastrous for Syria. What I'm saying is that this affair may go beyond just killing Hariri, to other types of calculations. I'm not suggesting an Israeli plot, and often groan when I hear that, but nothing will please them more than the reaction that will come from this. In no way does Syria come out of this in one piece, whether inside Lebanon or anywhere else.
A number of analysts are reading the assassination as a sign that the Syrian government is in disarray. They see in these events the jockeying for power within the Syrian regime and calculations that could add up to a coup or future break-up of the regime.

I don't buy it. I have heard this sort of speculation before, but there is no real evidence of it.

Everyone is a perplexed and only time tell.


At 2/15/2005 03:40:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Jashua,
Bashar and his institutions could lack political experience and make mistakes such as extending Lahoud's presidency but this does not mean that they are stupid to commit political suicide.
Terry Larson was praising the Syrian and Lebanese cooperation on executing 1559 and requesting more time for the Syrians so it does not make sense to blow everything up at this critical timing.

At 2/15/2005 04:56:00 AM, Anonymous said...

Dear Sir, please get real

Stop ignoring the evidence: whoever did it (even the mossad ass holes who by the way are the closest Syrian allies -just have a look at the AIPAC opposition to the Syrian Accountability act, and maybe you'll realize) this cannot be organized without the syrian tutelage.

It is as it is.

And pardon me, but your in-laws should not be that proud of having known the son of a filthy dictator that eventually did turn into a filthy dictator.

I beg you to have some more objective input...

At 2/15/2005 06:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No comment

At 2/15/2005 06:56:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I do business in the region. As Cole notes, Hariri had lots of business dealings with unpleasant people. A mafia type connexion is not to be excluded (although that is not exclusive of a political angle as well).

At 2/15/2005 07:38:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not suspect right-wing Christians who can get many advantages from such a crime: Increasing pressures on Syria, speeding up Syrian pullout and international intervention in Lebanon, eliminating a major power in the upcoming elections which is expected to mark the start of a totally new era. Knowing that some Christians are frustrated about the increasing Sunni influence in the Government after Taif, killing Hariri (the most powerful Sunni in Lebanon) would pave the way for Christian domination in the "New Lebanon" that is expected to take shape after the elections and the Syrian withdrawal.

At 2/15/2005 07:43:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...,
While I don't pretend to speak for the keeper of this blog, your comments are simply rude and inappropriate.

What prof. Landis is trying to do is share intimate reactions of the Hariri murder from inside Syria. He neither has to share such details nor is responsible for what people say to him.

I suggest you grow-up. Quit arguing with your overly biased opinions and bad language in this forum if your cannot do so rationally.

You are being part of the problem, not the solution. If you cannot argue responsibly go elsewhere to discharge your hatred and bias.

At 2/15/2005 08:16:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I am french, first I must apologize for my bad english.
Reading the press, I am surprised that few people notice that many Syrian officials, specially among the army, have personal big business interests in Lebanon. They would lose a lot if Syria would be forced to withdraw from Lebanon. Couldn't they be desperate enough to send a signal, even without Bashar approval, to the Lebanese politicians and to the great powers that they are able to create a big mess in Lebanon and the region if they are driven to the wall ?

At 2/15/2005 08:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear French,
You would be right if this action would lead to freeze the Syrian withdrawal but obviously this will only accelerates the process

At 2/15/2005 09:18:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joshua wrote: I suggested, “Well, perhaps Bashar isn’t in control?”

When the US was in the early days of Iraqi invasion, concerns came out from certain circles in Syria about plots to crackdown the regime. It was simple: Permit trafficking of Iraqi "weapons" or "wanted Baathists" into the Syrian lands then leak the information to the Americans who will have a genuine excuse to "punish" Damascus. I am no security expert but I would imagine that carrying out such a plot would be easier than Hariri's assassination because of the complicated and long Iraqi-Syrian borders. The bottom line here is that if such a plot was not possible and Bashar proved to be in control then how could a sophisticated operation such as this assassination be executed out of control. I totally exclude the possibility of Syrian involvement.

At 2/15/2005 02:45:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Joshua,

Firstly the reaction of your in-laws shows the extent of the grip of this regime on the Syrian people. The syrian economy is controlled by Bashar and his family. Bashar has NO intention to reform Syria. That would go against his own interests. Bashar is feeding his people false hopes.

As for Lebanon, the Syrian regime has much to loose in it on the economical and political level. Hariri was able to tip the balance towards a free Lebanon by siding the Sunni community along the Christian and the Druze communities. The national unity in Lebanon is the biggest threat to the Syrian influence in this country. Get ready to hear more of these assination attempts as Syrian influence is dwindling.

By the way could you inform everybody in Syria that the days of abusive accusations of Israel are gone. Israel is still the ennemy of Lebanon but unfortunately the biggest harm to Lebanon is coming from the so called sister.

At 2/15/2005 07:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

“This morning, I said to my wife, “How can it be the Israelis?” It doesn’t make sense for them to do it. They had everything going their way in Lebanon and they didn’t have to do a thing. America and France were doing all the heavy lifting for them. The Lebanese opposition was organizing against Syria in a way that Israel had failed to achieve in 1982. If the world discovered there was Israeli involvement it would be devastating for Sharon.”

While it is not clear who would have done it, to dismiss the Israelis as not having an interest in carrying out the assassination would be concentrating on Israeli interest in Lebanon itself and ignoring other effect the political isolation of Syria would have on future events. Mainly, the effect Syria may have in the upcoming negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Syria is the last remaining party that would support a Palestinian rejection of a final settlement offer from the Israelis. An offer that would seem reasonable to outside powers but that might omit east Jerusalem and the right of return, the two issues on which everything else failed. With Syria being politically weak and isolated, the Palestinian authority might feel the added pressure to accept such an offer as a final settlement. The acceptance of such a settlement by the Palestinian authority could in turn improve Israel’s negotiating leverage when it comes to settling the question of the Golan Heights. I have not invested too much time investigating the possibilities nor do I possess the historical knowledge to verify any of this. However, it would seem to me that the possibility does exist and the incentives are large enough for a risk to be taken in the current political situation in the middle east.

At 2/16/2005 12:50:00 AM, Anonymous Collin Baber said...

Think really hard about who whould benefit from the bombing. Motive, capability and unfortunately, opportunity. My gut says not local mafia and definitely not Syria.

At 2/16/2005 03:17:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not sya that the people who killed Hariri were smart. I suggested they were desperate and ready to do anything not to lose their big business in Lebanon. Maybe the assassination act will accelerate the Syrian withdrawal, but it will only prove that those criminals were stupid.
The Frenchie

At 2/16/2005 09:35:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear all,
Having written my insight on the problems hindering Bashar's reforms I have a thought on the unfortunate event of the day.
I know it is not romantic at all to stay away from conspiracy theories, but at the risk of sounding naive, why can't it be Osama 's gang trying to destabilize the country as it goes well with their intentions. They are against the Syrian baath (can't blame them for that), they are against the Saudi (can't blame them for that either)(Hariri is their man in Lebanon), and they hate everyone who is slightly moderate calling for cross religious unity (Hariri was such a man). They may also want to see an American invasion in Syria so they can go at the Americans the way they do in Iraq. Killing Hariri will certainly get them closer to this objective. Afterall, they claimed responsibility but we found it so unromatic and decided thay it is not amusing enough for us.
100 years ago the anarchists were responsible for assassinating many world leaders including a president of the United States, and PM of France, a Tsar of Russia, a Kaiser's wife among others. Why can't the Bin Laden's movement be doing the same?
What is so clear at this time is that they are reaching their objective by having every interested party in the region trying to capitalize as much as possible on the poor (not in $$$ sense) guy's unfortunate death.
This is just a thought. What do you think Josh

At 2/19/2005 09:55:00 AM, Blogger Zionist Hoodlum said...

When the time is appropriate, take down the last remaining Baathist regime, and remove another state sponsor of terrorism.

We don't have the time to negotiate with another corrupt, terror-supporting family and risk another 9-11.

Put the final nail in this coffin and the world will be better off.

At 2/19/2005 01:07:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While the rest of the world has nearly completed its de-colonization, the Arab world continues to be colonized by the US and Israel (colonization of palestine is the basis of Zionism). How sad.

If link below is accurate and true, this has significant implications in investigating who killed him. It would appear that this may be a US-Israeli operation. Look how quickly C. Rice began lobbying to put Hizballah on the list after Harriri's killing.


يضاف الى ذلك أن الحريري كان يقود في الأونة الأخيرة حملة ضغط في فرنسا و أوروبا لمواجهة الحملة الاسرائيلية النشطة و الهادفة الى وضع حزب الله على لائحة الارهاب.

".. and from another perspective, Hariri was lately leading an effort in
France and Europe to counter active Israeli pressure to place Hizballah on
the list of terrorist organizations..."


At 2/19/2005 01:16:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. Al-Jazeera also reported that the person who called in to claim responsibility for Harriri's killing had a foreign accent when he spoke Arabic.

At 2/22/2005 09:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The US effectively convinced Bashar Assad to exert better control on the border with Iraq. The winners of the Iraqi elections are also pleased. The "insurgents" will have a much easier terrain in Lebanon, a demographically dense country with a wider choice of targets (civilian and non-civilian) than post election Iraq. This doesn't mean that a decentralized al-qaeda is necessarily behind Hariri's death, but somebody is inviting them on their Hezbollah enemies' terrain and a Lebanese base, albeit small, is very appealing for al-qaeda: many christians to target, and a new recruiting tool: the possibility of suicide attacks against Israel. In my opinion, France and the EU, both Iran and Syria, as well as the US and Israel, and definitely all the lebanese stand to lose with Hariri's death, a great politician, and an excellent businessman with partners everywhere. As for Bashar, he is not upset by the US because he understands where they come from, but he does not trust the French as Chirac (and de Villepin) utilized Syria in 2002 in the UN Security Council to promote their agenda (Bashar Assad is a pragmatist who would have kept Syrian diplomacy behind the scenes if not for the French delusions of grandeur and promises to inflex US policies).
After 09-11-2001, things have changed; wait for more al-qaeda action in Lebanon, but the Lebanese probably understand the dangers of political division; fair elections and a slow Syrian pullout will take place over the next 9 months. In the interim, a few of the "old guard" in Damascus (except for a few valuable diplomats) will be retired; this has already started in the Military where no one, without exception, can stay beyond the age of 50).
PS: Everybody should read the great book "The peace to end all peace" to see what mess the French and the Brits created in the world, and particularly in the Middle-East after WW I.

At 2/22/2005 09:08:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops! I meant "the age of 60"...

At 5/21/2005 11:11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Basher wouldn't risk the anti-syrian onslaught. An entity who could benefit from manipulating saudi arabia for its oil would have great motive. everyone knew that hariri was CLOSE kin. interesting to see how iraq is suddenly being fed increased sunni power by us. support for palestine will suffer. it was a very sophisticated attack. motive, motive, motive.

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