Kanaan Death Doesn't seem to be Related to the Mehlis Report
It is becoming clearer that Ghazi Kanaan's death was not related to the Mehlis report or Lebanon-Syria relations, as I speculated yesterday.
One good reporter I heard from today said they are "hearing Kanaan was tried in-camera and executed."
Hassan Fattah of the New York Times reported in today's NYTimes that the Mehlis people said Ghazi Kanaan was not a suspect in the Hariri murder investigation.
As I wrote yesterday, I have heard from several different sources that Washington had been hearing from "senior" Syrian sources of real dissatisfaction among top Alawi officers.
If Ghazi Kanaan's death was due to a purge, it will be the first in recent Syrian history. It is an indication of present regime weakness in the face of foreign pressure. It will also chasten others. Over the last week, I have argued on Syria Comment, that the regime was made fairly coup-proof by Hafiz. Of course, it was Hafiz's wisdom and political acumen that kept it that way. But it is also due to the replication of security forces, which makes it particularly difficult for any individual to organize a putsch. Too many people need to be drawn into the conspiracy for it to have much chance of remaining secret.
By the way, my phone number in Lebanon, where I will be until Friday, is (961) 70955012
Albert Aji, AP's bureau chief in Damascus writes:
Syrian opposition figure, Ali Sadrelddine al-Beyanouni, the London-exiled leader of the banned Syrian Muslim Brotherhood group, told Al-Jazeera that a Kenaan statement to a radio station shortly before his death "indicated that he felt in danger, and this supports rumors that there has been a deal in which the Syrian regime might sacrifice some of its heads for saving the regime."
President Asad made it clear in his CNN interview yesterday (taped in the morning before the announcement of Ghazi K.'s suicide)that Syria's stand is that it is innocent in the Hariri murder. It will punish those implicated - if any are. He did not say, however, as some are reporting this morning, that he would turn them over to an international court. He said they would be punished either at home or abroad. There is a big difference between the two statements. What the president said means Syria can still claim that the Mehlis report is all political and refuse to send Syrians to an international court if they are indicted. He can say that Syria will punish them at home after being tried by Syrian courts, much as the Lebanese will be tried in at home.
Many of my readers are still arguing that Kanaan was sacrificed or fell on his sword in order to take the fall for Syria, should it be implicated in the Mehlis report. Kanaan is not a suspect in the Hariri murder, although he was interviewed by Mehlis' team. He left Lebanon in 2003 and was head of Syria's police system by February 14 and not head of Mukhabarat or Lebanon. Syria cannot be exonerated by his death.
Here is CNN's interview with Asad.
Al-Assad: 'Syria has nothing to do with this crime'CNN International - USASyrian President Bashar Al-Assad denied that Syria was involved in the killing of Rafik Hariri. ... BASHAR AL-ASSAD, PRESIDENT OF SYRIA: We're not isolated. ...