Gebran Tueni is Murdered. Is Syria to Blame?
The Tueni murder has caused grief and shock throughout the region. The dominant interpretation in the West and Lebanon has been articulated by Walid Jumblat. He said that Syria murdered Tueni and is upping the ante to send a message to the Lebanese and world community that if Syria is pressed to the wall, it will strike back.
From Washington’s perspective, increasing the pressure on Syria has worked better than anyone could have imagined. The US drove the Syrian army from Lebanon at a very small price. Some 40 Lebanese were killed over the last year. This was perhaps the least bloody and least expensive liberation of a country in history. On November 10, President Asad also announced that the Syrian government would accept any decision that the Palestine Authority takes for the future of Palestine-Israeli relations. American pressure has also brought great dividends on the Iraq-Syria border. Condoleezza Rice commented to David Ignatius a few weeks ago that Syria has been doing much better on border security - an opinion that has been repeated by Iraqi officials and frequently corroborated by articles written for Syria Comment.
Despite these gains, Washington will not negotiate with Bashar al-Asad or give up its policy of increasing pressure on Damascus. Many European ambassadors in Damascus believe this is a foolish policy. A few have expressed to me that now is the time to bring in the crop. “The wheat is heavy on the stalk and ready for harvest,” one ambassador suggested to me. There are many signs that Syria has been thrashing about for an understanding with Washington but has been unable to get a positive response. But why should Washington stike a deal with a regime it detests and it has vilified when it can get what it wants through applying more pressure? Washington sees no reason to open a dialog with Damascus. It believes that Bashar is the problem, that he is a Baathist ideologue who does not keep his word. He will always backtrack on his promises, etc. Moreover, Washington refuses to return to the type of understanding it maintained with Syria during the days of Hafiz al-Asad, putting up with some of Syria's anti-American and anti-Israel behavior in order to win its assistance on the things most important to the US.
Some in Washington have been arguing that the US make it clear to Syria that Iraq is its primary concern and sit down with Bashar to hammer out an understanding for getting the most help it can on Iraq. This would imply Washington’s recognition of his leadership and force it off the war path with Syria. This council has not found favor. Anyway, why stop ratcheting up the pressure on Syria when it has proven so lucrative and so cheap.
The problem with continuing with the pressure, in the minds of some, is that eventually Syria will lash out, making it clear that it will not continue to give for free. Damascus will eventually be forced to make it clear to Washington that pressure does not pay and will backfire. Has Damascus reached that point? With the murder of Tueni, those who blame Syria will claim Damascus has reached its tipping point. It will no longer play the game of accommodating the West in the hope of coming to some accord, which is illusive.
One Syria who has had run ins with the police here speculated to me that perhaps the Tueni murder is a sign that the Syrian regime is divided. He described an imaginary scenario in which the security chiefs, who are being targeted for arrest by Mehlis, ordered the attack to force the President’s hand and ensure a forceful UN Security Council reaction, which would be followed by an equally forceful Syrian counter-reaction. By forcing the UN to get tough with Syria, Syria’s president would be forced to stop cooperation with the UN. This might save the 5 suspects from being handed over to an international court and imprisonment. But this is all speculation. Undoubtedly it will be the sort of speculation that runs far and wide.
No one is Syria can figure out why the murder would be carried out now unless it was committed by an enemy of Syria. Why would the Damascus government possible kill Tueni on the eve of the Security Council meeting that might lead to economic sanctions being placed on Syria? It just doesn’t make sense.
Are there other suspects besides Syria? Many Syrians suspect Israel, but why would Israel kill one of its best allies in Lebanon?
Could it be Hizbullah? Three days ago a senior Hizbullah leader was almost blown up in his car. Hizbullah accused Israel of carrying out the murder, but that does not mean it believes Israel was the author. It is hard to believe that Hizbullah would be behind Tueni's murder. Why strike out at a symbol and not a politician. Anyway, Hizbullah does not have a record of assassinating fellow Lebanese. With Mehlis caring out his UN mandated investigation, such acts of reckless retribution would be extremely risky. All the same, the confessional divide in Lebanon have been growing ever deeper. Over the last months the Shiite community and the Hariri led, anti-Syria movement have grown further apart. Hizbullah has announced it is against the formation of an international court to try the suspects of the Mehlis investigation. Hariri and Siniora are for it.
Most importantly, Hizbullah has threatened to place a spanner in the works of debt rescheduling conference which is coming up soon. It has already been delayed once and may be again. Washington is expected to reward Lebanon by putting up a some money, but more importantly, by getting Saudi Arabia to put up a lot of money to help reschedule Lebanon's towering national debt. Hizbullah has been making noises that it will oppose these reform measures so long as the United States pushes resolution 1559, which targets Hizbullah. In effect, the Shiites are saying that the US does not have the luxury of deciding which half of Lebanon it wishes to support and ally with. Hizbullah has surprised many with its continuing pro-Syrian stand as the Mehlis processes has moved forward. This puts growing strains on internal unity in Lebanon and opens the possibility that such strains could be behind the Tueni murder. All the same, Hizbullah is not a likely suspect. It just doesn’t smell of Hizbullah’s modus operandi.
Saad Hariri has not returned to Lebanon from his self imposed exile for fear of meeting the same fate as his father. Two days ago, Michael Young wrote an op-ed demanding that he come home and take charge of uniting Lebanon and coordinating its struggle against Syria. After Tueni’s death, Hariri’s return will be all the more important for Lebanon, but all the more risky for Hariri. Lebanon is beginning to look ever more unstable and incapable of putting its own house together. Certainly, the Lebanese security forces have proven they are unable to protect their country’s most outspoken luminaries. Gebran Tueni will leave a great void.
Gebran Tueni Perishes in Massive Car Bomb Explosion Near Beirut
Gebran Tueni, a fiery critic of Syria, was assassinated in a car-bomb explosion in Mkalles, east of Beirut Monday. He was 48....
4-Car bomb kills anti-Syrian MP Tueni in Beirut
BEIRUT, Dec 12 (Reuters) - A car bomb blast killed Lebanese newspaper magnate and anti-Syrian lawmaker Gebran Tueni in Beirut on Monday, a day after he returned from Paris, where he had based himself in recent months in fear of assassination.
Police said Tueni, publisher of An-Nahar newspaper, was among four people who died in the explosion that destroyed his armoured sports utility vehicle as it was driving in the Mekalis area of mainly Christian east Beirut. Ten people were wounded.
At least three people inside his car were killed, their bodies charred beyond recognition, witnesses said.
Police sources said a parked car packed with 40 kg (88 pounds) of dynamite was detonated by remote control as Tueni's car passed by.
Tueni was killed just hours before the U.N. Security Council was due to receive a report by chief U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis, who has been trying to identify those behind the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
An interim report by Mehlis in October said the evidence pointed towards the involvement of Syrian officials and their Lebanese allies in Hariri's killing. Syria denies this.
Lebanese Druze leader and politician Walid Jumblatt told Arab satellite television channels that Tueni's killing was linked to the Mehlis report and suggested Syria was behind it.
Asked who was responsible, he told Al Arabiya television: "Gebran Tueni and An-Nahar were being threatened for a long time by the Syrian regime... we got the message. We will persevere."
Jumblatt said: "They killed Gebran Tueni today because Mehlis will present his report today. This is a message to the international community and the Lebanese community."
SYRIA DENOUNCES BOMBING
Syria condemned the latest attack in Lebanon, which has been rocked by more than a dozen bombings and assassinations since the car bomb blast that killed Hariri and 22 others.
"Syria denounces this crime that claimed the lives of Lebanese, irrespective of their political stances," Syrian Information Minister Mahdi Dakhl-Allah told LBC television.
A statement carried by Syria's official news agency SANA said the bombing was timed "to direct accusations at Syria".
The blast set several cars ablaze and damaged nearby shops and buildings. Police and soldiers cordoned off the area as rescue workers ferried casualties to hospitals.
Tueni, 48, a fierce critic of Syria's policies in Lebanon who was elected to parliament this year, said in August he believed he was on a hit-list for assassination.
He had spent much of his time since then in Paris, but was believed to have returned to Beirut late on Sunday.
"Lebanese officials received accurate information from the international investigation committee about an assassination list of several politicians," he told the Arabic-language Radio Orient in Paris in August. "My name is on top of this list."
Tueni's uncle, Druze Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, survived an attempt on his life in 2004.
Tueni was publisher, chairman of the board and general manager of Lebanon's leading newspaper An-Nahar. A columnist at the daily, Samir Kassir, who also criticised Syrian policies, was killed by a bomb in his car in June.
Tueni was married, with four daughters.
Syria says Beirut blast aimed at framing Damascus
DAMASCUS, Dec 12 (Reuters) - Syria said a bomb blast that killed an anti-Syrian politician in Beirut on Monday was an attempt to frame Damascus and damage its reputation.
In a statement carried by the official Syrian news agency, Syria denounced the "bombing that took place in the Mekalis suburb of Beirut ... whose timing is intended to direct accusations to Syria".
"Syria is pained over the bombings and assassinations that target the security of Lebanon," said the news agency.
A car bomb killed staunch anti-Syrian member of parliament and journalist Gebran Tueni. Three other people died and 10 were wounded in the explosion that blew up Teuni's armoured SUV in mainly Christian east Beirut.
Lebanese politicians have accused Syria of involvement in a chain of assassinations of Lebanese political and media figures since the Feb. 14 truck bomb assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.
An initial United Nations probe implicated Syria in the assassination of Hariri. Syria, which was the main power broker in is smaller neighbour until April when it ended three decades of military presence in Lebanon, denies any role in any killing.
The following was sent by Ehsani2 :
Present at the Disintegration
Bashar just gave an interview to Russia's state Television. He warned that "The Middle East is the heart of the world, and Syria is the heart of the Middle East. If the situation in Syria and Iraq is not good, the whole region will become unstable and the entire world will pay for that". Asked whether he will be ready to hand in his relatives if they are named, he said "It is not names that matter but proof. We don't accept politicizing the probe. There is a certain political situation around the commission that disorganizes its work".
By KANAN MAKIYA
December 11, 2005
Op-Ed Contributor to NY Times
What is wrong with pursuing the Constitution to its logical conclusion: the breakup of Iraq? Nothing, if that breakup is consensual and does not entail an escalation in the violence tearing the country apart. But such is not the case. The debate in Parliament over the Constitution was extremely polarized and artificially cut short by the majority. Moreover, if a mere 83,283 people in the province of Nineveh had voted no instead of yes, the draft constitution would have been defeated.
Sunni opposition to the new order will continue. Crushing it by force, as some Shiite hotheads in the Parliament's majority bloc are calling for, will be an extremely bloody business. Even if the long-term outcome of an all-out Iraqi civil war is not in doubt, the body count and destruction would make Lebanon's war look like a picnic. No moral person can condone the parliamentary majority that makes this happen.
The 2003 Iraq war has indeed brought about an irreversible transformation of politics and society in Iraq. But this transformation has not consolidated power, as the great revolutions of the past have tended to do (in France, Russia and even Iran), nor is it distributing power on an agreed upon and equitable basis, as happened after the American Revolution and as Iraqi liberal democrats like myself had hoped would happen after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Rather, it is dissipating it. And that is a terrifying prospect for a population whose primary legacy from the Saddam Hussein era is a profound mistrust of government in all its forms.
By ceding and dismissing centralized power, Iraqis may end by ceding all their power. Iran in the short run, and the Arab world in the long run, will fill the vacuum with proxies, turning the dream of a democratic and reborn Iraq into a dystopia of warring militias and rampant hopelessness.