As Lebanon prepares for Hariri's funeral today, which will be marked by large demonstrations and an emotional outpouring, Syria has gone into a state of shock and is doing what little it can to defend its position. Life in Damascus is outwardly quite normal, but there is a widespread anticipation of the worst and a sense of impending attack and encirclement. I have yet to hear a Syrian who believes his government is behind this. Everyone suspects evil doing on the part of Syria's enemies.
A number of extended family members came to dinner last night. They watched a bit of the Walid Fares (Lebanese-Maronite) - Kandil (pro-Syrian, Lebanese parliamentary member) debate on al-Jazeera. Each accused the other's group of being behind Hariri's killing.
My father-in-law, who served as a (liwa') or general for ten years and was the number 2 man in the Syrian Navy was very direct when I asked him what Syria should do now.Naharnet:
Syria will have no choice but to withdraw from Lebanon. Everyone will turn against it. All the old cards – Lebanon, the Palestinians, and Hizballah – have turned into thorns in its side.
Mubarak will call a meeting of the Arab League and they will find a face-saving deal that will allow Asad to withdraw.
The Lebanese have had enough of Syria. The world will use the Hariri assassination against Syria even if it is innocent. Lebanon is finished for Syria.
The Syrian people won’t complain. Lebanon is not an emotional issue. It is an issue of high politics and geo-strategy. Syria will be weakened because now Israel will be able to poke at Syria through Lebanon.
The reality is that Syria is weak. The old strategy can no longer work. Russia is playing with Syria and cannot support it. There is only one path forward for Syria and that is to withdraw.
President Chirac is expected to fly to Beirut for Hariri's funeral on Wednesday and Arab kings and presidents will send senior representatives to see the assassinated ex-premier of Lebanon lowered into his last resting place at the courtyard of Al Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut.
Chirac called on Mrs. Nazek Hariri at the ex-premier's house in Paris, where she was staying in recent weeks. As the French head-of-state was offering his condolences, Gen. Aoun walked in to console Hariri's wife. Chirac and Aoun shook hands.
Mrs. Hariri flew to Beirut late Monday evening on her husband's private jet. She was accompanied by former Lebanese intelligence chief Johnny Abdo and his wife.
Hariri's widow withdrew to the Koreitem ward reserved for woman condolence rituals where she accepted condolences from a stream of sympathizers flanked by Hariri's sister Bahia and his daughter Hind.
The men's section was crowded by politicians, religious leaders and notables. Among them was Syria's vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam who stood next to Bahaa Hariri as condolers filed past. Mufti Rachid Kabbani stood on Bahaa's other side next to Hariri's second son Saad.
It was noted that Khaddam sat down when French ambassador Bernard Emie and U.S. ambassador Jeffrey Feltman arrived to extend their condolences. They shook hands with Kabbani, the 2 sons and Walid Jumblat but both ignored Khaddam.DAMASCUS, Feb 15 (AFP
) - Syria went on the defensive Tuesday after the killing of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, who resigned just four months ago in protest at the dominant role of Damascus in his country.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was among the first leaders to condemn the massive Beirut bomb blast that killed Hariri and another 14 people on Monday and brought back memories of the dark days of the Lebanese civil war.
The official press condemned the murder as an "odious crime," saying Hariri was a "welcome son" for Syria and accused arch-foe Israel of seeking to sabotage Lebanon's achievements since the 1975-1990 war.
"What happened was an attempt to shatter national unity in Lebanon, to sow anarchy and divisions which lead to a climate of civil war," said government newspaper Tishrin.
While the opposition to the pro-Syrian government in Beirut openly blamed Syria for the assassination, the official Damascus media in turn pointed a finger at Israel without even reporting the accusations against Syria.
Israel "continues to work to sabotage Lebanon's achievements to try to bring anarchy to the country and to be able to continue its occupation of the Shebaa Farms", a disputed strip of land along the Israeli border, said Tishrin.
Several Arab analysts stressed that Syria itself was also targeted by Hariri's assassination.
"Syria certainly did not need to complicate the situation, just when it is already in the firing line" over UN Resolution 1559, Rauf Ghoneim, a former Egyptian deputy foreign minister, said on the public station, Nile-TV.
The UN Security Council adopted the resolution in September calling for an end to foreign interference in Lebanon and the withdrawal of foreign troops, a direct message to Syria which still has 14,000 troops stationed there.
Political scientist Gamal Salama, also in Cairo, ruled out any Syrian link because the killing could not serve the interests of Damascus. It could signal "the prelude to action against Syria", said Salama.
"Something has been in the pipeline against Syria for a long time. "Nobody knows what or when, but something is being cooked up to target Damascus."
The editor-in-chief of Syria's official Ath-Thawra newspaper, Fayez Sayegh, said the attack on Hariri "targeted national unity and civil peace in Lebanon".
In the face of the accusations of Syrian involvement, Sayegh insisted that Damascus "always welcomed Hariri as one of its sons and as a major Lebanese figure".