Lebanese elections: Going up in Smoke?

Anti-Syrian MP wounded in Beirut car bomb: sources

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A car bomb killed an anti-Syrian Lebanese lawmaker and at least six other people in Beirut on Wednesday, just six days before parliament was due to elect a new president, security sources said.

The lawmaker, Antoine Ghanem of the Christian Phalange party, was killed by the blast in a Christian district of the Lebanese capital. At least 19 other people were wounded by the bomb in the busy commercial and residential area of Sin el-Fil.

[Comment by JL] This is significant because Presidential elections must be carried out before the end of November and March 14th's majority is only held by a few deputies. The immediate impulse of journalists will be to tie the killing of Ghanem to Syria. They will see it as Damascus' pay back for Israel's bombing raid on Syria. 

Andrew Lee Butters, story yesterday will seem prescient in this respect, "Will Syria's response to Israel come via Lebanon?" Wednesday, 18 September, 2007.

Reporters will be irresponsible if thy make the Syria connection without commenting that the last two assassinations of March 14 statesmen were pinned on Fatah al-Islam, a Lebanese, al-Qaida-linked, Sunni extremist organization that the Lebanese Army says has no known links to Syria. The murky undercurrents of Lebanon's militias are hard to read. The press will undoubtedly simplify for us with the follow sort of anodyne statement blaming Syria: "Hariri's family says Syria was behind the killing of the former prime minister and later attacks, but Damascus denies this." Such reporting is irresponsible without at least mentioning that Lebanese state authorities have fingered Lebanese extremist groups for the last several attacks and has yet to come up with any hard evidence linking Syria to previous murders.

Chibli Mallat explains "What Lebanon's president should do about Syria," in the Daily Star, September 18. He is a presidential candidate in the up-coming Lebanese elections. He offers Syria full Lebanese assistance in getting back the Golan by supporting it in peace conferences in exchange for no Syrian interference in Lebanon. He writes:  "One sentence displaying responsible conciliation from Assad would suffice: Syria, he should say, desires a constitutional change in Lebanon's presidency, and considers it has no say in whom that president should be. This signifies a nod toward conciliation with Syria, but it will not placate the opposition who want more power in government.

Mallat's criticism of the Brammertz investigation into Hariri's killing is well put. He writes:

I have criticized investigator Serge Brammertz, and would continue if elected. After two years of reports, the Lebanese and Syrian publics, and the world, are entitled to know more. Either the investigator has no evidence of the involvement of the Syrian leadership and its Lebanese allies – in which case Mehlis and the initial UN investigator of the case, Peter Fitzgerald, were wrong, and Brammertz should say so publicly (after all four people, at least, have been sitting in prison without trial for over two years now); or Brammertz thinks the conclusions of his predecessors were correct, and he must say so publicly.

The policy of any new Lebanese president has, therefore, been made excruciatingly difficult by the fog created by the investigator's performance over the past two years. If no evidence is forthcoming of the Syrian leadership's involvement, we should accept this and mend the political rift the murder has so dramatically occasioned. If we have cause to believe that Syria was involved, then any new president's attitude must depend on the level and role of the accused, and the reaction of the Syrian regime to it. The bottom line is that any accused should stand trial, however high in the governing system – in Lebanon or Syria. Any other result will deepen the mistrust between the two countries, and the risk of open military confrontation. Hence my continued hope that Bashar Assad was not involved in Hariri's assassination and other crimes.

Syria reopens 2 border crossings with northern Lebanon closed in May after a Lebanese Delegation meets with Farouk al-Sharaa

The Syrio-Lebanese socio-economic issues are very much entangled. The effects of any internal Syrian policy on Lebanon is grave, more so than Lebanese M14 politicians want to admit.

A couple of weeks ago I was in Beirut for a conference. When the taxi driver from the airport knew I’m Syrian, he expressed his anxiety about the Syrian government decision to remove subsidies on oil and its plan on introducing VAT. I was astonished. Here was a Sunni Beiruti Lebanese telling me how my government’s internal economic decision is going to affect him negatively. He went on and on on how his family and extended family buy their yearly “mooneh” from Syria and how the economies of Lebanese villages on the Syrian border will be devastated with the decision of introducing VAT in Syria or removal of government subsidies on oil, diesel or gas.

The decision to reopen the border crossing with Lebanon will not affect many Syrians (maybe only those who are used to clubbing in Beirut), but people on the Lebanese side of the border will definitely be jubilant.

Policy makers asking for curbing on Lebanese-Syrian border will definitely face much resistance from hundreds of thousands of Lebanese citizens who strongly depend on the subsidized neighboring Syrian market for their day to day livelihood.

The taxi driver asked if there is anyway that pressure can be made on the Syrian government to reverse its decision and keep the subsidies.. I smiled!

LEBANON: Presidency crisis risks two governments
Wednesday, September 12 2007
Oxford Analytica 2007

EVENT: Sunni leader Saad al-Hariri is due to respond this week to Speaker Nabih Berri's compromise initiative designed to break the deadlock between government and opposition before the parliamentary session to elect a new president on September 25.
SIGNIFICANCE: The 128 deputies have from September 25 to November 24 to elect a president, who in accordance with tradition is drawn from the country's Christian Maronite community. …
ANALYSIS: The parliamentary session on September 25 has long been seen as a potentially crucial date for Lebanon. It will be the first time parliament has met since last October as Speaker Nabih Berri has refused to convene lawmakers after his opposition allies resigned from the government.
Two governments? Berri is citing his reading of Article 49 of the constitution in calling for a two-thirds quorum of the 128 MPs to be present on September 25, without which he will not convene the session:
  • The opposition has threatened to boycott the vote and deny parliament a quorum, thus blocking the process.
  • In return, the pro-government majority has threatened to go ahead and choose a president from its own ranks with its majority, possibly in a parliamentary session outside of parliament.

Such outcomes are widely expected to lead to either side declaring their own government, citing their conflicting interpretations of Article 49. Lebanon witnessed a similar scenario of two governments in 1988 when Amin Gemayel, the president at that time, named then army commander General Michel Aoun to a head a military government in conflict with the existing cabinet.

Impasse. So far, both sides have been uncompromising. The 'March 14' government coalition demands a new president who will:

  • commit Lebanon to the UN tribunal to try the killers of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri;
  • ensure that Syria does not return to its previous position of power broker in Lebanese affairs; and
  • respect UN resolutions 1559 and 1701 which call for Hizbollah to disarm.

For its part, the Hizbollah-led opposition stresses that a new president should:

  • resist US attempts to act as protector of Lebanon;
  • respect Hizbollah's status as a liberation force in southern Lebanon; and
  • implement policies to counter nepotism and corruption in public life, which they blame the current government for exacerbating.

Hizbollah's bid for power, which started after last year's war, is a key factor in this impasse. Its flat refusal of any president from the March 14 group who is likely to pursue UN resolutions 1559 and 1701 dictates the opposition's stance and leaves little room for manoeuvre.

Divided counsels. The March 14 group have divergent priorities:

  • Saad al-Hariri's Sunni bloc is mainly concerned with securing a president who will support the UN trial of his father's killers.
  • Walid Jumblatt and Samir Geagea have made opposition to Syrian influence, the disarmament of Hizbollah, and concern over what they call the "Hizbollah state" within the Lebanese state, their first priorities.

Neither of these stances accommodates the opposition's standpoint.

Berri's compromise. Berri last week proposed to relinquish the opposition's claim for a unity government in return for agreement on a consensus candidate. This proposal reflects a changed situation after the UN Security Council on May 30 passed Resolution 1757 authorising an international tribunal for the trial of Hariri's killers. A unity government is no longer necessary to block a vote for such a tribunal, and the main focus for the opposition forces is now to avoid Emile Lahoud being replaced by a president beyond their influence.

The proposal has been positively received by the diplomatic corps, and also met with some approval among some March 14 leaders, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Others like Jumblatt and Geagea see the proposal as an ultimatum, because the opposition could fail to show up at the parliamentary session unless the March 14 group agrees to find a consensus candidate.

CONCLUSION: If Berri's initiative fails to reduce mutual mistrust and either side sticks to its guns, September 25 could lead to a schism right through Lebanon's political system. The regional and international powers have long realised the danger, but have failed to conjure a remedy to the slow fracture of Lebanon's state institutions. Barring an eleventh-hour change of attitude, the outside world can do little more than watch that scenario unfold.
ArabReform Bulletine has this: Lebanon: Scenarios for the Presidential Election by Sarkis Naoum

Comments (113)

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101. Enlightened said:

Israeli Guy;

I dont think the next war (and heres hoping that it doesn’t eventuate) will not be fought conventionally. What we saw last year is only a small blue print, that i think will be strategically built on.

There is a belief within your enemies (Hezb, Syria, Iran), that your society (population and cities) will be targeted as it was in 06, but on a far heavier scale, I think in 73, Sadat had a limited war plan that holding a perimeter of the canal under the SAM umbrella, which was effective for two weeks, when he deviated from this plan, the Egyptian forces were routed due to inn effective air cover and the overwhelming Israeli counter strike.

The Syrians and Iranians have far more missiles ( I don’t believe that your patriots or arrows will provide adequate cover with massive missile launches). They will target major urban centers, and while The Israelis are master planners( with bomb shelters etc) the results will be devastating). They will also fight with small bands of guerrillas/soldiers and while they can cause damage, they know they will not win, but will aim to cause maximum civilian/infrastructure damage to your cities.

This is what i see happening, hence the main reason i think for the Israeli incursion into Syria last week ( was actually targeting a missile base).

What do you think?

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September 21st, 2007, 3:56 am


102. Murphy said:

“Murphy, you represent a phenomena which is actually quite popular among both Arabs who live in the Arab world and Arabs who moved abroad.”

Hard to know which is more comical:

1) An Israeli who thinks himself an expert on “Arabs”

2) Anyone who thinks “Murphy” sounds like an Arab name.

Besides, you are straw-manning again. Nobody here ever described any Arab state as a democracy, but defenders of Israel do so all the time. I’ve never heard of an Arab who is under any illusions about the lack of democracy in their countries, but many Israelis are. In any case, if you wish to start a discussion about the lack of democracy in the Arab world, go ahead and start one, but this particular discussion was on the inherently flawed nature of ‘the Middle East’s only democracy’.

Thank you for not responding to a single one of my points. I know, I know, constructing a straw man is so much easier and more fun.

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September 21st, 2007, 7:39 am


103. SimoHurtta said:

Israeli guys must be in panic

Israel scrambles warplanes to intercept ‘Syrian’ birds

Israeli fighter pilots scrambled warplanes on Friday after radar spotted a potential airborne enemy flying from Syria only to discover the culprits were migratory birds, army radio reported.

Maybe the birds were controlled by Iran and came from North Korea. Did Israel share intelligence with USA about the birds? Lucky that Israeli guys didn’t launch Arrows. It would have been even a more expensive way to hunt birds as using warplanes. 🙂

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September 21st, 2007, 9:42 am


104. Murphy said:

I’ve heard Israel’s Security Cabinet is considering branding the aviary which dispatched the birds as an ‘enemy entity’. However, Condi has assured the concerned public that they will not abandon the ‘innocent birds.’

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September 21st, 2007, 10:16 am


105. Akbar Palace said:

The White House was deeply troubled by Israel’s assertion that North Korea was assisting Syria’s nuclear ambition, but opted against an immediate response because of concern over negotiations on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the Post reported, citing U.S. government sources.

Ultimately, however, the United States is believed to have given Israel some corroboration of the original intelligence before the air raid on September 6, the Post said, citing the sources.

The Post quoted its sources as saying that Israel hit the Syrian facility in the dead of night to minimize possible casualties.

I wonder what Hezbollah and Hamas will do to minimize possible casualties?


Another terror attacked foiled. Yawn. Try finding that on the BBC’s ME website…

IDF forces operating in Nablus arrest would-be suicide bomber and his two collaborators; men planned to launch terror attack in heart of Israel


Now “Peace” Professor Josh’s Sept. 15 thread: Nuclear Allegations Seemingly Hot Air suddenly doesn’t seem like “hot air” anymore.

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September 21st, 2007, 11:25 am


106. Friend in America said:

The description of a “commando/terrorist” strategy combined with missile attacks by Syria in the next war is very interesting. I doubt Syria is presently equipped for a terrorist war plan. Could it recruit Hizbollah and the terrorists in Gaza? Iran would have to signal a green light.
I doubt the Israeli incursion targeted a missile base. If the strike was at Dayr az Zawr (and indications are it was), that town is not a good strategic location for a missle base. That town is on the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria. To strike at Lebanon, Turkey, Isreal or Jordan, the missiles would have to fly long distances over Syria itself. Not good. But, there is a nuclear reactor 4km outside Dawr az Zawr in desolate land. Maybe that was the target (???).

When the subject of nuclear facility comes up, too many jump immediately to the asumption the facility develops nuclear weapons. Not always. The small reactor outside Dayr az Zawr has been a research facility and I think had been supplying low grade nuclear products for peaceful means (such as treatment for cancer). It’s activites have been well known to the nuclear watchdog agencies. What got Isreal’s attention was the arrival of product and people not needed for the facility’s past activities but very useful for production of more aggresive products.
Following Enlightened’s description of the next war, is it possible there was a plan to manufacture radioactive isotopes and nuclear by-products that could be used in guerrilla warfare – on a grander scale than the murder of the Russian expatriate in London 2 years ago by a Russian operative? The Dayr az Zawr facility could product the necesary radio active products.

On another subject, the article by Volker Perthes posted by Josh is worth serious reading. The article is one of the very few comprehensive and reasoned assessments of Assad’s foreign policy that I have read. If accurate, now is the time to move on peace initiatives. If the desire for peace is strong, Washington will not, and cannot, impede peace talks.
However, there are activities inconsistentent with Perthes’ assessment, principally the military agreements with Iran, the chemical warfare effort, the still unverfiied nuclear weapon effort at Dayr az Zawr (and elsewhere) and insulting the Saudis. We all live with inconsistencies in policy and activity, but these activities question Assad’s sincerity. So, Assad’s next step should be to make his intentions for peace credible. Volker Perthes could carry that message.
The most dangerous thinking in the middle east is believing having weapons of mass destruction will make neighbors and the major powers cringe and therefore sue for peace. That was Sadam Hussein’s great error in judgment before Gulf War 2 – he actually encouraged the belief that Iraq had secret nuclear weapons when he had none (this disclosure was made in discussions during his captivity in 2005) in the belief it would prevent any effort to topple his regime.

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September 21st, 2007, 2:57 pm


107. IsraeliGuy said:

Enlightened, I find it hard to believe that the strike in Syria was targeting an ordinary missile base.

The risk is too high and the target doesn’t have such a high value.
The local media here is practically shouting that it was a nuclear related facility – and I believe it.

The Israeli media has an excellent track record on these issues and they don’t have an agenda to mislead the viewers – or they’ll lose them for poor credibility and nobody there wants that.

The scenario that you portrayed seem pretty reasonable.
It’s true that the Iranians and the Syrians have a massive number of missiles but the more important question is how many launchers they have.

In the last war in Lebanon, the IDF managed to hit almost all their heavy launchers.
It’s the small Katyusha rockets that we couldn’t stop, but since most people were in shelters, the number of casualties was relatively low (compared to 4,000 rockets that were fired on Israel).

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September 22nd, 2007, 11:07 am


108. Georges said:

There will certainly be a civil war in Lebanon. This will repeat itself as long as the country is left to these immature Lebanese brats. If there was ever a case for a country NOT to be fit to rule itself, it is Lebanon. We know the cycle pretty well now. Every couple of decades, the various Lebanese factions throw a violent tantrum against each other, costing a few hundred thousand lives. As they jockey for political and military power, each faction allies itself with a chosen external regional power, raising the stakes for everyone. Then, when the human and political costs of the war become too high, the world steps in to end it. Then, the irresponsible Lebanese rack up billions of debt to rebuild their country and turn it into a brothel for the Gulf Arabs (their single major industry). Just when it’s time to pay up, it’s time for another war. http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid-569

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September 22nd, 2007, 11:02 pm


109. Firas said:

Well put Georges. As a Syria, I’m sick and tired of continued charge that Syria is behind the killings of Lebanese politicians.
Anyone with any knowledge of the region in general, and lebanon in particular, can tell you this is an internal Lebanese job. A pattern has been established. Just before a major political event that is expected to yield an unfavorable result for the US- and Israeli-backed March 14th Group, a junior member of their coalition is blown to shreds. If Syrians sat around a room and designed a campaign aimed at NOTHING but to harm Syria’s interests, they wouldn’t come up with something more effective. And, given that the Syrians are much smarter and more cunning political actors than those in Lebanon, that’s unlikely. If Syria is going to take on the operational and political risk to kill a Lebanese politician, it would serve them to get rid of Walid Jumblatt, Saad Hariri or Samir Geagea. The killing of Antoine Ghanem is just not worth it. The same goes for the other 8; they’re simply not of any significance or even annoyance to Syria to warrant an assassination. The US-, Israeli- and Saudi-allied March 14th coalition is run by a bunch of warlords who have an irrefutable record of war crimes against other Lebanese. Their alliance with Israel, the US and Saudi Arabia is proving ineffective in helping them against their internal rivals for political domination of this little, insignificant country. It certainly is not beyond any of these thugs (Jumblatt, Geagea & Crew) to kill a minor, non-player like Antoine Ghanem.

Lebanon is a dysfunctional state and has been since its inception. This is a country that has a fair amount of freedom and NO democracy. It proves the adage that democracy is not just a political system; it’s an education. Syria did NOT kill Ghanem or any of his predecessors. His own friends sacrificed him to attain their own political agenda, and the Lebanese people, unfortunately, like sheep, just go along with their mobster-like tribal leaders. The irony is that despite its crude management, Syria, who is blamed for every act of violence (despite the lack of ANY evidence to date), has brought the most stability and prosperity to this non-country during its reign of influence.

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September 22nd, 2007, 11:05 pm


110. Kamal said:


You’re an idiot. The leaders of the Lebanese Independence movement have all lost fathers, sons, brothers and husbands to the Syrian Murder Machine. To still believe it’s an inside job is just lunacy. Then again this is typical Arab thinking. I mean, look at the other comments around here – you fit right in. Apart from a couple of smart guys like Ehsani and Alex, the rest of the comment section is dense with stupidity. The couple of Israelis who comment here are intellectual GIANTS compared to the average Syria Comment commentator. How sad.

If M14 were really such efficient assassins, they could have wiped out the Hizballa leadership by now, and maybe even knocked off a Ba’thist or 2, or maybe rid Lebanon of some cheap SSNP thugs we could all do without. Instead, you’re telling me they have set up an elaborate network to kill off their own leaders, journalists, parliamentarians, and members of their own families. All this, why – just to get Syria in diplomatic trouble? As if the regime were not already in deep shit…

But the dumbest and funniest part of your rant is this here:

> And, given that the Syrians are much smarter and more cunning
> political actors than those in Lebanon


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September 22nd, 2007, 11:48 pm


111. Enlightened said:


“And, given that the Syrians are much smarter and more cunning
political actors than those in Lebanon”

There was a theater movement called the “Theater of the Absurd”,

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September 23rd, 2007, 1:35 am


112. Firas said:

I am no supporter of the Baath regime, and believe they have taken my country backwards since 1963. However, looking back with any objectivity, at regional politics since the 50s, the Syrians, from Khaled Azem to Hafez Assad, been more cunning political actors than their Lebanese counterparts. Some, particularly since 1970, have been somewhat provincial and media-stupid, but have proved to be smart political players. Regardless, this is not the debate.

Neither Enlightened, nor the insecure Kamal (who is anything but) has responded to the main point: Why the hell would Syria take on the political and security risk (especially in this climate) to kill off a non-actor like Antoine Ghanem, rather than any of the others? And is it a coincidence that these assassinations happen just before a major event that seems unfavorable to the March 14 thugs?

As for Kamal’s rhetorical (I assume?) question of whether the March 14 criminals would kill off their own “just to get Syria in trouble”, it seems you’re proving who’s dense with stupidity, aren’t you? It’s not about getting Syria in trouble, moron, it’s about advancing a political agenda in Lebanon. The trouble is consequential.

As for the Leaders of the “Independence Movement” who have lost family members to the “Syrian Murder Machine”, let me remind you that many of these independence giants were Syrian pions and most have never uttered a peep of resistance while the Syrians were there; they were willing ‘accomplices’ in Syria’s political order. These lowly pions are no Mandellas. Your “independence leaders” are skilled at one thing: political prostitution to the those they see as today’s political masters. They just switched allegiances…from Syria yesterday to the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia today.

Indeed, some of of your March 14 “indpendence leaders” were agents of the Syrian Mukhabarat, and were themselves a part of the Murder Machine that you refer to. Jumblatt’s thugs of the Hizb el-Ishtiraki were more zealous pro-Mukhabarat than virtually anyone else in Lebanon, possibly including Syrian intelligence themselves. Your icon, Jumblatt, used to bring other Lebanese (Christians and rival Druze) to Beau Rivage and other areas and hand them to Syrians as collaborators or informers working for the Zionists. How many Lebanese were killed by Jumblatt and Geagea during the war vs. by Syrians? Who is the murder machine?

Independence, huh? More and more, it’s evident that the Lebanese are mere sheep. How does an entire community (such as Druze) turn on a dime, with thousands turning vigilantly anti-Syrian one day, killing and burning helpless Syrian civilian workers, when just the day before, they were attacking Syria’s Lebanese rivals? Not a question or a challenge is asked of Jumblatt about the turn-about from one extreme to the other. The same goes for some others?

Lebanon is headed toward another civil war, which will result in yet another regional power coming in and managing the country, just like Syria did (perhaps more subtle…or not). The killing of Antoine Ghanem and the others (and blaming Syria for it) is laying the groundwork for that eventuality. Unfortunately, the Lebanese are asleep at the wheel…again!

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September 23rd, 2007, 1:19 pm


113. Kamal said:


1. You’re no defender of the Ba’thist regime and I’m no defender of the unsavoury elements of M14, which I consider to be a Lebanese Indepedent movement. I and thousands like myself are part of this movement for its objectives – Lebanese freedom and liberalism – not out of allegiance to sectarian warlords.

You’re right that part of the M14 elite is made up of ex-Syrian puppets. I don’t forgive their crimes as peons of the Syrian Occupation. But note that the Christian community in Lebanon always opposed Syrian aggression in Lebanon, predating the civil war – with scattered exeptions. The only parties with a mass base in the Christian community, the FPM and the LF, steadfastly resisted the Occupation throughout the Syria Era. Finally, our Sunni and Druze brothers have now come around to the historically Christian position in support of Lebanese indepedence from Sister Syria. Ahla wu sahla. Wu inshalla the Shi’a will join us one day soon.

2. The assassination campaign has been very effective, for your information. The Syrian policymakers are not intelligent, far from it! But they are excel at the one thing they know: violent gangsterism. They have effectively punished Lebanon for daring to launch an Indepedence Movement that kicked out the Syrian military from our country. Our economy is at a standstill. Our political institutions are deadlocked. Our people live in fear of the next explosion, especially people in Christian areas, altough Sunni and Druze residential/commercial areas have also been targeted. The leaders of our movement are in hiding, either abroad or within fortresses. And Syria has suffered no real consequences.

True, we haven’t given up our resistance – yet. And we’ve so far withstood pressures towards civil war. But there’s no guarantee we’ll survive forever. The M14 movement could crumble and various elements could submit to Syrian mastery, again or for a first time. After all, the Druze once responded to a Syrian assassination by massacring Christians; the Christians once responded to a Syrian assassination by massacring Palestinians… And the domestic dispute, to which Syria is a primary party, could escalate into civil war, as you predict with glee.

Syria may also strike a deal with the international community that returns Lebanon to Syrian hegemony – it’s happened before. And the Syrian assassination campaign has certainly succeeded in its main objective: demonstrating to the world that Syria holds a hostage, Lebanon, that can be hurt with impunity. To a lesser extent, Syria holds Palestinian and Iraqi hostages, but the easiest Syrian response to any provocation is to hit the hostage Lebanon. Nothing will function in Lebanon without the world’s acceptance of Syrian domination of Lebanon. The regime sympathizers on this blog make that point, over and over again: The world must accept Syrian decisionmaking in Lebanon.

The killings have altered the balance of power in the Lebanese Parliament. They are also a direct threat to the legislature at this key time: our presidential election comes under the shadow of the Syrian gun.

Each new killing energizes and motivates our enemies. They openly rejoice at each killing. The sentiment on Angry Arab’s message boards is “Syria isn’t killing those M14 guys, but whoever’s doing it – keep up the good work!” They gloat on television. They hand out sweets in celebration.

Last not not least, they drive us close to civl war, to your obvious enjoyment. Because that would really confirm your theory of Lebanese bloodthirst, wouldn’t it? How many killings of M14 figures and terrorist targeting of Christian, Sunni and Druze civilians before there is a response? So far, we have resisted the tremendous pressure – thank God. But even a handful of vigilantes could do something stupid at any time and plunge us all towards oblivion.

3. These are not merely killings of what you chillingly term “non-actors”. The civilians maimed in these attacks are not “non-actors”. Each happened in broad daylight in a public place. Hundreds of innocents have been killed or injured in these car bombings – including Syrians, Sri Lankans and others. The last bombing injured 100 bystanders and killed several.

These are terrorist attacks by definition. And they have quite effectively terrorized the Lebanese population. They are intended to be terroristic in the sense of instilling fear of arbitrary and indiscriminate violence; the actual “target” is secondary. The targeting of M14 figures serves only as a claim of responsibility by the killers. It is the killers’ way of explaining their attack and making the threat to all Lebanese – “do not oppose the Syrian will”.

But you are alluding to the fact that, since Hariri’s killing triggered massive popular mobilization, the rest of the targeted figures have not been figureheads. Our friend As’ad AbuKhalil, an Angry Arab with no love for Lebanon, buries his interpretation of this amidst an anti-M14 rant on the occasion of the assassination of Walid ‘Eido:

“The Syrian regime was humiliatingly forced to withdraw from Lebanon, and the Syrian regime most likely resorted to what it does well: to fight dirty… `Idu was good in the quick transformation that many politicians of his ilk made after the assassination of Rafiq Hariri: he went from being one of the most passionate advocates of the Syrian regime, to one of the most passionate advocates against the Syrian regime. But the killers know their targets: they now go after 2nd tier members of the ruling coalition: people who don’t have a mass base…”


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September 23rd, 2007, 7:17 pm


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