state-sponsored terrorism in lebanon?

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state-sponsored terrorism in lebanon?

Postby realp » Wed Jun 22, 2005 9:41 am

www.stratfor.com<br><br>Geopolitical Diary: Wednesday, June 22, 2005<br><br>Jun 22, 2005<br><br>U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Syria to "knock if off" on Tuesday after George Hawi, a former leader of the Lebanese Communist Party, was killed in a car bombing -- an assassination that bears striking similarities to another car bombing that killed prominent an-Nahar journalist Samir Qaseer less than three weeks ago.<br><br>Though Washington has been quick to point a very prominent finger at Damascus for the killings, it is difficult to believe that the Syrian regime actually would have ordered Hawi's death. Not only are we picking up indications from Syria that the military there is baffled by what has happened, but there is a great deal of irritation that the attacks have occurred at all, since the killings are creating inconveniences for Damascus. Hawi may have been best-known as a "prominent anti-Syrian" figure in Lebanon, but sources close to the al Assad regime refer to him privately as a "well-behaved friend."<br><br>The question must be asked: What exactly would the Syrians gain from eliminating a couple of Lebanese opposition figures when the regime itself is in a particularly vulnerable position, following the forced military withdrawal from Lebanon? In this case, the al Assad regime -- which could expect to be immediately accused of trying to stir up trouble and paint Lebanon as a morass of insecurity without Syrian occupation -- stands to lose more than it would gain from ordering the assassinations.<br><br>Of course, the recent car bombings could simply represent housecleaning by members of the incumbent pro-Syrian elite in Lebanon. Now that the Lebanese elections are past, those who ordered the Feb. 14 killing of former Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri are likely fearing the possibility that investigations into the murder might turn up some damaging evidence. It is possible that President Emile Lahoud and members of the security/intelligence apparatus in Lebanon would seek to target Lebanese figures possessing information that might implicate members of the pro-Syrian elite in the al-Hariri case.<br><br>But taking a step back, another -- more intriguing -- possibility comes into view. Suppose that Hawi and Qaseer (the dead men in the bombings) were merely collateral, and the true target in the plot actually is the Syrian regime itself? If Damascus was being framed, who then would be the likely suspect?<br><br>First, there is Israel. But while Israel is no friend to the al Assads, there is the problem of timing. Israel would not be likely to sabotage its own position by instigating turbulence in the Levant while attempting to orchestrate a nearly impossible feat of its own: effecting a smooth withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.<br><br>However, there is someone closer to Damascus with a motive -- and cloaked within the al Assad name.<br><br>In an apparent attempt to launch his own rise to power, President Bashar's uncle, Rifaat al Assad, recently called on the Syrian public to bring down the regime through peaceful means -- and declared his own plans to open talks with opposition movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood. This no doubt raised a few eyebrows among the Brotherhood, which was targeted in a 1983 killing spree in Hama that Rifaat helped to lead. But more to the point, there is not much love lost between Rifaat and other branches of the al Assads: He is a black sheep of the family who tried unsuccessfully to topple his brother Hafez al Assad in 1983.<br><br>It is, therefore, significant that Rifaat now is openly calling for regime change in Damascus -- as the loss of Lebanon, a rich prize for Syria's economy, stands to generate considerable pressure in its own right for the regime. If (judging by his own statements) Rifaat is hoping to roust his nephew from office without dirtying his hands, one way to ratchet up political pressure would be to hire assassins to take out a few insignificant anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon.<br><br>The case remains open -- both literally and analytically -- but Rifaat al Assad cannot yet be crossed off the suspect list. <p></p><i></i>
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