Juan Cole / Robert Fisk / Dr. Sam Hamod / Middle East News Service – 2005-02-20 12:09:48
Hariri Killed in
Huge Car Bombing in Beirut
Juan Cole / Juancole.com
(February 14, 2005) — Echoes of the bad old days reverberated through Beirut Monday when a powerful car bomb was detonated in front of the St. Georges Hotel, killing former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and several others, and wounding dozens. Surrounding buildings took significant damage.
A shadowy and previously unknown group called “Aid and Jihad in the Lands of Syria” claimed responsibility in a videotape that I saw on al-Jazeerah. The spokesman reading the message was dressed as a Muslim fundamentalist big posters were behind him with Muslim fundamentalist slogans.
If this group really was behind the assassination, it appears to be because of Hariri’s Saudi Arabian context. Hariri had lived many years in Saudi Arabia, and was a big contractor in private business. He retained both the Saudi citizenship and the contracting business while prime minister in the 1990s and again 2000-2003. This assassination may be a spill-over into the Levant of the recent al-Qaeda-linked terrorism in Saudi Arabia
On the other hand, al-Hariri resigned as prime minister last fall in a bitter dispute with President Emile Lahoud. Both had been clients of Syria, but Syria wanted to keep Lahoud on for an extra three years beyond what was allowed by the Lebanese constitution, and al-Hariri, like many Lebanese, strongly objected to tinkering with the constitution by an outside power.
Personally, I find the likelihood of the Saudi connection generating al-Qaeda-type violence against him somewhat more plausible than that it came out of local politics, since local politics had been fairly civil in Lebanon.
It is also possible, since al-Hariri was worth $4 billion and had all sorts of shady deals going on even when he was PM, that this assassination had an economic/ mafia-type background that we are not aware of.
BEIRUT (February 19, 2005) — Lebanon’s Justice Minister Adnan Addoum said on Friday that authorities were hunting for twelve Australian men wanted over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.
Addum said that six of the suspects left Beirut for Australia hours after Monday’s deadly blast, adding that police found traces of explosives on aircraft seats.
Hariri was killed in a huge explosion in Beirut which also claimed the lives of an additional 16 people.
The minister added that there are two more Australians who tried to leave Lebanon after the assassination but missed the flight for unknown reasons. Their location is not known. Interpol agreed to interrogate the twelve suspects, Addoum said.
The minister didn’t provide further details and it was unclear what role the men played in the attack. Reports earlier this week said that the Australian government was helping Lebanon investigate Hariri’s murder.
Family Demands Probe into Murder
Hariri’s family issued a statement on Thursday calling for launching an international investigation into his assassination.
“We call upon the international community to promptly take control of this issue and form an international investigation commission, since the assassination of Rafik Hariri is a terrorist act targeting Lebanon’s stability and national unity, “Al Hariri’s family said in a statement released on Thursday. “We will not spare any effort or means to find the perpetrators of this crime no matter what their affiliation is,” the statement said.
Earlier, the Lebanese leadership rejected calls to let international experts launch the investigation, but the military judiciary now says that Swiss experts on explosives and DNA will participate in the investigation.
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Israeli Spies, Syrian Obsession and a Peace That Had to Break
Robert Fisk / The (London) Independent
(February 15, 2005) — We knew something was coming. I had met an old journalist colleague for coffee on Saturday and we both said we felt there was a new, menacing atmosphere about Beirut. We didn’t mean the sky-high prices and the usual corruption stories, but the incendiary language in which Lebanese politics was now being conducted.
“Walid Jumblatt better watch out,” my colleague remarked, and I agreed. Just last month, the Druze leader in Lebanon announced that “elements” of the Syrian Baath party had murdered his father, Kemal Jumblatt, in 1975. This was explosive stuff – and he said all this to a Christian Maronite audience at St Joseph University.
The response last week was even more dangerous. The Baath party demanded that the Lebanese state should prosecute Mr Jumblatt for slander and treachery. Then Omar Karami, the colourless and very pro-Syrian Prime Minister – Rafik Hariri’s replacement – claimed that those members of the political opposition demanding a Syrian retreat from Lebanon were “working with the Israelis”. Others used the word “Mossad” instead of Israel. In Lebanon, this kind of language leads to a detonation.
Forthcoming elections — and an attempt to change electoral boundaries that might have deprived anti-Syrian factions of parliamentary seats — contrived to heat up the controversy already begun by UN Security Council resolution 1559, principally supported by the Americans and French, which demands the withdrawal of all Syrian troops from Lebanon.
They came here, of course, in 1976, under an Arab League agreement to end the civil war — they failed—- and the accord was at the time approved by President Jimmy Carter and, partially, by Israel. But the post-war Taif agreement, in 1989, called for a Syrian withdrawal to the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon, which Syria did not honour. Its protégés in Lebanon loudly announced that they did not want the Syrians to leave.
Jacques Chirac, the French President, insisted that they should go. Hariri was one of Chirac’s best friends. They even had a beer together in the new city centre when the French President was last in Beirut. No bodyguards then. No security. But things have changed.
A few weeks ago the US stepped in, warning that it would not tolerate any violence before the Lebanese elections – yesterday showed what America’s enemies thought of the threat – and repeating its demand for a Syrian withdrawal. Not until all other UN resolutions have been obeyed, said Emile Lahoud, the Lebanese President, constantly antagonistic towards Mr Hariri and constantly faithful to Syria.
The Israelis have to leave the West Bank before Syria leaves Lebanon. The Lebanese Christians opposed to Syria insisted that Damascus had broken the Taif agreement – which is true. Karami and Nabih Berri, the speaker of parliament, held a big conference to point out that the demands of the US and the opposition — they include the disarming of the Hizbollah — were all American and Israeli policies; which is also true.
Last Sunday, Lebanese armoured vehicles drove down the Corniche in Beirut. I know two friends who have been buying large quantities of bottled water. One has purchased a new generator. Routine manoeuvres, you might say. Precautions against a hot summer or the usual failure of Beirut’s power stations. Perhaps.
The Lebanese have no more appetite for war. The conflict which ended in 1990 destroyed their families and their homes and drained their lives of meaning. A new generation has returned from overseas educations, ambitious, irritated by the continuing sectarianism of official life as much as Syria’s much reduced military presence. But the Syrian intelligence service remains — its headquarters are in the eastern town of Aanjar — and its pursuit of Israeli spies and treachery has become an obsession.
Into this darkening scenario, Mr Hariri cast a wistful eye, seeing no evil and claiming to hear no evil. So what was his real role in the opposition? Was he merely a disinterested onlooker, gazing down from his palace walls at the small men of Lebanese politics as they bickered about gerrymandered political boundaries? Or did he have other ambitions? Yesterday proved that someone believed he did.
Was Israel or Bush Involved
In the Assassination of Rafik Harriri?
Dr. Sam Hamod
(February 14, 2005) — “This is the work of an intelligence service, not a small group,” said Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at London’s Royal Institute of International Affairs.
We must do as they do in other criminal cases, look at who had the most to gain from the assassination of Prime Minister Harriri. The Lebanese had a lot to lose, as did the Syrians (he was close to Bashir Al Assad, the leader of Syria), as did the other Arab countries in the region who saw him as a strong leader and a stabilizing force in Lebanese politics. On the other hand, Israel has wanted chaos in Lebanon, as has Bush, and both countries have been agitating to get Hezbollah outlawed and both Bush and Israel have wanted the Lebanese to oust Syria. In both cases, the Lebanese government has said, “NO,” that Hezbollah is a respected part of Lebanese life and that Syria is there to protect Lebanon from Israeli aggression.
No matter where else you look, no one else had anything to gain except Israel and the U.S. because this death could cause some possible upset in Lebanese politics and life.
Most Middle East experts in the Arab and Muslim worlds believe Israeli hands were at work in the killing of former Prime Minister of Lebanon, Rafik Harriri.
Bush quickly pointed the finger at Syria, as did Israel, which was tantamount to convicting themselves because they are the only two countries that would gain by creating unrest in Lebanon. President Lahoud and Hezbollah, who represent two of the important factions of the Lebanese government both condemned the bombing and their own experts said the blast had all the earmarks of the bombing that was carried out by Israel against former Palestinian leaders in Beirut in the past.
The Bush cabal and Israel want Syria out of Lebanon, but the majority of Lebanese realize the Syrian presence is an aid to their country that helps stop the Israelis from once invading Lebanon (as Israel did in the 1980s, then stayed on in the south to occupy part of Lebanon until the Hezbollah ousted them by military force). Also, by killing Harriri, the Israelis and American can both claim that the area is more unstable and needs more American style “democracy” and occupation. Harriri was a giant among progressive Arab and Muslim leaders, and though he made money in Saudi Arabia and was friendly to the government, his attitude in Lebanon was very progressive and he made sure the church and state were kept separate in Lebanese political decisions.
Harriri was a man beloved by all sides, even his former political foes. They saw him as a man who had helped to bring Lebanon back from the chaos that Israel had caused with their falangist allies in the invasion of the 1980s. One must also remember that the man who wanted Lebanon destroyed, and who led the attack that destroyed all of Beirut was none other than the present prime minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. Sharon has set up a special group of dark ops in Israel who are allowed to kill anyone who may be a threat to Israel in any land in the world-clearly a violation of International Law. Of course, Sharon, like Bush, has decided that International Law does not govern Israel’s or America’s selfish ambitions in the world.
Harriri’s killing, like so many of those in Iraq, is the work of either the Israeli dark ops or American mercenaries who have been hired out to kill people who are progressive in the Arab and Muslim worlds. That is why in Lebanon today, people know that it was not some dissident “Islamist group” (that no one has heard of, nor does anyone believe actually exists) who allegedly took credit for the deed, and in Iraq, where the religious leaders among the Sunni and Shi’a are telling their people not to revenge themselves on one another, because they know the killings are professional jobs being done by people from outside Iraq, namely, Israel and America. The parallels are evident to experts, but these experts will not be allowed on American media. But, Professor Rime Allaf, of the Royal Institute in England is correct, this was the work of an intelligence agency-and we damn well know who the only two would be-because they are the only two to gain by this deed, Israel or Bush and his neo-con minions (who are devoted to Israel’s dominance of the region).
Remember, as I stated earlier, in criminal acts, one must always look to who has the most to gain-in this case, it was clearly the Bush team and Israel. And, as Rime Allaf said, this was the work of “an intelligence agency.”
It’s time these killings in Iraq, in Lebanon, and even the assassination of the Prime Minister of Georgia, a foe of American oil pipelines, be stopped, and that the world set up an investigation team to look into these matters because they create more chaos and misery for the world.
Professor Sam Hamod, expert on Lebanon and former Director of The Islamic Center of Washington, DC, writes on international affairs for a variety of newspapers and online sites; he also edits, www.todaysalternativenews.com . He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org