[Try as hard as they could, the Jerusalem Post was unsuccessful in its attempts to bury this uncharacteristically honest editorial from the Jew-Post, written the day of Hariri’s murder. According to the following, Hariri’s murderer was more likely to have been a business associate (SEE: Rafik Hariri’s Business Dealings More Relevant Than Beirut Phone Records), the Lahoud govt, or the enemies of Syria than it was Bashar Assad or Hezbollah.
The most interesting part of the following stream of conjecture is that it may have been done by rogue elements of Syrian intelligence, indicating that Assad does not control his own secret services. If that was true in 2005, then it must also have been true in 2013, when the German spy ship recorded someone within Syrian intelligence ordering the gas attack upon Ghouta (SEE: Assad may not be responsible for Syria chemical attack: German paper). What if these rogue elements of Syrian intelligence are on Bandar’s payroll?]
The murderers of Rafik Hariri knew their target was among the most significant figures in Lebanon. The self-made billionaire helped reconstruct his country after a destructive civil war, knew all the top people in Washington and was a personal friend of French President Jacques Chirac and Saudi Arabia’s King Fahd.
“You can’t go any higher than blowing up Hariri in the middle of Beirut in the middle of the day,” said one analyst in Beirut. “It’s a very powerful message to all the Lebanese, and to the opposition.”
Hariri was the key figure of the Lebanese opposition to the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Some say he was pushing the US and France to pass the UN resolution calling on Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon last September.
But the bomb that ripped through his armored motorcade may have a boomerang effect. Lebanese opposition leaders on Monday night were sounding braver than ever.
Following a meeting in the dead man’s home, the kingpins of the Lebanese opposition made a shockingly direct accusation. They said their country was “captive” and they held the Syrian and Lebanese governments responsible for Hariri’s death.
Lebanese and foreign analysts say the opposition will now “double its efforts” to push Syria out and gain power in the parliamentary elections that will take place in May. It has already asked for the help of the international community.
Still, analysts and Lebanese were confused by the murder. While everyone agreed that Syria was the obvious culprit because of Hariri’s calls for its withdrawal, killing him does more harm than good for Syria.
“It’s totally illogical that Syria would do it,” said Prof. Eyal Zisser, a Syria expert at the Dayan Institute for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. “It would be such a stupid move on their part. Everyone is watching them and they don’t want to destabilize Lebanon.”
But, the order for the assassination may not have come from the Syrian government.
“I wouldn’t point the finger at Damascus necessarily,” Simon Williams, a senior analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit in London, told The Jerusalem Post. “I would look at those acting on behalf of Syria. There are people making decisions inside Lebanon on Syria’s behalf that I really don’t think have the backing of Syrian leadership.”
Reuven Merhav, the former director of Israel’s quasi-embassy in Beirut in 1983 and later a director-general of the Foreign Ministry, pointed to Hariri’s conflict with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud.
“He didn’t make it a secret that he thinks Lahoud is a puppet of the Syrians,” he said.
Merhav said Hariri could have been killed for business-related reasons, adding, “He did very big reconstruction projects in Beirut.”
Most agreed that the sensational attack did not suit the style of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
“Bashar? It’s certainly not his style,” said Edward Walker, president of the Middle East Institute in Washington. “I don’t think it’s something he would do.”
Walker told the Post it was not inconceivable that Bashar knew nothing about it and intelligence agents were acting independently with their Lebanese counterparts.
“The same Syrian security services that were there during the civil war in Lebanon are still around,” he said.
If Assad was not behind the murder then, as US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said recently, “Bashar is not in control.”
“Bashar doesn’t have control over his country and his people,” Walker said. “He doesn’t have the death grip [that his father did] over the security forces.”
No matter who was behind Hariri’s death, the actual bombing can hurt Lebanon in a number of ways. Killing a key figure in broad daylight destabilizes its standing in the international community.
“People won’t take the government seriously,” said Walker, who served in the US Embassy in Beirut in the 1970s.
The death of the most prominent economic figure in Lebanon could also be detrimental. Hariri organized an international consortium, under France’s direction, that bailed out Lebanon. That consortium could fall apart and cause an economic meltdown in the country.
Lastly, Beirut and “war-torn” had recently stopped being in the same sentence. Hariri had rebuilt the city and helped turn it once again into a luxurious vacation spot for Westerners and visitors from the Gulf, who enjoy five-star hotels and expensive restaurants along the fancy waterfront. Last year’s 30 percent rise in tourism is now likely to take a nosedive.
What remains to be seen is how this sensational attack will affect the Lebanese people in the upcoming elections. Some may choose to vote for a pro-Syrian government to avoid another civil war.
“A lot of people will be saying we’re only 15 years from a major civil war,” Williams said. “We need to make sure that we’re not running back on that path.”