2.14.2005

Beirut Bombing Claims Life of Former Prime Minister

Rafiq al-Hariri was killed today by explosives targeting his motorcade.

Al Jazeera has a report asking who killed Rafiq. They question three middle east analysts on the subject.

Rime Allaf is skeptical on the the benefactor of this attack.
"What exactly would the Syrians gain from this? Precisely because most people would say that this is the Syrians who have done this. It doesn't make any sense," Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, UK, said.

"The first people who will be hurt by this is Syria. Given the chaos in Lebanon and the rising anger between the factions, analytically Syria loses a lot by this," Allaf told Aljazeera.net.


Murhaf Jouejati thinks it would be crazy to think the Syrians did this.
Murhaf Jouejati a Syrian analyst at the Middle East Institute in Washington, told Aljazeera.net that it was too early to accuse anyone of being behind the killing.

"This is not good news. The Syrians are not crazy and they are not going to be assassinating Lebanese officials," he said.

"They (the Syrians) have been engaging in dialogue with the opposition ... I think there are many local parties who would have an interest in the destablisation of Lebanon."


Michael Young, opinion editor of the Daily Star had this to say.
"It may very well strengthen the opposition to the Syria presence. There will be a fierce reaction from the Sunni community. I think the government is very embarrassed. They may have to pay for the backlash," he told Aljazeera.net.

Young said Damascus may be blamed for the killing and that this would have an effect on Syria's already tense relations with the US.

"It becomes a question of how much the US and France want to escalate against Syria. The Americans will hold Syria directly responsible. They will not seek conciliation over Resolution 1559. UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen was seeking a delay in its implementation, but now I think there will be no delay," he said.


The magnitude of the blast had local Lebanese commentary pointing the finger at an intelligence agency. Reuters reported that the bomb was sophisticated enough to jam communications devices in the area.

A group contact Al Jazeera to claim responsibility for the attack. Al Jazeera is quoted in a report by the Tehran Times that the caller was not a native speaker of Arabic. They claimed the event was a "martyrdom attack" which would be in line with Islamist terror tactics. However, early reports suggest that nearly 500 lbs of explosives were used.

Predictably, regional governments condemned the attack. But the also mentioned in the Tehran Times story are comments from Iranian officials.
He[Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi] said there is no doubt that such a terrorist act which targeted the Lebanese national sovereignty and territorial integrity would only benefit the Zionist regime.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi said that only well-organized terrorist organizations such as those by Zionist regime have the potential to do such a massive terrorist act.


Michel Aoun, the exiled political leader of Lebanon, didn't stop short before blaming Syria. Aoun announced that the Syrians run the security and intelligence apparatus in Lebanon. His exile was the result of the Syrian military offensive.

Rafiq al-Hariri was not a political figure without controversy. He resigned in protest in late 2004 as a result of Syrian domination of Lebanese politics. It is no secret that Syria has engaged Lebanon as a quasi-proxy state to carry out its militant efforts against Israel. Lebanese politicians have complained for years that Syria is not welcome in Lebanon.

Syria rebuts that the Lebanese government wants them in Lebanon. Hariri could have been targeted for his more outspoken criticism of Syria. Clearly he was not a close ally to the Syrian government and his actions were outside the interests of Syria.

The United States stopped short of blaming Syria. Though, they did join France in calling for an investigation into the responsibility for the attack. France and the United States have been seeking reform by the Syrian government through diplomatic channels and the UN Security Council. Together they worked on the passage of UNSC resolution 1559[UNSC Res 1559: PDF]. It calls for an immediate withdrawl of all non-Lebanese forces from Lebanon territory.

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