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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Blogging the Gemayel assassination

I wanted to point you to some of the blogosphere coverage of the Gemayel asssassination from people who know a lot more about Lebanon than I do.

Michael J. Totten opens with a thought that crossed my mind too. He says that the only thing that surprises him about this assassination is that the victim was Pierre Gemayel and not Fouad Siniora. But Michael attributes that to Siniora's being a Sunni:
All the assassination victims after Rafik Hariri, a Sunni, have been Christians. But the most heated sectarian tension right now is between Sunnis and Shias. The Christians aren't in a fighting mood, but many say the Sunnis are. The Syrian regime cannot restrain itself from butchering its Lebanese enemies, but it looks to me like someone in Damascus just flinched.
Later, he attributes the assassination to Syria's desire to get rid of three more cabinet members:
UPDATE: Just spoke to a friend of mine in Lebanon. I did not realize until now that Gemayel was a member of the Lebanese cabinet. The Hezbollah/Syrian axis has been trying to bring down the government by pressuring three more members to resign. One down, two to go. Looks like the coup d'etat is in progress.
Finally, he notes that there was another assassination attempt in Lebanon today:
UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.
But I wonder why the Syrians aren't going after Siniora if their goal (and Hezbullah's goal) is to bring down his government. If killing him would also help bring down the government, they would be killing two birds with one stone. Could it be that they are afraid of the Sunnis but not of the Christians?

Rick Moran at Right Wing Nut House also believes that the Syrians are murdering Lebanese cabinet members so that the government will fall:
Now once again a political assassination has taken place in Lebanon. This time, the message sent is even cruder and more direct; if we can’t take power by the vote, we will do it by the gun. If two more ministers in Prime Minister Siniora’s cabinet are killed or resign, the government will fall and Assad’s willing partners in Hizbullah will be well positioned to dominate any election. Through violence and intimidation, they would have the whip hand in any electoral contest to replace Siniora’s government.
But Moran believes that the Lebanese may take to the streets again to support their government:

But Assad once again may be underestimating the desire of the Lebanese people for freedom and independence. There is a chance that the millions who took to the streets to drive the Syrians out of their country may be called upon to demonstrate again – this time in support of the government that they freely elected in the Summer of 2005:

Prime Minister Fouad Saniora and former President Amine Gemayel called on Tuesday for unity in the deeply divided country after Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel’s assassination.

“Assassinations will not terrorize us,” Saniora told a press conference after an urgent cabinet meeting.

“We will not let the criminal killers control our fate.”

Saniora said “it is time for all Lebanese to unite.”

“The government will take up all its responsibilities in order to protect the interests of the Lebanese,” he pledged.

Saniora said “this aggression increases our determination to see the creation of the international tribunal” to try suspects in the 2005 murder of five-time Premier Rafik Hariri.

“It is time for all the Lebanese to rally around the international tribunal,” he said.

“I call on the Lebanese…to be alert to the sedition planned for them,” he said.

While all the March 14th Forces are calling for calm and restraint, the real question is what the Lebanese people may be thinking about all of this.

Would they consider taking to the streets again to support the democrats? It is one thing to demonstrate with little danger of confronting opposing forces. But it is quite another to go into the streets knowing that a confrontation with the armed militia of Hizbullah looms. And much has happened since those heady spring days in 2005 that have disillusioned some and caused others to question the efficacy of democracy itself. The war with Israel turned many Lebanese against the United States. And Siniora – fairly or unfairly – is closely identified with our efforts to help bring democracy to Lebanon.

Still, there may be a large reservoir of support for the March 14th Forces with ordinary Lebanese. And while they may not be opposed to some kind of cabinet compromise that would increase the number of Shia ministers, this violent attempt to affect the current crisis almost certainly does not sit well with them. They may feel compelled to support the government out of patriotic pride – the same kind of pride that drove them into the streets to demonstrate against Syrian hegemony in their country.

Mustapha at The Beirut Spring notes that Samir Geagea, an anti-Syrian Christian had warned a few days ago that the Syrians and their Lebanese supporters are attempting to assassinate two sitting ministers to complement the 6 that resigned, so that the government will be automatically dissolved... (I have to say that I find this confusing - why don't they just appoint replacements or amend the law? Apparently neither of those is possible).

For those of you who aren't familiar with this situation, the reason for bringing the government down is so that it cannot ratify a UN investigation of the assassination of Rafik Hariri, which is likely to implicate high level officials in the Syrian government (including Assad's brother in law). Abu Kais of From Beirut to the Beltway describes the reaction of Hariri's son Saad to the asssassination.

The assassination took place as Saad Hariri was declaring in a press conference that March 14 was ready for a “peaceful confrontation” with Hizbullah and the pro-Syrians parties, who want to stage a coup in the country and put Syria back in control through street protests.

Saad interrupted the press conference upon receiving the news. He then returned to announce that Gemayel was killed, and accused the Assad regime of trying to kill every free person in Lebanon.

Hariri said, chocking with tears, "There is nothing left to discuss with the killer Syrian regime. The international tribunal is between us, and let whatever happens happen."

Anton Efendi of Across the Bay headlines his post: "Syria murders Pierre Gemayel."
This comes as the UN is set to approve the intl. tribunal today to send it back to Lebanon to be ratified. It also comes at the same time as Hezbollah and the other Syrian agents prepare to take to the streets for a coup d'état to protect the Syrian regime from the tribunal.

This assassination will likely ensure that if such street rallies do take place, clashes would erupt, as it's clear that the Syrians are set on that. (Just another reminder for the idiots who believe Syria is a force of "stability.")

Syria has a primary objective that outweighs everything else: kill the Hariri tribunal, and redominate Lebanon at any cost. This is nothing short than a fight to the death for the Syrians. And, as these thugs have done throughout their bloody history, they will kill anyone.

My fear is that they will go after a couple more ministers to ensure the government falls.


Update: Reports are coming out that another March 14 minister came under attack, but was unharmed. This supports the theory that the target is indeed to eliminate enough ministers to topple the government.

Furthermore, given that the targeted ministers are Christians, it would be consistent with the same tactic the Syrians adopted after they killed Hariri when they targeted exclusively Christian figures and Christian areas. The hope is to spark sectarian clashes that would send the country into a vacuum, which is why Amin Gemayel and Walid Jumblat have urged restraint. An additional benefit for the Syrians and Iranians and Hezbollah would be the killing of UNR 1701 and the UNIFIL deployment in southern Lebanon.

Update 2: Iraq the Model puts its finger on an essential truth: "Syria thinks that just because they made a "friendly" gesture towards Iraq yesterday they would have the right to unleash their dogs in Lebanon today. That's their definition for dialogue."

This is certainly part of it. All this useless noise about "engaging" Syria has led to this. It has been interpreted by Syria as a license to kill, to make its move in Lebanon. And this is the result of the mere chatter about "engagement," that has no real policy substance! This is Syria for you. And people still act surprised, and luminaries still call for "talking" to Syria, and want to tell it what its "real interest" is, and convince themselves that Syria really is not interested in chaos. Destabilization is inherent to the Syrian regime's nature. It is their interest.
Finally, Rantings of a Sandmonkey (who is in Egypt) has a collection of photos of the assassination's aftermath.


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