Smelling a rat in the assassination of Gemayel

Originally published 11/21/06:

I smell a rat.  The murder of Lebanese Christian leader Pierre Gemayel, today, is similar in many ways to the murder of Rafik Hariri last year. 

Before the gunpowder had settled from the bullet, Bolton was already making noises at the UN, making some not so subtle charges implying that Syria must be involved with the assassination. 

“In New York, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John R. Bolton, raised the possibility of Syrian involvement in the slaying of Gemayel. Hezbollah is an ally of Syria and the U.S. has accused Syria and Iran of plotting to topple Saniora’s government, which is dominated by politicians opposed to Syrian influence in Lebanon.”

“Referring to an investigation into the assassination in 2005 of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, who also tried to limit Syrian influence in the country, Bolton told reporters: ”I think people can draw their own conclusions.”

Why would Syria be shooting themselves in the foot like this?  Just at a time when they are heading towards becoming a partner in a diplomatic relationship with Iran, Iraq and the US to stop violence in Iraq… when they are making headway in their quest for the return of the Golan Heights in exchange for their work in Iraq… why would they commit political suicide and go back to the side of the bad guys again? 

The Financial Times reports thusly:

Damascus condemned the killing as a “heinous terrorist act”. Its embassy in Washington said the murder would undermine international efforts to promote engagement with Syria.” “The Gemayel murder came just hours after Syria re-established diplomatic relations with Iraq. A senior US state department official suggested that Mr Gemayel had paid the price for trying to rid Lebanon of Syrian influence. The US stopped short of directly accusing Damascus.”

There was much speculation when Hariri was assassinated that he had been killed by Israel.  Israel benefited from the results of the Haririr assassination in that Syrian troops left the country in obedience to the UN SC Resolution.  Israel was then able to bomb Lebanon and had the buffer zone set up which will effectively protect Israel from retribution from Hezbollah if Israel decides to attack Iran. 

Does not this current assassination also serve Israel’s interests?  This will probably divide Lebanon more and Hezbollah will lose support.  The government of Siniora will be boosted and of course, the US and Israel like Siniora’s government. 

The way that US officials immediately started to condemn Syria with this murder just makes it look like they are going to ride this as far as they can.  It is a brilliant contrast to the actions that Bolton took last week in blocking condemnation of the murders of Gazans by Israel.  The US even voted against a resolution that expressed regret for the murders of 19 mostly women and children in their sleep and yet now they are jumping all over this event with a fervor unmatched.  Will the result of this somehow dampen Syria’s strength in the region, making it easier to attack Iran?  Maybe.  Will it boot Syria out of any sort of a diplomatic involvement with Iraq while the US is around?  For sure. 

Last year, Gary Leupp wrote this after Hariri’s murder:

“What a godsend was the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri! It’s allowed the Bush administration to ratchet up the campaign of vilification of Syria, preparatory to the planned overthrown of the Syrian regime, to new levels. The day after the event, it was clear that the U.S. government would exploit the tragedy to build its case for an attack on Syria. Never mind that Damascus immediately condemned the bombing as a “criminal act of terrorism,” and that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent his condolences to the Hariri family. Never mind that Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, described by NBC as “a longtime friend” was among the first to visit Hariri’s residence after his death and marched in the
funeral procession. Never mind that a Syrian diplomat in Lebanon stated “We will miss him,” or that Syrian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman (repeat: spokeswoman, secular Baathist Syria being relatively progressive in regards to women’s rights) Buthaina Shaaban said, “We want a full investigation to show who is behind this assassination.” Never mind that Lebanese Information Minister Elie Ferzli called accusations that his or Syria’s government assassinated Hariri “irresponsible.” The U.S. government wants you to assume that Syria is responsible, and the corporate press takes its cue from the government.”

I think that similar things could be said today about Gemayel’s murder.


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