Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Cronica de una muerte anunciada

The Pierre Gemayel assassination was probably the most quickly solved murder in history. In fact, even before the trigger was pulled, the Israeli intelligence groupies at MEMRI issued a report (dated November 21, the same day as the assassination) dramatizing the Hizbullah decision to hold street-demonstrations in support of their demands for bigger representation in Cabinet, under the scary heading "Lebanon on the brink of civil war". MEMRI added: "It should be noted that these statements and threats are supported by Syria and Iran."

And when the assassination news broke, the Western news outlets, as if with a single voice, referred to the victim as the anti-Syrian cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel. Knowledgable people everywhere "hinted" at the involvement of Syria in this. Or at least they referred to people who did, including Israeli foreign minister Livni, US ambassador to the UN John Bolton, and Saad Hariri. Quite a broad cross-section, in other words, of informed opinion.

Naturally, the guilty verdict against Syria isn't based on any forensic evidence in the traditional sense of the word. It is all based on motive, namely a supposed Syrian motive for destabilizing the Lebanese political process.

Which is surprising, since it seems clear that Syria stood to benefit from the current directions in political development, not only in Lebanon, but in the Mideast region as a whole. Hizbullah has been intent on exploiting the opportunity to advance its position domestically, and it is hard to see how any gains it made would have been upsetting to Syria. Meanwhile, the Bush administration had quietly asked the Syrian administration to help out in the pacification of Iraq, and this was reflected in the highly-publicized visit to Baghdad by the Syrian foreign minister on the weekend. Any such US request would have involved some degree of US concessions to Syria, and this would probably have involved an easing of direct US pressure on the Syrian regime, and a lighter US hand in Lebanon. Hardly the kind of environment that would make the Syrian regime anxious to stir up an international outcry over an assassination.

On the other hand, there are a couple of regimes that could well have felt they were losing control of the regional political evolution. Unexpectedly, the visit to Baghdad by the Syrian foreign minister was quickly followed up by the news about a three-country summit in Tehran next weekend. Maybe it's just me, but if I were in charge in Tel Aviv or Washington, I would have been more than a little upset to hear that. This was supposed to be a controlled process for the strictly-limited purpose of pacifying Iraq, and suddenly it was turning into a Syrian-Iraqi-Iranian summit. Without the US, and where none of the participants was particularly friendly to Israel.

Which is merely to say that if all there is to go on is motive for upsetting the card-table, I don't think the finger points that decisively at Syria. Quite the contrary.

Of course, once you realize that Western news media didn't point out to people the dramatic shift in the US-Syria dynamics, or the regional implications of the Tehran-summit idea, perhaps you can being to understand the Syria-is-guilty mentality. All you have to do is recall that for the entire six years of the Bush administration Syria has been the embodiment of evil. So I guess after all it wasn't that hard to pick them out of the lineup.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Patrick said...

spot on, and its not just you.

7:08 PM  
Blogger annie said...

my sentiments exactly

1:30 AM  
Blogger markfromireland said...

One thing. Did you spot how Bolton (as opposed to Bush) desperately jumped through hoop after hoop after hoop to avoid actually saying the "S word" he found it quite hard going to say the S*****s did it without actually saying the word S*****s.

2:45 AM  
Blogger Jesus del Norte said...

Brilliant piece. I salute you!!

2:50 AM  
Blogger NonArab-Arab said...

Of course the problem in Lebanon is that you're never likely to get to the bottom of this. Any number of parties could have done it, it's so easy to hire and hide a hit job that not only will we never likely know, nobody cares. CNN was a joke, they were instant mini-Hariri propagando as As'ad Abu Khalil put it. Al-Arabiya played it pretty straight laced, just-the-facts-maam from the bit of coverage I watched, though that admittedly wasn't much. I was surprised that the Lebanese Fadaiyat took so long to get into the mix, Mustaqbal still had some women's chat show going for a while when everyone else was on wall-to-wall coverage. Al-Jazeera was of course the heaviest on getting into the mix. They quickly brought on a lot of Michel Aoun supporters to comment. In those first couple hourse of commentary at least (didn't watch a ton beyond that) Hizbullah was keeping a low profile. Whether that's because they felt it best not to antagonize right-wing Christians with so much as their presence at a sensitive moment, or if they were trying to gather their thoughts for a carefully thought out reply, dunno.

6:41 AM  
Blogger badger said...

[By fadaiyat he means the satellite channels]

Thanks, I was wondering about that. The scary thing about the Western coverage isn't that they necessarily got the wrong man, because that's something as you say no one will ever know for sure, (see also the following posting from Al-Quds al-Arabi) but how one-sided and tendentious it was, while seeming to be just completely factual. Sometimes it seems the whole media establishment has been hijacked.

8:48 AM  
Blogger dave in boca said...

A reader of my blog sent me an email asking "cui bono" as to why the Syrians were involved. My response:
The Syrians have a very long record of interfering in Lebanon's economy and
political affairs, and it is in their PERCEIVED interest [however poorly
conceived] to stir the pot in that country, which they regard as irredentist
territory, because of several reasons.

It takes the Syrian people's mind off their own imbecilic government, it is an
attempt to try to keep the Lebanese cabinet from participating in the UN
Investigative Inquiry, an attempt to push the Hezbollah agenda in order to get
Iranian support, and because various factions supporting Assad in Lebanon,
including its demented Prez Emile L, actually want Syria back in control of
Lebanon, or at least an active player. Last, but not least, the Syrians made a
lot of money by interfering in Lebanon before, and think they can do it again.

Therefore, a very deluded Syrian leadership probably thinks it is its own good,
and because it believes it can get away with it. Think of it as a mafia
syndicate, with Bashar Assad as the capo di totti capiti. Don't necessarily
regard the present Syrian leadership as rational actors. As an FT columnist
said prophetically two years ago, this younger Assad tends to overplay his
hands.

9:20 AM  
Blogger dave in boca said...

Guess this blog is just for Syria-huggers and Israeli-bashers. My previous comment was disallowed. I'll try again below:

The reason that everyone suspects the Syrians is because the Syrians have a very long record of interfering in Lebanon's economy and political affairs, and it is in their PERCEIVED interest [however poorly conceived] to stir the pot in that country, which they regard as irredentist
territory.

Some reasons to keep Lebanon boiling:
It takes the Syrian people's mind off their own imbecilic government, it is an
attempt to try to keep the Lebanese cabinet from participating in the UN
Investigative Inquiry, an attempt to push the Hezbollah agenda in order to continue to receive
Iranian support, and because various factions supporting Assad in Lebanon, including its demented Prez Emile L, actually want Syria back in control of Lebanon, or at least an active player. Last, but not least, the Syrians made a
lot of money by interfering in Lebanon before, and think they can do it again.

Therefore, a very deluded Syrian leadership probably thinks it is its own good, and because it believes it can get away with it. Think of it as a mafia
syndicate, with Bashar Assad as the capo di totti capiti. Don't necessarily regard the present Syrian leadership as rational actors. As an FT columnist
said prophetically two years ago, this younger Assad tends to overplay his hand.

And from my years living in Beirut and elsewhere in the Arab world, I'll take the flawed western press version over the ridiculous Arab media nine times out of ten.

12:19 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thank you letting us have a second copy of your report.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Patrick said...

To Dave :

But what you failed to mention is that unlike the israeli's or americans syrians have a lot more in common with the lebanese even if you forgot for an instant that lebanon is but a french colonial invention and was originally part of syria. Putting that aside they are from the same region have same language (arabic) and share the same religions (islam-christianity-druze ..) which is completely different from the evangelical americans or european israel's so if anyone has a say in lebanon it is syria. And anyone conspiring with either the americans or israels is but a traitor as opposed to those working with anyone in the region (iran-syria-saudi arabia- whatever)

1:42 PM  
Anonymous MacEĆ²ghainn said...

It's most unliely that the Syrians did it: they have nothing to gain, especially in the present circumstances.

On the other hand the people with the most to gain from the murder of one of the leading Maronites is Israel - so, apply the old criminologist's test of "cui bono", and the pointer comes up Israel whichever way one places the counters.

5:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

quite a critical position and not unreasonable too. but why the syrian medias didn't report almost nothing about the murder or try to contradict the western culpabilisation of the the syrian goverment? i couldn't find almost nothing about it in the syrian press. the silence i notice here about the Pierre Gemayel assassination is somehow suspect.

with critical regards from syria

pat.swiss

2:48 AM  

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