Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Who Killed Rafiq Hariri ?

Who killed Rafiq Hariri ? The former Lebanese Prime-Minister and billionaire was assassinated on Monday by an extremely powerful bomb while his motorcade traveled along the Corniche Road along the Beirut waterfront. At least thirteen others died in the blast, and nearly 100 were wounded.

The former Prime Minister apparently had an extremely proficient security organization of his own, T.C. Wretchard at the Belmont Club and the Washington Post indicate that security measures included armoured vehicles, to sweep Mr. Harari’s route in advance, along with decoys, guards and other security measures, including Mr. Hariri’s heavily armoured limousine. The Post says that the motorcade’s support vehicles were equipped with jamming devices to thwart remote bomb triggering devices – and incidentally shut down local cell-phone service.

The blast, which the Post says was so powerful it sheered the facades off several nearby buildings, and shattered windows for a quarter-mile around, was evidently caused by a bomb in another vehicle (driven by a murder-suicide bomber) that rammed Mr. Hariri’s limousine.

Defeating a security operation like Mr. Hariri’s, and accomplishing his death with such powerful explosives calls for (1) inside information; and/or; (2) excellent surveillance capabilities; (3) a good deal of technical capability; and, (4) strong planning and organizational ability. It follows that a national intelligence organization was probably involved, either directly, or in the provision of technical support.

The Bush administration’s suspicions, and everyone else’s, appear to be focused on the Syrians. The New York Times today quotes President Bush’s spokesman, Scott McClellan, as saying that the US is going to consult with the UN and other countries about who is responsible for the killing and explore ways and means of freeing Lebanon “from foreign occupation.” Mr. Hariri, personal friend of Jacques Chirac and King Fahd, was a critic of Syria’s long occupation of Lebanon. The US ambassador in Damascus has been called home for “consultations.”

I see the situation differently.

Syria is certainly a possible culprit, but it is hard to see what Syria could gain from Mr. Hariri’s death. Certainly, Mr. Hariri, like many Lebanese, disapproved of the Syrian occupation, but the Syrian presence has been a fact of Lebanese political life in one form or another since the 1970’s. Lately, there has been pressure from the UN, the US and France to end the occupation, but it makes little sense for Syria, or its security services, to stir the pot and rile the foreigners by so publicly murdering one of its biggest critics. Given that Syria is already in very hot water with the Bush administration for its support of the Baathist terrorists in Iraq, further provocation of Uncle Sam seems foolhardy at best.

However, there is another power that stands to gain from focusing foreign attention, and American heat, on Damascus, particularly now that the situation seems to be improving in Iraq. This power, also, has been involved in Lebanese affairs, and has a longstanding relationship with a local terrorist surrogate (the Hezbollah organization) to which it has previously supplied explosives, military training and intelligence. Even better, for this power’s purposes, Syria has a relationship with Hezbollah also, lending this power a certain level of plausible denial at need.

Of course, El Jefe is thinking of our good friends, the Iranians. An Iranian/Hezbollah connection makes sense on many levels. Large bombings fit the MO’s of both Iranian intelligence and Hezbollah. Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 – with a bomb in a truck. Hezbollah is suspected also of two bombings in 1992 and 1994 in Argentina. The Saudi Arabian branch of Hezbollah is also believed by the FBI to have engineered – with the backing of certain Iranian intelligence officials -- the bombing of the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US military personnel.

Killing Mr Hariri makes sense for the Iranians on several levels. First, a public killing like this one was bound to draw American attention. Iran needs some time to complete its bomb program. How better to accomplish this then by enticing the Americans into a confrontation with yet another Arab state (Syria) through bringing Lebanon to a boil ? In any case, the current relative quiet in Lebanon is not to Iran's advantage -- it only helps America and other anti-Islamist/nationalist actors in the region. Finally, the bombing could be a message to the Americans that the gloves are off, and a reminder to the Bush administration that if America wants to fly drones over Iranian airspace spying on nuclear projects, and flirt with opponents of the Iranian dictatorship that Iran, too, has its own weapons, and can be expected to use them.


Anonymous said...

The Dwarf and Milo did it with direction from Flinky.

Flinky said...

I would never use those low lifes, especially that Dwarf!