Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Who Killed Rafiq Hariri?

That is the question everyone is asking this morning as Lebanon shuts down in fearful mourning. While I don't have access to anything in the way of evidence, I can try to make like Hercule Poirot and use my little grey cells to theorize about some things. Of the ideas offered so far, I tend to eliminate Israel right off the bat. Israel wants Syria out of Lebanon, and eliminating the most important anti-Syrian Lebanese leader would be an unusual way to go about that. That same point makes Syria into the prime suspect, especially if its true that Hariri's western connections were playing a role in the international community's anti-Syrian diplomatic efforts.

There are other ideas, however. Al-Qaida has been mentioned because of his Saudi connections, but that doesn't fit in with previous al-Qaida operations. Were Hariri's connections really that intense and meaningful? More likely is a rival faction in Lebanon, possibly with the support of a foreign intelligence service such as Syria or Iran, the latter of which has reason to dislike the idea of Syria leaving Lebanon and getting increasingly in the spotlight as Israel's most powerful military rival. Also noteworthy is the fact that last fall, Syria actually withdrew from parts of Beirut. This may create space for Lebanese militant activity which has been curtailed since the Syrian occupation began in 1990.

This issue actually came up at work yesterday, as the anxious parent of a prospective exchange student in Lebanon called the office after experiencing her first State Department travel warning. (It was apparent she hadn't heard about Hariri yet.) I probably should have just sent her on, but my INFJ personality type (1, 2) makes me a sucker for counseling those in distress, so I walked her through it before suggesting she talk to the people running the exchange program. I felt strange since I'm in no way a Lebanon expert, but it didn't matter in this case because no one really knows what's going to happen in the aftermath of this assassination, and that's hanging over whatever you might say on the subject.


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