NetWar: The Hariri Murder... One Too Many?

Contents Letter From Paris

Contents Letter From Paris

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


The Hariri Murder... One Too Many?

A 400 kg. bomb has killed Rafik Hariri. One of the few truly civilized leaders in the Middle east.

Writing obituaries has never been my favorite genre, but Rafik Hariri is, was, even for Middle East standards, one of the most intriguing characters of that intriguing part of the world. In my perception, he was first a Levantine, then a bazaar kingpin, then an Arab baron (if you allow me the boutade), a subtle French notable and somewhere, why, yes, a secular Muslim who didn’t believe much in mullahs or imams but who did indeed believe in God and human solidarity. The son of a grocer and farmer in Sidon, he made a fortune by being superhumanly insightful and brilliant.

He got into politics as a tool for the Syrian occupation and ended as an opposition leader, trying to get the Syrians out and I am convinced that last struggle was the ultimate reason why he was murdered. The nearest cause at hand is the coming election ; had he lived, he might have expected to win with a large majority in the forthcoming Lebanese general elections. Since after Iraq it has become very difficult to rig an election in the region, they had to kill him

Quod prodest? Who is to benefit from the death of this extraordinary man? Well, back in October I wrote a post (The French Hostages & The Syrian Connection) in which I echoed what was already more than a rumor here in Paris: Syria was behind the kidnapping of two French reporters in Iraq, because the Damascus regime was irked by the passing of US sponsored 1557 resolution at the UN, calling for Syria to end its occupation of Lebanon. Hariri had engineered that resolution, and got away with it because he knew well or rather was a good friend of both George W. Bush and Jacques Chirac, no small feat.

I speculated at that time: The good news is that the hostages could be now closer to being set free, since France could use the very traditional diplomatic channels between states to put some pressure on Damascus. The bad news is that, in all cases, if the Syrian connection is proved, France will have to reconsider all its policy in the Middle East, based on appeasement, siding with Arafat in the Israelo-Palestinian conflict, and refusing to acknowledge the very existence of “rogue states”. An even more ominous scenario would be that the captors, to prevent exposure, decided to assassinate the hostages.

According to some versions, president Chirac was informed of the Syrian connection by his friend, the Lebanese primer minister Rafik Hariri.

Well, the hostages weren’t killed. Hariri was.

Already many people in Paris felt that something was very wrong when the two journalists were eventually set free by their captors and without anybody acknowledging publicly why they had been kidnapped in the first place –thinking about the rabidly anti-war position of the French government- and even less what had won their release. Nor do we know now why yet another French reporter, a celeb leftist woman writer for Libération, consitently against yankee imperialism, has been kidnapped one month ago in Bagdad and is still being held captive.

Now, the people who had Hariri killed used about 400 kg (ca 900 pounds) of high-grade explosive. Hardly the deed of an amateur…

The question now isn’t so much why Damascus wanted Hariri dead. The question is why now. My guess is the Lebanese election. The Syrian regime just can't afford a democratic election in Lebanon...

In any event, I perceive Hariri’s murder as a challenge to Washington and a warning to Paris. The problem with autocratic rogue regimes is that at a given moment they all seem to lose their mind. It can be rightly said that Hariri is yet another victim in the struggle between tyrants and democracy.

By the way, I am really sorry too. I liked the man.

Don't miss this very interesting (and telling) story by SAM F. GHATTAS (AP)

Why do I find Ghattas' story telling? Because of this paragraph:

At Hariri's Beirut residence Tuesday, long lines of mourners offered condolences to the family. Dignitaries also arrived to pay their respects,including Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a longtime friend; Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Moratinos; and Hariri's political ally, Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir, head of the Maronite Catholic Church.

To read that Vice-President Abdul-Halim Khaddam was "a longtime friend" of Rafik Hariri leaves me stubbornly looking through my window at the heavy clouds hovering over Paris.

There is indeed a tradition in mob circles to send the biggest floral wreath to the victim’s funeral…

And then why, the presence of the self-styled Spanish minister for foreign affairs makes me shudder. Don't miss Khalid's comment below.

If you read French, don't miss Alexandre Adler's piece on the Hariri murder in today's Figaro!


Ce sont ces mêmes hommes – parmi lesquels figurent en bonne place les vieux associés sunnites d'Assad père : Farouk Chareh, le ministre des Affaires étrangères, et Abdel-Halim Khaddam, le vice-président de la République –, qui ont jeté toute leur énergie dans le soutien à l'insurrection irakienne, fournissant notamment à al-Zarqaoui et à une branche très prosaoudienne d'al-Qaida, le gîte et le couvert.

Khalid, someone agrees with you... I like Adler. His piece is until now the best and most credible one of all that I have read on this subject.

Winds of Change

An example: this analysis of the March 11th attacks in Madrid, written 5 days later! Imposing.

Inspiring, passionate and decent

Iraq, the Model
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Many provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire at the end of 2005. This forum is devoted to civil and informed debate about these provisions and whether they should be renewed.

A serious visit to jihadist ideology

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Guerra Eterna en Oriente Medio
Reportero español polí­ticamente correcto, buena gente y suavemente partisano

Español residente en Parí­s, liberal, vasco, polí­ticamente incorrecto, reflexiona sobre la situación en Euskadi (Paí­s Vasco)

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Otro español, buen analista y políticamente incorrecto. Pertenece a la nueva ola de jovenes liberales (en el sentido europeo) que empiezan a poner en cuestión todo en Europa

Una Temporada en el Infierno
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Location: Paris, France

I have been a journalist since I was 22. For a (long) while I worked as a reporter for the Swedish, Spanish (I was born in Spain) and American media, covering international affairs... After 1991 I recycled myself to the business press.

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