T Nation

Syria and the Hariri Assassination

It seems Syria is feeling some heat given the U.N. report implicating its government in the Hariri assassination in Lebanon earlier this year.



The report itself is available on the U.N. website:


Perhaps this will fuel a campaign against Syria because Syria is worth campaigning against. Aside from its crimes in Lebanon, it is obviously still allowing (at least – if not sending itself) foreign terrorists over its border and into Iraq.

From Strategypage. Syria is a major part of the terrorist network.

Suicide Bomber Shortage

October 23, 2005: As Iraqi police and soldiers take over more security duties, more American troops are available for offensive operations, and they are making more patrols and raids inside Sunni Arab areas. The Syrian border is particularly hot. Over the weekend, intelligence efforts discovered five terrorist safe houses, which resulted in attacks by smart bombs and ground troops. At least twenty terrorists were killed, and large quantities of weapons, bomb making materials and documents were captured. The documents, and interrogations of captured suspects leads to more information on where the terrorists have there safe houses, weapons caches, and travel routes across the Syrian border (the main source of suicide bombers, who are almost all foreigners, and cash.) The increased American offensives has led to increased casualties, with the rate up to the August level (close to three American deaths a day).

Some 300 foreigners have been captured in Iraq, and several thousand are believed to have served al Qaeda there. Most of these foreigners either get killed as suicide bombers, or stay for a while, then go home. Those who go home are often disillusioned with their experience in Iraq, as they see up close how most of the victims of al Qaeda violence are Iraqi civilians. The really hard core foreigners die as suicide bombers, or in other fighting with American or Iraqi forces. The ones that leave Iraq, often do so out of frustration. These foreign volunteers came to fight the “American occupiers,” but are quickly made to realize that going after the Americans is suicidal, especially for largely untrained (in military matters) foreigners (who reveal themselves as foreigners as soon as they speak, using a foreign dialect of Arabic.)

The men returning from Iraq carry with them stories of the slaughter of Iraqi civilians, and this leads to less enthusiasm for serving al Qaeda in Iraq. As a result, al Qaeda has increased its recruiting efforts in more distant areas. Thus foreign terrorist volunteers from Canada, Israel, Europe and Africa have been detected. The current drop in suicide bomb attacks is believed partly due to a shortage of foreign volunteers, and partly due to more attacks on terrorist safe houses (where the foreign volunteers are kept out of sight, lest local Iraqis hear that foreign dialect and call the cops) and bomb workshops.

Syria is still a base for many al Qaeda and Baath Party (long the main supporter of Saddam Hussein) personnel. The Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Baath Party have resolved the differences that split the Baath Party for three decades. But these Iraqi Baath party leaders are wanted for war crimes in Iraq, and internationally. Protecting these Iraqis has put the Syrian government under increasing diplomatic pressure to either arrest or expel the Iraqi war criminals. Making things worse is a recent UN report that accused the Syrian government of carrying out a number of terror bombing attacks in Lebanon (to try and disrupt the effort to end Syrian control of the Lebanese government.) The Syrian army is now out of Lebanon, and Syria no longer controls the Lebanese government. The Syrian Baath party is also facing unrest among its Sunni Arabs (the majority in Syria), who resent decades of rule by the minority Alawite Moslems (who are considered heretics by hard core Islamic radicals). The last four years have not been kind to the Baath Party, and things look likely to get worse.

[quote]BostonBarrister wrote:
It seems Syria is feeling some heat given the U.N. report implicating its government in the Hariri assassination in Lebanon earlier this year.



The report itself is available on the U.N. website:


Perhaps this will fuel a campaign against Syria because Syria is worth campaigning against. Aside from its crimes in Lebanon, it is obviously still allowing (at least – if not sending itself) foreign terrorists over its border and into Iraq.[/quote]

What kind of campaign are you referring too?

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:

What kind of campaign are you referring too?[/quote]

I mean, as step one, a concerted focus by the U.N. Security counsel on Syrian activities in Lebanon and in Iraq. What further steps are necessary would become evident only after that, and after seeing how Syria responds.

Good op-ed from the Financial Times:

United Nations should lead the effort against Syria
By Martin Indyk
Published: October 23 2005 18:53 | Last updated: October 23 2005 18:53

Thanks to the dogged work of Detlev Mehlis, United Nations chief investigator, the world now knows that the detailed planning for the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, Lebanese prime minister, in February was in the works for many months. However, according to one witness interviewed in the investigation, the final decision sealing Hariri?s fate was apparently taken by the highest Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials only a week before, allegedly in the Damascus home of Assef Chawkat. That is right, the brother-in-law of ?Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president.

Even though the Mehlis report is, in legal terms, an interim step on the road to possible indictments of senior Syrian and Lebanese officials, its findings have already created a political bombshell with profound ramifications.

The UN Security Council should now take the next step by ratcheting up the pressure on the Syrian regime. Be-cause the Mehlis report makes clear that the investigation needs to be pursued further and that Damascus is obstructing, it there is now an opportunity to pass a resolution that would extend Mehlis?s mandate and threaten sanctions if Syria does not co-operate quickly.

This will place the weak and maladroit Syrian president on the sharp horns of an irresolvable dilemma. To co-operate with the investigation may mean surrendering his brother-in-law to international justice ? an unthinkable betrayal of family that for Mr Assad would entail the risk of a coup. To dismiss the demands of the UN Security Council, however, would subject his country to increased isolation and economic hardship and over time risk the increasingly tenuous hold on power of his minority Alawite regime.

Mr Assad has already sought a middle way out of this dilemma, sending emissaries to Washington to offer a Libyan-style ?package deal?, involving the surrender of lesser officials and an end to Syria?s rogue activities. But his offer comes far too late.

President George W. Bush has already taken the measure of the man and found him unreliable. Mr Assad?s commitment to stop Syrian support for the Iraqi insurgency was honoured in the breach. His withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon was followed by a bombing campaign that has forced many of the Lebanese political class to flee. Even people in Washington (like me), who once advocated a ?carrots and sticks? approach to the Syrian ing?nue, have given up on him.

Given Mr Assad?s weakness, and the thuggish nature of those who hold sway over him, we should expect ugly actions in response to international pressure rather than compliant ones. But Syria?s behaviour is now under an international microscope. Lies, obstruction of justice, sponsorship of terrorist attacks, assisted suicides and assassinations will only serve to tighten the noose around the regime?s neck.

In these circumstances, that odd couple of Mr Bush and Jacques Chirac, the French president, who are leading the international effort against Syria, need to tread carefully. They almost have the Syrian regime on the ropes and need to avoid missteps of their own. Fortunately, much seems to have been learned from the Iraq debacle. Wiser heads have tempered the instincts of those in the Bush administration who would seize the opportunity to attempt to overthrow the Assad regime. They understand that aggressive moves now risk losing the international legitimacy that Syrian blunders have conferred on American demands. Military action also risks promoting a descent into chaos in Syria, in which the Alawite regime and a Sunni Islamist insurgency engage in a bloodbath, compounding sectarian warfare in Iraq.

The better course of western action is to have the Security Council take the lead in demanding Syrian co-operation and threatening sanctions. That will require the US to restrict itself to an active behind-the-scenes role. For the more the Bush administration makes unilateral demands on the Syrian regime, the more others will feel obliged to come to its defence and resist robust Security Council action.

Western powers should remain patient and methodical as they bring the last rogue regime in the Arab world to account. Steps will need to be taken to deter Syria from further destabilisation of Lebanon and to prevent insurgents crossing into Iraq. But backing the judicial process launched by Mr Mehlis with the threat of sanctions and ensuring that it is allowed to reach its final conclusions is the best way to deal with the current opportunity. Mr Bush and Mr Chirac can count on the ?Syrians to do the rest for them.

The writer is the director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at The Brookings Institution and a former assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs.

Increasingly it is obvious that only mutually assured destruction will work in the Middle East (or anywhere else the neo-cons may get the itch to do something about e.g. Venezuela,). The sooner China and Russian start seriously arming Syria, Iran et al the sooner the “allies” US, UK, Australia will stop starting wars that are none of their business (e.g. Afghanistan, Iraq and soon to come Syria, Iran et al).

The Shanghai Co-operation Organization (SCO) may be the beginning of an effective foil against neo-con induced revolution, invasion and civil war. The most humane (and maybe effective) weapon they could use would be economic. Dump their foreign reserves and foreign treasuries in effect bankrupting the war machine rather than fighting it.

Its not the best or even a good solution but given the contempt the political and media elite of the ?allies? have for their own people (i.e. cannon fodder/serfs) and the people of the middle east and else where (i.e. collateral damage/future serfs) there seems to be no other way of stopping them.

Martin Indyk from a # 3 match on a google search (should people with vested interests be making foreign policy?):

Middle East expert and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin S. Indyk joined the Brookings Institution on September 1, 2001, as a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program.

Ambassador Indyk served two tours in Israel, the first during the Rabin years (1995-97), and the second (2000-June 2001) during efforts to achieve a comprehensive peace and stem the violence of the intifada. During these periods, he helped to strengthen U.S-Israeli relations, reinforce the U.S. commitment to advance the peace process, and substantially increase the level of mutually beneficial trade and investment.

Prior to his assignment to Israel, Dr. Indyk served as special assistant to President Clinton and as senior director of Near East and South Asian Affairs at the National Security Council (NSC). While at the NSC, he served as principal adviser to the president and the National Security Adviser on Arab-Israeli issues, Iraq, Iran, and South Asia. He was a senior member of Secretary Christopher?s Middle East peace team and served as the White House representative on the U.S.-Israel Science and Technology Commission.

Before entering government service, Dr. Indyk served for eight years as founding executive director for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a research institute specializing in Arab-Israel relations. He has also been an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies where he taught Israeli politics and foreign policy, and has taught at the Middle East Institute at Columbia University, the Dayan Center for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University, and the Department of Politics at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Dr. Indyk has published widely on U.S. policy toward the Arab-Israeli peace process, on U.S.-Israeli relations, and on the threats of Middle East stability posed by Iraq and Iran.

Martin Indyk was born July 1, 1951, in London, England, and raised and educated in Australia. He received a Bachelor of Economics degree from Sydney University in 1972 and a doctorate in International Relations from the Australian National University in 1977.

He is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Middle East Institute. He is married to Jill Indyk. They have two children, Sarah and Jacob.

I’m sure this author is similarly part of some cabal or other…


‘The Source of the Chaos’
By Michael J. Totten

BEIRUT – The Lebanese army fully deployed into the streets of Beirut while awaiting the release of U.N. special prosecutor Detlev Mehlis’s report on his investigation into the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Armored vehicles and heavy artillery were placed in front of possible targets. Neighborhoods formed watch groups. The government suspended gun licenses. The streets were eerily quiet. Many stayed home in case Syrian terrorists lashed out in anger at their former subjects.

And now, 250 days after Hariri was killed, the truth – or at least something that looks like the shape of the truth – finally emerged. Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law Ashef Shawkat was named the chief suspect. Lebanese President Emile Lahoud was named as a possible accomplice.

Fear and suspense then turned to relief.

When asked if he fears Syrian retaliation in Lebanon, Makram Z. was perfectly calm. “It will take a long time before this is fully resolved, perhaps one or two years. In the meantime, Syria will lay low and buy time…The way these people think and act, and the way they were all brought up, indicates nothing stops them from acting like this, especially if they are from the old school of the Baath Party. But I don’t suppose they will stir things up now that it is known world wide.”

His friend Claude D. also thinks Lebanon will be okay. “In 1970 we saw anti-Christian riots when [Egyptian President] Nasser died. And for what? He died of a heart attack. No one killed him. Yet when Hariri was killed, both Christians and Muslims united in anger and grief. Lebanon is more mature than it was.”

He is worried about one thing, though. “If Lebanon reacts well to this crisis, the winds of freedom will blow onto the other Arab regimes. And they won’t like it.”

Makram gestured to another friend who preferred to remain anonymous. “This man,” he said, “he is a Sunni. They were against Syria’s presence in Lebanon all along. We Christians were expected to oppose Syria, and our opinions were a little more tolerated. But the Sunnis were never allowed to oppose.”

“Is this true?” I said to Makram’s anonymous friend. He grimly nodded yes, it was true.

Nabil Abou-Charraf, one of the Cedar Revolution’s student leaders from St. Joseph’s University, sounded supremely confident when he spoke to me on the phone from Paris. “This report was made by a neutral international magistrate known for his integrity. It indicts both Assad and Lahoud. It is not a political report, but there are political responsibilities. It is impossible that Assad did not know what was happening. Lahoud must resign.”

Did he fear retaliation from Damascus? “There might be security problems in the short term, but this is the end.”

Several people who attended the million-person anti-occupation rally in March told me they found the courage to stand up to the Syrians because they finally knew they weren’t alone. Individual dissidents can be persecuted. A million cannot be.

A million, however, can be terrorized. And Lebanese have been terrorized by car bombs since February. They were not isolated as individuals. But they did feel isolated as a country.

The Mehlis report put a stop to that. I’ve heard variations on that theme for three days.

Joumanna Nasr, an economics and finance student at the American University of Beirut, put it simply. “I don’t think now with the international eye on them and with the truth out on the table that the Syrians can afford to meddle in Lebanese affairs.”

Another AUB student, who preferred to remain anonymous, was somewhat less optimistic but still hopeful for the same reason. “Dramatic changes will happen in Syria. Those changes will no doubt directly affect the situation in Iraq, the West Bank, Gaza, and Israel…Instability will continue for some time. The report at least lets us know that the instability is not going undocumented as it points to the source of the chaos.”

Hotel manager Jad Lian said it bluntly. “Syria can do no harm to Lebanon. All the eyes of the world are open on it. They can do nothing to save their own butt. They burned themselves alive.”

Some Lebanese are still afraid. But I was only able to find one single person, a bartender, who is truly bracing for hell.

“I’m not really into politics, but come on,” he said. “This is our country, and this is serious. Something bad is going to happen in the next couple of days. Something big and something terrible.”

One of his patrons, a Lebanese man named Rami who spoke English so well I first though he was American, shook his head and sipped his drink. “I don’t think anything is going to happen,” he said.

Later that night after iftar – the breaking of Ramadan fast – thousands of people rallied in Martyr’s Square and around Rafik Hariri’s grave site across the street.

The young were ferocious. They jubilantly sang patriotic Lebanese songs. They fiercely screamed “Down with Assad!” and “Down with Lahoud!” in Arabic. Dozens carried signs that said “Justice.” Younger kids threw firecrackers onto the pavement.

But not everyone at the rally was young, and not everyone looked happy or riled up. Older more conservative people quietly watched from the sidelines. Some Muslim women wore the hijab over their hair. Old men smoked cigarettes and wore the heavy look of grief on their faces. They gathered around Hariri’s grave and shared the bitter joy of the truth and the pain of loss. They seemed to find comfort in numbers.

A jovial fat man told me he was worried about what might happen next. But he was also unshakeable. “What happened today is an accomplishment. But we need more. I am a bit worried about what Syria will do next. They have a dangerous mind. But nobody cares. Nobody cares.”

A young woman carried a sign that said “[Emile] Lahoud is a big ugly fat bitch” in English. Lahoud is still president of Lebanon. This is not your typical Middle East country. “We will have peace here in Lebanon,” she told me.

The young man who was with her looked me straight in the eye. “We’ll give it everything we have,” he said. “We have to.”

A thirty-something woman held aloft a t-shirt that said “I LOVE MEHLIS” in bold black font. A young man standing next to her wore a U.N. jacket out of solidarity with Mehlis and his investigation. “It’s over,” he said.

Michael J. Totten is based in Beirut, Lebanon. He is a TCS columnist whose work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the LA Weekly, and Beirut’s Daily Star. Please visit his daily Web log and Middle East Journal at http://michaeltotten.com.

Hopefully I?m wrong, but I think that the UN security council will never condemn Syria as France sits and has strong historic ties with Syria. In 2002, France was among the top three trade partners for most Arab countries: first in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Saddam’s Iraq, second in Lebanon, and Syria, and third in Egypt.

(From Middle east Quarterly, Oct 2005)??.

The Syrian Connection
While the French bond with Syria has long been strong, Chirac worked to bolster relations even further. Quoting de Gaulle, Chirac described Franco-Syrian ties as an “indestructible friendship.”[64] He was the only Western head of state to attend Hafez al-Assad’s funeral in 2000. Bashar al-Assad’s first official trip outside the Middle East was to Paris in June 2001 although Chirac had cultivated his relationship with the young Assad, receiving him at Elys?e Palace in November 1999 prior to his accession to power.[65]

In October 2000, the city of Lyon picked Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city, as its sister city. In 2001, the ?cole Nationale d’Administration, the prestigious Parisian school in which almost the entire French political class, including Chirac, former president Giscard d’Estaing, current prime minister Dominique de Villepin, and former prime minister Lionel Jospin studied, began to train Syrian professors in order to tie together future French and Syrian officials. In 2004, the ?cole Nationale d’Administration furthered its outreach to Syrian officials by opening a branch in Damascus,[66] adding to branches already operating in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

The Chirac administration’s support for the Assad regime is not only limited to public gestures. The French government has reportedly sold weapons systems such as self-propelled howitzers equipped with night vision gear to Syria.[67] As in the case of Iraq, there are lingering questions of Syrian payments to French politicians. Many French politicians join associations and charitable boards both for financial and political gain. The board of the L’Association d’Amiti? France-Syrie (France-Syria Friendship Association) boasts among its members former prime minister Raymond Barre, former secretary of state Claude Cheysson, and 2007 presidential hopeful Nicolas Sarkozy.[68]

So why did Paris join with Washington on September 2, 2004, to cosponsor U.N. Security Council Resolution 1559, which demanded the withdrawal of Syrian troops occupying Lebanon and the disarmament of militias? The left-of-center daily Lib?ration suggested the temporary unity was because the murder of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri forced Chirac temporarily to choose between Arab friends.[69] Hariri described Chirac as “my best pal” shortly before his death.[70] Some French papers have reported that the Lebanese billionaire contributed to Chirac’s 2002 reelection campaign.[71] Chirac rewarded his friend by helping the Lebanese government avert bankruptcy. For example, in November 2002, he put together the Paris II conference, in which European leaders, Saudi officials, and representatives from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank worked to extend credit to Lebanon. Chirac helped the Lebanese government win $4.4 billion of international credits.[72] But the February 14, 2005 assassination of Hariri forced the French hand. According to one French diplomat, “Before, all we did for Syria was because of Hariri; now everything we do against Syria is because of Hariri, again.”[73] Now that the Syrian troop withdrawal is complete, Chirac may again embrace the Syrian president. Quay d’Orsay has not fully accepted U.S. concerns regarding Syrian support for Lebanese Hezbollah, for example.

Chirac has long embraced Hezbollah. Former U.S. senator Bob Graham (Democrat, Fla.), relates how, upon arriving in Damascus in July 2002, he saw an Iranian cargo plane on the tarmac. He asked a U.S. diplomat what it might be carrying. The embassy aide replied, “Probably arms and ammunition, other military equipment for Hezbollah. This is the primary point of delivery.”[74] Such matter-of-fact concerns regarding Hezbollah’s commitment to violence did not factor in Chirac’s decision to embrace the group.

Prior to the 9-11 terrorist attacks, Hezbollah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group; it still has the distinction of having killed more Frenchmen than any other terrorist group outside of the Algerian war for independence because of its bombing of the French marine barracks in Beirut and subsequent kidnapping of sixteen French citizens. Nevertheless, in October 2002, Chirac invited Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah secretary general, to attend the Francophone summit in Beirut. Their meeting bestowed legitimacy upon the group, whose raison d’?tre disappeared upon the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon two years before. The French government has continued to resist calls not only from Washington and Jerusalem but also from some within Europe to label Hezbollah a terrorist organization,[75] preferring instead to categorize the group as a “social” organization.[76] The one concession the French government has made to other Western governments has been to ban Hezbollah’s Al-Manar satellite channel in December 2004.[77] The move came under tremendous pressure from French politicians and public alike, outraged at the station’s flouting of French laws banning anti-Semitism.

Chirac’s consistent support for Hezbollah has won him the group’s favor. In April 2005, Nasrallah published a commentary in the Beirut daily As-Safir in which he welcomed a French role in Lebanese reconciliation and declared that the “Lebanese do not like to see France held hostage to the savage and aggressive American hegemony.”[78]