February 20, 2005
The Observer

Why 'Mr Lebanon' Had Many Enemies

Diplomats doubt that Syria would kill its former ally as evidence points to the billionaire being victim of an 'ordinary bomb'

by Peter Beaumont and Mitchell Prothero

In death, the world feted Lebanon's former Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, assasinated on Valentine's Day. Obituaries spoke of a grand statesman and 'Mr Lebanon'.

But in Beirut Hariri was hated and distrusted by many in equal measure - not for his politics, but for his controlling interest in the giant post-war Lebanese reconstruction company Solidere, which has been accused of carrying out forcible evictions, corruption and wholesale political graft.

Last week as British officals voiced doubts over US and Israeli-backed allegations that Syrian intelligence agents were behind the bombing of Hariri's motorcade on Beirut's Corniche, a picture began to emerge of a deeply flawed billionaire with as many foes as friends.

It is a story of murky dealings and personal enrichment on a grand scale; a tale of politics and the judiciary suborned to business interests, and of multiple motives for Hariri's slaying.

It is a very different picture from that presented by a Lebanese opposition campaigning for the withdrawal of the Syrian army, by Hariri's family and by Tel Aviv and Washington: that Hariri, splitting with Damascus and the pro-Damascus government of Emile Lahoud, had been taken out by the Syrians.

'It does not make sense,' said one European official, 'it is not really Syria's modus operandi. It is such a gift for the anti-Syrian lobby in Lebanon and internationally. Why would they do it? Not only that, but the Syrians would not want to upset the Saudis, who they are cautious in their relations with and who regard Hariri [who has a Saudi passport] as being very much their own.'

And despite Hariri's split with his old friends in September over Lebanon's future governance, senior Syrian officals saw him as 'a moderating influence' with other opposition figures who could 'put across Syria's point of view'.

If Syria was not the culprit, who are the other candidates and what was the motive? . . .


[Once George Bush and President Jacques Chirac - Hariri's close personal friend - pushed through UN Security Council resolution 1559, calling for Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon, Damascus found itself facing a miniature version of Saddam Hussein's predicament in 2003: submit to UN resolutions or else. . . .

That this also served Israel's interests - a substantially demilitarised Lebanon, the disarmament of the Hizbollah guerrilla movement and the humiliation of Syria - was never allowed to become part of the narrative.--Robert Fisk, "A Battlefield for the Wars of Others," The Independent, February 16, 2005]

[The assassination of Rafik Hariri, former Lebanese prime minister, is a virtual propaganda bonanza for Israel and the United States and has resulted in nearly unanimous finger pointing at Syria, even though it would be excessively stupid for Syria to do such a thing, especially with the U.S. and Israel beating the bushes, looking for any pretext to invade the country.--Kurt Nimmo, "Rafik al-Hariri and the Syria Blame Game," Information Clearing House, February 17, 2005]

Mike Whitney, "Assassinating Al-Hariri Fits Washington's Plan,", February 17, 2005

[Suspicion points at Lebanon's far rightist, anti-Syrian Maronites; Israel's Mossad; or Syrian or Lebanese Islamists. All had interest in destabilizing Lebanon and hurting Syria. Other suspects: rogue elements from one of Syria's many competing security agencies; and business rivals of billionaire Hariri, who was a brilliant but ruthless entrepreneur.--Eric Margolis, "Who Killed Rafik Hariri?," Toronto Sun, February 20, 2005]

[In appointing Negroponte, a career diplomat, Bush has brought a new and, to many, unwelcome twist to the US war on terror. Coming on top of his statement that he would support Israel if it mounted an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, and following recent talk of enforcing regime change in Iran and Syria, it sends the signal that the US is entering a new phase in its operations against those countries suspected of sponsoring al-Qaeda and its allies.

Last week's assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is a good example of this approach.--Trevor Royle, "New Front in the War on Terror," Sunday Herald, February 20, 2005]

[The blowback from this atrocity, fully predictable, is Syria's isolation. Hence, it makes no sense for Bashar to have done it. Nor is this his style. Unlike his father, Bashar Assad has no history of ordering terror attacks.

. . . this atrocity has the look of a false-flag operation to goad a volatile president into an attack on Syria. . . .

There is no vital U.S. interest in Lebanon. There is no vital U.S. interest in the Gulf other than oil, which the Arabs and Iran have to sell to us and wish to sell to us. No Arab nation has attacked the United States since the Barbary pirates, and none wants war with America.--Patrick J. Buchanan, "Baiting a Trap for Bush?,", February 21, 2005]

Zeina Karam, "Lebanese Hold Historic Anti-Syrian March," Associated Press, February 21, 2005

Nicholas Blanford, "Syria hints at pullout as Beirut protesters fill streets," The Times, February 21, 2005

Are we seeing a repeat of the tactics used by the CIA fifty years ago to overthrow the elected government of Iran, or the tactics recently used by the US in Serbia, Georgia, Belarus and Ukraine?

[The Taif equilibrium bound Israel to find a settlement with the Palestinians toward which Israel's leadership was at best equivocal, because that equilibrium neutralised Israeli freedom of action to unilaterally define its role in the regional political economy. With the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the assumption of power by Binyamin Netanyahu in the mid-90s, equivocation became open hostility. The Israeli, or rather Zionist, dilemma was and is really quite simple. A settlement with the Palestinians and regional peace means openness, openness means Palestinian access to Saudi funding, and Saudi funding plus the Palestinian birthrate spell the end, ultimately, of an Israeli state defined by a Jewish as opposed to a national identity.--Chris Sanders, "Deception," Sanders Research Associates, February 21, 2005]

[Not only would this scenario serve the interests of Israel, by helping it achieve unfulfilled aspirations, but it also paves the way for an extension of the American empire without the kind of European opposition encountered in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It would be a contiguous American empire stretching between the oil of the Caspian Sea and the bountiful wells of Saudi Arabia.--Naseer H. Aruri, "Remapping the Middle East: The Politics of Hariri's Assassination," CounterPunch, February 22, 2005]

"Lebanon's PM Says His Government Resigns," Reuters, February 28, 2005

Saul Landau and Farrah Hassen, "How the White House Stage Managed the "Get Syria" Movement: The 'Noble Liars' Attack Syria," CounterPunch, March 2, 2005

Leon Hadar, "From Lebanon to Iraq and Back,", March 5, 2005

Brian Whitaker, "Syrian troops will pull out of Lebanon: US fury at unscheduled announcement of 'staggered' and partial withdrawal," Observer, March 6, 2005

Paul Craig Roberts, "Bush's Syrian Delusion,", March 8, 2005

Robert Fisk, "Half a million gather for pro-Syrian rally to defy vision of US," Independent, March 9, 2005

[The anti-Syrian protests, dominated by the Christian and Druze minorities, are not in fact calling for a genuine democracy at all, but for elections under the long-established corrupt confessional carve-up, which gives the traditionally privileged Christians half the seats in parliament and means no Muslim can ever be president. . . .

It is not democracy, but the US military, that is on the march. The Palestinian elections in January took place because of the death of Yasser Arafat - they would have taken place earlier if the US and Israel hadn't known that Arafat was certain to win them - and followed a 1996 precedent. The Iraqi elections may have looked good on TV and allowed Kurdish and Shia parties to improve their bargaining power, but millions of Iraqis were unable or unwilling to vote, key political forces were excluded, candidates' names were secret, alleged fraud widespread, the entire system designed to maintain US control and Iraqis unable to vote to end the occupation. They have no more brought democracy to Iraq than US-orchestrated elections did to south Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s. As for the cosmetic adjustments by regimes such as Egypt's and Saudi Arabia's, there is not the slightest sign that they will lead to free elections, which would be expected to bring anti-western governments to power.--Seumas Milne, "It is not democracy that's on the march in the Middle East," Guardian, March 10, 2005]

[According to high-level Lebanese intelligence sources - Christian and Muslim - former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri was reportedly assassinated in a sophisticated explosion-by-wire bombing authorized by the Bush administration and Ariel Sharon's Likud government in Israel. . . .

Hariri, a pan-Arabist and Lebanese nationalist, was known to adamantly oppose the construction of a major U.S. air base in the north of Lebanon. . . .

Lebanese intelligence sources report that even without a formal agreement with Lebanon, the contract for the northern Lebanese air base has been let by the Pentagon to Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, California. Other construction support will be provided by Bechtel Corporation.--Wayne Madsen, "Hariri reportedly assassinated to make way for large US air base in Lebanon," Online Journal, March 11, 2005]

Robert Fisk, "UN finds evidence of official cover-up in Hariri assassination," Independent, March 14, 2005

"Biggest anti-Syria protest in 'tit-for-tat' rallies," Times Online, March 14, 2005

Gary Leupp, "The Neocon's Plan is Still on Track: Bush Strategy for Syria, Lebanon and Iran," CounterPunch, March 15, 2005

[Eric Margolis, an astute columnist for the Toronto Sun, recently wrote that bin Laden, not Bush, is "the man most responsible for pushing the Arab world toward political change."--Jude Wanniski, "Gunboat Democracy," CounterPunch, March 15, 2005]

Douglas Jehl, "Ex-Officials Say Bolton Inflated Syrian Danger," New York Times, April 26, 2005

Douglas Jehl and Thom Shanker, "Syria Ending Cooperation With U.S., Envoy Says," New York Times, May 24, 2005

[The decision to assassinate Hariri "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services," the report said.--Edith M. Lederer and Nick Wadhams, "Syria involved in killing Hariri, says UN," Associated Press, October 21, 2005]

"HARIRI MURDER CASE: The central witness in Mehlis report is a condemned cheat," Der Spiegel, October 22, 2005

Robert Parry, "The Dangerously Incomplete Hariri Report,", October 23, 2005

[The Observer notes that Washington and Tel Aviv are hammering out the details for a pipeline that will run through Syria and "create an endless and easily accessible source of cheap Iraqi oil for the US guaranteed by reliable allies other than Saudi Arabia". The pipeline "would transform economic power in the region, bringing revenue to the new US-dominated Iraq, cutting out Syria and solving Israel's energy crisis at a stroke."--Mike Whitney, " Assassinations in Lebanon; Pipelines in Haifa," Information Clearing House, October 26, 2005]

["Steven Hadley, the director of the US National Security Council, called the President of the Italian senate to ask if he had a candidate to replace Bashar al-Asad as President of Syria."--Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, "UN's Mehlis report discredited," Media Monitors Network, October 28, 2005]

Anthony Shadid, "Death of Syrian Minister Leaves A Sect Adrift in Time of Strife," Washington Post, October 31, 2005

Greg Szymanski, "Possible U.S. and Israeli Connection in Assassination of Rafiq Harari, the Former Popular Lebanese Leader,", November 5, 2005

[The trail of murder could also lead back to Beirut. Lebanon's shadowy intelligence service, the Deuxieme Bureau, has long freelanced for foreign powers. In the 1980's, it was reportedly hired by CIA to blow up Hizbullah's leader with a truck bomb.--Eric Margolis, "SYRIA ON THE BRINK,", November 7, 2005]

William M. Arkin, "Keeping Secrets in Jordan" Washington Post, November 16, 2005

Trish Schuh, "Mehlis's Murky Past; US and Israeli Proxies Pushing the Next Neo-Con War: Faking the Case Against Syria," CounterPunch, November 18, 2005

[Hussam Taher Hussam, said he had been held in Lebanon by supporters of Saad Hariri, the son of the former prime minister, and subjected to torture and drug injections to force him to testify. Saad Hariri, he said, offered him $1.3 million if he would lie about senior Syrian officials.--Katherine Zoepf, "Syrian Witness in U.N. Inquiry on Beirut Killing Reports Bribes," New York Times, November 29, 2005]

Paul Craig Roberts, "US Orders Syria to Do the Impossible,", January 25, 2006

[In response to an American appeal, Syria has arrested up to 8,000 Iraqi insurgents inside its borders. In response to a plea by Washington, it is cutting back on the assistance that the Iraqi rebels receive from inside Syria.

Aware that the highest levels of the Syrian security apparatus may be impeached by the UN enquiry into Hariri's death, the Syrians are being "responsible". The new and far more humble Belgian investigator gives no press conferences - had you noticed this? - and makes no statements. Silence, gentlemen, please.

Sure, Condi Rice goes on telling us that the truth will out. Wasn't Hariri behind UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which told the Syrians to get out of Lebanon? Wasn't that why he was murdered? I don't think he was behind 1559, though that might have been enough for the Syrian Baathist secret police to assassinate him.--Robert Fisk, "By such little things is a man betrayed," Independent, February 11, 2006]

[. . . there should have been multiple parallel directions of investigation, from the start: Mossad, CIA, business partners [of Rafik Hariri] and exiled Lebanese. That never happened.--Silvia Cattori, "The Assassination of Rafik Hariri: A Biased Investigation,", September 16, 2006]

Wayne Madsen, "French intelligence reports Mossad was behind it" Wayne Madsen Report, October 24, 2006

[Using the Salvador Option against Syria had first been raised by Newsweek and the London Times in January, 2005. . . .

Fred Burton, in charge of counter-terrorism analysis at the Stratfor website , was also suspicious. Burton, who spent over 20 years as a counter-terrorism expert at the US State Department and the Secret Service, has investigated most terror attacks against US Embassies abroad, as well as the first World Trade Center bombing, and the murder of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin. Stratfor's Burton also specialized in Syrian terror operations and methods. He rejected both Syria and Hezbollah as the perpetrators behind the Hariri killing. "Syria lacks the finesse," and the "complex nature" of the remote-control technology needed to implement "the surgical nature of the charge" are beyond their capacity, he insisted. "This is not their style... and Hezbollah would not have this capability." (UPI 6/27/05)

In the Hariri case, German critics claimed "the choice of Mehlis was done because of his links to the German, American, French and Israeli intelligence agencies." Lebanese news source, and Le Figaro reported that the British MI6 and Mossad have been supplying much of the UN Commission's intelligence.--Trish Shuh, "Cakewalks, Forgeries and Smoking Guns: The Salvador Option in Beirut", February 8, 2007]

[Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don't talk about what democracy means - what it bestows on us - the revolutionary idea that it isn't just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency. "I believe in Democracy because it releases the energies of every human being." So spoke Woodrow Wilson--Bill Moyers, "Discovering What Democracy Means", February 12, 2007]

Rannie Amiri, "The Hariri Assassination: Israel's Fingerprints Surface", July 23, 2010

[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri this week put an end to an ongoing saga in his country's relationship with Syria, saying that the Syrians had not killed his father, Rafik al-Hariri, on that fateful day on February 14, 2005.--Sami Moubayed, "Hariri exonerates Syria over father's murder", September 10, 2010]

[Those witnesses, some being his most senior advisors, had lied under oath and obstructed justice in the Hariri affair, with the aim of implicating both Hezbollah and Syria. If Hariri made a u-turn on the STL, the opposition promised to allow bygones to be bygones and declare a truce that would last until the upcoming parliamentary elections took place in 2013.--Sami Moubayed, "Hariri backed wrong horse", January 29, 2011]

Chloe Domat, "UN trial clears Hezbollah and Syria of Hariri assassination", August 18, 2020

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