Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Analysis from fellow blogger CC

'This is the most panicked I've seen Lebanon'

· Killing could be attempt to bring down government
· Christian leader predicted murder of three ministers

Brian Whitaker, Clancy Chassay in Beirut and Hugh Macleod in Damascus
Wednesday November 22, 2006
The Guardian

Amid all the destruction that Lebanon has witnessed over the years, the bulletholes in the window of Pierre Gemayel's car yesterday seemed almost insignificant - but their consequences may be tremendous.
"This is the most panicked I have ever seen Lebanon," said 27-year-old Habib Batah as anxious Beirut residents left work early, causing huge traffic jams.

Pierre Gemayel, the young industry minister assassinated as he drove through Jdeideh district, was the sixth public figure to be targeted since the explosion that killed former prime minister Rafik Hariri and 20 others in February last year.

Article continues

Mr Gemayel's death comes at a time of political tension unprecedented since the Lebanese civil war, and inevitably fingers are being pointed, once again, at Syria, the meddlesome neighbour accused of trying to destabilise the country.
At 34, Mr Gemayel was by no means among the most important or prominent of politicians - though that, perversely, may have made him an easier target. His real significance, as often in Lebanese politics, lay in his family name: he was the son of a former president, Amin Gemayel, and grandson of the late Pierre Gemayel, founder of the Christian Phalange party.

The immediate question is what impact his death will have on the anti-Syrian government led by Fouad Siniora. His cabinet was severely weakened earlier this month by the resignation of six ministers, including all five Shia members, and the Shia Hizbullah movement has been threatening to topple it.

With yesterday's killing, Mr Siniora lost a seventh minister. If nine are absent, cabinet meetings become inquorate - triggering the government's collapse. A few days ago Samir Geagea, a Christian leader, warned that three ministers might be assassinated to achieve just that. With Mr Gemayel's death, his prophecy seems to have been partly confirmed.

All this comes at a critical moment for Lebanon as it strives to recover from the month-long bombardment by Israeli forces triggered by a border incident last July when Hizbullah's militia seized two Israeli soldiers.

The government is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid for reconstruction and has been hoping to kickstart the economy with new investment, but these efforts could be stymied if the political uncertainties continue.

Though there is no hard evidence so far as to the motive for Mr Gemayel's killing, there were few yesterday who doubted that it was political - though bombs rather than bullets are the usual method in Lebanese assassinations. As in the 14 other attacks since the Hariri assassination, many immediately suspected a Syrian connection - though Syria has denied involvement and the attacks are all subjects of a UN investigation.

Following the Hariri assassination, Syria came under intense international pressure which forced it to withdraw from Lebanon, and the Bush administration - which earlier imposed sanctions on Damascus - made threatening noises.

Syrian observers argued that killing Mr Gemayel would not serve the interests of Damascus. "Syria has a lot to lose by killing Gemayel," said Jihad Yazigi, editor of the Syria Report. "Damascus has the upper hand in Lebanon now after nearly a year without any assassinations and Hizbullah are getting stronger by the day."

Essam Dari, deputy editor of Tishreen, a government daily, said the assassination would hurt Syria's interests. "This crime comes at a time when the US and Europe are considering reopening talks with Syria," he said. "Like the Hariri killing, Syria will be badly affected."

One theory advanced yesterday is that in the wake of the Republicans' midterm electoral defeat, and with George Bush's Iraq policy in tatters, Syria may be feeling sufficiently emboldened to turn up the heat in Lebanon again.

Meanwhile, Hizbullah - the main representative of Lebanon's marginalised Shia population and a key ally of Syria - has also been emboldened by the war with Israel. Basking in the kudos of its claimed military "victory", it is now seeking to assert itself more in Lebanese politics.

The sectarian breakdown of Lebanon's population is so sensitive that no official figures have been released since 1932, but there is little doubt that Christians - who once accounted for around 50% - are declining, while the Shia have been increasing. According to some estimates, the Shia may have reached 40%. Under the constitution, any group that can command more than 30% of cabinet posts has a veto on government decisions - which, in effect, would hand power to Hizbullah.

Hit list

Major political attacks in Lebanon during the last two years:

· February 14 2005 Former prime minister Rafik Hariri, killed in a bombing.

· June 2 2005 Anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir, killed by a car bomb.

· June 21 2005 Anti-Syrian politician George Hawi, killed by a car bomb.

· July 12 2005 Deputy prime minister and defence minister Elias Murr, survives car bombing in Beirut.

· September 25 2005 Prominent television anchorwoman May Chidiac of the leading anti-Syrian TV station LBC, loses an arm and a leg from a car bomb.

· December 12 2005 Prominent anti-Syrian newspaper editor and parliamentarian Gibran Tueni killed by a car bomb.

· November 21 2006 Prominent Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, shot dead by gunmen in a Beirut suburb.


Blogger Doc said...

This is crap for Lebanon and its people. We dont need soldiers at the border with Israel but rather at the border with syria.

Luckily the female to male ratio in Lebanon is like 8:1. So, I hope the logic and rational thinking of the female species prevails and prevents rioting in the streets.

vive le liban.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

These developments are not good. I truly hope that Lebanon is not headed for another civil war. That will just serve as an excuse for Israel and Syria to flex their military muscles again.

12:24 AM  
Blogger karlos said...

"We dont need soldiers at the border with Israel but rather at the border with syria. "
How's that doc? Israel has repeatedly violated Lebanon. In fact Israel just decimated Lebanon with 34 days of bombardment.
Under Syria dominance, Lebanon experience growth and rebuilding.
I'm not saying I like the Baathists, but i don't get your logic.

I agree these developments are terrible for lebanon.
I just hope they can keep the peace amongst themselves. There is nothing israel would like more than an excuse to reoccupy. And there is nothing Syria would like more than to dominate lebanon again.

8:56 AM  
Blogger dobegs said...

darlings, I must say, you are heading for a disaster and it is such a shame!! I agree with Doc, Lebanon must assert its borders especially with Syria but also with Israel. this is perfect time as you have the european and UN forces on your land!! use it wisely.

lets hope history will not repeat itself and Lebanese will have learned something for the grim past and freedoms are protected and will always prevail! over crap and backwards war and terror regimes such as Iran and Syria.

Bon chance a tous!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Doc said...

"Under Syria dominance, Lebanon experience growth and rebuilding"

Karlos, what world do you live in?

I dont want neither Syria, nor Israel, nor Iran, nor even the US in Lebanon. Lebanese should govern themselves, without outside influence. The make-up of the population and all its various beliefs, however, makes that a challenge. Mais, c'est possible. I say we should learn from history, not because our mistakes, but because of our successes.

BTW, I am not entirely convinced Syria was the perpetrator..Doesnt matter who, it should stop.

8:56 PM  
Blogger karlos said...

Doc, I see how my above statement was not accurate.
Syrian dominance in Lebanon was not all positive, mukhabarat etc... But did Lebanon not rebuild itself after the war, whilst under Syrian dominance. Not credit to the Syrians intended.

9:39 AM  
Blogger petetow said...

We should all have the right to make our opinions known, as I sit here in a garden hammock I know that my opinion is as valid as anyone elses for there to be any movement a people must be allowed the opportunity to govern themselves but with such a mixture what the outcome would be is anyones guess, anything from peace to an internal civil war, but they should still be allowed the opportunity.

5:09 PM  

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