February 18, 2005
LEBANON: RAFIQ HARIRI'S 'BRUTAL' MURDER LINKED TO A 'SINISTER' SYRIA
** Euro, Lebanese and Israeli outlets agree "all fingers are pointing at Damascus."
** Other papers find it "difficult to believe" that Syria "could be so naive and shortsighted."
** Hardline Muslim writers say the attack stems from U.S./Israeli "arrogant colonial aims."
** Lebanese must exercise the "utmost caution and restraint" to prevent "renewed violence."
Syria 'has the most to gain'-- Global media agreed the Syrian regime "has chosen to send a terrifying message" to Lebanon and has "no intention whatsoever of releasing its hold" on the country. Numerous dailies demanded Damascus "immediately pull out its troops." Britain's conservative Times alleged "connivance of Syria's ubiquitous intelligence services," and Israel's pluralist Yediot Aharonot assailed "Syria's unbridled terrorist behavior." Lebanese papers such as non-sectarian Ad-Diyar blamed Beirut's "Mafia regime," demanding its resignation, while moderate An-Nahar blasted Syrian "attempts to assassinate Lebanon's freedom, dignity, sovereignty, and independence."
'Keep an open mind'-- Skeptics doubted Damascus was "suicidal" enough to arrange the bombing. Bangladesh's independent New Age noted it was "hard to accept" that President Assad could have "been so unwise," while Germany's business-oriented Handelsblatt labeled Syria's involvement "inconceivable." Several writers warned the world "cannot ignore" the potential culpability of "Iran-backed Hezbollah"; France's right-of-center Le Figaro alleged the attack targeted "Assad and Damascus's moderates." Regardless of guilt, dailies predicted that "Syria will pay the bill," noting "an increasingly clear and sharp rejection of Syria's military presence" by both the Lebanese and the world.
A 'U.S.-Israeli strategy of hegemony'-- Aggressive Arab dailies linked Hariri's murder to Western "plots" to "undermine the peace and security of the region." Jordan's center-left Al-Dustour saw efforts to ignite "chaos...whereby the Arab and Muslim world would become ripe for hegemonic plans." Algeria's influential L'Expression predicted the U.S. will "use the Beirut attacks for its own ends" against its "next target," Syria. Syrian media detailed an "international conspiracy with Israeli connections"; government-owned Tishreen accused a "hostile" Israel of dragging Lebanon "back to a state of turmoil." Saudi Arabia's conservative Al-Madina concluded the attack "serves the interests of our enemy, the Zionist program."
'Prevent Lebanon from sinking back into chaos'-- Moderate papers feared the death of the "main architect of post-strife Lebanon" would cause "destabilization and disintegration of the complex and highly-divided Lebanese society." Turkey's conservative Turkiye warned of a "new wave of chaos" in the "still highly fragile" country. Arab writers noted the "imperative...to ensure that Lebanon does not re-explode." They joined Euro and Asian observers to advise Syria to "accept an international probe" into the "dastardly deed." Bahrain's pro-government Daily Tribune added this international investigation "must be held without delay."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, firstname.lastname@example.org
EDITOR: Ben Goldberg
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprites foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 132 reports from 32 countries over 15 - 18 February 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed in the most recent date.
LEBANON: "Either Lahoud’s Resignation Or A New Government"
Charles Ayoub opined in non-sectarian Ad-Diyar (2/18): "Lebanon entered a dangerous crisis.... This Lebanese government is no longer able to continue. Prime Minister Karami will make a great mistake if he does not resign. Perhaps the Lebanese authorities are not accused of the assassination...however, they are responsible.... This Government cannot continue. Its resignation is a national obligation. As for President Lahoud, he called for a national conference, but it is clear that his political role has ended because he does not have the ability to achieve national reconciliation.... What we really need is Lahoud’s resignation.... We need a new President that would be able to guarantee national unity...and might be able to postpone the parliamentary elections until things calm down. We have another option which is the resignation of this current government, and formulation of a neutral government and go ahead with the elections.”
"The Last Stop"
Sateh Noureddine wrote in Arab nationalist As-Safir (2/18): "The great emptiness that was the result of Hariri’s assassination will lead to many dangers, the biggest is the loss the Sunni Sect feels.... There is no alternative for Hariri today or even tomorrow...and the assassination came at a time when the Sunni sect is increasing in numbers, consequently it is getting poorer and more radical.... The parliamentary elections, which will be held in the spring in compliance with an advice by Damascus, the U.S. and Europe, might help in channeling some of the public anger over Hariri’s assassination...but it will certainly not help in solving the problem of real Sunni representation in Lebanon.”
"To Institute Lebanon And Bury Subordination"
Gebran Tueni wrote in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/17): “Assassinating Hariri is only a continuation for attempts to assassinate Lebanon's freedom, dignity, sovereignty, and independence.... Those who assassinated him are the same ones who tried to assassinate Marwan Hamade, and the same who assassinated in the past Presidents Rene Mouawwad and Bashir Gemayel, leader Kamal Jumblatt, Mufti Hasan Khalid and others.... All of Lebanon, in all areas and sects and political currents cried over Rafik Hariri because they believe that his assassination was in fact targeting them and their national unity.... Those who assassinated Hariri aimed at striking the national opposition and civil peace.”
"And Lebanon’s Other Half?"
George Alam contended in Arab nationalist As-Safir (2/17): “Assistant Secretary Burns carried to Beirut a strong message.... Further than the demands, there was the high-handed manner and the dry expressions he used which confirm a new different way the international community will use with the Lebanese officials.... Burns’ mission was more than condolences. It came to complement a series of pressures that started to appear in the horizon.... This means that UNSCR 1559 was issued to be implemented. U.N. envoy Roed-Larsen has the freedom to engineer the way it would be implemented.”
"The Credibility Of The Lebanese State On The Line: When Will They Uncover The Murderer Of Hariri?"
Aouni Al-Ka’ki commented in pro-Syria Ash-Sharq (2/17): "The mystery that still surrounds Hariri’s murder is a big burden on Lebanese shoulders. It also impacts negatively on national reconciliation and stability. This prompts us to warn those who are responsible that slow investigations will lead to a real catastrophe.... The hundreds of thousands who walked behind Hariri’s coffin to bid him farewell have the right to know who assassinated him.”
"You Killed Him So Your Days Are Numbered In This Nice Country!"
Ali Hamade asserted in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/17): "The Mafia regime that killed Hariri...will discover soon that the land will shake under its feet.... The Lebanese are revolting and they know who killed Rafik Hariri. Yesterday hundreds of thousands walked behind the coffins.
They were not brought by intelligence services to walk behind a statesman. They just walked behind the Lebanese Rafik Hariri because he was assassinated just because he is a free man. They killed him, then they praised him. They destroyed half the city to kill him, then they said that he was their ally. They accused him of being an American and Israeli agent, then they talked about his Arab(ism).... Leave the Lebanese alone. This is enough.”
"For These Reasons The Authorities Are Promoting The Al-Jazeera Videotape"
Fares Khashan wrote in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (2/16): "June 2003, three missiles were launched from a Mercedes towards Future TV in Raouche. This crime was, and will never be solved...At the time, the Lebanese were told by their security state that the Mercedes was Booby-trapped in the Ain-el-Hilweh camp and that ‘Osbat Al-Ansar’ implemented the crime. At the time, there were two goals behind the crime: send a message to a moderate television which is directly supervised by Hariri, and inform the Saudi Embassy, which is very close to Future TV building that it is also a target. ...At the time, Hariri just ridiculed accusations against Islamic radical groups. He knew the real perpetrators...but kept silent. Today, the same scenario has been repeated. Had Hariri stayed alive, he would have issued the same comment.... No one is accusing the Lebanese Authorities just because they want to...there is real authentic information that reached Hariri. He was informed of the following: 1) He should not be very relaxed regarding his personal security because he is under surveillance.... For this reason, there was Ahmad Abou Adas (who appeared on the Al-Jazeera videotape)...and for this reason this new radical group was created.... We have to remember that radical groups in Lebanon are subject to the constant surveillance of Lebanese and Syrian authorities. They cannot really move freely. We should also remember that all entrances towards the Palestinian camps are controlled by the Lebanese Army, as well as passages along the Lebanese/Syrian borders and all Lebanese ports. How could a radical group be able to find hundreds of kilograms of TNT? How can a group make preparations for such an explosion in the middle of Beirut at a time when the authorities and the Army was able to discover little time bombs in the south?..... Wasn’t the road itself booby-trapped?.... No doubt, stories about a radical group assassinating Hariri are ridiculous.”
"Assassination Of The Last Bridge Between Washington And Paris"
Sami Clip concluded in Arab nationalist As-Safir (2/16): "France interpreted the assassination of Hariri...as a message to it as well. For this reason it decided to confront Syria, even though it does not yet know who is responsible for this crime. Hariri was not only Chirac’s friend, but also represented a bridge for French economic and political interests in Lebanon and the region. Chirac would have never adopted UNSCR 1559 without consulting Hariri and other Arab States.... Chirac also made of Hariri a bridge between Paris and Damascus.... Today following the assassination, France feels that its interests have been assassinated in Lebanon, and that what happened is actually ‘Syrian defiance against Paris and Washington.... France did not officially accuse Syria...however, its call for an international probe means that it accuses Syria until further notice. France believes that Hariri was assassinated to stop efforts leading to Lebanon’s independence. Now it will no longer defend UNSCR 1559, but will attack.”
"Abou Adas Was A Teenager Who Wore Earrings; He...Never Drove A Car In His Life"
Najia Hosari asserted in the Lebanon edition of London-based pan-Arab Al-Hayat (2/16): “The residents of the ‘Tareek Al-Jadidah’ area in Beirut did not believe their eyes when they watched the video of a bearded young man (on Al-Jazeera) adopting responsibility for the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.... The bearded man was Ahmad Abou Adas, known by the residents of this area ever since he was a teenager. He worked for barber...and used to be perceived as a ‘modern’ man who wore an earring in one ear. He also wore his clothes in certain ways to display his tattoos. Some people even thought that he used to worship Satan.... The last two years, however, he changed...and became a radical.... Despite the change, his neighbors did not believe that he might be responsible for assassinating Hariri because, among other things, Abou Adas never drove a car in his life.”
"Syria And Lebanon Must Change Course Fast To Avoid Being Derailed"
The moderate English-language Daily Star editorialized (2/16): "With the brutal assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the international community has zeroed in on Syria and Lebanon.... Pressure is mounting on Syria and Lebanon to quickly provide answers.... There can be no doubt that the light at the end of this dark tunnel is a freight train coming our way fast. Only a reconsideration of style and substance can avert an imminent collision. Otherwise, we leave the field wide open for the U.S., France, the EU and the UN to come up with their own interpretations.... That kind of unilateral intervention cannot have a healthy outcome for either Lebanon or Syria. A collision is not unavoidable; Syrian and Lebanese officials can still engage and negotiate with the international community.... We must act and we must act quickly to avoid impending disaster.... For the international community to understand us, circling the wagons isn't the way. Retreating to isolation will do nothing to substantiate official claims of innocence and will only provoke further international condemnation. Rather, we must open up in a new and intellectually daring way.... One way would be for the Syrians and the Lebanese to allow international experts to participate in the investigation into Hariri's assassination. In this way, Syria and Lebanon could demonstrate to the international community that they have nothing to hide. In any case, Syria and Lebanon must act quickly to respond in some way to the growing international pressure. The warnings from abroad are loud and clear, and it would be foolish for Syria and Lebanon to ignore them."
"Martyrdom For Lebanon’s Resurrection"
Ghassan Tueni held in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/15): "The giant that burned yesterday in something similar to hell...deserves that Lebanon re-examines...its capability to survive in the shadow of this worthless government--which we asked yesterday to resign. This government may not be responsible for the assassination itself, but it is certainly responsible for spreading an instigative conspiratorial atmosphere.... If we can compare between what Abu-Mazen’s government did when it sacked all security officials when they failed in stopping some factions from launching missiles against Israel and between the decision of our Council of Ministers to close for three days after the assassination...we believe then that it is Lebanon's right to ask for an international probe...that would definitely not return Hariri to life...but would give Lebanon hope in being resurrected from this hell.... We warn the government against thinking that it will be able to benefit from this catastrophe and postpone the parliamentary elections.”
"Hariri’s Eradication Places The Authorities In Confrontation With The Third Sect"
Nicolas Nassif opined in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (2/15): “Politically...what happened yesterday was complete eradication of PM Hariri from a very important internal formula on the eve of parliamentary elections that would decide the fate of the opposition and the loyalists, and in the shadow of American and French pressure to implement UNSCR 1559.... The question is: Has Hariri become such a great threat to the extent that necessitated eradicating him?.... There is no doubt that there are those who will benefit from his absence...but this will lead to another more important question: Is Hariri’s assassination a message that was directed to the man himself or does it have additional goals?.... Perhaps the opposition has lost an important support...however, the Lebanese authorities are now in confrontation with a third sect...following its differences with a big part of the Christians, and with Jublatt as the Druze leader.... The Lebanese Authorities is also confronting now the Sunnis...which might lead it to postpone the elections.”
"Information From A Good Citizen: The Authorities Are The Instigators"
Fares Khashan commented in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (2/15): "On the first of October 2004, Hariri carried his coffin and walked towards martyrdom. The message reached him...through Marwan Hamade’s assassination attempt. He never gave a second thought to threats and never listened to advice.... Who assassinated Hariri inside the heart of the capital he adored?.... The official answer is difficult...however, there is a unanimous opinion that this ruling government...cannot even be trusted to hold the investigation.... Ever since Lahoud’s extension...all security and judicial apparatus have been busy with political assassinations!.... The Government’s policy for preventive security is to launch campaigns against all those who oppose it.... This Authority has been instigating for months the assassinating Hariri. It is the only one which will benefit from this assassination. Those who executed the murder are not important. The problem is: Who will arrest the Lebanese Authorities?.... We need an independent judge, we need a bold security man and we need a nation that would revolt against this new copy of the butcher Jamal Basha (Note: Jamal Basha An Ottoman leader who ruled Lebanon. He is known for his massacres).”
"Hariri’s Assassination: Lebanon Where To?"
Rafiq Khoury wondered in centrist Al-Anwar (2/15): “Everybody knows the meaning of removing a huge political player like Hariri, who was already subjected to many attempts to assassinate him politically. Now, the political map of the parliamentary elections will not stay the same.... International pressure is expected to increase and the opposition might increase on its position.... It will not be easy for Lebanon (and the Lebanese Authorities) to walk against the current of events in the region without paying a very high price.”
"On The Brink Of An Abyss"
An unsigned editorial in the moderate English-language Daily Star read (2/15): “The pressing concern of the moment is how to prevent Lebanon from tottering over the brink of an abyss. The leadership in Damascus and Beirut have to act very quickly to head off international intervention that could once again make a wilderness of the Levant. Such intervention now has recourse to an open agenda and could include political, economic, intelligence or even military measures. Lebanon has enough to deal with already. The threat of destabilization, for example could have severe repercussions for the economy and add to the socioeconomic cries already gripping the country--even without U.S.-led economic sanctions.... One solution would be a transitional government, approved by and including the opposition. This will ensure May’s elections take place within a proper democratic forum, and would be one way Syria and Lebanon can demonstrate the broader human resources of Lebanon are being harnessed to confront a crisis--and, perhaps, to make amends for the tragic and foolish slaying of an international statesman. The knell tolls for Lebanon once again, only this time it could be sounding from abroad--surely warning enough to those in power both here and in Damascus.”
ISRAEL: "The Syrians Forgot That 2005 Isn't 1976"
Guy Bechor observed in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/17): "By assassinating Hariri, Syria informed the Lebanese that it was the one that put an end to the civil war in exchange for a clearly noted price and, if that reward were taken away from Syria, the state of anarchy in Lebanon might mysteriously return.... But there is zero tolerance in the only superpower around, under President George Bush's leadership, for Syria's unbridled terrorist behavior. Damascus is at a nadir now in terms of its military might and its regional status, Bashar Assad evinces weakness in every direction, and violent tyrants who oppress their own peoples and their surroundings, as in the Iraqi case, are no longer deemed legitimate. The seizure of Lebanon was always the greatest success chalked up by the Syrian regime, which was hung like a medal on its chest. Not any more. The definers of power, which have changed in the world towards democracy and human rights, are likely to turn Lebanon into the burial ground of the regime in Damascus."
"A Warning To Assad"
Smadar Perry wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/16): "It isn't democracy that Bush is seeking in Damascus, but war on the dictator who resides in the People's Palace and begs Israel for peace each time the American boot bears down on him. It turned out on Tuesday that the late Hariri warned the Americans two weeks before his elimination that 'it will be I, or Walid Jumblatt,' pointing an [accusing] finger eastward toward Damascus. Assad is very fortunate to have chosen such a dangerous ally as Iran. He is lucky that the Americans are badly entangled in Iraq. He won't be lucky if Syria's fingerprints are found in Hariri's elimination. The Washington administration is preparing a sweet revenge: either Syria will lose Lebanon, or Bashar will lose his throne."
Itamar Rabinovich asserted in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/16): "The recall of the U.S. Ambassador in Damascus for consultations in Washington has a four-fold significance: an immediate response to the murder of Rafiq Hariri; venting off accumulated anger over Syrian assistance to the Iraqi insurgents; a threat of further diplomatic sanctions and possible punitive military actions at a later stage; and the first expression of a change in style at the State Department following the changeover from Colin Powell to Condoleezza Rice. During the eight years of president Clinton's term, the U.S.' relations with Syria were shaped by an attempt to reach a peace treaty between Israel and Syria. The Clinton administration viewed such an arrangement as the proper basis for the Israeli-Arab peace process, as well as a way to push Iran from the center of the Middle East to its sidelines. The Bush administration has fundamentally reversed that attitude. Its more limited interest in Israeli-Arab relations has focused on the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. It views Syria first and foremost as a terror-sponsoring state allied with Iran, and a partner in the 'axis of evil.'"
"The Hariri Hit"
The conservative, independent Jerusalem Post editorialized (2/16): "Just when things appeared to be looking up for the cause of democracy in this region, the 'old' Middle East reared its violent head in Beirut and assassinated Rafiq Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister of 14 years. He resigned recently to press demands for the end of Syrian occupation of his country, thereby also enabling it to make its peace with Israel. Hariri was due to run on an anti-Syrian platform in the upcoming election this spring. That made him dangerous to Damascus. By openly disobeying Lebanon's Syrian masters, Hariri took the gravest of risks according to the notorious codes of the old Middle East, where no dissent is brooked.... Lebanon represents another early test of President George W. Bush's second term inaugural commitment to stand with people who are struggling for their freedom.... One wonders if Syria has really gotten the message from this gentle U.S. approach, not to mention Europe's kid gloves treatment..... [Hariri] symbolized Lebanon's potential for future progress. Perhaps it was that which the huge car bomb that ravaged the Lebanese capital's seafront was designed to destroy. It is fully within the power of the West, with America in the lead, to make sure that this bleak and vicious scheme backfires on those who have hatched it."
"Assad Must Be Dealt With"
Guy Bechor contended in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/15): "The Americans have so far taken a soft position toward the Syrians. While they did send a number of top envoys who passed on the 'absolutely last warning' to Assad, mainly that he get his hands out of Iraq, in practice, Syria's involvement there continues. The efforts of the UN as well, which passed a resolution obligating Syria to remove its army from Lebanon, have not born fruit to this day. The brutal murder of Hariri and Syria's refusal to all international demands do not leave the world many diplomatic choices. The U.S. must consider using force to deter the Syrian regime. Perhaps that way it will be possible to achieve stability in three bleeding spots in the region: in Iraq, in the Palestinian Authority and in Lebanon."
"Bashar Assad's Crocodile Tears"
Smadar Perry wrote in mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot Aharonot (2/15): "Damascus intelligence refuses to change the operating disk from 20 and 30 years ago, and indeed, this disk bears a simple and catchy message: all those who try and oppose the palace's policy, just as in the days of the late Hafez Assad, will either vanish or be assassinated. Those who cooperate with the American CIA or the Israeli Mossad will receive a car bomb. Bashar Assad's crocodile tears won't help. While he did indeed get ride of his main rival, from all perspectives he is both the main culprit and loser. If the Lebanese economy is damaged, the deep economic crisis in Syria will only worsen. If the internal cease-fire in Lebanon is done away with, then the administration of President Bush and his new allies in the Elysee Palace will not let Bashar continue to run amok in Lebanon.... [Hariri's] assassination is liable to drag Lebanon into a vortex of blood and terror. The question is who will win in the battle for Lebanon's independence: Bashar Assad or the opposition in Beirut. The legacy that Hariri left behind is meant to lead Lebanon to split from Syria and hold separate negotiations with Israel, on condition that this will be within the power of its leaders, and on condition that they survive the brutality of Damascus. In any event, the return of non-quiet to our neighbor in the north will also put Israel on the alert."
"Syria Will Pay The Price"
Eyal Zisser commented in popular, pluralist Maariv (2/15): "In the past, Syria used to strike at those who dared raise their hands or their voices against it in Lebanon. But these aren't ordinary working days for Damascus. Syria is now under unprecedented international--mostly American and French--globally backed pressure.... Whatever the case may be, the Syrians will pay for [Hariri's] assassination even if they weren't actually behind it. Hariri's elimination pulled the rug from under the [Syrians'] key claim justifying the continuation of their presence in Lebanon--a presence supposed to guarantee continued stability and the upholding of security in that country."
WEST BANK: "Lebanon, Palestine And The World"
Talal 'Ukal stated in independent Al-Ayyam (2/17): "Mahmoud Abbas succeeded to convince the factions and the Palestinian public about the necessity to stop the resistance and to thwart any pretexts by the Israeli side. He also convinced the international community that he’s sincerely committed [to the cease-fire] but doesn’t trust that Israel would do the same and abide by the Roadmap obligations.... The Palestinians are shocked with the assassination of Hariri, who was very distinctive and influential in his country and they strongly support the necessity to carry out international investigations into crimes such as this and to bring the actual perpetrators to international justice. Palestinians feel they are somehow close to the first democratic country in the Arab region [Lebanon], are influenced by its status and their interest entails that calm and security prevail in Lebanon.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Storms Hit Lebanon"
Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh declared (2/17): "The accusations against Syria, the Lebanese government and Israel are baseless and unfounded since they are effective players on the Lebanese arena. But, what makes those accusations interesting is that all of these governments want to play the role of policeman on the security and safety of Lebanon.... Yet, the assassination of Al-Hariri will be used by foreign powers to destabilize the region, disturb domestic politics and to put under siege countries, political parties and organizations, a matter would not bring any benefit to Lebanon."
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum asserted (2/17): "Interior Minister Prince Naif described the suggestion of a possible link between the Kingdom and the crime of murdering Al-Hariri as 'foolish.' Especially when it was justified as revenge for the killing of terrorist gangs in the Kingdom.... It also, once again, supports the views of the Kingdom on terrorist murderers, who attempted to disturb the security and stability of the Kingdom.... The devil and evil of terrorism do not distinguish between race, color or religion. Therefore, the crime of murdering Al-Hariri was an expansion of terrorism acts."
"Challenges Of Stability In Lebanon"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad said (2/17): "Today, Lebanon and Syria as well are facing serious challenges, which require vigilant awareness and careful calculations in light of the dangerous developments in the region."
"Where Is Lebanon Headed?"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina wondered (2/17): "A bombing attack of this magnitude is a terrorist crime. In addition, it is considered a political crime against Lebanon’s Arabism, stability, and national solidarity.... The Arab nation, Palestinians and Lebanese specifically are the most affected by what has happened in Lebanon recently. The assassination of Hariri will have serious negative effects on the whole region. The return of chaos and turmoil to Lebanon would--God forbid--attract terrorist cells to that area. In addition, it would also open the door for foreign intervention in Lebanon’s domestic affairs. But the biggest danger, no doubt, is the breakup of Lebanon’s national alliance among it different factions."
"Lebanon’s Solidarity Has Been Targeted"
Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa opined (2/17): "The star of Hariri shone in the Lebanese sky after the Taif Agreement. Since then Hariri did not spare any effort to reunite Lebanon. He put all his efforts, ideas, and resources into this goal. Hariri wanted to rebuild a stable Lebanon, his home country. It was not strange to see this manifested in his funeral precession, which represented what Hariri lived for, Lebanon’s unity. Now, after Hariri has gone, Lebanon’s solidarity becomes a target.... The absence of a character like Hariri is not an easy matter. However the Lebanese must understand that reality requires that they move forward with the same principles that Hariri taught them."
"The Assassination Of Hariri Is A Danger That Threatens The Whole Region"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan editorialized (2/17): "Hariri’s assassination is a political earthquake, which has hit the whole region... This heinous act will no doubt back fire on those who committed it. With great idiocy these terrorists wanted to link their crime to Saudi Arabia, a country that had very strong ties with Mr. Hariri.... They have been disappointed and the world has uncovered their devilish desires. Nobody believed their terrorist tale that tied the assassination to the violence in Saudi Arabia.... This is not the way to continue in a political struggle."
"Who Killed Hariri?"
Dammam’s moderate Al-Yaum wondered (2/16): "What else will come after the ugly killing of Al-Hariri? will this crime return Lebanon to a cycle of violence and civil war? Who will benefit from this crime? These questions will remain unanswered. We hope that the crime doesn’t remain anonymous.... We will hear accusations against those who are easily accused either domestically or externally. They might blame the Mossad as usual just to close the case.... If someone appears and claims responsibility under the name of religion, we will have to review the motive behind such dispirit action. We must review our thoughts, words, and our upbringing. All Lebanese and Arabs must overcome their disagreements; otherwise we are all partners in the crime."
"The Death Of Hariri"
The pro-government English-language Saudi Gazette opined (2/16): "The death of Lebanon's former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri...has raised the specter of further internal Lebanese conflict after the...brutal civil war that divided the country came to an end.... Lebanese opposition leaders have said they hold the Lebanese and Syrian governments responsible for the killing while Washington wasted little time attributing the blame to the Syrians.... The timing of the assassination comes in the run-up to elections in Lebanon scheduled for May. There have been claims that Hariri, a self-made billionaire and close friend of French President Jacques Chirac, was trying to distance himself from Syria, which is regarded as the dominant political force in Lebanese life as it still retains a substantial military presence in Lebanon. Chirac has called for an international enquiry into the bombing.... The danger is that Hariri's murder is in some way linked to the wider political transformations taking place in the region in Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Syria. In fact it is almost impossible to believe that is not the case.... All the usual suspects are in place with accusations flying back and forth. In the cauldron of regional politics this is the last thing needed."
"A Scream In A Deep Gorge"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina asserted (2/16): "Terrorism strikes everywhere and takes different shapes, but in the end it serves the interests of our enemy, the Zionist program.... Everyone agrees that the assassination of Rafik Al Hariri aimed to shake the stability of Lebanon. When we look at what has happened in Iraq and Palestine, it becomes apparent that the objective behind this is to undermine the peace and stability of the entire Middle East. The goal is to make us so weak that we will not be able to solve our internal problems.... Are we going to be content with condemnations and abhorring these acts that triggered unrest in our region? The time has come for us to take a serious look at what is happening around us, and is being plotted against us."
"How Can Lebanon Survive?"
Jeddah’s moderate Okaz commented (2/16): "The assassination of Lebanon’s former PM Hariri has increased the urgent need for change in the region. This crisis would not have happened if it were not for the political ignorance and arrogant behavior of some groups that aim to achieve their objectives regardless of the consequences. Hariri is gone, but can Lebanon survive? The hand of crime has hit Lebanon once again. Its peace and stability have been stolen. Those who have reignited the sparks of unrest in Lebanon bear the responsibility of what is going to happen in that country."
The English-language pro-government Arab News held (2/16): "Whoever was behind the dastardly deed clearly wanted to achieve two objectives. The first was to deprive the emerging Lebanese opposition front of a credible leader capable of cutting across sectarian divides in the name of national unity. The second was to create the impression that without Syrian troops on its soil, Lebanon would be plunged into chaos and civil war.... Although Hariri is certainly irreplaceable in personal terms, the policies that he espoused and the goals he set for his people could, and should, be taken up and promoted by other Lebanese leaders who also want their nation to reassert its national sovereignty. Contrary to some claims, Lebanon will not return to civil war.... Today, more than ever before, any attempt at pushing Lebanon into civil war would be a direct result, not of internal dynamics, but of outside machinations.... The truth about the murder must be found and made public. That task cannot be left to the Lebanese authorities whose credibility is bound to be questioned.... The only credible way to investigate the Hariri murder is to appoint an international team, preferably acting under the auspices of the ICC of the UN.... Hariri gave his life in the course of his struggle to return its independence, sovereignty and dignity to his country. The most effective way that the Lebanese nation and the international community can pay tribute to Hariri and his political struggle would be to press for an urgent implementation of UNSC Resolution 1559, a resolution already enjoying unanimous support from all the major powers as well as most Arab countries."
"Lebanon...Be Aware Of The Possibility Of Unrest"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (2/15): "The scene in Lebanon now is worrisome and threatens possible trouble. Arabs must stand steadfast by Lebanon against any signs of danger, which could be triggered by more than one interested group. At the top of that list sits Israel. We say to our Lebanese brothers: 'be aware of the fire which, if ignited, might burn many, and remember the tragedies of the civil war in your history.' Who is going to work on preserving peace and stability in Lebanon?"
"The Absence Of Hariri Is A Loss For Lebanon"
Makkah’s conservative Al-Nadwa observed (2/15): "Targeting Al-Hariri and excluding him from the political stage in Lebanon benefited only those who want to bring Lebanon back to the era of chaos and civil war.... Although it is too early to point fingers of accusation, we realize that the warlords in Lebanon, who are still thirsty for blood and crime, might still want to resolve their old affairs through car bombs and assassinations. The current Lebanese government has a great challenge to find who was behind the assassination of Hariri and bring them to justice. This must be done quickly before the security situation gets out of hand, and Lebanon falls back into turmoil. This would only serve the interests of Israel and other beneficiaries of unrest in Lebanon."
"The Assassination Of Hariri Is An Assassination of Peace In Lebanon"
Abha’s moderate Al-Watan stated (2/15): "Syria definitely has no interest in having Lebanon go through a security shock of the magnitude which the assassination of Hariri would create. That is why President Assad and many Syrian officials rushed to condemn the assassination of former Lebanese PM Hariri. With Syria off the list of possible suspects, this leaves Israel and its agents in Lebanon, who have contributed in the past to the creation of unrest in the political and security situation in the country.... Regardless of who was behind the assassination of Hariri, the real loser is Lebanon and the Lebanese people. The winners are all those who have interests in igniting the spark of unrest in Lebanon, and undermining its stability, which was achieved in the Taif Agreement."
The pro-government English-language Arab News maintained (2/15): "The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is a devastating blow for Lebanon. The specter of terrorism has come back to the streets of Beirut.... That Lebanon has political problems is no secret. There is a crisis brewing over demands for a Syrian military pullout.... Moreover, most of the underlying political, sectarian and economic divisions that fueled the 1975-1990 civil war still remain unresolved.... For all its political problems, Lebanon has been enjoying growing prosperity and investment.... At this juncture, it is impossible to know whether the motives for the crime were in fact political.... There is a wide range of possibilities. The claim of responsibility made by a so-far unknown Islamist group may be true; or may not be.... Fingers will be pointed at many directions now.... They have already been pointed at Syria. In this case, however, despite Damascus’ firm protests of innocence, they are unlikely to go away. The demand for it to pull its troops out of Lebanon has been growing in strength. Ever since the Israeli pullout from the south of the country in 2000, the Lebanese opposition has demanded it; the UNSC passed a resolution last October calling for it; Hariri’s recent conversion to the cause helped transform it from a narrow party political issue into a national one. The imperative now is to ensure that Lebanon does not re-explode. An event like this could easily trigger violence which then spirals out of control."
ALGERIA: "The Fatal Mistake?"
Influential French-language El Watan commented (2/16): "The Syrians are the first to be accused of the crime. It is true that they are partisans of the hard manner and specialists of dirty tricks. They consider Lebanon as a part of the ‘Great Syria’ and therefore, they do not recognize its independence. They get on their high horse as soon as the issue of withdrawal from Lebanon is raised and they do not hesitate to punish and suppress any opposition to their presence. This is why they were suspected them immediately after the attack. Guilty or innocent, the Syrians will find themselves cornered by the international community. The assassination of the Prime Minister will revive the debate on their presence in Lebanon.... We cannot imagine Damascus, which is already isolated and hated for its support for terrorism, resisting international pressures or sanctions. The Hariri issue could even provoke the collapse of the Baathist regime; especially that Israel is lying in wait to push Damascus in the descent of hell. And this will not be a loss for the Syrian people. On the opposite, Syria could finally engage itself in the democratic way. The Baathist regime has probably made the fatal mistake that it should not have made.”
"Who Stands To Gain By Hariri's Assassination?"
Highly-influential French-language Le Quotidien d’Oran speculated (2/15): "Former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is listed among the victims of the dramatic car bomb attack that shook the center of Beirut. It is of course the former Lebanese Prime Minister who was targeted by this attack. For the time being, no clue exists to attribute the responsibility of this criminal action that cost him his life. Yet, some commentators and so-called specialists in Lebanese issues suggested in thinly disguised terms that the Syrian intelligence services would be the most probable assumption. In their point of view, this is because Rafik Hariri was active against the Syrian presence in Lebanon.... This assumption will undoubtedly be used by western countries, especially the U.S. and France, to increase their pressure on Syria to compel it to leave Lebanon.... To admit this presentation of facts means to accept that the regime of Damascus...is behind international terrorism.... All the Lebanese political actors who reacted to Hariri’s assassination declared that they are convinced that the attack that targeted their former Prime Minister could have been conducted only by foreigners. This does automatically mean that eyes have to look in the direction of Damascus as, it is suggested by some western media. The Syrian regime will have indeed a lot to lose if unrest reigns again in Lebanon. Planning the assassination of Lebanese personalities as emblematic as the former head of government is for Damascus a mistake not to make especially with the current situation of Bachar El Assad regime, who faces destabilization maneuvers jointly conducted by Washington and Tel Aviv.”
Influential French-language L’Expression argued (2/15): "The attack that cost the life of Rafik Hariri revives the debate on security in Lebanon. It is the first time since the Taef agreements in 1990,which ended the civil war in this country, that such a dramatic attack has been committed. Furthermore, it was against the one who rebuilt his country in a record time. A symbol that the murderers took as a target to undermine the morale of the Lebanese, who do not want another tragedy.... By evoking Syria in his declaration, the spokesman of the White House wanted first to reiterate his positions towards Damascus, which, after the collapse of Saddam’s regime, became the next target of the White House. The U.S. Department of State will certainly use Beirut attacks for its own ends in the upcoming days. The exchange of accusations between Iran and Israel on one hand, and between Syria and Israel on the other, make us feel the worst for the stability of the Middle East region that is already sitting on a real powder keg.”
BAHRAIN: "World Probe Must Unmask Hariri Killers"
The English-language pro-government Daily Tribune stated (2/16): "An international probe, backed by the UN and regional powers, must be held without delay to determine the circumstances of, and responsibility for, the senseless bomb attack which killed Rafik Al Hariri.... Those responsible--no matter how influential or powerful they are--for the cowardly act must be unmasked, tried in the world court and given a severe punishment.... . The gruesome picture of the body of Al Hariri...showed how helpless man is before blind, vicious terrorism.... The horrendous incident has shaken Lebanon to its foundation.... Hariri was the last person to deserve such a tragic end. He was the main architect of post-strife Lebanon.... The way the attack has been carried out has left no doubt in one’s mind that it is the work of a well-oiled machinery. It could be a terrorist organisation or the intelligence agency of a government which believes in targeted killings. Whoever planned the attack was so heartless that he never thought that the powerful bomb would kill a number of innocent civilians too.... The aim behind the explosion seems to be creating chaos in Lebanon and engaging countries in a blame game.... The Lebanese must remain united in this hour of crisis. They must show their strength and reject violence which might push the country to the verge of domestic strife again. Their unity can fail the plans of those who want to create a divide between the Muslims and Christians."
JORDAN: "Dire Ramifications"
The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (2/16): "As catastrophic as the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is for Lebanon and the entire region, what lies ahead could be even more devastating and awesome for inter-Arab diplomacy and regional efforts to secure stability in the Middle East. Hariri was not only the conscience of a new Lebanon...but also the soul of the mushrooming Lebanese reformation process across the board.... His intellectual courage...forced him to cross swords with those who insisted on maintaining the status quo in Lebanon even at the expense of its full sovereignty and independence. His brutal slaying and the aftershocks across the entire Middle East are gruesome evidence of the dangers still ahead. No wonder there were repeated calls from various capitals and from within Lebanon itself for an international investigation into the attack. The enormity of the operation suggests that a large organised apparatus was behind it. The killing of Hariri was so well orchestrated, determined and executed that it lends support to many conspiracy theories originating from within and outside the country.... The situation in Lebanon is extremely complicated, especially since there are still foreign military forces deployed on its soil. Given the charge that Lebanon remains under the hegemony of Damascus, it would be in the interest of both Lebanon and Syria to accept an international probe into the identity of the killers.... Neither Beirut nor Damascus need to accept this challenge, but yielding to international pressure in this case stands to exonerate both countries of all responsibility."
"The Wider Political Ripples Of Hariri Assassination"
Rami G. Khouri noted in the elite English-language Jordan Times (2/16): "The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri...sends a loud and deadly message, but the nature, origin, destination and intent of the message all remain painfully unclear.... The speed, clarity and intensity with which Lebanese opposition groups...blamed Syria and its allied Lebanese government for the killing spoke volumes about the troubled Syrian-Lebanese axis being the central political context.... The already intense backlash to the assassination may well lead to an accelerated Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and faster reform movements inside both Lebanon and Syria.... The madness is not just in the murder of a fine man and a true Lebanese and Arab patriot; it is in the ongoing legacy of rampant and often brutal political violence that at once defines, disfigures and demeans political elites and perhaps even Arab society.... One of the reasons why the Lebanese-Syrian relationship has become increasingly contentious in the past year is the consequence of American pressure on Syria to be more cooperative on Iraq.... The murder and its fallout have focused attention on a tortured Lebanese-Syrian relationship that is problematic...and that has become the crucible for testing new forms of American and Western political intervention in the Arab world.... For the most significant political development in Lebanon in recent months...has been the Lebanese opposition's coalescing around an increasingly clear and sharp rejection of Syria's military presence...and its political interference in Lebanese affairs.... In Arab political culture, I cannot think of a more acerbic, angry and insulting gesture than asking the incumbent political leadership to stay away from the funeral of a leading statesman who almost single-handedly (working with the Syrians!) rebuilt Beirut and Lebanon."
"The Crime Of Assassinating Hariri"
Jamil Nimri contended in independent, mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (2/15): “The tape that Al-Jazirah TV showed after the assassination was not convincing and did not establish the party responsible for Hariri’s assassination. The name of the organization, which was unknown previously, is meant to suggest a link with the Zarqawi grouping, and yet going to Lebanon to assassinate Hariri is meaningless and plays no part in the agenda of such organizations. Moreover, the justification given for the assassination, namely Hariri’s relations with Saudi Arabia, is weak and simply increases doubts about the existence of this group.... This crime is a disaster that has shaken Lebanon and the Arab world and gives rise to concerns about potential disastrous repercussions for Lebanon.... The question that poses itself is whether Syria, in view of the current situation and developments, would put itself in such a position increasing the pressures that it is already coming under. Speculations circulated madly yesterday and all possibilities were put forth. We cannot do anything but wait for a serious and reliable investigation by the Lebanese parties and particularly the opposition. This is the only way to calm flaring tempers and ease the tension.”
"Who Benefits From Rafik Hariri’s Assassination?"
Lamis Andoni wrote in independent Arabic-language Al-Ghad (2/15): “Various parties pointed accusatory fingers to Damascus after the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister.... The question is: what does Syria gain from such an assassination, particularly in view of Syria’s regional and international position after the escalation of the American campaign and the expanding coalition against the presence of the Syrian army in Lebanon from a small circle of right-wing parties that could be seen as allied with Israel to a larger sector involving all the political sects of Lebanon known for their position against Israel and even the U.S. policy in the region? Unfortunately, one could say here that Syria might have been wise to rectify its position in Lebanon, and more specifically put an end to its security intervention that has upset its allies and its enemies. I do not mean by this a Syrian surrender to American and Israeli demands. But Syria’s lack of timely movement and its insistence on intervention and on extending President Lahoud’s term in office has forced the Lebanese to revolt, not to mention creating additional pressure of American and Israeli threats to Lebanon.... (There is an) alliance between Lebanese right-wing personalities and Israeli personalities and (U.S.) neo-conservative figures.... The war on Syria has already begun and will take different forms. The repercussions of assassinating a prominent figure such as Hariri will weaken Syria and revive the ghost of separatism in Lebanon. I mean to say here that while we acknowledge Syria’s sins and mistakes, we must not blind ourselves to the other factors in the formula as we start pointing fingers.”
"Assassinating Lebanon’s Peace And Stability"
Chief editor Taher Udwan observed in independent, mass-appeal Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (2/15): “When it comes to such a serious event with all these aspects that are prone to explosion, one cannot rule out the presence of foreign hands that seek to take advantage of the domestic crisis and make Lebanon another case like Iraq, especially now that all accounts indicate that the losers in Iraq are going to lose the entire Middle East and that if there was no room for profit in Baghdad the disaster should be general and comprehensive.... If international terrorism is not responsible, then the perpetrators are countries, governments and intelligence rings. This means that terrorism is becoming active in the region and is developing through the entry of new official members who have decided, it seems, to exercise state terrorism in this conflict of the age that was inaugurated by the American-British invasion and the occupation of Iraq. What happened in Beirut yesterday is a serious indication of the future of the region that has been suffering from American military and political pressures for years. Assassinating Hariri definitely sends a strong message to Syria that its coming days in Lebanon are going to be very difficult, as it appears Security Council resolution 1559 is not much different from the resolutions that targeted Iraq prior to the invasion, the occupation and the disaster.”
"This Is Terrorism"
Center-left, influential Arabic-language Al-Dustour editorialized (2/15): "The assassination of Rafik Hariri with such a despicable terrorist attack constitutes a real disaster, a resonating shock and a great loss. It is a crime that reflects the brutality of its perpetrators and their satanic scheme of targeting the security and stability of all Arab countries.... The most serious thing about the religious rhetoric of terrorist groups is the fact that it can be used by numerous parties. Its methods serve foreign schemes more than anything else, be it on the level of undermining stability, increasing domestic conflicts, creating sectarianism, or even using the war on terrorism to achieve other objectives. It is clear that the terrorist attack did not target the life of Rafik Hariri as much as it wanted to ignite a stage of chaos and corruption, whereby the Arab and Muslim world would become ripe for hegemonic plans and whereby the Arab nation loses itself and become void of all form, identity and ambition and burdened by challenges and crises and thus fails to benefit or reap the fruits of its riches and resources.”
The elite English-language Jordan Times declared (2/15): "Lebanon was seeking hard over the last decade to come out of the ashes of 15 years of civil war. But yesterday, a man who was devoted to rebuilding Lebanon was blown to bits.... The assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is a savage blow to a country that was just beginning to enjoy relative, admittedly fragile, peace.... The immediate fear of the Lebanese people was the threat of destabilisation, more international pressure on Lebanon and the collapse of its economy.... Hariri's multibillion-dollar programme to rebuild the economy of Lebanon and draw in major investments was matched by his efforts to see the country's political reconstruction come true. He did work closely with Syria during the post-civil war era, but his more recent adoption of a strong stand in favour of the withdrawal of Syria's nearly 15,000 troops from Lebanese territory demonstrated his determination that his country be free and independent.... Hariri's violent death deepens the crisis for Lebanon. Its opposition, which had been supported by Hariri, has been waving a campaign banner to regain the country's full sovereignty.... The EU's condemnation of the assassination and French President Jacques Chirac's call for an international investigation into the attack were indicative of their outrage at the brutality of the incident and their concern for Lebanon. In contrast, the US wasted no time in implying that Syria was culpable, and Iran pointed its finger at Israel. We all learned later that a small Islamist group, possibly linked to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the atrocity. But even that cannot be considered credible yet. While no one really knows for certain who was behind the assassination, the Arab world is plummeted further into mourning--mourning for its dead, grieving for its wounded aspirations."
KUWAIT: "Blood To Break Bars Of Prison"
Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Jarallah observed in the English-language, independent, usually pro-American Arab Times (2/16): "The statement issued by the Lebanese opposition...on the assassination of Rafik Al-Hariri has broken the walls of fears and laid bare the truth which has been kept hidden in hearts for a long time. It represents the cry of all Lebanese who have been suppressing their true feelings.... The statement is nothing new to the Lebanese, who know the people responsible for the assassination of Al-Hariri.... Surely the people of Lebanon are not going to fall for any lies fabricated by intelligence authorities, who are blaming a previously unknown organisation for this gruesome assassination.... Such outrageously false claims won't help intelligence authorities wash their hands of the blood of innocent people. Assuming the Syrian intelligence was behind the assassination of Al-Hariri, the Syrian regime has chosen to send a terrifying message to its political opponents.... In a world which is keen about freedom, democracy and human rights such scare tactics won't work. These are the factors which call for international interference in Lebanon to free that country from external occupation.... The assassination of Al-Hariri is sure to intensify international pressure on the region.... Foreign occupiers are in no mood to leave Lebanon because they want to swallow that country.... The entire world is wise to the designs of these occupiers, who ordered the assassination of Al-Hariri and extension of the presidential term of Emile Lahoud. With the international community firmly behind them, the Lebanese are standing brave and demanding independence and freedom. They believe Al-Hariri's blood will break the bars of prison, pave the way for the freedom of their country and free them from their handcuffs, similar to the liberation of Afghans and Iraqis."
"They Killed Al-Hariri To Assassinate Lebanon"
Independent Al-Qabas asserted (2/15): "The crime will have great consequences.... The message behind the incident leaves no doubt as to the perpetrators.... It is clear that those behind the assassination want the people of Lebanon to know that they will pay a dear price should they continue to seek sovereignty and independence."
"Martyr's Blood On Black Hands"
Editor-in-Chief Ahmed Al-Jarallah wrote in the English-language independent usually pro-American Arab Times (2/15): "Some black hands have killed Hariri and sent him to heaven as a martyr.... These black hands are in a desperate struggle for survival as they are under siege by the will of the international community, which is pursuing them as a regime for torturing its own people, and committing more crimes than Saddam Hussein.... They have nothing better to do other than assassinating and eliminating their political enemies. If they can, they won’t mind massacring and burying all the Lebanese in mass graves. Men of these black hands won’t get away with their horrendous crimes, which will surely come back at them with dire results. The killing of Hariri will have a much bigger political aftermath.... How can the men of these black hands, whoever they are, face superpowers like the U.S. and France.... As in all dark clouds there is a silver lining in the assassination of Al-Hariri--the black hands, which are busy killing and terrorising innocent people, have failed to realise the man has died a martyr because he favoured the national interests of Lebanon, its freedom, and sovereignty.... To lessen the sorrow of Lebanese and avoid other dangerous consequences, members of the current Lebanese government should resign. They should join their people and lead a civil demonstration until the killers of Al-Hariri are brought to book. May Almighty Allah bless the soul of Rafiq Al-Hariri."
"The Assassination Of Al-Hariri Rocks Lebanon And Syria"
Independent conservative Al-Seyassah said (2/15): "Those behind the incident have displayed to the world the level of political desperation that they have reached.... Hariri was killed for fighting for his country's liberty, democracy and sovereignty and is thus a martyr."
"An Attempt To Assassinate A Nation"
Independent, pro-capitalist Al-Anbaa opined (2/15): "France has called for an immediate international investigation while Washington threatened to impose sanctions.... Those behind this crime want a civil war to break out in Lebanon and that will have its effects on the whole region."
MOROCCO: "Who Profits From The Murder Of Rafik Hariri?"
Driss Fahli commented in independent French-language weekly Maroc Hebdo (2/18): "The UN is seized with the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. Washington is firm and is dancing to the same tempo as France. The Americans want to ‘punish’ and the French want to ‘discover’ those responsible for the attack. Let us imagine for a moment what they will say if it turns out to be Israel pulling the strings--I would really like to see how Washington would react and what France’s attitude would be? If it is Syria or Iran, we all know that plans had already been made to call these two on the carpet, and that there was no need to wait for Hariri’s death to start eyeballing the petroleum in this region.”
"Tighter Noose In The Arrogant Colonial Project"
Mustapha Khalfi alleged in moderate Islamic Arabic-language Attajdid (2/16): "Despite the difficulty of identifying those who were behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, reactions have demonstrated that the assassination is part of a project that began with the mapping out of Iraqi election results, with the resumption of normalization with the Zionist Entity, the partial European support for the U.S. position vis-à-vis Iran and the threats of NATO military intervention in the Sudan. The assassination has come amidst mounting international pressure against the Syrian presence in Lebanon, thus tightening the noose of arrogant colonial aims in the Middle East."
"The Iraqi Syndrome"
Salah Sbyea commented in socialist French-language Liberation (2/16): "Lebanon just emerging from two decades of civil war is still marked by basically two essential elements that structure its political life. The first element is the still very muscular and heavy presence of the militias.... The second element is the equally heavy Lebanese flirtation with two neighboring countries and a third farther away: Syria, Israel and Iran. Three neighbors that weigh in in certainly differing, yet determining, ways on the Lebanese political chessboard, and especially on its internal stability. In this environment and without even counting the game of the great powers, the permanent members of the Security Council, answering the question: ‘Who gains from last Monday’s crime?’ is a crap shoot.... It is no longer a question of who this crime will benefit, but rather of who is going to pay the price. In any case, for the moment, it’s Damascus who is paying the bill.”
QATAR: "Killers Have Opened Dangerous Divisions"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (2/16): "The ruthless killers who murdered Rafik al-Hariri...have created a sharp and dangerous division in Lebanese public opinion. Opposition leaders who gathered at Hariri’s Beirut mansion yesterday demanded that Syria pull out its 14,000 troops from Lebanon before legislative elections in May.... There were rumours in Beirut that Hariri was the secret leader of the political opposition to the Syrian military presence.... A suicide bombing would suggest that it was an operation by Islamic extremists, which would be convenient for the Lebanese authorities as it would rule out involvement by Syrian intelligence or Hariri’s main political foes in Lebanon itself. Hariri's opposition allies are unconvinced...and have announced that no member of either the Syrian or the Lebanese governments would be permitted to attend today’s funeral.... The assassination has brought Lebanese politics back to the centre of the international stage, with the UNSC to meet later to discuss the situation, amid renewed American demands for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon and a demand by the French for an international investigation.... The political atmosphere in Lebanon was deteriorating before Hariri’s murder. The added polarisation created by the assassination risks driving the country into another civil war, which would be a disaster for all those involved. We can only hope that good sense and bitter memories of the horror of the last war will prevent any of the parties taking steps that might drive Lebanon back over the precipice."
"Hariri’s Death Should Not Divide Lebanese"
The semi-official English-language Gulf Times editorialized (2/15): "The assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri yesterday shocked the world and prompted frenzied speculation.... Because of his stature, his assassination was not necessarily the act of a personal enemy, it could have been carried out with the intention of destabilising the country.... Last night, the only claim of responsibility came from a previously unknown group claiming that it was taking revenge for Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on militants. There was no evidence to support the claim.... Others have speculated, inevitably, about the possibility of the murder being the work of Israel’s Mossad secret service or have talked darkly about Syria’s past record of eliminating Lebanese leaders...but in general the ex-premier had been on good terms with Damascus.... Whoever was responsible obviously wanted to destabilise Lebanon and if...a non-Syrian intelligence service carried out the attack, there is really only one other candidate. The loss to Lebanon is immeasurable.... The most important thing now is for the Lebanese to avoid allowing their grief and anger to spill over into violence. Hariri took great pride in his role as a nation-builder and unifier, cherishing the image of being ‘Mr Lebanon’. He would not want the manner of his death to damage the legacy he has left in the country he loved."
SYRIA: "Taking Advantage"
Mouhammad Khair Al-Jamali observed in government-owned Al-Thawra (2/17): “Hariri’s assassination was executed by a power that wants to bring instability to the country and cause division between Syria and Lebanon. This would be reflected on the fact that many internal and external elements rushed into taking advantage of this hideous crime to promote hostility against Syria.”
Fayez Sayegh, Editor-in-Chief of government-owned Al-Thawra, wrote (2/16): "Harir’s last words before he went to the path of death and blast was: 'Lebanon cannot continue without co-existence and internal national agreement with brotherly Syria, Syria helped Lebanon and many Lebanese helped Syria and stood by its side, we are part of them.' This was his last will. Hariri’s assassination and the aftermath revealed the size of huge international pressures that Syria and Lebanon are subjected to. It seems that the powers which are behind this and that do not want any two Arab countries to have any mutual agreement especially when it is related to solidarity or the coordination of the Arab-Israeli conflict or having certain attitude towards the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the American one in Iraq. Facts will become available, information would flow, some will be hidden by those who would considered harmful to them. Some information would be only noted as absent; many states would not point at the main perpetrator if roaming in the Israeli orbit”
"Before The Axe Hits The Head"
Esaam Dari argued in government-owned Tishreen (2/16): “We should all be a aware that a big conspiracy has been planned for in the dark targeting Lebanon’s security, its national unity and civil peace. An atmosphere of possible wars and splits were stired by the policy of the neo-conservatives in the US who adopt what they call “creative chaos” which causes fires, creates dangerous situations in this area or that, which in its turn creates the best climate for the US, therefore enabling it to increase its interference and promote its projects in the World. Israel is not innocent from Hariri’s blood as it is not innocent from the blood of the Palestinian, Lebanese and Syrian people. Those who would assassinate in the streets of Damascus, Beirut, Tunis, Paris, and Rome and who own terrorist technological capabilities could commit similar crimes especially if it serves only Israel and some International powers that only look upon Israel and its benefits. Powers that base their policies on Israeli reports, files and recommendations! Who is the main beneficiary of this? Who is the loser? The answer is: Syria, Lebanon and the Arab nation are the losers. Israel is the biggest winner! Be cautious and unite before the axe hits the head!”
"Who Stands To Gain?"
Mohammed Agha asserted in the government-owned English-language Syria Times (2/15): "Vicious attempts to destabilize the region and torpedo the peace process have persisted over recent decades with the aim of keeping the no-peace no-war status quo from which nobody benefits except the forces of occupation and evil. The continuous explosive situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and in Iraq is an integral part of the US-Israeli strategy of hegemony and expansion.... Amidst such a tense atmosphere, Syria and Lebanon continue to maintain the highest level of stability and security in the region despite the fact that the US and Israeli-made fires are still ablaze.... The Beirut blast which caused the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister and other Lebanese citizens is part of the overall hostile criminal plot to destabilize the region and push it into the verge of collapse.... Hostile forces have been concocting plots to sever the deeply-rooted ties between Syria and Lebanon. The assassination of Rafik Hariri is a national catastrophe meant to push Lebanon and the region into a conflagration.... The assassination of Hariri is an immense loss to both Lebanon and Syria.... Syria supports Lebanon at this very critical moment and urges the Lebanese people to unite and confront all elements seeking to sow the seeds of dissension and civil strife. The Labeanese must unite and speak with one voice against the hostile forces that committed this heinous act. However, first and foremost we must also ask the question: Who stands to gain from this criminal act."
Editor-in-Chief Fayez Sayegh wrote in government-owned Al-Thawra (2/15): "The one who is targeted from the assassination of Former Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri is Lebanon, its national unity and civil peace. He was loyal to his country Syria as if he was one of its citizens. He was always ready especially when Syria and Lebanon were subjected to outside pressures. Exploding Beirut and assassinating Al-Hariri unveils more than one plan to target the area through Lebanon. Syria never abandoned the participation of aiding Lebanon and to cast away any internal or external danger. Syria gave for this cause many human and financial sacrifices. Syria’s main concern was for Lebanon to regain its sovereignty, unity and national stability. The major credit goes for Syria for taking Lebanon to peace and reconciliation; that’s what Al-Hariri said.... Syria and Lebanon are called today more than ever for more solidarity and closeness.”
"A Criminal Act By All Measures"
Omar Jaftali asserted in government-owned Tishreen (2/15): “The assassination of Hariri happened at a time when the region in general and Lebanon and Syria in particular are going through a very sensitive political moment. Both are facing an international conspiracy with Israeli connections, which does not want any good happening for both countries. The crime occurred immediately after Larsen visited Beirut and Damascus and stated that his negotiations were very positive and that he would work on implementing Taif agreement in relation to brotherly agreement between Syria and Lebanon and that Syria had a constructive cooperation with the UN. There is a hostile Israeli attitude against Lebanon since the later liberated the South from the Israeli occupation 2000. Israel leaving Lebanon unwillingly, will always seek to destroy its achievements and bring it back to a state of turmoil and instability so it would continue to occupy Shaba and exploits water and resources in the South of Lebanon.”
UAE: "A Day Of Brutality, Sorrow And Death"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf News maintained (2/16): "All murder is brutal there is no kind way to do it. The savagery of the attack on Rafik Hariri, however, was extraordinary, as was the precision of its execution. The former Lebanese prime minister and his convoy did not stand a chance. There is no place in a civilised world for such assassinations, but then this is not a civilised world. The murder of Hariri and at least 14 others was the barbaric act of people who have no place among us. They deserve only the bitter contempt and loathing of decent people. The scale of the blast was matched by its clinical planning and execution. This was not the action of some small group of wild fanatics who stuck a bomb at the side of a road and hoped it went off at the right time. Whoever was behind the huge explosion had access to powerful ordnance, modern technology and sophisticated infrastructure. The view of analysts that it had to be the work of some or other national intelligence agency is the most plausible explanation. Why, though, should the attack take place and take place now? And why should it be Hariri? The chilling reason is that it must suit someone or some group to threaten the frail stability that has crept back to Lebanon after the civil war. Hariri then becomes an ideal target. He played a central role in hauling Lebanon back towards stability and has a strong following in the country. He was also a man of great stature throughout the Arab world. Who better, then, to target if peace is to be driven from the agenda? The response of the Lebanese people and their friends throughout the world is therefore critical. Righteous anger should not turn into further violence, nor should fear and suspicion become sectarian violence. The country has followed that route before egged on by outside forces, of course and could bear another journey down that path. Let Hariri and the others be mourned, but let the circle of sorrow end there."
"The Day After"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Khaleej Times noted (2/16): "The explosion that killed Rafik Al Hariri will continue to rock Lebanon for years to come. In fact, the assassination of the charismatic leader, who oversaw the return of his country back from the brink after the long civil war, threatens to derail the country yet again. Hariri...played a pivotal role in the reconstruction of his country. He successfully employed his persuasive skills, charisma and personal integrity to restore peace and stability in the war-ravaged country.... Today, if the country is beginning to enjoy peace, prosperity and stability that once earned it the title of the Mediterranean paradise, credit largely goes to the assassinated leader.... Hariri's assassination is...a devastating blow for the whole of Middle East and the world. The killing has the potential of kick-starting the destabilisation and disintegration of the complex and highly-divided Lebanese society and politics.... It is time, therefore, for utmost caution and restraint for all concerned. The people of Lebanon must guard against all attempts to bring back the bloody chaos that ruled the country in the 1970s and 1980s.... If some see a Damascus connection to the Hariri killing, Syria has itself to blame. It has repeatedly ignored the demands...to leave the country. The Syrian leadership would do well to heed the message before it's too late. The spontaneous outpouring of grief and anger on the streets of Lebanon Monday sends out a short but strong message to all those poking their nose into Lebanese affairs: Back off!"
"A Great Loss"
The expatriate-oriented English-language Gulf Today held (2/15): "No doubt that whoever was behind the dastardly killing of former Lebanese prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri is an enemy of Lebanon and its people.... Hariri represented Lebanon's hopes of maintaining the delicate political balance and continuing economy recovery to its pre-civil war glory as the Middle East's financial hub. Lebanon's hopes of maintaining a political balance and economic recovery have been dealt a serious blow.... The intense violence with which Hariri was killed was definitely intentional and aimed at creating panic and terrify the Lebanese people.... The effective role he played in his capacity as prime minister of a country with a deep sectarian divide which showed its ugly teeth during the years of the civil war.... Hariri's death is a great loss to Lebanon. What the people of Lebanon need at this critical juncture is the realisation that Hariri's killers are seeking to undermine the country's coherence and national unity. They should not allow their emotions to take over their sense and should refrain themselves from engaging in any action that serves the perpetrators of the assassination who only sought to sow sedition among them."
BRITAIN: "Syria Must Leave Lebanon"
An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph read (2/17): "The approach of parliamentary elections in May is a reminder that for Lebanese politicians to take their orders from Damascus is a glaring anomaly in a region where democratic polls have recently been held for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority and the Iraqi National Assembly. Stagnant Syria is lucky to have held sway over Lebanon for so long. The killing of Mr. Hariri on its watch has quickened the pace of revolt against its unwarranted hegemony."
"A Changed Psychology: The Grip Of Terrorism Loosens In The Middle East"
The conservative Times judged (2/17): "If Mr. Hariri's murderers intended to intimidate opponents of Syrian dominance in advance of this spring's national elections, their crime would appear to have had the opposite effect. More than ever, these elections will now be a referendum on asserting Lebanese sovereignty. In Lebanon, as in Iraq, terrorism's grip on politics is loosening."
"Hariri's Assassination: The UN Should Launch An International Investigation"
The independent Financial Times opined (2/16): "Syria may be hard pushed to avert a full-scale economic and political blockade that could threaten the survival of its regime. Before that, however, Damascus should be given a last chance to comply with resolution 1559 [calling on Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon]. The Security Council should also take up the demand of President Jacques Chirac for an international investigation into the Hariri assassination. This time there should be no getting away with murder."
"This Killing Must Not Be Allowed To Unleash Conflict Across The Region"
The left-of-center Independent opined (2/15): "The murder of the one politician who might have been able to bring moderate, nationally-minded Lebanese together, who might have been able to negotiate with Syria about troop withdrawal and who was well-connected abroad, leaves a dangerous vacuum. It also risks unleashing forces that even Syria might not be able to control. Renewed violence in Lebanon, even a return to civil war, could have much wider repercussions."
"Beirut Murder Mystery"
An editorial in the conservative Daily Telegraph read (2/15): "Apart from Lebanon, Syria is in bad odour with Washington over sponsoring terrorism, allegedly developing weapons of mass destruction and failing to secure its border with Iraq against terrorist infiltration.... But to order the assassination of a Lebanese politician who had fallen out with Damascus would seem to be courting disaster."
"Death In Beirut"
The left-of-center Guardian contended (2/15): "Mr. Hariri's murder is a reminder that behind a facade of stability, Lebanon is still highly fragile. The identity of his killers is unknown, but the rumour mill's response to the old 'cui bono' question was that the victim was a critic of Syria's controversial role in Lebanon."
"A Blow At Lebanon's Heart: An Atrocity Imprinted With The Sinister Hand Of Syria"
The conservative Times stated (2/15): "Although a hitherto unknown group calling itself Support and Jihad in Syria and Lebanon claimed responsibility yesterday, it could hardly have been executed without at least the connivance of Syria's ubiquitous intelligence services. Whether or not Damascus is directly guilty of this murder, it happened on its baleful watch."
FRANCE: "Syria’s Power Play"
Gerard Dupuy noted in left-of-center Liberation (2/17): “The Syrians know exactly what the Lebanese think about them. Damascus’s intention was probably to prevent the Lebanese from making their feelings known in the coming elections.... The Lebanese government’s rejection of an investigation into the assassination will not quell the almost unanimous accusations against Syria. Almost unanimous, because the anger and indignation felt all around has not deterred the Russian Defense Minister from confirming the sale of controversial weapons to Damascus, or the Iranian vice-president to express his solidarity with Syria.... This is just a reminder that the Syrians have always known how to use the regional political players to their own end.... With the Iraqi elections over, the Shiite movement may well now have at its disposal territorial continuity stretching from Khorassan to the Bekaa Valley. It is clear that the assassination of Hariri, for the perpetrators themselves, has nothing to do with a local crime, but is rather a form of regional blackmail in the Middle East. Syria can still prove its innocence by complying with resolution 1559. Otherwise the West will have to put its money where its mouth is.”
Bruno Frappat commented in Catholic La Croix (2/17): “It is much too soon to say whether Hariri’s funeral will mark the beginning of Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and Lebanon’s re-acquaintance with itself.... Hariri’s death has also allowed France and the U.S. to re-affirm their entente over the only possible outcome to the crisis: Syria’s departure. But Syria is a hereditary dictatorship, and dictatorships, once they are locked in their bunkers, have a hard time listening.”
"Washington Wants To Punish Syria"
Philippe Gelie argued in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/16): “Washington does not know who is behind Hariri’s assassination, but it has found a target for its anger: Syria. In the eyes of the Bush administration, Syria has enough faults to warrant Washington’s anger and to pay for the consequences of this assassination, whether it is behind it or not… If Washington’s stance becomes harsher, especially with its Syria Accountability Act, one may conclude that el-Assad has made the worst possible policy choice vis-à-vis Washington. The list of conflicts was already long...but now that the peace process in the Middle East is coming out of its coma, Syria’s ambivalence is making Americans and Israelis very nervous.”
"Why Was Hariri Killed?"
Alexandre Adler asked in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/16): “The U.S. and France will probably not give up on their UN resolution against Damascus. And so the only conclusion one can arrive at is that (behind this assassination) there is the in-fighting for power in Damascus.... Our temporary conclusion is that the target behind Hariri’s terrible assassination is Bachar el-Assad and Damascus’s moderates. The assassination announces a major strategic break between two old allies: Syria and Iran. The one cannot accept the fact that Iraq has fallen into the hands of the Shiites and the other cannot help but give it its support, more for reasons of tradition than for reasons of strategy.”
"Lebanon: Who Profits From The Crime?"
Jules Clauwaert asked in regional Nord Éclair (2/15): “It was at the instigation of France and the United States that the UN requested that Syria withdraw its occupation troops stationed in Lebanon. Syrian authorities have promised to take actions to normalize relations with a ‘friendly’ Lebanon. Yesterday, they condemned the attack.... But in Beirut, people have known for years that in bomb attacks, certain specialists don’t do things halfway."
"The Syrian Suspect"
Pierre Rousselin asserted in right-of-center Le Figaro (2/15): “The political attack that killed Rafik Hariri is one of those events that announce serious aftershocks.... Hariri illustrated the normalization which Lebanon had managed to achieve. But yesterday, the hope for a soft Lebanese evolution was blown to smithereens. Once before, when Maruan Hamade escaped an assassination attempt in October 2004, many observers saw a warning from Damascus.... If Hariri’s assassination were to have the same motive, the consequences would be extremely serious. It would mean an attempt by Damascus to intimidate and to impose an iron control over Lebanon. Beyond that it would signify a total rejection of cooperation with the international community.... Hariri was a privileged interlocutor on the international scene.... His assassination is not one more political attack in Lebanon’s history. It is an attempt to radically weigh in on the process underway in the region. Considering how much Syria is under suspicion, it is understandable that France has asked for an international investigation into the bombing. It is encouraging to see that the U.S. is ready to collaborate with the UN and its allies.”
Patrick Sabatier wrote in left-of-center Liberation (2/15): “The opposition to Syria which Hariri embodied was encouraged and supported by the U.S. and France.... Hariri was aware of the risks inherent to a political challenge of Syria.... His killers, whoever they may be, are professionals whose goal it is to destabilize Lebanon.... Their goal was to remind everyone that Lebanon is still a time bomb that can go off at any moment and affect the region.... If one asks the question, who profits from the crime?, the first answer is of course Syria. This is not proof; there can be other culprits. But it is in the interest of Syria’s President Assad, who has been called by President Bush a pillar of the club of friends supporting terrorism in the Middle East, to accept the investigation called for by France, so as not to be fingered by the international community. If Syria chooses to opt for a policy of the worst, even President Chirac, a friend of Hariri, could feel targeted.”
Bruno Frappat commented in Catholic La Croix (2/15): “Fifteen years of war, fifteen years of occupation. In a nutshell this is Lebanon’s history for the past thirty years… Did Hariri pay with his life for having politically broken relations with the occupier? Many signs point to a Syrian connection, or more aptly, a Syrian-Lebanese connection: Hariri’s stature and the support he received from the U.S. and France.... But must we look only at Syria? We cannot ignore the Iranian connection: Hariri was seen as the future western ‘pawn’ in the region, mostly a U.S. pawn. Could this have been a message to the U.S.?”
GERMANY: "Pressure On Damascus"
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/17): "The assassination of the Lebanese politician Hariri could create a certain nervousness among the Damascene leadership. In neighboring Iraq, the political paradigm is changing at the moment; in Palestine, Israelis and Palestinians are making a fresh start, which is likely to be more successful this time; and a Lebanese majority is against the Syrian occupation. Secretary of State Rice's warnings against the Damascene leadership and the recall of the U.S. envoy make clear that Washington intends to exert more pressure on Syria, not least because Damascus torpedoes the Middle East peace process through Hezbollah."
"Syria's Dark Backyard"
Rudolph Chimelli argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/17): "In Lebanon's opaque net of corruption, the occupation has become a great business line for the Syrian army. It makes a profit on the smuggling to Syria and the imports of many goods that pass through Beirut. Millions, maybe even billions of Syrian money is placed in Lebanese accounts. After Bashir Assad succeeded his father, Hariri tried to create a material counterbalance with the help of Saudi investments. But he did not achieve his goal of freeing Lebanon. The usual question after a murder--Who benefits from it?--does not get us anywhere in Hariri's case. It would not help Syria if its neighbor plunged into insecurity and chaos again. Assad jr. already had enough to worry about. The Lebanese accusations against Syria during the funeral are a legitimate outbreak of emotions. But given the experience in Iraq, it is a bad omen when America repeats these accusations without having any evidence."
Center-right General-Anzeiger of Bonn opined (2/16): "The barbarian assassination of the former Lebanese PM shows that there is still a long way to go before the Middle East conflict will be resolved. No one knows whether we will ever know the men behind the attack. But given our experience, the attention is focused on Damascus. Iraq, Iran and Syria undermined the Oslo peace process at the time. At least Iraq no longer pays bonuses to families of suicide bombers and no longer arms terror groups."
Business-oriented Handelsblatt of Duesseldorf advised (2/16): "It is inconceivable that Syria is behind the assassination of the former Lebanese PM. Given the great foreign policy problems the country has, it is unwise to create more problems. Is it really? Syria, once not a friend of Baghdad, has become a refuge for Iraqis Baathists. Some believe it is the secure haven for terrorists from Iraq. Syria is also one of the greatest obstacles for creating peace between Israel and Palestine. The terror organization Hezbollah is supported from there. This has earned Syria a prominent place on America's list of rogue states. Does it need more problems? Not really, but Damascus is increasingly isolated after the changes in Iraq and Arafat's departure. Lebanon is therefore gaining importance.... Is this enough to point the finger at Syria? Not really, because the regional potential for disruptions is very inexhaustible. There are enough Islamists who hated the liberal thinking of the billionaire Hariri."
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/16): "The Lebanese resistance against Damascus has never been so great like today. This has apparently led to former PM Hariri's departure. When he will be buried the army will patrol the streets of Beirut again, which recalls bad experiences. Damascus justifies the presence of its troops by arguing that they create stability. But Syria's overwhelming influence prevents political reforms, which Lebanon urgently needs. It is an open secret that people of Syria's nomenclature conduct private and often illicit business via Lebanese ports. The assassinated Hariri represented the will of the Lebanese people to take the fate into their own hands. The ghosts of the civil war are returning."
Dietrich Alexander noted in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (2/16): "Syria benefits from the assassination of the former Lebanese PM, Hariri, in so far as it removes one of the most popular and powerful opponents to its military presence and political dominance in the Cedar's land. But Syria is already paying an enormous political price, although the murderers are not yet known. It is difficult to believe the Syrian secret forces could be so naïve and shortsighted to order the assassination, because this could restart the civil war, which was believed to be pacified. It could also be the starting point for a liberation war against the Syrian occupiers. This cannot be in Syria's interest at all."
Wolfgang Guenter Lerch commented in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (2/15): "With the departure of Hariri, Lebanon has lost the man who greatly advocated the rebuilding of a country that was devastated by civil war. The construction billionaire had thriving relations to Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab countries. Thanks to his business, he was something like a 'Mr. Lebanon.' Since the end of the civil war, there has not been such a large attack. The killing of Hariri and many other people in Baghdad is a serious setback in the fight against terror in the Middle East."
Arno Widmann speculated in left-of-center Berliner Zeitung (2/15): "The assassins managed to make clear to the world that the country was not pacified by Syria, but that it was simply kept calm. It can be assumed that the civil war, which ended in 1990 also with Hariri's help, is no longer the greatest risk for Lebanon. The greater danger is the Syrian government and Hezbollah's determination to control Lebanon. Nobody--neither the U.S., nor Israel, nor Europe--has the power and will to react to this changed situation at the moment. The Middle East is not a powder keg, but a combination of many different powder kegs that are all linked by many fuses. There is no solution in sight."
"A Deceitful Peace"
Right-of-center Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten editorialized (2/15): "Hariri thought Lebanon is the perfect model of an Arab country: multi-religious, tolerant and modern. But the deathly attack shows the deceitfulness of this peace. Old wounds burn behind the façade of modernity. The Lebanese society is still based on a complicated religious proportional representation, which divides the political benefits between the Shiites, Sunnis and Maronites. And Syria, Iran and Israel are continuously violating the country's sovereignty and prevent that the former conflicting parties can come to terms with the civil war. Hariri's increasing criticism of Syria earned him praise from the opposition but also made him an enemy of the regional power. Given this, his rejection of a de facto Syrian protectorate is of a certain importance that exceeds Lebanon's domestic affairs. Whoever is behind the assassination, the murderers want to destabilize Lebanon. It is inconceivable what could happen if the country were to plunge into civil war again."
"Multiple Murder Motives"
Tomas Avenarius argued in center-left Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (2/15): "The attention is automatically diverted to Syria after the assassination of Lebanon's former government leader Hariri. Is a terror attack in the Syrian satellite state in Syria's interest? The deceased Syrian leader Hafez Assad had never been hypersensitive and killed several Lebanese politicians. But it is difficult to imagine that his son and successor would use similar means at this particular time. Syria is under American and Israeli 'counter-terror pressure' because of its support for militant Palestinians and Hezbollah and because of the alleged assistance to Iraqi insurgents. Simultaneously, international pressure to finally withdraw Syrian troops from Lebanon increased in recent months. A UN resolution has been demanding this for a long time. All this encouraged the formerly moderate Lebanese opposition to take a stance against Syria. Hariri has also criticized Syria's military presence as interference in Lebanon's domestic affairs. For historic reasons, Syria sees Lebanon not as a satellite state but as its own territory. It is possible that somebody in Damascus has lost his nerves and wanted to send a clear message to the Lebanese opposition. It is also possible that somebody intended to hit the already scratched Syrians by fueling suspicions of the country's involvement in terrorism. It is also conceivable that Hariri's death has nothing to do with politics. He might have had competitors willing to do anything."
ITALY: "Assad Follows In Saddam’s Footsteps"
Magdi Allam said in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (2/16): “The attack was predictable.... The attack could not be carried out without the okay of the Syrian Secret Service. We knew that the destabilization of Lebanon was Syria’s answer to the UN ultimatum...which calls for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and the break-up of the Shiite militia Hezbollah.... For the first time in Lebanon we see the emergence of an authoritative opposition front against the regime...comprised of leaders of different ethnicities and religions. We must clarify that Hariri was in reality neither the leader of the opposition front nor its official exponent. He supported the request for Syrian troop withdrawal, but he did not want to fall out with Damascus.... Syria has a long tradition of assassination of Lebanese political leaders.... But the resurgence of Syrian terrorism is taking place in a new regional and international context, where France and the U.S....support a new free and democratic course in Lebanon.... Hariri’s assassination could mark the beginning of the end of Assad's dictatorial and bloody regime.”
"If The Frail Lebanese Peace Suddenly Falls To Pieces"
Paolo Garimberti remarked in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (2/15): “Syria seems to have no intention whatsoever of releasing its hold on Lebanon.... It continues to ignore UN resolution 1559.... Relations between Assad and Chirac, that had been facilitated by Hariri, a personal friend of the French president, and that were the only opening on the part of the West that Damascus could point to, are now frozen. Hariri had certainly become an uncomfortable man for Syria. But one should never trust appearances in Lebanon, not even the simplest ones. And the message by an Islamic group unknown to Al Jazeera, claiming responsibility for yesterday’s bomb attack, seems to aim at complicating the game of mirrors."
RUSSIA: "Democratization Bomb"
Vyacheslav Tetekin held in nationalist pro-opposition Sovetskaya Rossiya (2/17): "Paradoxically, the Hariri killing hurt Syria, of all countries. You might even say that the blast that killed Hariri shook Damascus as much as it did Beirut. Syria is under strong pressure from America, accused of being a center of 'international terrorism.' It pursues an independent foreign policy and resists U.S.-Israeli plans in the Middle East. Growing military cooperation between Moscow and Damascus doesn't make America any happier, either. Russia's decision to supply arms, including air defense rockets, to the Syrians has been particularly irksome to the Americans and Israelis. All that has led the United States to add Syria to the 'axis-of-tyranny' list and threaten it with an invasion, the claimed purpose being 'democratization' and war on terror, of course. So far, America, mired in the dirty colonial war in Iraq, lacks the resources for yet another war of aggression. Nonetheless, economic sanctions against Syria are already in place. So, the last thing Syria wants now is to provide the United States and Israel with another excuse for accusations, political and economic pressure, and intervention. Clearly, it will be some time before we hear, if at all, the names of those behind the Beirut blast. While reflecting a tangle of political contradictions inside Lebanon, the terrorist attack also played into the hand of the enemies of stability in the Middle East. It is a fine excuse for pressing ahead with 'democratization.'"
Georgiy Mirskiy stated in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (2/17): "It is a carefully planned provocation. It benefits those who demand Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon in the first place. It makes no sense trying to guess who organized the attack. Most cases involving political
assassinations in Lebanon have never been resolved. Many people might want Hariri dead. It is unlikely that Israel or other foreign special services had a hand in this. The true organizers must be in Lebanon among the political circles that want to compromise Syria. I don't think the U.S. will take advantage of the Hariri killing to stage armed action against Syria. It would be counterproductive. Even so, America will try to use the situation to bring more pressure to bear on that country."
Marianna Grishina said in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (2/16): "The terrorist act in Beirut can gravely affect the situation in the country on
the eve of the elections. Many Lebanese, the memory of the civil war fresh in their minds, fear that the fragile balance among religious communities and political forces may be upset now."
"Syria Faulted For Hariri Killing"
Yekaterina Tikhomirova wrote in reformist Izvestiya (2/16): "Who stands behind the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri? Iran names Israel. The Lebanese opposition, Israel and the U.S., on their part, hint and even directly blame Syria for the former Prime Minister's death. But Washington will hardly risk taking on Damascus openly in spite of extremely strained relations between the two countries. Hawks in the U.S. Administration insist on tougher sanctions, citing Syria's offering refuge and funds to Iraqi militants. Still, Damascus is too important in the Middle East, particularly in light of progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations, to break off ties with it. Besides, opening a new Syrian front in the war on terror does not seem like a good idea to Bush now that he is tied up with Iraq."
"Who Gained By Hariri's Death?"
Valeriy Panyushkin observed in business-oriented Kommersant (2/15): "With Rafik Hariri dead, the opposition has lost a charismatic leader, a billionaire, and the authorities are going to have to face the music. Funny, do the people behind the contract killing really think that it was between President Lahoud and ex-Prime Minister Hariri alone, as if the two of them were playing a game of chess, one on one? Don't they know about the large group of people who believe that Lebanon owes peace to Syrian military presence, or about another large group of people who want to do business the European way and dream of Beirut becoming 'Paris of the Middle East' again? Will there be fewer people in opposition to the government because of the Hariri assassination? How did Russia profit from the Dudayev killing? How did it profit from the Khodorkovskiy arrest? Now that the leader of the opposition is dead, what must the Lebanese government expect? A war? Does it have the money to fight a war? With the leader of the opposition dead, its pent-up energy, vented, might blow up the country exactly as overheated steam blows up the boiler with a broken escape valve. Once that happens, it will take a lot of money and time to put things back in order again. Morality aside, can Lebanon afford that now? If the answer is yes, why choose assassination, the cheapest of political methods?"
AUSTRIA: “Assad and His Spoiled Dream of Greater Syria”
Foreign affairs editor Christian Ultsch wrote in centrist Die Presse (2/17): “The US seizes the momentum in order to exert pressure. Pressure on a regime like that in Syria, which, for years, extended a helping hand to the Palestinian terror organizations Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as to the Lebanese Hizbollah militia. When Bashir al-Assad succeeded his father as Syria’s President in 2000, there was a brief glimmer of hope for a spring in Damascus. However, the country soon slid back into the fall of dictatorship. Old clans feared for their prerogatives and the young President feared for his power. Recently, there have once again been signs of a certain opening on the part of Syria. After all, the bankrupt country has no other choice if it wants to survive. However, the reforms that Assad initiated were not far-reaching enough. He is going to have to adapt faster than he did in the past to the new times in the Middle East. A withdrawal from Lebanon is only going to be the first concession he will have to make. More must follow.”
"Tight Spot For Syria"
Markus Bernath argued in independent Der Standard (2/17): “Rationally viewed, only the Syrian government’s adversaries profit from Hariri’s murder. Damascus is now more than ever under international pressure, having triggered UN Resolution 1559 through its intervention in Lebanese domestic affairs last September.... Syria’s leadership may be Machiavellian enough to export terrorists to Iraq or Israel and thus take off some of the pressure under which it is laboring at home. However, the government in Damascus is not so naïve as to supply the US with an invitation for a military strike. How did Syria, which was praised by Washington for its cooperation after 9/11, maneuver itself into such a tight spot?.... Only quick results in the investigation of the Hariri assassination can take the heat off Damascus.”
Foreign affairs editor Gudrun Harrer observed in independent Der Standard (2/16): “A closer look reveals that official Syria has absolutely nothing to gain from the events in Lebanon, quite the contrary. The outcome of these events is just what Damascus despises most: An even greater international interest and intervention in Lebanese affairs. Also, the assassination came at a moment when things had begun to move forward.... Pointing the finger at Damascus--as the US is doing--is only grist to the mill of forces in the country supporting escalation in Lebanese affairs. Hizbollah adopts a more mediating role in the Lebanese-Syrian game and this is why the allegations against it make little sense. Although its relations to Damascus are known, it never took the Syria-loyalists’ part in Lebanon. It would have been too unwise to incur the anger of the Lebanese opposition. What remains is the anti-Saudi motive--the likelihood that the events have a link with al Qaida. Hariri, with his connections to the Saudi kingdom, was a highly symbolic target, as is Beirut in general. There, every day, male Saudi-Arabian tourists and businessmen do all that is forbidden at home.”
CZECH REPUBLIC: "Death Offers A Chance"
Radek Nedved opined in center-right Lidove noviny (2/17): "The policy positions of political figures in the Middle East have always been rigid to the extent that any agreement was unattainable. It so happens that only the death of a politician can become a breakthrough in inconclusive relations.... This is the perspective we must see in the recent tough approach of the U.S. towards Syria; not only is this U.S. pressure understandable it is also necessary. When else will we have a better opportunity to push Damascus into a corner?"
"Syria Pays For Its Interests In Lebanon--Maybe Unfairly"
Bretislav Turecek commented in center-left Pravo (2/17): "The paradox of the current situation in Lebanon is that under certain conditions the much called-for withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon would not only go against Syrian interests but also against the interests of Israel. The withdrawal of troops could threaten the stability of Lebanon and would leave space to Hezbollah for its anti-Israel operations at Israel’s northern borders. A withdrawal [of troops] could be facilitated by one order from Damascus; dissolution of Hezbollah, which operates with a militia and a well organized underground intelligence network, would be much more difficult to realize."
"Syria Will Get The Bill"
Adam Cerny maintained in business-oriented Hospodarske Noviny (2/16): "At this moment, Syria has a needed ally neither among superpowers nor among its immediate neighbors. Its position in Lebanon may be further aggravated by results of upcoming parliamentary elections there in spring, because opponents of Syrian military presence in the country will also be joined by those who fear a return to civil war following the Monday explosion (in which former PM Hariri was assassinated). The main part of the Lebanese game will take place in its vicinity. Regardless of whether it was involved in the attack or not, Syria will pay the bill."
IRELAND: "Evil Returns To Beirut"
The center-right populist Irish Independent noted (2/15): "Who killed Rafik Hariri?.... Among foreign governments, the supposed chief suspects were Israel and Syria, but it is not at all clear what objective of either country could be served by the assassination. More plausible is that out-of-control elements of some security service could have organized the murder. But much more likely still is that the assassins were members of one of the many terrorist organizations operating in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region, with or without the support of some state, bent on destabilizing the Middle East and impairing the chances of peace.... Adding to the unease is the difficulty of discerning American intentions, especially towards Syria and Iran. Yesterday the US made no specific accusation, but it came close when the White House spokesman linked references to Syrian domination of Lebanon with a demand for the punishment of the killers.... The country has recovered more than once from devastating violence and destruction. Its economic and financial genius is an example to the region. It would be appalling if it were dragged down again. To avoid that fate, Hariri's work must be carried on in one vitally important respect. The Syrian occupation has lasted too long. It must end--but it must end by agreement, in circumstances which maintain the stability of Lebanon and protect Israel and other neighboring countries, and with no underhand arrangements to keep Damascus in control.”
SPAIN: "Lebanon And The Axis Of Evil"
Conservative ABC opined (2/17): "The Middle East scenario, far from becoming clearer with the advance of democracy in Iraq and the progressive Palestine-Israeli rapprochement, has been complicated tremendously by Hariri's assassination.... The complexity of the interests involved make it almost impossible to guess at the author of the assassination.... The unrest provoked by Hariri's assassination can't divert international public opinion from a crucial fact: Lebanon lives under the military tutelage of Syria and there is a UN resolution demanding the withdrawal of the troops that limit its sovereignty."
"Assassination In Beirut"
Left-of-center El País editorialized (2/16): "Entering immediately into the fray to condemn the crime and to demand responsibilities is not going to spare Damascus a new and worrying turn of the screw by Washington.... A weak state, in Bush's point of view--and also that of Israel's--should not have interest in pushing closer to the precipice. It's true that Damascus had an excellent reason to want to eliminate Hariri...he had the intention to stand for the legislative elections...something that inevitably could have implied defeat for Syria and its allies in Lebanon. But it seems apparently suicidal to be involved in an operation that will be untenable in continuing to maintain Lebanon under its control without taking many risks.... Any hypothesis is credible. But, in any case, it can definitely serve to the supporters of 'the worse off, the better.'"
"Syria Returns To Its Old Ways In Lebanon"
Independent El Mundo concluded (2/15): "Everything suggests that there is not a diffuse terrorist ring behind the crime (the assassination of Rafic Hariri) but an State. Since the end of its civil war, Syria has maintained an iron-strong tutelage over Lebanon.... But Hariri's critical voice, his good relationship with the west, and his intention to stand for the legislative elections in May, upset Assad's sinister regime, which instead of working for the peace in the region, seems to be determined to fill up all of Israel's and the U.S.' patience."
Centrist La Vanguardia editorialized (2/15): "Hariri's death can unbalance the weak status quo of the region. The sacrifice of this man, that made the unity of the Lebanese people his banner, can also affect the relations among the Sunnis and Shiites, the Muslims and the Christians, as well as relations between the Lebanese and its surrounding neighbors, specifically with Israel and Syria. Surely, those who planned the elimination of Hariri were looking to destabilize Lebanon and to open a new focus of tension in the region now that Palestinians and Israelis seem to be taking the way of dialogue."
SWEDEN: "A Seed Has Been Sown"
Conservative Stockholm-based Svenska Dagbladet editorialized (2/16): "Indications are that (the murder of Hariri) will not result in a return to the nightmare-like civil war (in Lebanon) that went on for two decades. Now there are new times. As a matter of fact Syria will likely be hit the hardest, both from an economic and political point of view. There is a UN resolution, adopted after a previous bombing attack against a leading opposition politician, which demands a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. It has renewed urgency in a new situation in international politics.... Not least election results in the Iraqi election give cause for optimism, despite the continued violence.... The same goes for the Palestinian Presidential elections. However, the path will not likely be easy. Terrorists and dictators will do their utmost to make the Arab democracy project come to nothing. But a seed has been sown. And the fact that Iraqis and Palestinians have achieved what previously was regarded impossible indicates that democracy (in the Mideast) is feasible.”
"American Suspicions Lead To Syria"
Independent, liberal Stockholm-based Dagens Nyheter stated (2/16): "There is still uncertainty on who is behind the terrorist attack (against former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri). There are suspicions that either Islamist terrorists or Syria are involved. However, the Syrian angle is called into question...a terrorist attack likely would be counter-productive to Damascus.... In Washington the tone was hard...which is not surprising. Syria is part of the ‘axis of evil,’ which President George W. Bush has talked about.... There is no doubt that Syria is a repressive state that has supported terrorism...and now the U.S. wants to put the screws to (Syria), although Washington admits there is no evidence of Syrian involvement in the murder of Rafiq Hariri. To make the international community react to the escalating violence in Lebanon likely will not be difficult. A more pressing issue is how Syria--whether or not the country is involved in the terrorist bombing--should be dealt with. Use of military force is out of the question, and commentators have pointed out that there is not much left that has not already been tried. Good alternatives are lacking, and that is a pattern which seems alarmingly familiar.”
TURKEY: "Forming New Fronts In The Middle East"
Sami Kohen asserted in mass-appeal Milliyet (2/18): “Hariri’s assassination, just like other similar examples, will be added on the list of murders carried out by unknown persons. Such events are always open to various conspiracy theories, and the speculation will continue until the facts come to the surface. As France has already suggested, therefore, it would be appropriate to have the assassination investigated by an international commission. This can be done under UN supervision as well, as long as the Lebanese government gives permission. The assassination in Beirut gave the US an opportunity to intensify its campaign against Syria. In a way, the US has benefited from the incident. All US officials, including Secretary of State Rice, are pressuring Damascus heavily to meet certain conditions--to stop sheltering terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hizbollah, to prevent terrorist infiltration into Iraq, and to withdraw from Lebanon under an existing UN decision. Will Syria, which has so far rejected US demands and threats, change its stance? That seems doubtful. On the contrary, Syria is forming a new front with Iran against the US. These new formations in the always dangerous territory of the Middle East, signal a period of new conflict and tension.”
"The Aftermath Of The Hariri Assassination"
Yilmaz Oztuna wrote in conservative Turkiye (2/17): “There are a number of possible consequences of the Hariri assassination in Middle East politics. The action seems to have been the work of Syria. It was apparent that Hariri was looking to cut off Syrian involvement in Lebanon had he been re-elected, which seemed a strong possibility.... Syria keeps 14,000 soldiers in Lebanon, but the Syrians will eventually be forced to pull out under increasing pressure from the UN, the US, Europe, and even the Arabs.... The Hariri assassination could also bring the ruling Baath party in Damascus to an end. The ruling party is made up of Alawites, which are a small minority in Syria. The Hariri incident will bring their rule to an end. Minority rule will be replaced by a Middle Eastern-style democracy in Syria.”
"Who To Blame In Lebanon?"
Zafer Atay commented in economic-politic Dunya (2/16): “The Hariri incident seems to be an assassination with some complexities involved. Syrian leader Asad harshly denounced the assassination, yet it does not change the fact that all fingers are pointing at Damascus. And that remains a strong possibility.... There are various speculations in the aftermath of the Hariri assassination. Some Western countries, including the US, are accusing Syria of manipulating the terrorists close to Damascus. The majority of Beirut commentators believe that this incident will serve as an excuse for Syria to remain in Lebanon because of the elections coming in two months. Nothing is certain about this incident, and the organization which claimed responsibility for the assassination is another uncertainty, because no one knows anything about it.... In any case, time will show who is really responsible; an event of such magnitude cannot be left in the dark.”
"A Hell In Beirut"
Yilmaz Oztuna observed in conservative mass-appeal Turkiye (2/16): “The assassination of Hariri has turned Beirut into a hell. During the Ottoman Empire’s rule, Lebanon was a prosperous, paradise-like country. Today, Israel has withdrawn from the south of Lebanon, but Syria has continued to bother Lebanon. Hariri was anti-Syria. It is a possibility that the assassination was planned by Syrian intelligence; if not, it was definitely planned by some intelligence organization. Al-Qaida stressed that no Islamic organization is behind the assassination. It is rather surprising that Hariri’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has been asserted as the reason for his assassination. As a matter of fact, everything is surprising in the Middle East. But one can never find a positive surprise there. It is difficult to guess what the follow-up of the assassination will be. However, it is obvious that a new wave of chaos will occur before the last one disappears.”
"Restarting The Civil War"
Ibrahim Karagul insisted in Islamist-intellectual Yeni Safak (2/15): "The Israeli sources claim that after Iraq and Palestine...Harriri was being prepared by the U.S. for the Lebanese elections in Spring. However the most important result of Harriri having been killed will be the re-starting of the civil war in Lebanon. As a matter of fact, the preparations for an attack against Hamas and Hizbollah have become intense.... That means a bloody front will be opened in Lebanon soon. The plans of attack against Syria and Iran and the war preparations against the resistors in Lebanon and Palestine are the pieces of the same plan."
AUSTRALIA: "Beirut Relives An Old Nightmare"
The liberal Sydney Morning Herald declared (2/17): "It is a tragedy not just for [Hariri] and those who died with him, but also for their mightily abused country. The murders leave questions whose ramifications go beyond the boundaries of Beirut, the once lovely city that Mr Hariri did so much…to restore. Who masterminded these killings? To what extent was the Syrian Government directly or indirectly involved? Without Mr Hariri's restraining influence, will Lebanon now revert to sectarian violence? Or could his murder, paradoxically, make it easier for it to regain real independence? Mr Hariri leaves a void.... Could removing an irritant from Beirut justify putting Syria's whole position in Lebanon at hazard? Madder misjudgements have been made, of course, but for now the world might be wise to keep an open mind. Other possible suspects have been mentioned: the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in southern Lebanon, some combination of rogue Syrian intelligence elements and Shiite militia, even Israel's Mossad. Whoever the culprits, the results could prove rather different to those they intended.”
"Syria Blamed For Beirut Attack"
Tony Walker asserted in business-oriented Australian Financial Review (2/16): "The U.S. wasted little time in hinting that Syria may have had a hand in the death of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri… which further stoked the atmosphere of mistrust between Washington and Damascus.... Hariri’s bloody end underscores political uncertainties across the Middle East and is a reminder, if it is needed, of the huge task facing the Americans in Iraq where the security situation is far more precarious than Lebanon.”
"Bombers Fear The Ballot Box"
The national conservative Australian remarked (2/16): "The murderous explosion that killed Lebanese political and business leader Rafik Hariri does not appear to have been the work of a simple suicide bomber, gulled into death by promises of martyrdom. Rather it looks like a carefully planned assassination, intended not to terrorize the people of Beirut, but to remove a popular politician. As such, it demonstrates how dark and deep run the currents of hatred in Middle East politics. Nor can this disgraceful killing be easily ascribed by apologists for terror as a response to Israeli and US policy. No one knows for sure who is responsible for this attack. But it is Syria, which treats the Government of Lebanon as a puppet, that has most to gain from Mr Hariri's death.... This killing may return Lebanon to internecine strife. But with luck it will be dismissed for what it is, an act of desperation by people who fear letting the Lebanese choose their own political future.”
CHINA (HONG KONG SAR): "Open Probe Into Hariri's Assassination Is Best Path"
The independent English-language South China Morning Post editorialized (2/18): "Hariri's highly orchestrated assassination would be an outrage in any context. But in a country that was beginning to put the war behind it and look critically at its relationship with neighboring Syria, his death has prompted a public catharsis.... The protest revealed the diversity of the opposition.... The events have also heightened tensions in the Middle East. Given Lebanon's strategic importance to Syria, and other interests converging at this regional crossroads, there is a danger that neighboring countries and western powers might be drawn into the crisis.... The protest was encouraging for its peacefulness and for the broad cross-section of society represented. Lebanese newspapers are comparing it to last year's Kiev demonstrations.... One called the funeral turnout the largest referendum for unity and sovereignty. In a part of the world where political assassination is used to resolve differences, a positive outcome is not a given. However, the beginning of a resolution to this crisis lies in a full and transparent investigation of Hariri's death."
JAPAN: "International Community Must Stop Possible Civil War In Lebanon"
Liberal Asahi concluded (2/18): "The assassination Monday of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri could endanger peace in Lebanon.... International concern is growing over a possible outbreak of civil war, which would likely further destabilize the Middle East region.... The international community must stop such a tragedy.... The UNSC last fall adopted a resolution calling for Syria's removal of its troops from Lebanon. The resolution hinted at possible sanctions, but Damascus has yet to respond to the call. The U.S. has recalled its envoy to Damascus in the wake of the assassination. Iran, however, has expressed its position to side with Syria. Heightening tensions between Washington and Damascus must be alleviated. The Lebanese government must also accept UN investigators into the nation in order to determine the details of Hariri's assassination. The government of Syria needs to cooperate with international investigations in order to dispel growing suspicion about its possible involvement in the killing. Unless Damascus immediately pulls out its troops from Lebanon, the international press is unlikely to take the spotlight off Damascus. We hope Arab nations will support UN calls for Syria to swiftly withdraw its forces."
"U.S. Applying Pressure On Syria In Effort To Stabilize Iraq"
An editorial in conservative Sankei read (2/17): "The Bush administration is planning to apply stronger pressure on Syria in the face of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Hariri by terrorists. In addition to the announced recall of its ambassador to Damascus, Washington intends to enhance existing economic sanctions against Syria. Suspecting that Syria is a safe heaven for terrorists operating in Iraq, the U.S. appears to believe that stronger pressure would prompt Damascus to crack down on terrorists and lead to increased stability in Iraq."
THAILAND: "Ghosts Of Civil War Return In Lebanon"
The lead editorial in the independent, English-language Nation read (2/16): "At this early stage it is impossible to know who really was responsible (for the assassination of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri), although the sophistication and scale of the bombing suggest the involvement of a state-backed intelligence organization. Washington and Paris immediately called for an international investigation into the killing but as with so many past assassinations of Lebanese leaders there is little reason to be confident anyone will be brought to justice or blame will be fairly apportioned. The pressing concern of the moment is to prevent Lebanon from sinking back into chaos. The march towards the next set of elections and full sovereignty must go on and the various foreign powers with interests in Lebanon must be elbowed out, whether it is Syria--which has long overstayed its welcome--or any of its competing rivals.”
PAKISTAN: "Hariri's Murder"
Karachi-based center-left independent national English-language Dawn held (2/16): "The assassination must be seen against the backdrop of the pressure Syria has been under from the U.S. and Israel for quite some time. Much to Israel and America's frustration, Syria has not chosen to break away from Arab ranks and recognize the Zionist state.... Israel--which also means the U.S.--has several other complaints against Syria. This includes the support which Syria had extended to Hizbollah for resisting the Israeli occupation of a strip of southern Lebanon.... Both Israel and the U.S. also want Syria to pull its troops out of Lebanon. A Lebanon which does not have Syria's security cover is bound to be vulnerable to political and military pressures from Washington and Tel Aviv. As the Syrian reaction to Mr. Hariri's murder said, this crime "cannot be separated from these pressures."
BANGLADESH: "Lebanon After Hariri's Murder"
The independent English-language New Age commented (2/16): "The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri suddenly raises the political temperature in the Middle East. It is specifically the fact that the blast which killed Mr. Hariri in Beirut gives rise to new concerns about peace and stability in Lebanon. Hariri's was one of the voices instrumental in the passage of a recent UNSC resolution calling, without mentioning Syria, for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. And yet it is hard to accept the thought that President Bashar al-Assad and his administration will have been so unwise as to order the murder of a man who has never wanted them in Lebanon. Bashar and his foreign minister Farook al Sharaa have both condemned the murder, which is a strong sign of their not wanting to be held responsible for the grisly incident. But if the Syrians were not involved, who was? That question needs answering, and soon. Meanwhile, it has become rather clear that as long as the Syrians continue to be positioned in Lebanon, the threat to peace in the region will remain. In these last few years, the Lebanese may have seen calm restored in their society. But that still did not answer the question of when full sovereignty, of the kind independent nations enjoy, would be restored to them by Damascus. With fourteen thousand Syrian soldiers holding northern Lebanon and Syrian civilians dominating the Lebanese market, it is only natural to expect men like the now dead Hariri to register their anger. And let it not be forgotten that the Syrians recently did everything they could to have President Emile Lahoud re-elected to his job, over the law and over the objections of Lebanese politicians."
CANADA: "The Other 'Occupation'"
The conservative National Post opined (2/17): "It doesn't really matter whether Mr. Assad was behind Mr. Hariri's death: His killing has already focused world attention on Syria's two-decade-long occupation of Lebanon. Over the past year, the U.S. and other Western nations--including, to its credit, France--have been pressuring Syria to withdraw its troops.... There is almost nothing published about Syria's far more brutal treatment of its Arab neighbour. It is the same appalling double-standard that caused much of the world to ignore Hafez Assad's butchery within Syria, Algeria's civil war and the slaughter in Sudan: Too often, Muslim-on-Muslim violence and hegemony is treated as the natural order of things. Thankfully, Middle Eastern Muslims are beginning to debunk this bigoted strain of conventional wisdom. In Iraq and the PA--the two Arab lands under Judeo-Christian 'occupation,' it bears noting--free elections have recently produced democratically accountable leaders who oppose violence. Perhaps the surest proof that a culture of democracy is starting to take hold is that victims of suicide bombers who struck on Iraq's election day are being hailed as martyrs. It is gratifying to see that Mr. Hariri is getting the same treatment: His murder has brought thousands of ordinary Lebanese people into the street, many demanding political reform and an end to Syria's colonial presence. Given the Middle East's new political climate, we wonder how long Mr. Assad will be able to endure this backlash.... Far from intimidating leaders of the anti-Syrian groundswell, Hariri's slaying will only empower them."
"It's Time We All Said, 'Syria Out!'"
Marcus Gee commented in the leading Globe and Mail (2/16): "The U.S., already unhappy with Syria over its consistent support of Middle East terrorism and suspected backing of Iraqi insurgents, is using the occasion to call again for Lebanon to be freed from foreign occupation. Paris, showing rare accord with Washington, is demanding justice for Mr. Hariri.... But the loudest cries are coming from Lebanon itself. Anti-Syrian feeling has been growing since last summer when Syrian President Bashar Assad strong-armed Lebanese legislators into extending the term of President Emile Lahoud, a Syrian puppet.... The murder of Mr. Hariri, a Sunni Muslim billionaire admired for helping to rebuild Beirut after the civil war, has ignited resentment.... In the past, outside countries have tended to look the other way, reasoning that Syrian occupation was better for Lebanon than another civil war. But leaving Syria to sit forever on a sovereign country, subverting its democracy and robbing it of its independence, is no solution to Lebanon's problems.... As in so many things, the impetus for getting tough with Syria is falling on the U.S.... But this should not just be a U.S. push. The UN is on record against the Syrian occupation.... Arab nations, in particular, should put pressure on Damascus. The Arab world cries to the heavens when UN resolutions against Israel go unheeded, but Arab leaders have done next to nothing about the occupation of one Arab country by another. Arab governments that condemned Monday's attack were silent about Syria's malign role in the country, and Arab media made the unusual innuendoes about 'Zionist' responsibility for the murder--a shameful response to an illegal occupation."
The liberal Toronto Star opined (2/15): "In a savage blow to post-war hopes, former prime minister Rafik Hariri was murdered in a massive bombing by obscure extremists. The killing deprives moderates of their most influential leader.... Rather than be cowed by the bombers, the voters should honour Hariri by electing moderate leaders who believe in democracy, who can stand up to Damascus, and who are prepared to work together as he did for the common good."
ARGENTINA: "Brutal Murder In Lebanon"
Daily-of-record La Nacion editorialized (2/17): "The brutal murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri is an extremely serious episode.... He represented the possibility of putting an end to Syria's domination of Lebanon in the short term.... Hariri's murder also revives the fear that the tremendous civil war of the '80s could again burst out in Lebanon. Lastly, those who ordered his assassination...obviously want to silence the voice of the Lebanese people, something the international community should not accept. For all this, time has come to consider imposing serious sanctions on Syria.... Everything it did or abstained from doing should be taken as a real threat to international peace and security. The UNSC has been too condescending.... We have large expectations on what the Argentine position will be on this issue. The entire world is also awaiting from the UN 'balcony.'"
BRAZIL: "The Syrian Hand"
Liberal Folha de S. Paulo remarked (2/17): “Washington has accused the Syrian dictatorship of arming insurgents who operate in Iraq. It is also known that the Syrian government gives financial and logistic support to the terrorist group Hezbollah. There is in addition the suspicion that Syria possesses chemical weapons that would serve to dissuade possible Israeli military incursions in the country.... The Syrian dictatorship is isolated in the Middle East. It is allied only with Iran, with which it has just announced a union ‘against foreign threats,’ and sees in the occupation of neighboring Lebanon a way to ensure some regional influence. The assassination of Rafik Hariri reinforces the need that the UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon be fulfilled.”
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