Lebanese politics gets interesting in the wake of the assassination of former Primer Minister Harari. Mr. Harari was a wealthy and influential Lebanese politician and businessman who positioned himself as an opposition leader to the existing pro-Syrian Lebanese government. While a previously unknown terrorist group (“The Organization for Victory and Jihad in the Levant”) has claimed credit for the murder, Syria is strongly suspected to have murdered Mr. Harari. But the Arab and European media refuses to rule out the usual suspect: let’s blame the Jews! The Lebanese government refuses to sanction an international investigation, even though it is believed six suspects left Beirut and are en route to Australia.
Syria has occupied Lebanon since the mid 1970’s, and it is estimated that 15,000 to 20,000 Syrian troops remain in country. Over the course of the past thirty years, Syria has attempted to establish Lebanon as a friendly satellite nation, and has welcomed Hezbollah in country to fight against Israel. The recent assassination of the popular Mr. Harari may cause the decades of Syrian labors to crumble.
The Lebanese opposition has called for peaceful uprising and the resignation of the existing cabinet. A minister has quit his post, stating “The current government is incapable of resolving the dangerous situation in the country.” The Lebanese government cautions against public demonstrations; .” Lebanon’s Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh, however, warned the government would not tolerate public disturbances. “The state will not stand idly by,” he said.”
In a hopeful turn of events, Lebanese ministers are accusing French President Jaques Chirac of supporting the opposition; “President Chirac came to Lebanon and completely ignored the government, the president and everyone. Then, he stood to encourage the opposition to step up [its campaign].” The French were instrumental in the passage of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, which “calls upon all remaining foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon” [Syria] as well as “the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias” [Hezbollah].
Syria appears to be flustered by the Lebanese situation. President Bashar Assad, like all good dictators who fear they are losing their grip on power, has dismissed the chief of Syrian military intelligence, and replaced him with Assad’s brother in law. The Syrian government claims this was a planned move and was in the works since last summer. The timing suggests otherwise, as it appears Syria fears losing its grip on Lebanon. Couple this with Syria’s involvement in Iraq, and Mr. Assad might be a bit concerned about the survival of the current Syrian regime.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.