Via Snapped Shot. They’re not 100% sure yet that it was a political assassination but Fox just broke in to say the shooter was a sniper. If the Syrians are behind it, it’s both par for the course and incredibly stupid, coming as it does two days before Hezbollah is set to take to the streets to try to “peacefully” topple the government and four days before that super-keen, let-the-healing-begin summit between Iraq, Syria, and Iran. And at a moment when even people like Tony Blair are urging us to talk to Damascus.
In fact, this is so stupid that I’m thinking it might be too stupid even for Assad. What’s going on here?
Update: Syria restored full diplomatic relations with Iraq yesterday for the first time in almost 20 years. Now that they’re working the diplomacy angle in Baghdad, maybe they figure they can afford an assassination or two in Beirut? I’m at a loss.
Update: It’s not entirely clear from the article if the whole sum came from Iran or just part, but Hezbollah’s deputy secretary general claims they’ve received $300 million since the war with Israel. Purely to help repair Lebanese infrastructure, mind you.
Israeli intelligence says they also have more rockets now than they did before.
Update: Saad Hariri, whose father’s murder instigated the Cedar Revolution, is blaming Syria.
Update: At the scene.
The Lebanon Daily Star: “Witnesses said Gemayel was shot in his car in Jdeideh. The witnesses said a car rammed Gemayel’s car from behind and then an assassin stepped out and shot him at point blank range.” It’s the fifth political assassination in Lebanon in the last two years.
Update: With tensions between Hezbollah and the government about to come to a boil, there might be some added symbolic significance here:
His grandfather, the late Pierre Gemayel, led the right-wing Christian Phalange Party that fielded the largest Christian militia during the 1975-90 civil war between Christians and Muslims…
Pierre was a rising star in the party and expected to carry the mantle of the political family.
Update: Greg Tinti points to this piece published early this morning by Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Daily Star, on the significance of the UN’s investigation into the Hariri murder. His timing is impeccable to the point of prophesy:
Last Friday, the U.N. Security Council approved a draft plan for a mixed Lebanese-international court to try those responsible for Hariri’s assassination on Feb. 14, 2005. Damascus, the main suspect in the crime, is palpably anxious…
Hezbollah and its allies want enough ministerial seats so they can veto decisions they dislike that go to a cabinet vote. By so doing, they can continue to protect Syria in the Hariri investigation, and also block the majority’s policies that they don’t like. A final U.N. report is due out on Hariri’s killing in the coming months (the chief investigator, Serge Brammertz, has until mid-2007 to publish his findings), and Hezbollah fears that any accusation against Syria might also be turned against itself.
All this has significant repercussions for the U.S., particularly after the Democratic midterm elections victory. Syria never accepted its forced withdrawal from Lebanon last year, and has worked tirelessly since then to reimpose its writ here. Now there is new hope in Damascus: Influential American voices are suddenly suggesting a reversal of course toward Iraq’s neighbors…
Wherever one stands in the spectrum of U.S. foreign-policy thinking, the Hariri tribunal is a mechanism that should satisfy all… That’s why events in Lebanon are so important. Syria’s Lebanese allies are trying to undermine the Hariri investigation from within, and are expected to escalate their efforts very soon, maybe even this week. It makes no sense for the U.S. to hand them more ammunition by prematurely transacting with Mr. Assad before the U.N. completes its task and assigns responsibility for the assassination.
Among the Lebanese cabinet ministers who voted recently to support the UN tribunal: Pierre Gemayel.
Update: Assad is shocked, shocked.
Update: It’s shortly after noon on the east coast and the protests have already begun in Lebanon.
Update: Siniora is defiant:
“The killers do not scare us, not does the vile hand that wants to hurt Lebanon’s future,” Siniora said in his speech at the government building in Beirut.
“This attack on one of Lebanon’s symbols of freedom,” he added.
“This attack against a symbol of freedom in Lebanon will only make us more determined to hold on to the liberty and independence of this homeland… and more determined to set up the international court, the tribunal that would stop the criminals and is the means to protect all Lebanese,” Siniora said.