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10/21/2005
REACTION TO THE MEHLIS REPORT
CATEGORY: Middle East

Rather than my usual habit of simply updating a post to detail other reactions by blogs to the same story, I’ve decided to go ahead and devote an entire post on reaction to the Mehlis Report regarding the Hariri assassination.

The MSM has given the story front page treatment. The New York Times leads with the supposedly embargoed information that President Bashar Assad’s brother in law Syria’s military intelligence chief, Asef Shawkat has been implicated in the plot to kill Hariri.

I find it interesting that the State Department would ask that the information be censored while knowing that it would probably leak anyway. According to the “diplomat” quoted in the story, Assad himself may be on the ropes as a result of this obviously botched conspiracy. If so, State may be trying to head off a coup d’etat:

“There is evidence in abundance,” the diplomat said. “But to get every piece of the puzzle they need more time.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of what he described as the extreme sensitivity of the matter.

Mr. Shawkat is considered the second most powerful man in Syria and has been seen as a likely candidate to take over the country if the embattled Mr. Assad were removed from office.

The diplomat, describing Syria as a “country run by a little family clique,” said the involvement of any one in Mr. Assad’s inner circle would be a severe blow to the government.

“There is absolutely no doubt, it goes right to the top,” he said. “This is Murder Inc.”

By implicating Shawkat, State has cut the legs from underneath any cabal that would wish to overthrow Assad. You’ve got to believe that no one in Syria wants an international criminal as President. Also, relations with Syria are at an extremely delicate point now and publicizing the fact that Assad’s relation is directly responsible for murder would complicate any diplomacy that’s going on. Besides, it’s a nice club to hold over Assad’s head not to publically humiliate him by having his brother in law named as a murderer.

The Washington Post talks about the impact the report might have on the international community:

The findings have been eagerly awaited by U.S. and European officials. Along with a second U.N. report on Lebanon due in days, key members of the Security Council hope to use the findings to increase pressure on the Assad government to end years of meddling in Lebanon and to generally change its behavior both at home and throughout the region, including ending support for extremist groups.

That last may be wishful thinking as Assad needs those “extremist groups” to project his power in Lebanon as well as bother the state of Israel.

The Washington Times takes a different approach, highlighting the potential unrest in Lebanon that the report could engender:

Lebanese police and soldiers have been deployed throughout the capital to maintain order in an increasingly tense environment.

Many Lebanese fear a revenge campaign by Syrian soldiers or loyalists.

“Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge,” wrote Detlev Mehlis, a German criminal investigator and head of the U.N. panel.

The theme of Lebanese reaction is taken up by Michael Totten:

Lebanon this morning was quiet and subdued in the wake of the news. Automobile traffic is down. Foot traffic is down even more. Downtown Beirut is eerily silent. Military checkpoints have been beefed up substantially. Armored vehicles and heavy artillery are set up in front of potential targets. I noticed some hotels won’t allow cars to enter their parking lots without first having bomb squads check under the chassis with mirrors for bombs. But I saw that last time I was in Lebanon, in April, and I’m unsure if this is a resumed policy or if it has been in place the whole time. I will say that I haven’t noticed it on this trip until now.

I did see a number of large old white people with hats and cameras wandering around downtown. Perhaps a cruise ship just deposited them blissfully unaware into a frying pan.

Global Voices has reaction from from bloggers inside Lebanon:

The Lebanese Blogger Forum came to this Conclusion:

There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, could not have been taken without the approval of topranked Syrian security official and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services.

While the Lebanese Political Journal says:

The streets of Beirut are incredibly quiet. The last time I experienced this was the day after Hariri was assassinated when no cars roamed the streets. Today, is not like that day, but the city is in an unusual state.

The Captain points out that the report will finally get some action against Syria in the Security Council:

This UN report does make it almost impossible for the UN Security Council to dither any longer on this issue. The US-French effort to push devastating sanctions onto Assad’s narrow shoulders should continue apace, and perhaps the report might even convince Russia and China to step aside and withhold their vetoes and protection from Assad. Dictatorships can’t act this stupidly and still expect their allies to unquestionably endorse them forever.

Now if we could only get them to move on Iran’s nukes…

Joe Gandelman has a good analysis highlighting more MSM reaction.

And Mark Noonan puts the report in perspective:

Last week we noted that Syria’s Interior Minister, - and former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon - Kanaan was reported to have committed suicide in his office. Given that the UN investigation - for what it was worth - was coming to a head and was bound to show clear Syrian, and especially Kanaan, involvement in the murder of a Lebanese politician, I thought the suicide rather convenient

Kanaan’s “suicide” must be seen in this light. Perhaps the Interior Minister was contemplating turning on his collegues. Or perhaps someone thought he told Mehlis’ people too much. Either way, he was a danger to someone, probably Shawkat.

In this way are minor annoyances dealt with in Assad’s Syria.

By: Rick Moran at 10:22 am
2 Responses to “REACTION TO THE MEHLIS REPORT”
  1. 1
    A Blog For All Trackbacked With:
    11:41 am 

    What’s the UN Supposed To Use? Harsh Language?

  2. 2
    clarice feldman Said:
    4:14 pm 

    Tell me again why the bureaucrats like Wilkinson and lying Joe Wilson who thought we should maintain the status quo is the ME were right and the President who said nuts to that, was wrong..

    Tectonic shifts are taking place in an area of the world which most threatened peace. And Bush is never given credit for his bold and correct assessment of what needed to be done.

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