Ten remarks about a murder

Posted in Broader Middle East | 13-Dec-05 | Author: Hichem Karoui

Lebanese mourners carry the coffin of slain anti-Syrian journalist and legislator Gibran Tueni, in front the Lebanese parliamant house, during his funeral procession, in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday Dec. 14, 2005.

1- If those who killed the prominent Lebanese journalist and lawmaker Gibran Tueni are the same than those who faxed to Reuters the message saying “the same fate awaited other opponents of Arabism in Lebanon”, then Arabism is in a very bad position, for after islam it is now its turn to be charged of all the crimes that occur, true or illusory. Moreover, the message of the so-called “Strugglers for the Unity and Freedom of the Levant”- a group so far unknown – suggests that Tueni was an opponent to Lebanon’s arabism, which is a grave distortion of the reality, as the man was one of the best arabic writers indeed . Yet, it seems that what was intended actually by the term “arabism” is “Syrianism” – perhaps even baathism . Tueni made no secret of his opposition to Syria’s influence in his country, though. That was almost all what he had to be accounted for concerning this topic. Otherwise, he refused to confound arabism with syria or the Baath as he refused the confusion between Syria and Lebanon, which some people in the region hold as “the Great Syria”.

2- As it is still difficult to verify the authenticity of the message, and further to link it to a real group responsible of the murder, Damascus sounds to be the suspect number 1.

3- Those who perpetrated the assassination ostensibly expected such a result: that Syria be the suspect n°1, because in the absence of evidence, such would be the “obvious” issue. Tueni was very aggressive towards Syria in his writings. The latest of his stories was asking the international community for investigating the perpetration of a genocide in Lebanon by the Syrians (the collective graves of ‘Anjar’).

4- Too much “obviousness” pointing out to Syria is neither the evidence that Damascus is the mastermind behind the murder nor the evidence of the opposite, though. For once, the classic detective question for whom the crime is profitable? is either too obviously applicable to Syria, or does not fit at all the Syrian case.

5- The previous question seems to be quite applicable to Syria, because it is against its influence in Lebanon that Tueni was fighting, and he was not the less powerful of its opponents. Thus, some inside the Syrian intelligence nomenklatura might have thought that Tueni had to be silenced.

6- Yet, because precisely of that “obvious interest” in silencing one of the most influent opponents to Syria, the question does not fit in the Syrian case, already oveloaded by grave charges concerning al Hariri murder, and singled out by the Bush administration as relatively responsible of the terrorists’ infiltration across the borders to Iraq. All of which made of Syria an eventual “next target”, on the agenda of the US military establishment, as many Arab observers contend.

7- Two ways of behaviour might thus be chosen by the Syrians: the first is to try a way out of the Lebanese quagmire, after pulling out their troops, by trying to gain credibility with the Bush administration, somehow like what did Gaddafi when he bargained peace and stability for his regime against giving up his program of non-traditional weaponry. This choice is however dependent on Washington’s good will. And the latter does not seem in a hurry as to accept such a deal, unless a package including a deal with Israel is admitted.

The second, is a hardline new turn emphasizing the traditional positions of the most extremist wing of the Baath party, concerning all the issues at stake: internal and external. Such a choice would find indeed its denfenders among the die-hards of the party.

8- Since the first choice implies conciliation, compromise and flexibility, it is unlikely that those who defend this approach would accept to jeopardise their choice with such practices as political assassinations and other dirty meddlings and obscure involvements with regional politics.

9- It ensues that if the judiciary investigation proves any connection between Syria and the assassination of al former Prime Minister Hariri and Gibran Tueni, such a result would imply also a de facto victory of the hardline wing of the Baath party, rejecting any compromise or any concession to the US administration and deeply convinced of the necessity to avenge the Syrian “humiliation “ in Lebanon, not to say anything of what is thought to be an “arab humiliation” in Iraq, in Palestine and in the Golan.

10- If none of these hypotheses seems easy to prove, there is indeed another that has been pointed out since the first hour following the murder: Many parties want actually Syria to be accused and punished, among them, Israel. Those who defend this hypothesis, say that the current regime in Damascus is a real thorn in Sharon’s foot. The latter has been able to get rid of Arafat but did not find a way to isolate Assad. Syria is still present as an influent actor in the Arab system, and although its President is connected to the Baathist ideology not very acceptable in the Gulf and other Arab countries, he has still the ear of some powerful heads of State, such as king Abdallah of Saudi Arabia or Husni Mubarak of Egypt. This situation, say the defenders of the Israel hypothesis, has to be changed for the convenience of Israel: nothing could thus afflict the Syrian image more than a series of murders victimising those among the Lebanese elite known to be opposing Syria.

Hichem Karoui