Across the Bay

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Syria and Samir's Murder

As this report about Kofi Anan sending Terje-Roed Larsen on a surprise visit to Damascus (to remind the Syrians to fully abide by UNSCR 1559 and dismantle their security apparatus left behind in Lebanon) suggests, it seems that many are placing Samir Qassir's killing in a more Syrian context.

This is shared by this op-ed by Ghassan Tueni, and this piece by Hassan Fattah (and perhaps the remark by Jumblat about Rustum Ghazaleh and assassinations the other day, instead of focusing solely on Lahoud).

Taking into consideration the manifesto of the Baath conference today, in conjunction with recent developments in Syria over the last few days (the killing of a Kurdish sheikh, the testing of Scud missiles), I too am beginning to wonder whether Samir's assassination was indeed a Syrian move. The message, as a friend put it, would be that "we won't allow Lebanon to again become, as it was in the 60s, a platform asking for change in Syria." Samir was a symbol of that, as he believed that regime change in Syria was essential for democracy in Syria and Lebanon. In fact, it wasn't only Samir. An-Nahar itself has been publishing scores of critical Syrian writers and activists. Given the manifestation of defiance and intransigence at the Baath conference, this makes even more sense.

Yet, many, like Michael Young (see piece below), are not willing to rule out a domestic Lebanese calculation. Indeed, it is not inconceivable that Lebanese security personnel operated on their own initiative. Although, as a friend put it to me, one would think that such a move, "would be bound to embroil Syria with the Americans and others" (indeed, see Anan's move) so even in that scenario, the Syrians probably had some role, even if (at minimum) only passive support.

The way a friend and I figured it is that we all thought the Syrians would burn their way out of Lebanon. We were all surprised at how quickly they got out (not their leftovers of course). So, we figured, this is but a delayed confrontation. A reminder, that it's not that easy. Bashar is intent on maintaining Syria's pan-Arab regional agenda (Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories). In fact, that policy is how the regime maintains internal stability and legitimacy. So it should come as no surprise.