News Release

Syria and Lebanon After Hariri Assassination

PATRICK SEALE
Available for a limited number of interviews, Seale is a British journalist now living in Paris; his books include Asad of Syria and The Struggle for Syria. Seale said today: “If Syria did indeed kill Rafic Hariri, it must be judged an act of political suicide. It exposes Syria to attack from its enemies at a time when it is already under intense international pressure. For all its faults, the Syrian regime is essentially rational. It seems highly unlikely that it would choose this moment to open another front. Although there is a strong current of anti-Syrian feeling in Lebanon, Hariri was not part of it. He had served as Lebanon’s prime minister for more than a decade under Syria’s aegis, and was seeking to mediate between Syria and the Lebanese opposition. A few days before he died, he had an amicable meeting with Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Walid Muallim. A more plausible explanation for the murder is that Syria’s enemies — far-right Christians, radical Islamists or Israel — saw an opportunity to destabilize, or even overthrow, the Syrian regime. Right-wing Christians want to expel Syria from Lebanon; Islamists have not forgiven Syria its repression of the Muslim Brotherhood; while Israel would like to weaken Syria and destroy Hizballah. Any one of these actors might have seized the opportunity to cause Syria grave embarrassment at a time when it is under U.S. pressure because of its alleged interference in Iraq.”
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SCOTT C. DAVIS
Author of the book The Road from Damascus: A Journey Through Syria, Davis said today: “The Syrian government has its failings, yet it has made dramatic progress in the last four years and may, in the end, emerge as a stable democracy more quickly than Iraq.” While in Syria and Lebanon last year, Davis met with members of Hariri’s family and administration.
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STEPHEN ZUNES
Zunes is a professor of politics and chair of the Peace and Justice Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. He said today: “Washington’s demands that Syria abide by UN Security Council resolution 1559 calling on foreign forces to withdraw from Lebanon carries little credibility in light of U.S. failure to similarly press Israel during its 22-year occupation of southern Lebanon to abide by UN Security Council resolution 425 and nine subsequent resolutions demanding the withdrawal of Israeli forces. Indeed, the Clinton administration actively discouraged Israel from withdrawing from Lebanon. Today, the Bush administration still refuses to insist that allied governments in Israel, Morocco and Turkey abide by a series of UN Security Council resolutions regarding the activities of their armed forces in neighboring countries which violate international legal norms.” Zunes wrote the articles “The Syrian Accountability Act and the Triumph of Hegemony” and “UN Resolutions Being Violated by Countries Other Than Iraq.”
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Rev. G. SIMON HARAK
A Jesuit priest and author of the books Virtuous Passions and Nonviolence for the Third Millennium, Harak is anti-militarism coordinator of the War Resisters League. He said today: “We are justifiably saddened and outraged by Hariri’s assassination. But I’ve lost track of the number of assassinations Israel has admitted to — even boasted about — in the West Bank and elsewhere. Those seem to merit at most a mild rebuke. And remember when the U.S. carried out those assassinations with the ‘Hellfire’ missile in Yemen? Our government and media gloated over it. But now that Syria is alleged to have carried out an assassination, denunciations are everywhere. If Syria is guilty, then the perpetrators must be brought to judgment. But why would an assassination by Syria be considered evil, while U.S. and Israeli assassinations are considered good? We should lead the world in consistently condemning all assassinations. We could begin by stopping it ourselves, and — dare we say it? — by bringing our own assassins to judgment.”
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JEFFERSON MORLEY
Morley writes the “World Opinion Roundup” column for washingtonpost.com. In his latest column (“Who Killed Rafiq Hariri?”), Morley wrote: “The chief suspect in the Mideast online media is Syria or its allies in Lebanon. Syria, which has 14,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, has vigorously denied the charge. In condemning the crime, senior officials quoted by the government-controlled Syria Times suggested ‘the Arabs’ enemies’ killed Hariri and some Iranian commentators charged Israel’s foreign intelligence service, the Mossad, was involved. … ‘It’s totally illogical that Syria would do it,’ said Prof. Eyal Zisser [in the Jerusalem Post], a Syria expert at the Dayan Institute for Middle East Studies at Tel Aviv University. ‘It would be such a stupid move on their part. Everyone is watching them and they don’t want to destabilize Lebanon.'”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167