Tuesday, June 21, 2005

So... why Hawi?


I was talking to Firas (member of this blog), and we came to an agreement that Syria is most likely behind this assassination, and will probably kill more people in the near future.

In our discussion, we tried to answer two key questions:

1. Why Hawi?

because he is a person of national prominence, yet without much national following. Therefore, although his assassination would definitely "shake" the Lebanese, it would not lead to a mass outpouring that would unite the country in outrage. Both Firas and I agree that individuals with such characteristics are the most likely targets for future assassinations.

2. Why the assassination?

Well, basically, we see the assassination as a response to the electoral results in the North. The Syrian regime is sending a message to the victors that they have the will and the ability to cause instability in Lebanon.

Their ability is derived from the Lebanese security apparatuses that remain intertwined with their Syrian counterparts, as well as all the other political institutions that the Syrians managed to create during their 15 year stint in the country. Their will is the consequence of the simple fact that the electoral results from the North have effectively expelled the Syrian regime from the Lebanese parliament.

Today, the Syrians have been expelled from Lebanon in the following manner:

1 - the Syrian military has left Lebanon
2 - the Syrians, as I just mentioned, have effectively been expelled from the Parliament

Syrian influence in Lebanon remains in the following manner though:

Economic - I haven't heard of any major economic interests being dissolved. Such an initiative could have taken place behind the scenes, but thus far I have not heard one story about what has happened to the economic interests of some of Syria's top-ranking Ba'athists in Lebanon. A very good example of how the regime appears to be exerting economic pressure comes from a daily star article that stated that Syria has yet to sell natural gas through the pipeline it built to one of our power stations in the north. Whether that "glitch" is a blessing or a curse is not so clear, but one would think that after a pipeline is built, the logical thing to do would be to start using it.

Security - The security apparatus remains untouched. After more than 15 years of being a sister institution, it is extremely difficult for me to believe that members of the Lebanese security apparatus have become independent of the Syrian apparatus in a matter of months. Most high and middle-ranking members probably have personal contacts with their Syrian counterparts, as well as solidified relationships which are most likely based on past favors, etc.... It is hard for me to imagine that these individuals have broken their bonds and all of a sudden become adversaries as is the norm in relationships between security services of two sovereign states.

Political - Syrian presence remains in other non-parliamentary political and even societal institutions. Labor unions, and non-security bureaucracies are prime examples of institutions in which individuals may have owed their positions to Syrian intervention on their behalf.

Now that the Syrian regime has been expelled from the country military, as well as from the national parliament, it appears to be exerting its power in Lebanon through the mechanisms and institutions where its influence remains. The assassinations appear to be a message to the victors of this electoral round:

"If you don't concede to some of our demands, expect instability and chaos."

I believe that some intense negotiations are taking place between the opposition and the Syrian regime as I am typing up this post; and I fear that the opposition is going to have to concede to at least some of the Syrian demands. Reforming institutions takes time (a lot of time) and both the opposition as well as the Syrian regime know that very well. Syria's message to the opposition is simple:

"we'll sell you the time you need to reform your institutions by not creating chaos, but it will come at a hefty price."

I can only imagine what that price may be. Maybe Berri was part of that package. I don't know... but unless there is some sort of an agreement, I believe that the killings will continue, and might very well escalate.


Doha said...

To add to the last point on your speculation around the price: Perhaps I believe that part of that negotiation-deal might be Hizbullah??? After the elections, the French and American ambassadors are out and about again touring politicians' houses talking about that second component of 1559 (Hizbullah's disarmament). Syrian and Hizbullah interests are at stake. Destabilization means that the invisible hand is still around us, which justifies keeping arms with Hizbullah. Hawi is a personality that is not that anti-Syrian (was not provocative), leading many to start speculating that it might be Israel. Right? Even the secretary of the Communist Party speculated that it might be Israel. But we're not going to be fooled.

Plus, what was Berri doing in Tehran few days ago? The last thing I read of the trip was Iran's assertion that Lebanese affairs are local affairs. But again, I don't think that Hizbullah's disarmament will come to us on a silver platter. Impossible! The same goes for the Syrian intelligence influence.

Back in the old days, you had officers of even lower ranking in the Syrian army who commanded authority and power in Lebanon, by virtue of their suit. Many of them are entrenched on the local level, settling disputes, doing favors and asking for favors as well. Are we naive to think that this all has disappeared? Are we naive to think that their allies/supporters/friends in Lebanon have cut ties completely with them? I believe those low ranking officers (who might even have the Lebanese nationality) have gotten orders to settle their own scores as they see fit. So perhaps Hawi angered a guy some time ago, now he can just get rid of him.

Once I read that in warfare, commanders might announce the end of a battle, yet those on the ground might continue battling it out, as orders did not get to them. Another insightful fact is that when commanders in the center call for full deployment of their army, it is difficult to call it quits, it's that point of no return, wherein the war will be waged no matter what...that's what a soldier does and will not stop short after deployment....

Doha said...

Correction of last sentence: when commanders in the center call for full "mobilization" (not deployment).

JoseyWales said...

Totalitarianism wreacks destruction on everything: freedom and rights of course, economy, education, culture, morals etc...

In Lebanon, it will take a very long time to repair the damage. And in a sense we are luckier than Syria and Iraq and other hell holes, where the grip has lasted longer and was tighter.

Why Hawi? Probably vendetta and signal to Syria's enemies (including Syrian reformers).

So Hawi RIP. He redeemed himself to some extent by changing some of his positions and working for Syria's ouster. But it also has to be said that he bears some responsibilty in the intent destruction of the Lebanese state that has led to where we are today.

We need historical accountabilty and, now more urgently, plain accountabilty. We are not sure who is doing this, but we know for sure whose job it is to stop it and/or to bring the killers to justice. The Prez/PM/Interior Minister/high ranking officers: all of these people should be under DAILY pressure to solve these murders (or ONE, ONE in the past 30 years!!) or GO.

Anonymous said...

First I agree with the reasonning that syria is behind it,

However there is a point you make that I didn't quite get.

> the Syrians, as I just mentioned, have effectively been expelled from the Parliament ...
> Syrian presence remains in other non-parliamentary political and even societal institutions.

I don't really understand this, they have lost the majority in the parliment, do you mean to say that the Syrians lost all their influence over Hizbollah and Amal in the parliment ?
How come ? Why ?

Anonymous said...

About the economic interrests, even from before the war, everytime there has been some tension in the Lebanese-Syrian relationships the Syrians would start giving people hard time to let merchandise go through the border which in turn affects Agricultur and other sectors ...
I am sure they'll be doing the same this time.

Raja said...

Anonymous 9:24, I think that Hizballah’s and Syria's interests should not be perceived as one and the same. I see Iran as Hizballah's main patron, not Syria; and although those two countries do seem to be in concert at the moment, they definitely do not share similar interests. As for the rest of parliament, you’re right. There are some Syrian influences left, but they are relatively marginal and their room for maneuvering has decreased substantially. I don’t think that their presence is enough to make the claim that Syria still controls or even has substantial influence over that particular political institution.

Anonymous said...

I really really hope their interrests have divereged :-)

Malek said...

How about pure psychological pressure?
You can be amazed what that can do to a nation. Whoever perpetrated this crime wants to shake our new found confidence, feel that we are still under a shadow, still calculate every single move we make, hamper our freedom of action, not fully trust the politicians we voted for.
Whoever perpetrated this crime directed it at the voter and not the politicians. The politicians know better. What the perpetrators are scared of more than anything is 1M people going to the street, feeling empowered by the fact that their vote counts.
I expect to see a lot of that all along the course of the new parlement, the intent is to create an environment of suspicion, and hamper the relation between politicians and their bases. The message is you can't fully trust anyone because there are higher hidden authorities out there that are watching.
One of the biggest casualties of this election was the fact that the opposition lost its mobilization force. In my opinion, this more than anything hampered the march to baabda. And they will do anything to prevent it from regaining that force, the most lethal weapon that defeated them.
An environment of confusion serves the interest of damage control and time buying in order to change course and strategize.
Any insights anyone? I'm still thinking this through..

Raja said...

Anonymous 11:07, Iranian sources told Al-Hayat on Feb. 21, 2005 that "Iran will support Syria in its confrontation with Israel, but it is not prepared to support Syria's presence in Lebanon because, in Iran's opinion, Lebanon's sovereignty is [more] important,"