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Lebanon: The Hit List, Past & Present

By Steve Schippert | February 14, 2006

Syria already feared surging and increasingly vocal Lebanese resentment.

For this reason, in 2004, the largely Syrian-controlled parliament was directed to pass legislation that extended the term of pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emil Lahoud rather than face the prospects of having the Lebanese people vote him, and therefore Syria, out of office and out of control of the government.

In August 2004, the measure was passed and Emil Lahoud’s term was extended through law passage rather than election.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, was loudly opposed to such a blatant circumvention of democracy in his country. Syria and its dictator, Bashar Assad, took note and summoned him to Damascus. Hariri emerged from that meeting pale faced and shaken, recounting later that Assad threatened him by stating that he would “break Lebanon over your [Hariri’s] head and Walid Jumblatt’s” if he did not support the move as prime minister.

On October 1, 2004, the car of Lebanese MP Marwan Hamadeh, a member of the parliamentary opposition to Lahoud, was bombed. Seriously injured, Hamadeh survived, but two members of his security were killed.

In protest of both Lahoud’s extension without election and now the attempt at Hamadeh’s life, as well as in the face of Assad’s words, Rafik Hariri resigned his post as Prime Minister on October 20, 2004. He took with him an ever-growing segment of Lebanese public opinion and support.

On February 14, 2005, Rafik Hariri’s motorcade was bombed with a Mitsubishi truck loaded with at least 600 lbs. of explosives, ripping through surrounding vehicles and buildings. Hariri was killed, as well as twenty others, including the former Lebanese Minister of Finance, Bassel Fleihan.

To all but the most ardent supporters of Syria and Assad, the responsible party was clear. Under both Lebanese public pressure and that from the international community, Syria began to pull its troops back from western Lebanon, redeploying to the Bekaa Valley along the eastern border with Syria.

The pressure on Syria continued to build, and on March 14, 2005, the Cedar Revolution officially began, sweeping through Lebanon like an irresistible force. It was estimated that one million gathered in Martyrs’ Square in Beirut, and they stayed in a scene reminiscent of that in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. This time, however, it was the army that backed down, as Syria officially withdrew its troops to behind Syrian borders. It is suspected, however, that their intelligence apparatus remained largely intact.

On June 2, 2005, the first attack in a coming wave of attacks hits Beirut, as anti-Syrian journalist Samir Kassir is assassinated in yet another car bombing. The wave of silencing the critics not silenced by the horror of the Hariri assassination commences, targeting specifically the public opinion-influencing voices of anti-Syrian political leaders and journalists.

Less than three weeks later, the son of the murdered Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, Saad Hariri, leads an anti-Syrian electoral ticket to a parliamentary majority in Lebanese elections.

Two days later, on June 21, a message. Former communist party leader George Hawi is assassinated with another car bomb.

On July 12, Defense Minister Elias Murr survived the first assassination attempt on anyone with any history of Syrian support. Murr survives, but two of his security detail are murdered. It was widely speculated that Syria feared Murr’s potential testimony to the UN commission investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri, now in its third month of operation in Beirut.

On September 25, another anti-Syrian journalist, television host May Chidiac, is the target of an assassination attempt, again via car bomb. She survives, but is seriously wounded and maimed, requiring the amputation of limbs destroyed by the force of the blast.

On October 12, barely two weeks before the UN Commission submits a report to the UN Secretary General on the findings of the investigation, Syrian interior minister Ghazi Kanaan is found dead in his office. Officially labeled a suicide by the Syrian regime, Kanaan was the long-time strong arm for Assad in Lebanon and was arrested and questioned by the UN’s Mehlis investigation. He knew everything there was to know about the level of Syrian involvement in the assassination of Rafik Hariri and subsequent others. It has long been suspected that Kanaan had ‘assistance’ with his suicide.

On December 12, 2005, Gibran Tueni was assassinated in a massive car bomb the day after he returned form Paris, where he stayed in fear for his life. Tueni was not only a popularly elected anti-Syrian Minister of Parliament, but he was a journalist who also owned and ran one of the most widely read newspapers in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Fauod Siniora, asked the UN to expand their investigation of the Rafik Hariri assassination to include the subsequent wave of assassinations and attacks on anti-Syrian figures in Lebanon.

Fearing the collective voice of the long-dominated Lebanese people, Syria trusted that they could once again terrorize them into submission. But the strong-armed extension of President Lahoud’s term and the brutal assassination of one of Lebanon’s most beloved, Rafik Hariri, served only to harden the Lebanese resolve.

The Lebanese people asked openly, “Syria, who is next?”

That is a question many have speculated on. ‘The List’, as it is known, following a pattern recorded into the history of 2004 and 2005, consists of various additional anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and journalists, including Saad Hariri, who has just returned from a self-imposed exile for the same reasons as the late Gabril Tueni: Fear for his life.

One version of ‘The List’, as suggested by the US Department of State:

  • Walid Jumblatt
  • Saad Hariri
  • Marwan Hamadeh
  • Nayla Mouawad
  • Wael Abu Faour
  • Samir Franjieh
  • Elias Atallah
  • Farid Makari
  • Marcel Ghanem
  • Ali Hamadeh
  • Fares Khashan

So, as Lebanon marks the first anniversary of the Valentines Day murder of Rafik Hariri, the Lebanese people walk nervously yet defiantly forward, determined to address the differences that still divide them without the interference of the heavy hand of Syrian violence and control.