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Syrian Coup in Lebanon Nears Success

As Syria and their client Hizballah continue their march on a coup in Lebanon, the assassination of Lebanese Cabinet Member and Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was not the only development yesterday.

Another anti-Syrian Lebanese Cabinet member, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Michel Pharaon, was the target of a second assassination attempt yesterday. Though the attempt failed, it represents an undeniable pattern of a renewed bid to eliminate anti-Syrian members from positions of Lebanese power. Minister Pharaon’s offices released a statement saying “The office of the state minister for parliamentary affairs, Michel Pharaon, in the Ashrafieh neighborhood was the target of gunshots today from gunmen in a white Suzuki car.” The gunmen riddled the offices with gunfire and sped off. Pharaon is a Greek-Catholic Christian MP in the cabinet.

The Syrian/Hizballah alliance needs the resignation or assassination of just two more members of Lebanon’s cabinet to force the dissolution of the government under Lebanese constitution, which requires that the cabinet contain at least two-thirds of its members to function. Should the coup bid succeed, Hizballah will seek to seize enough seats to wield a majority vote in the cabinet or at least enough for veto power. This would then coincide with the power of the pro-Syrian president Emil Lahoud and pro-Syrian Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in order to blunt the anti-Syrian majority in the full parliament.

Anti-Syrian Lebanese reject the idea of a Hizballah-controlled government as both the invitation of renewed Syrian occupation and a government at the mercy of a terrorist organization willing to instigate war with the powerful Israelis as demonstrated over the summer. Such views were echoed by Mario Loyola, who said in a column today, “Elections cannot lend legitimacy to a party that claims the right to place its own law above the law of the land — much less to a party willing to destroy the country in the furtherance of its goals.” It’s goals are a Lebanese state in the model of Iran’s theocratic Islamic Republic and, ultimately, the destruction of Lebanon’s Israeli neighbor.

With the assassination of Gemayel and the attempt on Pharaon in one day revealing accelerated Syrian movement in the coup bid, anti-Syrian leader Walid Jumblatt openly questioned whether Speaker Nabih Berri would convene the Lebanese parliament to approve the International Tribunal proceedings that would try suspects in the February 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

The principal Syrian motive beyond the restoration of its grip on Lebanon is the avoidance of any Hariri tribunal, a proceeding that would openly try members of the Syrian regime for suspected roles in the 2005 assassination. “They can do anything, because his only fear, Bashar’s, is not to be indicted somewhere by the tribunal,” Jumblatt said.

With only two cabinet members needed to be eliminated by any means, the anti-Syrian Lebanese ministers move with extreme caution as the whole of Lebanon steels itself amidst the persistent tension of looming conflict and fears of a renewed civil war.