Sunday, June 26, 2005


More on the Hariri assassination and the destabilization of Lebanon

In a story that would be funny if it were not so grim, potentially leading to civil war, Brian Whitaker reports in the Guardian on the assassination of Lebanese fixer Rafik Hariri. The Fitzgerald Commission report is on the web (this particular site has a hint of the scent of Bushco subsidization, but no matter) Most observers, including people like Robert Fisk and Juan Cole, seem to think there's a good chance the assassination was conducted by Syrian intelligence. The Syrians did threaten Hariri, did control the security forces in Lebanon, and did not use those security forces to protect him. Certainly a main beneficiary of his assassassination was the US, which forced Syria to withdraw from Lebanon, so the US has to be considered a suspect. However, Hariri was one of those businesspeople who manage through underhand tactics to accumulate enemies even more rapidly than wealth, so no one can be ruled out. The basic facts seem to be these: (1) Hariri was killed by a truck bomb. "The explosives - about a tonne of TNT - were also 'most probably' placed under a grey tarpaulin on a white Mitsubishi Canter pick-up truck, built in 1995 or 1996." (2) The bomb was probably detonated manually "Three of the Mercedes [in Hariri's convoy] were using high-powered signal jamming devices, intended to prevent bombs being detonated by remote control, at the time of the final journey. " (3) Hariri varied his routes. The route the convoy took was communicated to the lead car only six and a half minutes before the bomb exploded. "Intercepting Hariri's convoy with an explosives-laden truck in the Beirut traffic would have been a tricky business, almost certainly requiring knowledge of the convoy's intended route." For reasons that are extremely far from evident, the commission investigating the hit is convinced that only a state, not a terrorist cell, would possess the resources for such an attack. That's what Bushco said about the bin Laden attacks, as you will recall. At least based on the evidence presented publicly, this attack required (a) one pickup truck, (b) one ton of TNT plus detonators, (c) two cell phones, and (d) a little luck, not the massive finance and military precision the Fitzgerald Commission claims. (4) "Little more than half an hour after the explosion a man speaking in 'poor Arabic, or just pretending to have poor Arabic' called the Beirut office of al-Jazeera television with a statement saying: 'The Nasra & Jihad Group in Greater Syria claims responsibility for the execution of the agent Rafik Hariri, in the name of the oppressed, the Nasra and the Jihad.'"... "A little later, Reuters news agency also received a call from a man described as 'using a false Palestinian accent'"... [and claiming responsibility for the bombing for the same group]... "At 2.19pm a man speaking in 'very good Arabic', phoned al-Jazeera and said a tape could be found in a tree near the UN building in Beirut....[after a short comedy of errors, the tape was found] The tape showed a bearded young man claiming responsibility for the assassination..." (5) The bearded man was recognized as a 22 year old, unemployed Palestinian named Ahmad Abu Adas. He was religious, but not militant. Syrian-controlled "Lebanese security forces who raided his home seized 11 video tapes, 55 CDs, one floppy disc and a computer hard drive." The computer hard drive had "subversive" material on it which the Lebanese security forces said must have been downloaded from the Internet. His home had no Internet connection. Whitaker suggests that the Lebanese security forces may have loaded it onto the hard disk, but that would probably be evident to even the most cursory inspection. Also, if Adas wasn't deeply involved, why did he make a tape claiming responsibility for the attack? Why did the "Nasra & Jihad" group pretend to speak bad Arabic? Why did they claim they made the attack on behalf of "greater Syria?" Watch this story. If Lebanon blows up, as could happen with the heavy hand of Syria off the lid, the consequences will reverberate throughout the region.
Your point #3 really caused me to raise my eyebrows:

(3) Hariri varied his routes. The route the convoy took was communicated to the lead car only six and a half minutes before the bomb exploded.

To me, this has the reek of "inside job". If the convoy had remote-signal jammers, they certainly also had ways to communicate that couldn't be picked up from outside, such as cell phone signal encryption.
Well, this is an interesting point. There are three ways that a conversation could have been intercepted:

1) If it was an inside job,
2) If someone overheard the conversation (it's unclear how the order was communicated to the lead car), or
3) Someone had ultrafast decryption gear, as might theoretically be possible if you were hooked up to the Puzzle Palace.

Or maybe it wasn't necessary to intercept the conversation. Suppose you know the next stop on the itinerary. You set a half dozen trucks with a ton of TNT and a willing driver along each of the possible routes. The lucky driver gets the mortgage paid off on the family farm. When you have a lot of unemployed 22 year old Palestinians, you don't need fanatics, just a good HR recruiter and an attractive financial package.

I don't see where the Fitgerald Commission has actually considered some of the possibilities that don't involve state sponsorship.
Exactly. When your own life is pretty miserable and you know that at least your kinfolk can profit from your death, driving the suicide truck looks ever-more-attractive.

But the whole thrust of BushCo/PNAC has been state-sponsored terror. Look at Condi -- her field of alleged expertise is the Soviet Union. It's one reason (well, besides greed) why they wanted to believe (or at least get us to believe) that Saddam was behind 9/11.
Oh, and since none of Saddam's conventional-weapons stockpiles were secured, think of the hundreds of tons of explosives floating around for terrorists to use -- explosives that under Saddam's rule were watched over by UNSCOM and kept under seal.
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