Why France killed al-Hariri
– Lebanon 24/2/05
Ahmed Abdul Kareem Al Nabulsi
It was the U.S. who had brought and financed al-Hariri from Saudi, working in direct opposition to the mainly French backed Christian groups such as the Brigadiers, Phalange and ’Quwat al Lubnan’. By financially investing in and solving the nation’s immediate problems of education, food, employment and economy, the U.S. helped al-Hariri attain broad popular support. Furthermore the U.S. made al-Hariri directly responsible for the French backed opposition and Christian groups to rapidly lose their influence within Lebanon and consequently be deemed as the ’persistent causes of instability and economic stagnation.’ Thus the French fully knew that al-Hariri’s supposed anti-Syria stance, resignation as Prime Minister and plans to form a new opposition party were under U.S. guidance. By using al-Hariri’s popularity and setting up a new opposition party loyal to the U.S., al-Hariri was concocting a strategy for the May elections to have the Lebanese detract away from one U.S. faction (Lahoud’s government) to another (Hariri’s new opposition party). Thus America’s hegemony would be maintained while at the same time further eradicating any French influence as well as withdrawing the Syrian troops in line with the U.S. instigated Taif agreement. The French had even acknowledged al-Hariri’s insidious role through their Batroun MP Butros Harb (who is also a member of the Christian opposition Qornet Shehwan Gathering) when he commented “I think Hariri’s position is still between the opposition and the government”.
Accordingly the French tried to establish a strong opposition to both Hariri and Lahoud with its own man in France, Michel Aoun. But on Wednesday, February 9th, the exiled former army commander was informed that he would not be allowed back into Lebanon until May - after the parliamentary elections. Thus the delay of his trial by the Lebanese government was a deliberate ploy by the U.S. to thwart any potential French aspirations. This also came when after only a few days prior Aoun had held talks with the Beirut candidate and member of the Christian opposition Qornet Shehwan and the Gathering’s Gebran Tueni to discuss opposition alliances for the elections. Stated Aoun, “We are definitely making efforts to have a joint opposition list in Achrafieh, Beirut, with Tueni, in addition to nationwide lists with all the opposition.” Thus it was apparent that the French were planning a serious attempt at retrieving some influence within Lebanon. In an indirect response to this attempt Condoleeza Rice commented during a Paris News conference on Saturday February 12th, “It is not acceptable that Syria would continue to be a place from which terrorists are funded and helped to destroy the very fragile peace process in the Middle East or to change the dynamics of events in Lebanon.” The latter part of this comment was a clear warning to the French not to interfere within Lebanon’s internal situation…but the French had other ideas.
Al-Hariri’s assassination by France was aimed at preventing the American plans for a U.S. loyal opposition group and instead paving the way forward for a French faction to take the lead in the fight against the U.S. Lahoud government. Only days after the assassination former prime minister Gen. Michel Aoun audaciously announced from France, that he would return from exile before the parliamentary elections to launch his own candidacy. Even on the day of the assassination Jaques Chirac instantly called for an international investigation swiftly before the U.S. or the U.N had made any official comment. It was apparent that the French desperately wanted to internationalize the situation thus focusing on the remaining opposition groups in Lebanon (who still have strong links to the French) and the sectarian rifts within Lebanon. In response the U.S. tried hard not to make any official accusations and played down the ’international investigation’ by referring the matter to the United Nations knowing that making the issue boil over would only re-emerge sectarian differences the U.S. had tried so hard to resolve.
In addition the French have led the calls for an immediate Syrian withdrawal by pushing for the international accusation of Syria. This is a clear attempt by the French to disrupt the U.S. plan for the region of which al-Hariri was to play a pivotal role. As for this U.S. plan:
Firstly it must be noted that it was the U.S. themselves that were behind the Syrian intervention in Lebanon. Maurice Dipper, Henry Kissinger’s aide in Middle-Eastern affairs, stated: “We invited the Syrians to enter Lebanon; had it not been for us, they would not have entered. I personally partook in the decision of making them enter Lebanon and in the agreement according to which they entered.” The United States had used the Syrian presence in Lebanon to maintain a sectarian equilibrium, thus preventing one sect from intimidating the others. It was also aimed at undermining the political milieu in Lebanon, who had collaborated with France and Britain, thus giving the upper hand to the political milieu loyal to America. Thus the recent calls from the U.S. for the withdrawal of the same Syrian forces it pushed to intervene are for several reasons:
a) Firstly the U.S. need to convince the ’Israeli’ public opinion of peace with Syria in order for the final stages of the peace process to go through as well as to solve the issue of the Golan Heights and eliminate the Syrian (U.S.) backing of the Hizbollah.
b) Furthermore a Syrian withdrawal in accordance with UN resolution 1559 will further pressure and emphasize to ’Israel’ to act concurrently upon their own UN resolutions and avoid being seen as the obstacle of ‘peace’.
c) Thirdly the U.S. acknowledges that the composition of Lebanon has changed and is no longer a Christian majority. The U.S. therefore desires a Syrian withdrawal to challenge and change the ‘National Pact’, (the unwritten agreement on the distribution of power which is in line with French interests and gives the Presidency to the Christians). The U.S. vision is for the Lebanese to focus on adopting democracy and not sectarianism as a basis for the ruling system thus in turn consolidating further the American influence and culture within the region. One of the ways to achieve this and accordingly remove an obstacle to the Peace process is to push for some of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to be fully integrated. With the U.S. fearing opposition from ‘Israel’ with regards to footing the bill for the return of the Palestinian refugees, the U.S. desire some of the Palestinian refugees being part of Lebanon thus changing the mainly French backed Christian percentage to a greater Muslim majority. Of course this would destroy any French aspirations of ever having any future role within Lebanon. Consequently the U.S. instigated Syrian withdrawal would have left al-Hariri in power to continue loyally serving his master.
What the French have achieved by assassinating al-Hariri, is that the U.S. no longer has a main opposition rival to Lahoud. Thus should the French push for an immediate Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon it will leave the U.S. having to rethink certain issues and plans. Even the U.S. response to this is clear as they try and use stall tactics by having Syria suddenly referring to the Al – Taif agreement, which calls for the withdrawal of the troops but doesn’t give any immediate date for it. What this assassination showcases is that while George Bush is touring Europe, the back slapping and smiles cannot hide the deep rifts between Europe and America. Even Britain with its Foreign Minister Jack Straw commented on how Syria was under “high suspicion” thus adding to the burden of how the United States will allow a Syrian withdrawal while at the same time consolidating its influence. Al-Hariri’s death was the retaliation of an attempted major operation to radically change Lebanon and remove all of the Christian opposition and in turn all of the European influence. It was this American cause that al-Hariri was burnt alive in a ball of blazing fire for. In a recent interview Baha Hariri (son of al-Hariri) stated in Arabic, “everyone knows who killed al-Hariri”. He then paused and deliberately continued in French, “isn’t it obvious?”
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