Pro-Syrian forces--perhaps in coordination with Damascus--struck Lebanon today. Assassins murdered Industry Minister Pierre Gemeyal.
The AP has more:
Michael Totten sees a Syrian coup in progress:
Pierre Gemayel, an anti-Syrian politician and scion of Lebanon's most prominent Christian family, was gunned down Tuesday in a carefully orchestrated assassination that heightened tensions between the U.S.-backed government and the militant Hezbollah.
Anti-Syrian politicians quickly accused Damascus, as they have in previous assassinations of Lebanese opponents of its larger neighbor. Gemayel, 34, an outspoken opponent of the Syrian-allied Hezbollah, was the fifth anti-Syrian figure killed in the past two years and the first member of the government of Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to be slain.
The assassination, in Gemayel's mainly Christian constituency of Jdeideh, threatens further instability in Lebanon at a time when Hezbollah and other parties allied with Syria are planning street protests unless Saniora gives them more power.
The United States denounced the killing, calling it "an act of terrorism."
Saniora went on national television to call for unity and warned that "sedition" was being planned against Lebanon. He linked the slaying to the issue that sparked the crisis with Hezbollah: plans to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri before an international court.
(AP) Two supporters of anti-Syrian Christian politician Pierre Gemayel, who was assassinated in a suburb...
"I pledge to you that your blood will not go in vain," Saniora said, eulogizing Gemayel. "We will not let the murderers control the fate of Lebanon and the future of its children."
Gemayel, Lebanon's industry minister and a member of the Phalange Party, had just left a church and was traveling through Jdeideh when a vehicle in front of him slammed to a stop, causing his car to ram it, security officials said. Witnesses said Gemayel's car was also struck from behind.
Three gunmen stepped out of the other vehicles and shot Gemayel at point-blank range with automatic weapons, security officials said.
UPDATE: Abu Takla in the comments says "one more to go, not 2. If they assassinate one more minister, the cabinet is automatically dissolved, because it would lack the two-thirds + 1 it needs to be constitutional."
UPDATE: Another member of Lebanon's political cabinet, Michel Pharaon was targetted with assassination today. He survived. But if the bastards had gotten him, the government would have fallen and stage one of the coup would be over.
The Counterterrorism Blog agrees:
In fact, the timing and the murder of anti Syrian Christian Minister Pierre Gemayel should not be any surprise. Indeed for months now, anti Syrian Lebanese personalities have been under heavy physical threat. Some of them have been even shuttling between Paris and Beirut to lessen the odds of them being killed. Even French President Chirac has been pointing out about the imminent dangers and offered in some cases protection for top leaders. Also recently a list has been circulated with the names of the potential victims of Syrian terror. The most prominent politicians including Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, Fuad Siniora, Samir Gegea are rounding the top spots on the list.Syria and Iran would like nothing more than to destabilize Lebanon. A pro-Syrian Lebanon ensures that Damascus will re-occupy the country. This will put considerable pressure on Israel and the US--especially as Iraq comes apart and the Iraqi government makes overtures to Syria and Iran. At the very least, a Lebanon torn apart by civil war creates a chaotic situation in which Syria can maximize its influence.
While there's no doubt that Syria is all over this latest murder as it was in the 2005 targeted assassinations of anti Syrian activists, intellectuals and journalists, the operatives might turn out to be pro Syrian Lebanese, including potentially Hezbollah members. Indeed it's no coincidence that Hezbollah left the Siniora government ten days ago and is preparing massive street demonstrations for Thursday; Jumblatt actually thinks it's going to be part of a coup.
The assassins were one hit away from collapsing the Cabinet. Syria or her proxies will try again soon.
The West must not allow them to succeed. Otherwise, Iran and Syria will become the new hegemony in the Middle East. Expect no quarter from them.
Labels: International Affairs