Mossad, the CIA and Lebanon
The assassination of Rafiq Hariri: who benefited?
By Bill Van Auken
17 February 2005
The US media has responded predictably to the assassination of former
Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, echoing the bellicose threats of the Bush
administration against Syria and amplifying unsubstantiated charges that the
regime in Damascus was the author of the killing.
Leading the pack was the Washington Post, which editorialized on Wednesday that “The despicable murder of Mr.
Hariri benefits no one outside the rogue regime in Damascus—and the world should respond accordingly.”
The editorial acknowledged that the “crudeness of the
killing and the denials by the government of Bashar
Assad will cause some to wonder whether it has been
framed for a crime it may have desired but did not
commit.” But the Post hastened to assure its readers that
the assassination was “the panicked act of a cornered
tyrant,” terrified by the forced march to democracy which
Washington has supposedly initiated in the Middle East
with the recent elections in Iraq and the Palestinian
“Crude” is the appropriate designation for the Post’s
arguments, which amount to nothing more than war
The newspaper’s charges are both unsupported and nonsensical. Their transparent purpose—much like the
stories about Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction”—is to promote the policy of aggression which the Bush
administration is pursuing in the Middle East.
The Post’s brief against Damascus is based on the well-known detective’s maxim: to discover who committed a
crime, ask the question, “Who benefits?” Washington’s newspaper of record asks the question in order to supply
its predetermined answer: “the rogue regime in Damascus.”
But precisely how has Syria benefited from the murder? Its immediate concrete consequences are mass
demonstrations organized by anti-Syrian political forces in Lebanon demanding that Damascus withdraw its troops
from the country, a ratcheting up of Washington’s threats of anti-Syrian military aggression, and the prospect of
Lebanon descending into civil war.
That the assassination of Hariri would produce such consequences—all of them extremely threatening to the
Syrian government of Bashar Assad—was hardly unforeseeable. Whatever else may be said about the Baathist
regime in Damascus, it is committed to its own survival and its leaders are not insane.
What of the acknowledged doubt—summarily dismissed by the Post—that the Syrian regime is being “framed” for
a crime it did not commit? Curiously, the newspaper gives no indication of who might be responsible for such a
frame-up. Here, however, the question of “who benefits” is definitely worth pursuing.
The powers that most clearly stood to advance their strategic aims by having Hariri assassinated and blaming the
crime on Syria are the US and Israel. Among those who play the game of speculating who organized the car
bombing in Beirut, the smart money is undoubtedly on Washington and Tel Aviv.
Under pressure from Washington, the United Nations Security Council passed
Resolution 1559 last September, demanding that Syria withdraw its troops from
Lebanon. This political fact sheds light on the decision of the White House, before
the blood on Beirut’s streets had dried on Monday, to issue a statement blaming
Damascus. This entirely unsupported charge was followed by instructions to
Washington’s ambassador to slap the Syrian regime with a demarche and leave
In the midst of Washington’s provocative moves against Syria, for which the killing of Hariri supposedly provided
justification, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice declared, with consummate cynicism, that the US was making no
presumptions as to the authors of the crime. “We’re not laying blame,” she said, “It has to be investigated.”
The US media went beyond adopting an uncritical attitude to the US response, treating the bellicose statements of
the Bush administration as though they constituted, in and of themselves, some kind of proof of Syrian culpability.
“US Seems Sure of the Hand of Syria,” read the headline in the New York Times. NBC’s Middle East correspondent
wrote that the recall of the US ambassador represented “the first indication that the US knows something about
Syrian involvement in the assassination attempt.”
It indicated nothing of the kind. Rather, it suggested that Washington was
prepared in advance to seize upon Hariri’s death as a pretext for escalating its
threats against Damascus.
The Bush administration has in place extensive plans for military action against
Syria. Unable to crush the resistance in Iraq—and unwilling to acknowledge
that it is a manifestation of popular hostility to the US occupation—the
Pentagon has long accused the Syrian regime of harboring a “command-and-
control” center of Iraqi Baathists that is supposedly masterminding the attacks
on US forces. The logic of the US colonial venture in Iraq, far from Bush’s
fanciful talk of burgeoning democracy throughout the Middle East, leads to new
wars of conquest against any and all regimes that fail to collaborate with
Various Middle East “security” experts have been quoted in the media describing Syria as “low-hanging fruit” in
Washington’s military pursuit of hegemony in the region. The regime is viewed as isolated and vulnerable.
Washington also hopes to use the assassination to pursue French support for US strategic aims in the Middle
East. France, the former colonial power in Lebanon, has its own fish to fry, and joined the US in supporting the UN
resolution demanding a Syrian troop withdrawal. Secretary of State Rice urged closer collaboration in her visit to
Paris earlier this month, calling for an end to the divisions provoked by the US war in Iraq.
The maneuvers against Syria manifest as well the unprecedented coordination of US and Israeli policy in the
region. Damascus is a primary target because it has provided sanctuary to Palestinian groups that have opposed
Israel, including the Islamist organization Hamas. It has also failed to curb the growing influence of the Lebanese
Shiite movement, Hezbollah, which forced Israeli troops out of southern Lebanon after 20 years of occupation. It is
hoped in both Washington and Tel Aviv that either forcing Syrian troops out of Lebanon or carrying out “regime
change” in Damascus will undermine Hezbollah’s position and open the door for renewed Israeli control on both
sides of its northern border.
Tel Aviv calculates that the expulsion of Syria from Lebanon or the toppling of the Baathist regime in Damascus
could bring to power a Lebanese government more amenable to Israeli demands. In particular, both want Lebanon
to grant citizenship to the estimated 400,000 Palestinian refugees inside that country, a move that would effectively
abrogate their right—never recognized by Israel—to return to the homes from which they were expelled in the
course of the creation and expansion of the Zionist state.
The timing of the assassination, barely a week after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced their truce in Egypt, is noteworthy. It is quite possible that any limited
concessions the Israeli regime may agree to make as part of the “peace process” with the Palestinians will be
repaid by Washington giving the green light for Israeli provocations and military actions against Syria.