Syria is a convenient Fall Guy for Gemayel’s death
Date: Thursday, November 23 2006
by Jonathan Cook
Nazareth. Commentators and columnists are agreed. Pierre Gemayel’s assassination must have been the handiwork of Syria because his Christian Phalangists have been long-time allies of Israel and because, as industry minister, he was one of the leading figures in the Lebanese government’s anti-Syria faction. President Bush thinks so too. Case, apparently, settled.
Unlike my colleagues, I do not claim to know who killed Gemayel. Maybe Syria was behind the shooting. Maybe, in Lebanon’s notoriously intrigue-ridden and fractious political system, someone with a grudge against Gemayel -- even from within his own party -- pulled the trigger. Or maybe, Israel once again flexed the muscles of its long arm in Lebanon.
It seems, however, as if the last possibility cannot be entertained in polite society. So let me offer a few impolite thoughts.
As anyone who watches TV crimes series knows, when there is insufficient physical evidence in a murder investigation for a conviction, detectives examine the motives of the parties who stood to benefit from the crime. Better detectives also consider whether the prime suspect -- the person who looks at first sight to be the guilt party -- is not, in fact, being turned into a fallguy by one of the other parties. The murderer may be the person who benefits most clearly from the crime, or the murderer may be the person who benefits from the prime suspect being fingered for the murder.
As most of our politicians and the media’s commentators have deduced, suspicion falls automatically on Syria because the Christian Phalangists are one of Syria’s main enemies in Lebanon. Partly as a result, they have opposed recent attempts by Syria’s main ally in Lebanon, the Shiite group Hizbullah, to win a greater share of political power.
They are also -- and this seems to clinch it for most observers -- part of the majority in the pro-American government of Fuad Siniora that supports a United Nations tribunal to try the killers of Rafik Hariri, an anti-Syria politician and leader of the Sunni Muslim community, who was blown up by a car bomb more than a year and a half ago.
After all six Shiite ministers walked out of the Siniora cabinet two weeks ago, and now with Gemayel’s assassination, the government is close to collapse, and with it the tribunal that everyone expects to implicate Syria in Hariri’s murder. If Syria can “bump off” another two cabinet ministers and the government loses its quorum, Syria will be off the hook -- or so runs the logic of Western observers.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 24, 2006]