Hariri Killed in Huge Car Bombing in Beirut
Echoes of the bad old days reverberated through Beirut Monday when a powerful car bomb was detonated in front of the St. Georges Hotel, killing former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri and several others, and wounding dozens. Surrounding buildings took significant damage.
A shadowy and previously unknown group called “Aid and Jihad in the Lands of Syria” claimed responsibility in a videotape that I saw on al-Jazeerah. The spokesman reading the message was dressed as a Muslim fundamentalist big posters were behind him with Muslim fundamentalist slogans.
If this group really was behind the assassination, it appears to be because of Hariri’s Saudi Arabian context. Hariri had lived many years in Saudi Arabia, and was a big contractor in private business. He retained both the Saudi citizenship and the contracting business while prime minister in the 1990s and again 2000-2003. This assassination may be a spill-over into the Levant of the recent al-Qaeda-linked terrorism in Saudi Arabia
On the other hand, al-Hariri resigned as prime minister last fall in a bitter dispute with President Emile Lahoud. Both had been clients of Syria, but Syria wanted to keep Lahoud on for an extra three years beyond what was allowed by the Lebanese constitution, and al-Hariri, like many Lebanese, strongly objected to tinkering with the constitution by an outside power. Personally, I find the likelihood of the Saudi connection generating al-Qaeda-type violence against him somewhat more plausible than that it came out of local politics, since local politics had been fairly civil in Lebanon.
It is also possible, since al-Hariri was worth $4 billion and had all sorts of shady deals going on even when he was PM, that this assassination had an economic/ mafia-type background that we are not aware of.