June 13, 2007

Another Assassination in Lebanon

By Michael J. Totten

Lebanese Member of Parliament and Chairman of Parliament’s Defense Committee Walid Eido was assassinated in West Beirut’s Manara district, along with his son and four other people. This was just down the hill from my old apartment.

Charles Malik emails from Beirut:
This one was too close. I was 50m away. Human flesh landed in our cafe next to Luna Park. We felt the heat of the flames, and the smoke surrounded us. The Army, Amn a Dakhle, and Amn al Aam were incredible. They were there immediately, secured the scene, and got the cars out of the parking lot.

I was initially horrified that they targeted children's play areas: Luna Park, the Nejmeh Club, and the surrounding beaches. Then I found out that they targeted Eido because they knew that his son swims at one of the beaches near there every day.

I'm still shaking.
Lebanon needs another tribunal, or something a little more muscular, if they don’t want a regime-change in Beirut by process of one-by-one elimination. Eido (of course) belonged to the anti-Syrian March 14 bloc.

UPDATE: Tony Badran published perhaps his 100th in a series of stories about yet another diplomat who went to Damascus to "engage" Syria and came home disappointed. If Tony's blog were required reading this wouldn't keep happening.

Those who "engage" tyrants for a living need to pay more attention. The Syrian regime has had the same modus operandi almost as long as I have been alive. It's time to catch up.

UPDATE: Abu Kais asks "Is someone going to declare war on the Assad regime?"

Lebanon is certainly entitled to do so (although doing it alone would be suicidal). Syria has been at war with Lebanon for 30 years, and with Israel for even longer. Syria is also at war with the United States and Iraq. It's amazing what third-rate fly-blown dictatorships get away with these days.

UPDATE: This is as good a time as any for everyone from Nancy Pelosi and James Baker to George W. Bush and Ehud Olmert to re-read Barry Rubin's The Truth About Syria.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 13, 2007 11:02 AM
Comments

Nancy Pelosi sure does have some swell pals. LOL.

Posted by: Carlos at June 13, 2007 11:14 AM

The paradigm w/Syria has to change and one of the ways of effecting a change is to make peace w/Israel. Lebanon and Israel could become the financial-technological powers in the ME. The pox with Baby Assad or his possible replacement: the Muslim Brotherhood.............

Posted by: diana at June 13, 2007 11:21 AM

I see no way out of the Syrian noose for Lebanon unless it literally begs the U.N. for a stronger and more aggressive military mission. Alliance with Israel to take out Assad seems out of the question not just because it would shock the Arab World but because "peace"-oriented Olmert probably won't do it. The Turks won't intervene because they are busy with Iraqi-based (but Syria-armed?) Kurdish rebels, the U.S. won't intervene because they are busy in Iraq fighting Syria-supplied terrorists. Everybody else is either part of the UNIFIL effort or completely useless.

Posted by: Solomon2 at June 13, 2007 11:46 AM

Only meeting force with force will deter Syria. This all feels like LOTR. Lebanon and Israel, countries (kingdoms) that should be friends, but are not. Hezbollah, the enemy within who has been corrupted by the evil nearby. Etc. Tolkein knew what evil was and how it presented itself, no?

Anyways, I don't see anyways out for Lebanon. The UN is incapable of helping, the US population is unwilling, note you wouldn't need the US to deploy full force, just enough that any aggression would be caisus belli, with either Hezbollah or Syria. The US wins when the terms are direct engagement and not politics and proxy war. Regardless the US politicians (and public) won't go for it. Who else is there? Saudis, Turks, Egyptians? Their forces are busy suppressing their own populace, it's what they were built for. I do agree Israel was the only chance, some sort of mutual defence treaty against Syria; and formal declaration of Hezbollah as persona non grata. Lebanon would have paid a high price for standing up to Hezbollah, but theoretically they could.

Better to call for help from possible friends, and fight for yourself, rather than have the enemy pick you off one by one.

Posted by: Brendan at June 13, 2007 12:35 PM
Alliance with Israel to take out Assad seems out of the question not just because it would shock the Arab World but because "peace"-oriented Olmert probably won't do it.

Olmert won't last. Bibi is coming. Would Bibi put the hurt on Syria? Perhaps.

Posted by: MattW at June 13, 2007 12:36 PM

Would it be beyond the capabilities of the Lebanese government to inflict similar attacks on Syria's leadership? It'd certainly focus Assad and Co's attention.

Posted by: MattW at June 13, 2007 12:41 PM

What else is there? In a conventional fight, the LAF cannot fight Hezbollah, Syria and the palestinian camps all at the same time (or even one of those). No-one else seems to have an appetite for doing the job. Diplomatic and economic pressure have more or less gone since Pelosi's visit and Olmert's overtures. That leaves either accepting terrorism, assasination and subversion, or returning the favour.

Posted by: MattW at June 13, 2007 12:48 PM

Syria could be fought using the same method we (may possibly) be using against Iran - weakening it. Destroying these regimes creates problems, it's better to slowly bleed them. Target their intelligence, their economy, disappear key members of their governing class...

The US was able to defend the Kurds against Saddam's aggression for years without going to war. The Kurds had to provide some of their own defense, but the Lebanese seem to be more than willing to do that.

Maybe they could also deal with Hezbollah's tangerine factories

Posted by: mary at June 13, 2007 01:00 PM

Yah, I was at the scene of this one about an hour after the explosion. The place they blew up is on the route which I jog 4 or 5 times a week -- bastards. It's a nice area: by the water, lots of cafes, lots of children. You would really have to not care about human life in the slightest to bomb it.

I'd like to write some great finishing point, or describe some lesson learned from this, but there really isn't one. Just an awful tragedy. Another anti-Syrian MP killed. But if you still needed evidence about who is behind these attacks, I don't think you'll ever be convinced.

If you guys are interested, my editor and I slapped up a piece here (http://www.nowlebanon.com/NewsArticleDetails.aspx?ID=3710), and I wrote some more notes on my little adventure here (http://davidbkenner.com/2007/06/notes_on_the_dead.html). Enjoy (though that's not quite the right word).

Posted by: David Kenner at June 13, 2007 01:18 PM

More bad news. Shim`on Peres was just elected president of Israel, not by the people but by the Knesset [parliament]. Peres is a peacemonger from way back. He has been trying [through the Peres "Peace" Center that he controls] to promote "dialogue" with Syria. He works with flunkeys such as one Alon Liel. If you hear about this Liel character speaking in favor of "peace" with Syria, then you ought to know that he is Peres' flunkey. The good news is that Peres does not seem to be in good health. He may be entering the oyver buttel state, that is senility. Hence he may not last for the full seven-year term. Just how any of these idiots, whether Pelosi or jim baker or S Peres or Diliberto [the Italian Communist now in the cabinet], think that they can "engage" Assad and wean him away from Iran is not clear to me. Funny, isn't it, that jim baker seems to converge in his policies with the Communist Diliberto? People often wonder about the intricacies and absurdities of "Levantine" politics, especially in Lebanon. How about the absurdities of American policy in the Middle East as propounded by jim baker, jimmy carter, Condi Rice [Riso Amaro], Nancy and Harry Reid?

One thing that friends of either Lebanon or Israel could do would be to expose the creeping senility of Peres.

Posted by: Eliyahu at June 13, 2007 01:42 PM

I think I should have written Massimo d'Alema, Italian foreign minister, instead of his cabinet colleague, Oliviero Diliberto. By the way, both d'Alema and Diliberto are Communists, but they belong to different Communist parties. For all I know, Diliberto too may have visited Damascus. But d'Alema did so most recently, so it seems from Tony Badran's blog.

Last summer, d'Alema visited Beirut and spoke of Hizbullah as if it were Lebanon, as if it were the highest degree of Lebanese existence. Friends of Lebanon ought to complain to the EU that there is a majority in Lebanon that is NOT Hizbullah.

Posted by: Eliyahu at June 13, 2007 02:03 PM

Whoa! Totten shore has a lot to write about these days!

Posted by: Kevin at June 13, 2007 02:23 PM
Lebanon is certainly entitled to [declare war on Syria] do so (although doing it alone would be suicidal).

Deniable terrorism, subversion and assasination. Keep the declarations out of it and play them at their own game.

Posted by: MattW at June 13, 2007 03:24 PM

The pres of Israel is pretty much a figurehead -- he has no real power.

You guys keep blaming Pelosi, but not James Baker -- and oddly, not the GOP! "In [late March] Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Robert Aderholt (Ala.), Joseph Pitts (Pa.), and Darrell Issa (Calif.), visited President Assad in Syria, breaking with the White House.

"I don't care what the Administration says on this. You've got to do what you think is in the best interest of your country. I want us to be successful in Iraq," said Rep. Wolf. Rep. Aderholt stated, "This is an area where we would would disagree with the administration. None of us in Congress work for the President." Rep. Darrell Issa, an Arab-American with a history of visits to the region, praised the dialogue and said it "will go on continuously and constructively."

Then there's the CIA outsourcing torture to Syria -- at least they hire the very best -- which doesn't happen for nothing, I imagine. Then there was Sen. Specter, a Republican, going in December. There was the State Dept officer for Refugee Affairs applying for a visa to visit Syria in March with the administration's OK.

Not to hijack the thread, but you act like you believe your narrowly partisan horseshit, as if there's a meaningful difference. 3 nuts in the morning, 4 in the afternoon? or 4 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon -- and you'd go to war over it!

Both parties are self-serving, greedy, corrupt, ill-informed appeasers and would sell their mothers to Asad for a big enough campaign contribution. They both certainly would sell out Lebanon and Israel. Hell, hard-core GOP Baker will be the first one to put them on the block.

I detest Olmert, but I doubt he's really serious about talks with Syria. As always, he has his eye on the European reaction and not on how best to protect Israel, and the Euros were openly getting bothered that 'The Israelis' weren't even willing to talk when that nice Mr. Asad (doesn't he look so much like the late Uncle Adolph?) -- was bending over backwards to reach out. Once Bush started sending Staties to talk, including Condi's efforts, Olmert had no excuse to refuse.

Posted by: Pam at June 13, 2007 03:34 PM

"Then there's the CIA outsourcing torture to Syria -- at least they hire the very best -- which doesn't happen for nothing, I imagine."

By outsourcing do you mean sending Syrian prisoners to Syria? Would you prefer they spend that time in Gitmo?

We should blow up Assad's homes. If anybody asks who did it we can just deny it like the Syrians always do.

Posted by: mikek at June 13, 2007 04:41 PM

Nextarines, Mary... not tangerines!!

Buit seriously, I don't know if there is a bomb that has been built that could take out the bunkers I saw... the Hezbollah engineers basically find a suitable mountain and dig in sideways and down, so the main living quaretars are under the deepest, deepest part of the mountain. No Bunker Buster yet built could get that deep, and the bunkers were all metal constrictions encased in reinforced concrete... and there were blast doors all the way through the tunnels (see the video clip)....

A Fuel Air Explosive could, maybe, work.... but you'd have to get just the right spot, and the bunbkers I saw had two entrances hundreds of metres apart....

Posted by: Microraptor at June 13, 2007 04:51 PM

I was initially horrified that they targeted children's play areas...
Yeah. Arab terrorists targeting children. Alert the media; there's news.

Posted by: Joel Rosenberg at June 13, 2007 05:15 PM

I disagree with the sentiment that declaring war and moving things into the open is suicide. It certainly would be painful, but doing nothing is clearly suicide. The Syrians and Hezbollah jerk offs will bleed the March 14 coalition until it is too weak to stand up further - or - until new bribeable leaders come to power. At that point everyone who would bare the burden of open war will bare it anyways, except there will be zero chance of help, since the "democratically elected officials" ask for a return of "Syrian peace keepers"; and the violence will subside, at least news of it will, and the yolk of tyranny will be placed upon the rest of the Lebanese once again.

If they want to deal with the Palestinian refugees, de-gheto-ify them. Integrate them. Spread them out evenly amongst the non-Hezbollah groups. On the upside the integrate and are absorbed. On the downside, they are surrounded by watchful eyes. Keeping them in the camps strengthens their ability to blackmail the country.

Its fine to say "they have no chance" - but to expect the Americans or Europeans to do something is foolish. Sometimes you have to reject the status quo and risk all. Easy for my spoiled American butt to say, I know, but what real other option is there? America had to fight the Revolution and Civil Wars - at great cost, to be America. Neither seemed like easy fights, and both at times appeared hopeless. (Check out 1776 around September.)

Posted by: Brendan at June 13, 2007 05:40 PM

It's amazing what third-rate fly-blown dictatorships get away with these days.

Not just these days... try the last three decades.

The cold war is over. Why are we treating third-rate despots as if they were still Soviet vassals who could call Moscow for help if we went after them?

Posted by: rosignol at June 13, 2007 05:47 PM

Buit seriously, I don't know if there is a bomb that has been built that could take out the bunkers I saw

If fire won't work, water might - mixed with sand, gravel and conglomerates?

Or, Hezbollah's bunkers could be used to store organic waste - the most sturdy septic tanks in the Middle East.

Posted by: mary at June 13, 2007 07:04 PM

"Thanks, Nancy"

-Walid Eido's remaining family

Posted by: sherlock at June 13, 2007 07:22 PM

"In [late March] Republican Reps. Frank Wolf (Va.), Robert Aderholt (Ala.), Joseph Pitts (Pa.), and Darrell Issa (Calif.), visited President Assad in Syria, breaking with the White House."

Then to Hell with them, too! The only reason they weren't being damned here, as you very well know, is that Pelosi's rock-star coverage in the MSM drowned out anything else. If you want me to say they are dirtbags too, okay - they are dirtbags, Republican dirtbags!! That make you feel better?

Posted by: sherlock at June 13, 2007 07:33 PM

Buit seriously, I don't know if there is a bomb that has been built that could take out the bunkers I saw

It is not necessary to destroy the structure, which is an inert thing. The real problem is the people inside it.

http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/systems/munitions/blu-118.htm

Posted by: rosignol at June 13, 2007 08:05 PM

The bunker busting was called for in Afganistan because of the severe terrain and inaccessibility of the caves to military vehicles. The bunkers in south Lebanon seem much more accessible to offensive tactics. Trying to use the busters on them would be somewhat equivalent to Ali's rope-a-dope defense. Wasted energy. A bunker can be a protective shelter or it can be a prison for those who can't get out. Play it smart.

Posted by: allan at June 13, 2007 09:48 PM

I REALLY like the fill the bunker with wet concrete approach. Think outside the box. Nuclear waste storage, too, maybe.

Republican dirtbags!! That make you feel better? Yes, thank you. It's unnecessarily divisive to think either side has a monopoly on corrupt dirtbags. Mis-focused righteous indignation accomplishes nothing. They want us accusing each other, so we don't suddenly all look in their direction.

So where's Noah, and what the heck is going on in Gaza? -- sure starting to sound like Fatah is about out of time, and that seems like a recipe for disaster for Israel -- and Lebanon. What do you think -- maybe 6 months until Hamas, Syria, and Hizbullah do a joint attack?

Posted by: Pam at June 13, 2007 11:44 PM

Why be so obsessed with bunker busting? Just scare them all in to those bunkers and bomb entrances shut.

Posted by: leo at June 14, 2007 05:59 AM

Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 06/14/2007
A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

Posted by: David M at June 14, 2007 08:05 AM

Bunkers - flame throwers. Mind you, aren't they illegal now.

Posted by: davod at June 14, 2007 09:09 AM

I couldn't agree more with Pam. The House and Senate are chuck full of traitors and we have a President who doesn't have a backbone.

Posted by: joshlbetts at June 14, 2007 09:31 AM

Just scare them all in to those bunkers and bomb entrances shut.

The Islamist/Insurgent crowd tends to build survivalist bunkers. They could live in those things for months. They probably also equip them with digging equipment, to create alternate exits.

These bunkers are also an important part of their wartime strategy, so it's a good idea to figure out how to find them and destroy everything inside during a time of sort-of-relative peace..

I REALLY like the fill the bunker with wet concrete approach. Think outside the box. Nuclear waste storage, too, maybe.

Thanks. A totally out of the box thing would be to fill the bunkers with that foam-in-a-can stuff that's used to fill flat tires. It's light to transport, it can be introduced through a small opening, it expands and solidifies quickly and it would preserve everything inside like bugs in amber.

Posted by: mary at June 14, 2007 09:34 AM

"They could live in those things for months."

We could do square dance and freilich on top of those things while we wait.

With ground shaking it will be hard to dig out due to constant collapse.

Posted by: leo at June 14, 2007 11:45 AM

Not to hijack the thread, but you act like you believe your narrowly partisan horseshit, as if there's a meaningful difference.

Pam, unless I missed a post you're the first one to bring up partisanship- no one even suggested one party was more responsible than the other before you brought it up.

Posted by: Hollowpoint at June 14, 2007 12:34 PM

I saw this on the Today Show this a.m. This segment followed a news story about the Democratic leadership trying to push legislation through to redeploy our troops this year. I'm tired of having my sons deployed, and I'm praying things stay calm while my son is in the Gulf this summer, but the cost of withdrawing right now is way too high.
I keep wondering: WHY are our government leaders letting polls determine their actions? And WHERE are the leaders who will put the country's needs ahead of partisan politics and public polls that are not accurate to begin with??

http://video.msn.com/v/us/msnbc.htm?g=d04d6cd8-af22-4e40-8286-2cf3480e3d4e&f=00&fg=

Posted by: sallyo at June 14, 2007 12:41 PM

The Islamist/Insurgent crowd tends to build survivalist bunkers. They could live in those things for months. They probably also equip them with digging equipment, to create alternate exits.

DingDingDing!

Preparing for a possible cave-in is a part of building any underground structure. Especially the type of underground structure that someone might deliberately try to cave in. One of the easiest ways to prepare is by having more than one way in and out of the bunker.

The thing about thermobaric bunker-busters is that they don't damage the structure so much as they use heat and overpressure to kill anything inside it.

-----

I keep wondering: WHY are our government leaders letting polls determine their actions?

Because it worked so well for one guy that a bunch of people are seriously thinking about voting for his wife as a way to get around the 2-term constitutional limit.

Posted by: rosignol at June 14, 2007 06:18 PM

This time everyone can honestly say that no-one but March 14th gained anything from this assasination. If the bus bombing was to celebrate the anniversary of the March 14 'Cedar Revolution', Piere Gemayel assasinated for the Tribunal etc. Now there was nothing to coincide with this bombing.

Although there was only one. That one was the announcement by Cardinal Botrous Sfeir (the spiritual leader of Maronites in Lebanon) called for a national-unity government to be formed. Hariri was going to comply with everything coming close to an agreement until yesterday happened.

GaeGae himself said "a'outho billah (I return to God) if I ever blame Hezbollah or Amal of assasinating Walid Eido" i.e. meaning it's impossible he's ever had a doubt that Hezbollah or the Amal Movement assasinated the MP yesterday. The tribunal has already been passed in both Lebanon and the UN. There is no anniversary to commemorate anything so far, and so on and so forth.

Now that this assasination happened, Syria is further alienated, the opposition's dream of having a National Unity government has been side-lined and probably even scrapped, it has emboldened the sunni's and the sunni leadership in Lebanon - alienating the shia and it's leadership for being Alies of Syria, the number one convict in every crime in Lebanon.

I believe that Syria has become so criminalised that it has made Lebanon much more vulnerable. Enemies of Lebanon - or maybe enemies of a Lebanese political party/organisation - now have a clear-cut opportunity to exploit. Now anyone can kill and terrorise and never be brought to justice because, ofcourse, Syria did it.

At the funeral procession of Walid Eido:
"Saddam, Saddam!
Omar, Omar!
My dick, Nasrallah and all of Dahieh!
We dont want sectarianism but god is with the sunnis!
USA, USA! ..."

You should see today what Walid Jumblat says, and who Walid Eido was:

Here, Walid Jumblat in Sep. 2002 expresses willingness to support a renewed term for Emile Lahud - http://www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issue=8680&article=122325&search=%E6%E1%ED%CF%20%DA%ED%CF%E6&state=true

Here, Walid `Idu in Nov. 2002, supports a crackdown against opponents of Syria in Lebanon - http://www.asharqalawsat.com/details.asp?section=4&issue=8739&article=133455&search=%E6%E1%ED%CF%20%DA%ED%CF%E6&state=true

You can translate these articles in www.google.com/t_translate

Yes, these are the two same staunch anti-Syrian critics.

Posted by: Rico at June 15, 2007 10:15 AM

Rico: This time everyone can honestly say that no-one but March 14th gained anything from this assasination.

Sorry, Rico, that's a really dumb way to analyze this sort of thing.

The biggest beneficiary of the American invasion of Iraq is Iran. That doesn't mean the United States government is an Iranian puppet.

Did Israel benefit from last year's war in Lebanon? No. But Israel did it.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 15, 2007 11:44 AM

The biggest beneficiary of the American invasion of Iraq is Iran.

How does going from the #2 problem in the ME to the #1 problem in the ME benefit Iran?

Posted by: rosignol at June 15, 2007 01:29 PM

Rosisnol,

There was a time when the US had the will to confront the trouble-makers in the Middle East. That time has passed. The insurgency in Iraq keeps the Iranian government from facing a regime-change of its own.

If Baghdad looked like Kurdistan, the mullahs would be toast.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at June 15, 2007 02:23 PM

"Did Israel benefit from last year's war in Lebanon? No. But Israel did it." MJT

Thats because it thought it could benefit. No-one can forget when Amir Peretz said that Hassan Nasrallah will never forget his name, when Olmert said the war won't end until Hezbollah is crushed and the kidnapped soldiers returned and when Halutz claimed Hezbollah will be crushed in 3 to 7 days.

Maybe you need to re-analyse that bit yourself.

Posted by: Rico at June 17, 2007 05:01 PM
Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Pajamas Media BlogRoll Member



Testimonials

"I'm flattered such an excellent writer links to my stuff"
Johann Hari
Author of God Save the Queen?

"Terrific"
Andrew Sullivan
Author of Virtually Normal

"Brisk, bracing, sharp and thoughtful"
James Lileks
Author of The Gallery of Regrettable Food

"A hard-headed liberal who thinks and writes superbly"
Roger L. Simon
Author of Director's Cut

"Lively, vivid, and smart"
James Howard Kunstler
Author of The Geography of Nowhere


Contact Me

Send email to michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com


News Feeds




toysforiraq.gif



Link to Michael J. Totten with the logo button

totten_button.jpg


Tip Jar





Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn