Syria Feels the Heat: Brian Whitaker

I've told myself I would take a break from blogging. Between my life, Iraq, and Lebanon, I've been really upset, angry, and feeling like I have to continue pushing my opinions out there so a few others may hear them. More and more important things and interesting/forceful articles like Neal McFarquhar's seem to come along lately. Another reporter I've long admired has published an article for the Guardian tomorrow. I seldom like to post such large parts of articles, but I see there's a lack of good articles that summarize the last month in simple and concise language. Whitaker does it marvelously in this article. Of course, it's not the entire picture. But if you're reading about Lebanese politics for the first time, it's a great place to start if you'd like to get some context. Here's a tease:

Kofi Annan will present the findings of United Nations investigators later this week, and they are likely to challenge the initial theory that Hariri was killed by a suicide car bomber.

The balance of evidence appears to point to the explosion being caused by a bomb under the road - a method that some analysts are suggesting points conclusively to Syrian involvement.

In Beirut, though, the pro-Syrian authorities prefer to focus on a possible Islamist connection, in particular a white van which was captured on the closed-circuit television cameras of a nearby bank.

Another camera, at the Phoenicia hotel, which might have had a better view of what happened, went out of service a couple of weeks before the blast and repairing it proved unusually difficult.

The Lebanese have been reluctant investigators from the start. The Syrian-backed president, Emile Lahoud, was eager to fill in the bomb site, re-asphalt the road and get the diverted traffic moving again as soon as possible. It was only when the interior ministry intervened that he had second thoughts.

The UN report may also give the first official indications whether the Lebanese tried to cover up what happened.

In the absence of hard information, theories about what happened have been highly politicised, with the pro-Syrians advocating an Islamist car bomb, while the anti-Syrian opposition suspect a meticulously prepared underground explosion.

There are several pointers to a bomb placed under the road. One is that workmen dug a hole there a few days before. Another is that the blast appears to have travelled along the sewers, damaging pipework in a building nearby.

Whatever the actual method, making a bomb to kill Hariri needed careful planning and a lot of expertise.

His Mercedes was similar to one that had ensured the survival of Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, in a bomb attack. It was heavily armoured with a titanium/steel alloy and also had an electronic jamming system designed to frustrate a remote-controlled detonation as well as disable mobile phones in the area.

Theories circulating in Beirut are that an underground bomb must have been triggered by wire from nearby, or alternatively that Hariri's electronic defences were sabotaged so that the bomb it could be triggered remotely.

I've put it below Rampurple's post because it's less important than voting abroad. Cheers!

Ouff ouff ouff...Jehnin'it!


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