Friday, March 16, 2007

Update: Lebanon

David Schenker of Counterterroismblog debriefs the latest (7th) report on the Hariri murder:

Based on forensic findings, it is “highly unlikely” that Abu Adass was the bomber.

The Commission added a new motive to the reasons why Hariri was killed: In the last months of his life, Hariri was focused on the 2005 elections and in particular, the draft electoral law, including the redrawing of constituencies. This newly discovered possible motive should be added to wider context (see paragraph 53 of the report), which generally suggests a leading Syrian role.

Many believe that Syria was trying to reconcile with Hariri when he was assassinated. The Commission has a working hypothesis that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement, leading to a situation where “two tracks…were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives, and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway.” (See paragraph 63).

As for the investigation into the assassination of member of Parliament and An Nahar editor Gebran Tueni, the Commission believes that a remote detonated IED was responsible for the murder.

The Commission has 104 persons currently working full time staffing the investigation bureaucracy, and has budget for up to 188 staff.
A longer piece by the author reviews the dicey ground and significant 'nation building' hurdles still facing US-Lebanon policy:

The change in focus has been profound. Once a backwater of American foreign policy interest, Lebanon today is at the forefront of the Bush administration’s Middle East agenda. ...

And just weeks ago in its fiscal year 2007 supplemental request, the administration asked Congress to approve some $770 million for Lebanon to meet Washington’s Paris donor conference pledges. When this is approved, Lebanon will become the third largest recipient of US assistance per capita. Before the Cedar Revolution, Washington provided some $35 million per year to Beirut.

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