Thursday, September 11, 2008

Political messages Lebanese style

Ynet News carries a report of another politico assassinated in Lebanon:
A bomb tore through a car in the hills east of Lebanon's capital on Wednesday, killing a Druze politician from a pro-Syrian party, police said. The bomb that killed Sheik Saleh Aridi, a senior member of the Lebanese Democratic Party, was planted under his car in the village of Baissour, police said.

It was the first political assassination in about a year in Lebanon and came less than a week before planned reconciliation talks among rival Lebanese factions. The official National News Agency said the bomb went off just as Aridi was getting into his car near his house in the Druze-populated hills near the resort town of Aley. The report said five men and a woman were injured. Police had no further details, as investigators arrived and troops sealed off the area. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of government regulations.

The bomb's target was unusual - a politician in support of Syria, a nation that had long dominated its politically fractured neighbor. A string of bombs have largely targeted politicians opposed to Syria's influence in Lebanese affairs, starting with the Beirut truck bombing that killed former Premier Rafik Hariri in 2005.
Those attacks were blamed by many on Syria, though it has denied involvement Lebanon's political standoff between pro- and anti-Syrian factions boiled over into fighting in Beirut and the Druze hills east of the capital in May.

The innate problem of politics in Lebanon is that it is a dog’s breakfast for conspiracy fetishes. The 9/11 Troofers have nothing on politics as usual in Lebanon. Most normal countries have a postal and/or telecommunications network which politician can utilize to send messages. Lebanon has all that but the political class in Lebanon prefers the old fashion car bomb route to send political messages.

So the question becomes a guessing game of who sent the bomb and what is the message.

As western outsider, you can be forgiven for making a blanket assumption that anti-Syrian forces within the country were targeting a Pro-Syrian Druze politician in the first blush of judgment. But you should take into account Sheik Saleh Aridi’s political boss, Talal Arslan, has recently entered into a kind of d├ętente agreement with rival political Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt – who just happens to be the uber- person non grata to both the Syrians and Hezbollah.

In fact, Hezbollah’s attack on Lebanon’s Druze community lead directly to the kiss and make-up of the Druze fractions this past May. This could be a message to Arslan from the Syrians, Hezbollah or from rival fractions within Arslan’s own party to move away from Jumblatt – as in pronto - now.

Or it could be a political culling between conflicting Druze fractions. Or it might be a Syrian message to pro-Syrian Amal leader Berri not to get too chummy with Jumblatt or suffer a similar fate as Aridi. It is rumoured that Jumblatt and Berri were trying to forge a third way coalition out of the political impasse which is Lebanon. Or Aridi just might have made the wrong deal with the wrong people. Go figure – ‘cause my head is spinning.

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