"BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated near Beirut on Tuesday, security sources said.
They said gunmen opened fire as his convoy drove through the Christian Sin el-Fil neighbourhood. Gemayel was rushed to hospital where he later died of his wounds.
Lebanon is in the throes of a political storm pitting the anti-Syrian ruling majority against the pro-Damascus opposition. The political tension threatens to spill into street confrontations.
Lebanon’s Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday his depleted cabinet was legitimate despite the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers, and warned that any anti-government protests could turn violent.
Pro-Syrian Hezbollah and its allies are preparing to take to the streets to topple Siniora’s government, which they accuse of being allied with the United States, arguing that it has lost its legitimacy since Shi’ite Muslims are no longer represented.
The depleted cabinet last week approved draft U.N. statutes for a tribunal to try the killers of ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri despite the resignation of six pro-Syrian ministers.
Many Lebanese blame Syria for the killing of Hariri in a suicide truck bombing last year. Damascus denies involvement. A U.N. commission investigating the assassination has implicated senior Lebanese and Syrian security officials."
This man was a fairly insignificant minister in Fouad Siniora’s anti-Syrian cabinet. His main significance is that his uncle Bashir was briefly president of Lebanon (assassinated), his father was president of Lebanon, and his grandfather, another Pierre, was founder of the semi-fascist "Phalange Party" of Lebanon. That made this Pierre a great target as a symbol.
For decades, it has been a great parlor and coffee house game in Lebanon to speculate as to who killed the uncle. Everyone has a theory. None of them are conclusive and many start with the neocon epistemological device of saying "Well, it must have been…"
The Greater Middle East is moving along on its own course, spurred on by the goad of Bush Administration interventions in its business.
– Syria and Iraq have resumed diplomatic relations. George Bush said he would be a uniter and not a divider. Here is the proof. (irony)
– Syria, Iraq and Iran are holding a "seance" this weekend to discuss how to quiet down Iraq. Bless them! (more irony). This represents yet another step in the consolidation of Iranian strength in the GME and Iraq. More "uniting!"
– I am told that Pierre Gemayel was not killed by the Aoun/Shia bloc, but rather by those who wish to delay disintegration of the present political system in Lebanon. In other words, this was a "provocation" intended to get the masses out into the streets where noise will overwhelm negotiation. (no irony at all) This may seem fanciful to many, but that really means that you do not know Lebanon.
For those who enjoy speculating about who killed Bashir Gemayel, I highly recommend this book:
“The Covenant: Love and Death in Beirut” by Barbara Newman.
(Sometimes you need a little romance to take the edge off your ME history — although this book is deadly serious.)
although both his dad and uncle were presidents of Lebanon,and his grandfather was the founder of the phalangist party Pierre Gemayel was a politician and a leader on his own.Brave,eloquent and honest.He could have played a greater role in shaping the new Lebanon.
Professor Josh Landis usually has the pulse beat. He’s out for a few days. But even his old analysis is enlightening.
In a a surprise move, Speaker Berri pronounced the remaining cabinet constitutional as long as 2/3 remained. But the next move would be the resignation of some 60 out of 128 parliament members. Observers think that would quickly lead to new elections. But the electoral law still short changes the Shiites. My feel is there will be no street violence. The Aoun-HA alliance has put the Kabosh on that.
Der Speigel has a great article of the situation and a graphic of the parliament confessional distribution by geography.
All the crap about proxy wars. Remember the British considered the American Revolution a French proxy war. At Yorktown, a French fleet had just inflicted a draw or defeat on the British (the first in a 100 years retrospectively or prospectively), the French had soldiers on the ground and all the artillery. Payback for the Seven Years War.
It could have been any Muslim in Lebanon. He wasnt very popular after his “quality v. quantity” comments which seemed to imply genetic superiority of Christian Lebanese to Muslim Lebanese.
My two cents? It was not a state or group sponsored event. There is nothing to gain by it. Syria, on the other hand, has everthing to loose.
Via TMP :
Lebanon; Not Next Month, But Now
One comment made by Col. Lang last night genuinely took me aback: Lebanon is in crisis and close to civil war. I hope to post the podcast of Col. Lang soon as well, but I have to prep for tonight’s show. In the interim go read his site and this post.
I know I am stating the obvious but this thing could really blow up into a full scale battle btwn Sunni and Shia. Things are getting very tricky now. The traditional game of draw in an outside ally is about to begin, in its active phase, once again the Lebanon. Back in the civil war days I had blackboard in my room where I drew up the ever shifting alliances and connections of warring groups. I was fascinated by the sub groups and deals made, and broken, and made and broken, time and time again. I was copying, in my own way, a teaching method of the Jesuits. I’m not making light of the immense suffering that went on. But looking at it on a board was the only way I could follow, and make sense, of the war (all things relative, given I was an outsider who did not speak the language) Perhaps it is time to get the blackboard out again.
Clearly there are folks that want a civil war in Lebanon. It would be interesting to speculate who would have the most interest.
To my naive mind, it would seem that Israel and the current backers of the March 14th group would want some form of destabilization in the hope of “international” intervention to prevent loss of power. HA it seems would prefer a one man-one vote system due to the large percentage of the population that the Shia represent. But with the murky politics in Lebanon and enormous amount of outside influence from Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, France, US, Israel, etc I suppose its anyone’s guess how the current tense situation evolves.
Pat, At the risk of playing into your hand, any chance that the Israeli secret ops carried out this assassination?
This killing certainly does play in their interests, doesn’t it? If/when Hizbullah comes to power, certainly there will be more rationale for Israel to attack Iran, no?
Pat Lang- any chance you can give us a rundown on all the different factions in Lebanon and what their aims are.It sounds very confusing for such a small country.
my money is on ‘Israel affiliated’ ‘clean-break’ entities that rubbed out Gemayel. to understand the latest assassination, all one has to do is look back to the recent past assassination of al-Harari and ‘whom’ gained from his elimination. the scrubbing of al-Harari provided the raison d’être for severing ties with Syria and transforming Lebanon into a Tel Aviv – D.C. neocons’s vassal state. Israel’s ambition has always been and continues to be surrounding itself with non-threatening states as well as affording access to the vital water resources of Lebanon’s Wazzani River.
i would say that Syria’s involvement would be near the zilch mark. one has to look at the parties who stand to gain with Gemayel’s departure from the scene. anything to upset Gates/41-ISG U.S. dente with Syria and Iran. look at who gains from upsetting their dente — the Tel Aviv and the D.C. neocons.
Who profits most by Pierre Gemayel’s death? Not Hezbollah who had planned demonstrations to advance their cause of more equal representation. Sunnis, no. Christians and Isreal to keep the status quo. Yes, Yes, Yes.
RE genetics. some Leb Xtians consider themselves Phonecians and not Arabs and not kin to their neighbors. DNA cheek swipes by a National Geographic study put the lie to that. It pretty well showed that the Xtians, Sunnites, Shiites, and even Jews are all related to each other and to the ancient Canaanites (Phoenicians).
Professor Israel Finkelstein goes one better and says forget the Exodus, ancient Judea arose from indigineous Canaaanite Hill tribes.
But Professor Salibii of the American University of Beirut has all of them beat with his Israel from Yemen theory
Getting back to the subject
One more cabinet minister to go, then no Quorum and the goverment falls. It may be that HA knocked Pierre off. Certainly a bold move. Who would be next out of the seven? Jumblatt has doublecrossed everybody at one time or another.
The path of assasination is not pretty and can certainly boomerang.
The LFP site (Gemayel) says it’s dedicated to peace between Lebanon, Israel, and Syria. Noticeably absent are the nonexistant Palestinians. That shows where their sympathies lie.
There is a venomous U.S. Kataeb (Phalange) site located in NC that is virulently anti-Muslim.
Sorry about the last link. Leb gov’t in exile in Israel. Probably a South Lebanon Army site. Isn’t there a SLA general running a falafel restaurant in Tel Aviv?
But that site blames the assasination on the Syrian National Socialist Party, a largely Greek Orthodox Christian party. The SNSP was blamed for Bashir Gemayel’s death too. they are strong in the Southern town of Marj Ayoun- the field of Springs.
The site predicts Jumblatt is next. They say one more minister is not enough, you need two to disrupt the quorum.
Richard Whitman – Jonathan Edelstein, the Head Heeb, did a fine job of pulling the Lebanese scene together a couple of years ago. See Lebanese Politics for Beginners.
It’s a five part series, IIRC. My Dad, a LEbanese who lived in Lebanon post-civil-war for 8 years and visited there two months at a time for the last half decade, said Jonathan got it right.
And just to plug my blog – I keep the link on my main page at all times. Sadly, there’s always a new crisis to pique people’s interest in my father’s country.
Only in Lebanon can your allies seem as likely to have killed you as your enemies. Only in Lebanon would such an assassination take place the day the Syrians re-establish links with Iraq, the first step in their involvement in getting the US out and themselves back into the international fold, and the day before an expected HA demonstration. Therefore, the timing would seem to point to it not being Syrian handiwork. But then again, would that not be the best time to strike?
What of the victim?
On the one hand, an unknown but on the other, from one of the most prominent Christian families. Was his killing therefore a warning to the Pro-American March 14 group? Or, perhaps, the perfect candidate to enflame the Christian community?
Like the Summer war, someone has plans for Lebanon. Like the summer war, the eventual winner is unknown and more pertinently, an eventual winner is unlikely. And like the summer war, unless one of the sides makes a dramatic and unlikely u-turn, the people of Lebanon will suffer.
The Phoenix, a name based on the Cannanite inhabitants of Lebanon, the Phoenicians, lived a cycle of a glorious existence followed by a fiery end only to be reborn. Did someone, in telling that story, have foresight into the future of this country?