By Sharmine Narwani
What a difference a week can make in the Middle East.
On October 19, when a car bomb tore through the upscale Christian neighborhood of Achrafiyeh in Beirut killing a major security official, Lebanon shuddered in fear that the era of political assassinations was back.
Politicians and commentators didn’t miss a beat. The murder of Internal Security Forces (ISF) Information Branch head Wissam al-Hassan was compared to the killing of his former boss, ex-PM Rafiq Hariri in 2005. And the Hariri-allied pro-West, anti-Syria, pro-Saudi “March 14” political coalition lined up to deliver a visceral blow to their opponents, just as they had in 2005 when they ejected Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Hassan’s body was not yet cold before his political allies started pointing their fingers at Syria and whipping up fury in the anti-Syrian Sunni enclaves of Lebanon. Young men spilled onto the streets with weapons brandished; some with RPGs and even combat uniforms. Clashes ensued, people died, but still their March 14 leaders did not call for calm.
In a replay of 2005 when hundreds of thousands of Lebanese rose up in the State Department-dubbed “Cedar Revolution” to oust the Syrians, March 14 groups on Sunday called for the masses to rally against Syria and its Lebanese government allies.
Except that not a single Syrian was ever charged by the international UN-backed tribunal that investigated Hariri’s death. And last week there was no evidence that Syria was implicated in Hassan’s assassination either. (more…)