Will Syria Start Killing Lebanese Politicians Again?

Bashar al-Assad's Syrian regime has a history of using force to control Lebanon's leaders.

LebSyr april6 p.jpg

Lebanese politician Samir Geagea, who survived an assassination attempt this week. Reuters

Throughout the past decade there have been a series of assassinations and attempted murders of political leaders in Lebanon. Almost all of these plots have one common element: the person whose life was threatened or taken was anti-Assad, and just about everyone in Lebanon believes Syria was behind or involved in the wave of violence.

Former prime minister Rafik Hariri was assassinated by a truck bomb in February 2005. In June, the prominent journalist Samir Kassir of the newspaper al Nahar was murdered , the first of a series of Christians who were attacked. A bomb was placed in his car. In December 2005 Gebran Tueni, publisher of al Nahar, a Christian member of parliament and relentless critic of Assad, was killed by a remote-controlled car bomb. In June 2006 the Christian cabinet member and critic of Syria Pierre Gemayel, from one of the leading Maronite families, was gunned down. In June 2007 Walid Eido, a Sunni affiliated with the Hariri-led "March 14 movement" and a critic of Syria, was murdered using a car bomb. In September 2007 a car bomb killed Antoine Ghanem, a Christian member of parliament and enemy of Syria. In December 2007 a car bomb killed Gen. Francois al-Hajj, a Christian who was the number two officer in the Lebanese Army. The pattern was simple: these were Lebanese who resisted Syria's efforts to control Lebanon.

These were some of the successful killings, and there were failed attempts in addition. A car bomb in October 2004 badly wounded Marwan Hamadeh and killed his driver. Hamadeh is a member of parliament and former cabinet minister known as a critic of Syrian influence and affiliated with Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Press reports in March suggested that Syria is now trying to arrange for Jumblatt to be assassinated. A car bomb in September 2005 badly injured May Chidiac, a Christian journalist who was a long time opponent of Syrian domination of Lebanon.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a timely reminder. For just Wednesday an assassination attempt was made against Samir Geagea, a Christian leader who is perhaps the fiercest foe of the Assads. Under pressure in the first decade of this century, Assad turned to having Lebanese opponents killed. Under pressure again now, the bullets fired at Geagea may be a sign that Assad is returning to his previous practices. Geagea will know how to protect himself and we can only wish him luck in defeating more attempts on his life. But that effort to kill him is a reminder of the bloody history of Bashar al Assad and of the need to bring his regime to an end.

This article originally appeared at CFR.org, an Atlantic partner site.

Presented by

Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Formerly deputy national security adviser on Middle East affairs in the George W. Bush administration, Abrams was also an assistant secretary of state for UN affairs, human rights, and Latin America in the Reagan administration. Abrams blogs at Pressure Points.

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