In Beirut, Clancy Chassay of the Guardian (UK) reported, there are "two competing theories for who killed Pierre Gemayel." -- On the one hand, there are those who say Syria and Hezbollah are responsible, with a view to bringing down the Lebanese government. -- "The other main theory accuses the U.S. or its allies in Lebanon of killing Mr. Gemayel to stop the opposition, led by Hezbollah, from bringing down the government and curtailing American influence." -- The Los Angeles Times described a highly volatile and confused situation in Lebanon, with anti-Syrian forces planning to turn out en masse at Thursday's funeral. -- The BBC reported early Thursday that the U.N. Security Council, in an attempt to calm passions, has agreed to help investigate the murder. -- Robert Fisk concluded an article on the assassination with these words: "The Lebanese have been responding to the international outcry over Gemayel's murder with somewhat less rhetoric than President George Bush, whose promise 'to support the Siniora government and its democracy' was greeted with the scorn it deserved. This, after all, was the same George Bush who had watched in silence this summer as the Israelis abused Siniora's democratic government and bombed Lebanon for 34 days, killing more than a thousand of its civilians. And the Lebanese knew what to make of Tony Blair's remark — he who also delayed a ceasefire that would have saved countless lives here — when he said that 'we need to do everything we can to protect democracy in Lebanon.' It was a long-retired Christian militiaman, a rival of the Gemayel clan, who put it succinctly. 'They don't care a damn about us,' he said. -- That little matter of the narrative — and who writes it — remained a problem yesterday, as the Western powers pointed their fingers at Syria. Yes, all five leading Lebanese men murdered in the past 20 months were anti-Syrian. And it's a bit like saying 'the butler did it.' Wouldn't a vengeful Syria strike at the independence of Lebanon by killing a minister? Yes. But then, what would be the best way of undermining the new and boastful power of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, the Shia guerrilla army which has demanded the resignation of Siniora's cabinet? By killing a government minister, knowing that many Lebanese would blame the murder on Syria's Hezbollah allies? Living in Lebanon, you learn these semantic tricks through a kind of looking glass. Nothing here ever happens by accident. But whatever does happen is never quite like what you first think it to be. So the Lebanese at Bikfaya understood yesterday as they gathered and talked of unity. For if only the Lebanese stopped putting their faith in foreigners — the Americans, the Israelis, the British, the Iranians, the French, the United Nations — and trusted each other instead, they would banish the nightmares of civil war sealed inside Pierre Gemayel's coffin." ...
Syria and Lebanon
WHO BENEFITS? RIVAL THEORIES OVER THE MURDER OF GEMAYEL
By Clancy Chassay
November 23, 2006
There are two competing theories in Beirut for who killed Pierre Gemayel. They reflect Lebanon's deep cleavage since Syrian forces withdrew amid popular demonstrations after the assassination of Rafik Hariri in February 2005.
The U.S.-backed government and its supporters accuse Syria and, in some cases, its ally Hezbollah. They say Syria wants to scupper an international tribunal to try those accused of killing Mr. Hariri. A U.N. report links Lebanese and Syrian security services to the Lebanese prime minister's death, but Damascus denies involvement.
"Bottom line, there is one less minister in a government Syria and its allies want to bring down," said Michael Young, editor of the Lebanese Daily Star of Mr. Gemayel's killing.
The theory suggests that, after six cabinet ministers resigned this month and the killing, Syria's agents in Lebanon need kill only two more and they will achieve a collapse of the government, because it will be constitutionally inquorate. A fresh government will block the tribunal, and Damascus will avoid the embarrassment of standing trial over Mr. Hariri.
Other related theories suggest rogue elements in Syrian security acting outside President Bashar al-Assad's knowledge, seeking to intimidate Lebanese MPs in the run-up to ratification of the UN tribunal.
The other main theory accuses the U.S. or its allies in Lebanon of killing Mr. Gemayel to stop the opposition, led by Hezbollah, from bringing down the government and curtailing American influence. It also suggests an attempt to isolate Syria once again, just as the West wants to re-engage Damascus over possible help in Iraq. "The killing of Gemayel gave the embattled government a bit of breathing space and reinvigorated the pro-government forces' withering anti-Syrian cause, which has been primarily fuelled by the assassination of its leaders," said Amal Saad Ghorayeb of Beirut's Carnegie Middle East Center.
Proponents of this theory believe the killing only makes it harder for Lebanese opponents of the tribunal in its current form to vote against, for fear of being associated with a pro-Syrian agenda. "If anything this assassination has expedited the decision in the U.N. to pass the resolution," said Mr. Ghorayeb, referring to Security Council members Russia and Qatar, who had reservations, but came on board hours after Mr. Gemayel's killing.
SILENCE AND SORROW GRIP LEBANON AFTER ASSASSINATION
By Megan K. Stack
Los Angeles Times
November 22, 2006
BIKFAYA, Lebanon -- The mourners stood for hours Wednesday on a slow-creeping line, crushed together in this tiny village perched above the Mediterranean Sea. Praying and weeping quietly, they doggedly awaited a chance to say farewell to the body of Pierre Gemayel, the Christian cabinet minister whose assassination has paralyzed a fragile nation.
Gemayel, 34, the industry minister and heir to a Christian political dynasty, was the latest critic of Syria to be killed in the streets of Beirut. He will be buried Thursday, and his former political allies have urged Lebanese to turn out en masse.
On the eve of Gemayel's funeral, an uneasy silence suffused the empty streets of the country. There was a sense of suspension, of a perilous political struggle shot in freeze-frame. The yawning crisis and refreshed communal hatreds seemed to pause only long enough to allow the burial of one of Lebanon's youngest politicians.
"This is traditional in Lebanon; it's some kind of respect," said Maroun Zeidan, a 28-year-old lawyer and member of Gemayel's Phalangist party who stood weeping in the courtyard of Gemayel's home. "First we bury the body, and then we look at our differences."
Wednesday was Lebanon's Independence Day, a holiday marking the break from French control. But instead of parties and military parades, daybreak illuminated a landscape of shuttered shops and people lurking inside their homes.
Before Gemayel was killed, Hezbollah and its allies had mounted a campaign to seize a greater share of power in the government. The Shiite ministers and their allies had resigned from the cabinet. Hezbollah's charismatic leader, Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, told followers that the government was illegitimate and repeatedly threatened to use massive demonstrations to force out the anti-Syria bloc.
The street protests remain a severe threat; both sides fear they could degenerate into street fights. But now it is the slain Gemayel's anti-Syria allies who will hold a massive demonstration.
Amin Gemayel, former president and father of the slain minister, had wanted to bury his son the day after his death, members of his party said. But Saad Hariri, the head of the ruling parliamentary bloc, argued that the younger Gemayel's death belonged to all of Lebanon and that he should be given a patriotic funeral.
There were hints Wednesday that Gemayel's allies might use his funeral to demand the resignation of Syria-backed president Emile Lahoud.
Hewing to decency, Hezbollah and its allies quieted their criticism in the hours after Gemayel was gunned down. But Wednesday a political aide to Nasrallah appeared to hint that the government itself, and not Syria, might have had a role in the minister's death.
"We were about to take to the streets. They were facing a crisis. They needed blood to get some oxygen," Hussein Khalil, a political aide to Nasrallah, told the party's Al Manar television station Wednesday. "This country is at the edge of an abyss. Some people are blowing fire in the air."
Gemayel's assassination was expected to delay Hezbollah's street demonstrations.
But the threat of unrest from other quarters remained. Prominent members of the government accused Syria of choreographing the slaying and issued warnings about continuing violence.
If one more cabinet minister leaves his post, either by death or resignation, the government automatically loses its right to rule. Some analysts believe Gemayel's assassination is the opening shot in a campaign to derail the cabinet, minister by minister.
"The Syrian regime will continue with the assassinations," Druze leader Walid Jumblatt told reporters at his home in the Chouf mountains. "I expect more assassinations."
At the heart of the storm sits former president Michele Aoun, chief of the Free Patriotic Movement and reportedly Lebanon's most popular Christian leader. Once a fierce critic of Syria who lived as an exile in Paris to escape the regime in Damascus, Aoun stunned observers when he returned to Lebanon last year and quickly forged a political alliance with Hezbollah.
True to Lebanese form, however, his followers went along with their leader, praising Aoun for building bridges between religious sects.
But other Christians were furious, and that resentment is exploding into view: In the hours after Gemayel's death, angry young Christian men rampaged in Beirut, burning posters and flags belonging to Aoun's party.
The people of Bikfaya wore black Wednesday and wept into handkerchiefs. Church bells tolled, and sad music sighed from opened windows.
U.S. Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman was reportedly among the mourners. President Bush called Prime Minister Fouad Siniora as well as the elder Gemayel to offer his support.
The Gemayel family has been a linchpin of the village for centuries, a fundamental political force entangled with the town's devout Maronite Catholicism. The family owned businesses, doled out political favors, told the men when it was time to fight and when it was time to be calm.
At times like these, it's hard to tell which way Lebanon will go.
"It's a great, great family," said Maria Mazarani, a 59-year-old schoolteacher who climbed slowly toward the Gemayel house. "Even the stones here are crying."
--Special correspondent Raed el Rafei contributed to this report from Beirut.
U.N. AGREES TO PROBE LEBANON MURDER
November 23, 2006
The U.N. Security Council has agreed to a request from Lebanon to help investigate the murder of leading anti-Syrian politician Pierre Gemayel.
The council's current president said the decision was taken quickly and needed no discussion.
The U.N. commission already looking into the murder of ex-Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri in 2005 will take on the probe.
Many in Lebanon accuse Syria of involvement in Mr. Gemayel's death but Damascus rejects the claims.
Mr. Gemayel, Lebanon's industry minister, was shot in broad daylight in his car in a Christian area of Beirut on Tuesday.
Crowds have gathered in Mr. Gemayel's village for his funeral on Thursday.
Earlier on Wednesday U.S. President George W. Bush called Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to pledge support for Lebanon's independence from what he called the "encroachments of Iran and Syria."
The Security Council's announcement came shortly after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed his concern over events in Lebanon and said he had spoken to Mr. Siniora.
The BBC's U.N. correspondent in New York, Laura Trevelyan, says the Council had agreed on the day of Mr. Gemayel's murder to set up an international tribunal to try the killers of Mr. Hariri once they are brought to justice.
She says the tribunal could also eventually try Mr. Gemayel's killers but such a tribunal is highly controversial in Lebanon.
Pro-Syrian politicians are against it, she says, and it cannot begin to be set up until the Lebanese parliament votes for it.
Mr. Gemayel's killing has created a political crisis in Lebanon -- the death or resignation of two more cabinet ministers would bring down the government.
The Security Council's quick decision followed calls from U.S. Ambassador John Bolton for rapid action "while the crime scene evidence is still fresh."
The U.N. inquiry already in place, led by Belgian prosecutor Serge Brammertz, is also looking into another 15 apparently politically motivated attacks, including Mr. Hariri's death.
In his telephone call to Mr. Siniora, Mr. Bush reiterated the "unwavering commitment of the United States to help build Lebanese democracy," an official at the White House said.
Mr. Bush has not specifically blamed Iran or Syria for Mr. Gemayel's murder but he has called for a full investigation to identify "those people and those forces" behind the killing.
Lebanon is holding three days of official mourning for Mr. Gemayel.
A huge crowd of mourners accompanied Mr. Gemayel's coffin as it arrived in his home village of Bikfaya, east of Beirut, on Wednesday.
Mr. Gemayel's supporters have called for a mass turnout at his funeral, and there is a large military presence both in the village and in Beirut.
GEMAYEL'S MOURNERS KNOW THAT IN LEBANON NOTHING IS WHAT IT SEEMS
By Robert Fisk
November 23, 2006
In the house of mourning, an old Lebanese home of cut stone, they did not show Pierre Gemayel's body. They had sealed the lid -- so terribly damaged was his face by the bullets which killed him -- as if the nightmares of Lebanon might thus be kept away in the darkness of the grave.
But the Maronites and Greek Orthodox, the Druze and -- yes -- the Muslims who came to pay their condolences to Gemayel's wife, Patricia, and his broken father, Amin, wept copiously beside the flag-draped casket. They understood the horrors that could unfold in the coming days and their dignity was a refusal to accept that possibility.
Down in Beirut, I had been watching the Lebanese detectives -- they who had never solved a single one of Lebanon's multitude of political murders -- photographing the bullet holes in the pale blue Kia car which Gemayel had been driving, 13 rounds through the driver's window, six of which had broken out through the passenger door after tearing through the Lebanese Minister of Industry's head and that of his bodyguard. But in the family home town of Bikfaya, mountain cold with fir trees and off-season roses and new Phalangist banners of triangular cedars, the black huddle of mourners spoke of legal punishment rather than revenge for Gemayel's murder.
It was a heartening moment. And who would have imagined the day -- back in the civil war that now haunts us all again -- that the Druze could enter this holiest of holies in safety and in friendship to express their sorrow at the death of a man whose Uncle Bashir was the fiercest and most brutal enemy of the Druze?
Bashir's best friend Massoud Ashkar, a militia officer in those dark and terrible days, spoke movingly of the need for Lebanese unity and for justice. "We know the Syrians killed people during the war," he said to me. "We are waiting to find out who killed Sheikh Pierre. These people wanted to restart a civil war. We must know who these people are."
Ah, but there is perdition in such hopes. With the sadness of those who still expect recovery when all such possibility has been taken away, some of the local Christians gathered in the Beirut suburb of Jdeideh where the three killers had blasted away their MP on Tuesday afternoon. His car, Lebanese registration number 201881, the hood smashed upwards where it had been rammed by the gunmen's Honda CRV at 3:35 p.m. and its rear still embedded in the van of a waterproofing company into which it rolled when Gemayel died at the wheel, was photographed a hundred times by the cops. They were watched silently by the men and women who, less than 24 hours before, had not heard the silenced pistol which killed him, and thought at first that the minister was the victim of a road accident. No one would give their name, of course. You don't do that in Lebanon now.
"I was asleep when I heard some very mild sounds, like gunshots but not loud enough," a white-haired man told me on the balcony of the old family home where he was born. "Then I heard a crash and several real gunshots. I got up, put on my clothes but didn't see any gunmen. A neighbor went over and came back and told me it was Sheikh Pierre and then I saw him carried from his car covered in blood and put in the back of a van."
Scarcely an hour earlier, Pierre Gemayel had been up in Bikfaya, only 200 metres from where his body lay yesterday, honoring the ominous statue of his grandfather -- also Pierre -- who had founded the Phalangist party which his grandson represented in parliament.
No one mentioned, of course, that this same old granddad Gemayel, a humble football coach, had created the Phalangists as a paramilitary organisation after being inspired -- so he told me himself before he died in 1984 -- by his visit to the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Hitler's Germany. As usual, such uneasy details had long ago been wiped from the narrative of Lebanese history -- and from our journalistic accounts of the grandson's death this week.
Pierre Gemayel Jnr, however, had been an earnest MP as the witness to his death made clear. "You see that house over there with the awnings?" he asked me. "Well an old lady had died there and Sheikh Pierre was coming here to express his condolences to the family." The dead woman's home was scarcely 30 meters from where Gemayel's car had come to rest. He must have been slowing down to turn into the side road. Everyone here knew he was coming to the house on Tuesday morning, so the neighbors said, which meant -- although they did not say this, of course -- that he had been betrayed. The murderers were waiting for the good MP to pay his condolences, knowing that the man's own family would be receiving condolences themselves a day later. They didn't even wear face masks and coldly shot a shopkeeper who saw them.
The Lebanese have been responding to the international outcry over Gemayel's murder with somewhat less rhetoric than President George Bush, whose promise "to support the Siniora government and its democracy" was greeted with the scorn it deserved. This, after all, was the same George Bush who had watched in silence this summer as the Israelis abused Siniora's democratic government and bombed Lebanon for 34 days, killing more than a thousand of its civilians. And the Lebanese knew what to make of Tony Blair's remark -- he who also delayed a ceasefire that would have saved countless lives here - when he said that "we need to do everything we can to protect democracy in Lebanon." It was a long-retired Christian militiaman, a rival of the Gemayel clan, who put it succinctly. "They don't care a damn about us," he said.
That little matter of the narrative -- and who writes it -- remained a problem yesterday, as the Western powers pointed their fingers at Syria. Yes, all five leading Lebanese men murdered in the past 20 months were anti-Syrian. And it's a bit like saying "the butler did it." Wouldn't a vengeful Syria strike at the independence of Lebanon by killing a minister? Yes. But then, what would be the best way of undermining the new and boastful power of the pro-Syrian Hezbollah, the Shia guerrilla army which has demanded the resignation of Siniora's cabinet? By killing a government minister, knowing that many Lebanese would blame the murder on Syria's Hezbollah allies?
Living in Lebanon, you learn these semantic tricks through a kind of looking glass. Nothing here ever happens by accident. But whatever does happen is never quite like what you first think it to be. So the Lebanese at Bikfaya understood yesterday as they gathered and talked of unity. For if only the Lebanese stopped putting their faith in foreigners -- the Americans, the Israelis, the British, the Iranians, the French, the United Nations -- and trusted each other instead, they would banish the nightmares of civil war sealed inside Pierre Gemayel's coffin.