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Lebanon drifts towards civil war following the assassination of Pierre Gemayel

Politics / Middle East Nov 21, 2006 - 08:46 PM GMT

By: John_York

Politics

The killing of Pierre Gemayel the Minister for Industry and member of the Phalange party, shook lebanon's weakening government, with the finger of blame immediately pointing to Syria. At least three gunmen rammed their car into Gemayel's vehicle near Beirut, then leapt out and riddled it with bullets, firing at Gemayel with silencer-equipped automatic weapons at point-blank range in a Christian neighborhood. Ten bullet holes were seen around the window of the driver's seat of his grey car. The two front seats were soaked in blood.

Lebanon drifts towards civil war following the assassination of Pierre Gemayel


Yesterday's killing was the latest in a string of assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians and journalists, which many fear is likely to escalate further into a sectarian conflict, and came as Syria and Iraq restored diplomatic ties for the first time since 1982, and before a summit involving Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi leaders, to discuss Iraq's future.

The risks of war in Lebanon and the region.
Despite the outrage at the killing as angry crowds gathered at a main square near the city centre, where some people burnt tyres in protest.
, many Lebanese have the 15 year civil war imprinted in their psyche, and are loath to go down that path again. At the hospital, Amin Gemayel appealed for calm "I call on all those who appreciate Pierre's martyrdom to preserve his cause and for all of us to remain at the service of Lebanon. We don't want reactions and revenge," he said.

Virtually all commentators immediately pointed the finger of blame at Syria, Saad al-Hariri, whose father Rafik was killed in a suicide bombing last year said "We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place", including condemnation from the White house, which had sought to enter into talks with Syria and Iran to try and stabalise Iraq. The reason being that Syria is attempting to intimidate and terorrorise the political class into submission, so that Syria can exert more control over Lebanon. Syria denied all accusations of having a hand in the assassination.

Alternatively this could be part of a game in a movement toward a proxy war between Syria and Iran on oneside, and the United States and Israel on the other. The USA sees the alliance between Syria and Iran as a threat to its plans for the region, and therefore wants to detach Syria from the Islamic Republic. Whereas Iran sees Lebanon, as a means to wage war on Israel, demonstrated by the conflict between Israel and HIzbollah during the summer.

This opens the door to a potential reoccupation of Lebanon by Israel to prevent Iran and Syria's attempts to take control of the country through Hizbollah.

The Economic Situation
This latest crisis following the build up in tension between Hizbollah and the rest of the Lebanese government, is resulting in loss of confidence by the financial markets, with Moody's re-rating Lebanon's bonds as "B3" six levels below investment grade.

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