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Can Bashar al-Assad possibly be this crazy?

A short year-and-a-half after Lebanon was said to epitomize the democratic yearnings of the “New Middle East,” the assassination of Pierre Gemayel pushes the country one step closer to the sectarian bloodbath of the 1980s. If Gemayel’s surname sounds familiar … Read More

By / November 21, 2006

A short year-and-a-half after Lebanon was said to epitomize the democratic yearnings of the “New Middle East,” the assassination of Pierre Gemayel pushes the country one step closer to the sectarian bloodbath of the 1980s.

If Gemayel’s surname sounds familiar to you, that’s because it was his uncle Bashir Gemayel's assassination in 1982 that prompted phalangist militiamen to seek revenge on Palestinians—revenge that was taken at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps while IDF soldiers stood at the perimeter of the camps. This is the energy of the sectarian sparks ignited by the killing of political leaders in Lebanon. The brief message on the Lebanese Blogger Forum says only:

“Please, I beg of you, I plead with you, please do not stir up trouble. Control your emotions for now. I pray we will pass through this phase. If someone is asking for trouble, ignore it.”

Syria still retains much of its grasping, kleptocratic power in Lebanon, and Reuters reports that Saad Al-Hariri, son of the assassinated Rafik al-Hariri, has said that “We believe the hand of Syria is all over the place.” Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni unsurprisingly agrees. You can be sure that every other foreign ministry assumes so, too. And this happens just as the U.S was under increasing pressure to negotiate with Syria over the future of Iraq, and Assad seemed to have a chance to extend the life of his anemic, religious-minority regime.

More than anything else that’s happened in the past several years, this assassination seems to prove that Bashar al-Assad is batshit crazy. It doesn’t seem so long ago that we were all fantasizing about how this Western-educated optometrist would bring an end to the sclerosis, brutality, and authoritarianism of his father’s regime. It all turned out rather different, didn’t it? He’s not scheming and wacky like Qaddafi, or pathologically brutal like Saddam; just good old-fashioned, strait-jacket-wearing batshit nuts.

Blogger HotAir says that if Syria is behind this, “it’s both par for the course and incredibly stupid. In fact, this is so stupid that I’m thinking it might be too stupid even for Assad. What’s going on here?”

Whatever turns out to be happening, we can be sure that the next several days in Lebanon will have massive consequences for the region generally and for Israel specifically. Keep an eye on the Lebanon Daily Star with its brilliant opinion editor Michael Young (who published a prophetic piece yesterday), as well as the Lebanese blogosphere.

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