The media -- Lebanese and international-- is regurgitating the preposterous claim that Gemayel was assassinated to reduce the cabinet by an additional member. One more ministerial resignation or assassination would mean 8 out of 24 cabinet seats are vacant, enough for the "obstructing third" to bring down the government. I almost wish it was that easy. But the opposition doesn't need to use assassinations; they have hardly exhausted their options and they were poised to employ people power and do what March 14th did last year to bring down Omar Karami's government (albeit without the help of Saatchi & Saatchi). Bech at Remarkz makes some interesting points about the timing and consequences of Gemayel's assassination, and observes a shifting trend in the nature of political assassinations. Who stands to benefit from this assassination and what would the likely fallout be?
Pierre Gemayel's assassination threatens Aoun's position more than anyone else, and his alliance with Hezbollah/Amal. Angry Christians wouldn't dare set foot in the Dahiye or Shia areas, but they can vent their rage at fellow Christians who support Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement on their own turf.
I received some angry comments for writing that this assassination works in the government's favor. I did not accuse them of carrying out the assassination, even though I doubt that Syria was behind this one. The al-Assads have surely carried out assassinations which didn't end up working in their favor. But would Syria screw its allies like that, with no apparent gain? Perhaps, yes.
What I meant was that the assassination comes at a time when the ruling "anti-Syrian" coalition has everything to lose and an assassination of this calibre-- the killing of a Gemayel-- has averted the opposition's takeover, or atleast delayed it. Gemayel's assassination strengthens the "anti-Syrian" ruling coalition's case for the international tribunal and it keeps the opposition off the streets. For now. It also levels the playing field between the more popular and organized opposition and the previously flailing ruling coalition, which brings us a step closer to civil conflict. So any individual or group that wants to fan the sectarian flames could have conceivably carried out the assassination.
The primary categorization into "pro-Syrian" and "anti-Syrian" factions epitomizes all that is wrong and ridiculous about the political discourse inside Lebanon and the international media's coverage of events here. No one actually refers to themselves as "pro-Syrian"; its a blanket slur. Does being "anti" a neighboring country qualify as a political program? Or is it just license for cowardly yuppies to beat up Syrian cabdrivers and street cleaners?
first and foremost an "outspoken" "anti-Syrian" politician. Rather he was an heir to the disgusting rightwing legacy of the Gemayel's party and militia, the Phalangists; even within his family, he did not rank high in terms of leadership qualities. Gemayel was not killed because he threatened any person or power, because of his "outspokenness." Needless to say the assassins should be brought to justice; this atmosphere of fear and suspicion is very dangerous and everyone expects another assassination or bombing will imminently occur. Given the choice, I do have a preference for "clean" targeted assassinations using guns rather than car bombs. It claims fewer collateral casualties.
Robert Fisk, an unfortunate cheerleader for March 14th over the past 20 months, makes a similiar point:
"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 Hizbollah, 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 Hizbollah allies?"
Also read: "Whoever pulled the trigger, Syria's allies are the losers" (Guardian UK)