Beirut, Lebanon - A new "Hit List" of prominent Lebanese figures has surfaced over the weekend. The list includes new names of prominent outspoken Lebanese journalists that pointed fingers at Syria for its
role in the assassination of former PM Rafik Hariri.
The new list which was provided by the US embassy in Beirut to help the individuals concerned to take additional security precautions to protect themselves. The list includes the following new names:
Marcel Ghanem: Host of "Kalam al-Nass", a very popular political talk show on the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation (LBC). His show appears every Thursday and is watched by Lebanese all over the world. As a result of the new threats on his life, he will be broadcasting his future shows from Paris according to local reports.
Paris has become a second home for many Lebanese who have been targeted by Syria. Gibran Tueni who moved to Paris for similar reasons was assassinated immediately the day following his return to Lebanon.
Ali Hamadeh: Host of "Al-Istihqaq" another popular political talk show on Future TV. He is also a senior columnist at An Nahar newspaper, the most popular daily in Lebanon.
Hamadeh is the uncle of Gibran Tueni, former MP and Managing editor of Al Nahar. He is also the brother of Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadeh, who miraculously survived an assassination attempt in October 2004. He underwent several operations after his attempted murder.
Marwan was blamed for being the author of UN resolution 1559 which called for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and disarming of all militias. Marwan is also on top of Syria's hit list.
Fares Khashan: Host of "Al-Tahkik" another political talk show on Future TV, a station that is owned by the Hariri family.
It appears from the new names added to the list that what Syria fears most is the "pen". Syria knows it is strong militarily compared to Lebanon, but cannot match the Lebanese when to comes to freedom of the press. Syria's media is all controlled by the Assad regime, however they cannot control the Lebanese press, which is why people like Tueni, Samir and May Chidiac, all prominent journalists, were targeted.
The updated Hit list therefore is as follows:
* Walid Jumblatt
* Saad Hariri
* Marwan Hamadeh
* Nayla Mouawad
* Wael Abu Faour
* Samir Franjieh
* Elias Atallah
* Farid Makari
* Marcel Ghanem
* Ali Hamadeh
* Fares Khashan
The warning letter from the U.S. Embassy included strong recommendations to enhance the personal safety of those named, while simultaneously advising them to reduce their mobility as much as possible.
It is interesting to note that Marwan Hamadeh and Wael Abu Faour are both members of the Progressive Socialist party of MP Walid Jumblatt, who has been on every hit list that surfaced. Slain PM Rafik Hariri told Jumblatt that one of them will be assassinated.
Syria has denied any responsibility for the assassination Hariri or any of the assassinations that followed. But UN chief investigator, Detlev Mehlis in his interview with Al Sharq Al Alawsat newspaper, following the submittal of his second and final report squarely blamed Syria fort the assassination of Hariri. He later on in a another interview in Berlin said there was a link between all these assassinations.
On December 30, former Syrian VP Abdul Halim Kaddam told al Arabiyah TV that such a murder could not have taken place without the knowledge of president basher Al Assad. In the interviews that followed he went a step further and accused Assad of ordering the assassination of Hariri.
Whether there is a de-facto Hit list or not is not the most important issue. The Lebanese continue to be most concerned about the influence that Syria still exerts in Lebanon through its allies and its intelligence apparatus. Syria's allies, such as Hezbollah has openly declared its support for the Syrian regime and the Syrian intelligence apparatus may be still intact according to informed sources.
The issue for the Lebanese is when will the Syrian regime realize that it is time to accept the fact that the clock cannot be turned back.
"Syria has to recognize and live with the fact that Lebanon is an independent and sovereign nation that wants to be free of any Syrian interference in its own affairs" said PM Siniora.
But is the Assad regime capable of living with the new reality or will it continue to liquidate more Lebanese leaders?
Lebanon has been making an effort to open a new page in its relationship with Syria based on mutual respect and equality. The vast majority of the Lebanese want to have good relationship with the people of Syria and draw a distinction between the people and the regime. They would like to see embassies established in both Damascus and Beirut as soon as possible, and the borders between the countries demarcated so that each will live within its own borders.
But will the Assad regime be capable of adjusting to the new realities and act accordingly? Or will it continue to rely on its allies to destabilize the country?
The regime in Damascus has been openly challenged by former VP Abdul Halim Khaddam and the opposition. A new government is being formed in which will put more outside pressure on Syria, and the people inside Syria may feel safer to start the uprising like the Lebanese did in March 2005 when they sparked the Cedar Revolution. Will the Assad regime have the vision to make a U-turn in its attitude towards Lebanon and its cooperation with the UN? Or will it continue to attack the opposition and accuse them of being traitors?
It is time for Assad to realize the new realities, or disappear like all the dictators before him. His continued defiance will lead to more isolation. His list of friends will be inversely proportional to the length of the 'hit list'. Fewer nations will be able to support him as the 'hit list' gets longer, even president Mubarak of Egypt and king Abdullah of Saudi Arabia won't be able to support him. Just like the Arab League Secretary General Amr Mousa did, they will give up on him.
President Assad: Time is not on your side. It is high time you get this message and stop meddling in Lebanon.
Picture: Marcel Ghanem, host of "Kalam al-Nass," on LBC TV
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Source: Ya Libnan, Local