Anti-Syrian Journalist Killed In Beirut

Samir Kassir, a journalist with a record of open opposition to Syria was killed in a car bombing in Beirut today. Opposition leaders and other members of the Lebanese press are blaming Syria and the Syrian-backed President Emilie Lahoud for the blast:

Members of the onetime Lebanese opposition blamed forces tied to Syria for today’s assassination, singling out President Emile Lahoud. Speaking to the Arab news channel Al Arabiya, the Druse leader Walid Jumblat said, “Samir Kassir was assassinated by the remainders of the security agencies controlling the country, and they are headed by Emile Lahoud.”

Mr. Lahoud’s spokesman, Rafik Shalala, described the assassination as a “grave incident,” Reuters reported.

The Syrians may have formally ended their occupation of Lebanon, but their influence remains. It is within the realm of possibility that someone close to Syria decided to settle old scores with Kassir. There has been a string of bombings, centered mainly around Lebanon’s Christian areas that have left several dead and have been widely blamed on pro-Syrian forces or Syrian intelligence agents operating inside Lebanon.

With the opposition winning big in the first round of elections, it is quite possible that the Syrians may be working behind the scenes to ensure that Lebanon remains in their orbit. Kassir was a strong supporter of democracy and civil society in Lebanon, and his loss is a great loss for the nascent Lebanese democracy. The democratic opposition in Lebanon has wisely decided not to capitalize on Kassir’s murder as a political issue, but the brutality of anti-democracy forces in Lebanon will nevertheless be on the minds of many Lebanese voters in the following rounds of elections.

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