Vol: 49 Issue: 21 Friday, October 21, 2005
In February, Rafik Hariri was killed along with nine innocent bystanders when a suicide bomber detonated a massive car bomb that carved a 30-foot hole in a street and turned armored vehicles into burning wrecks.
In addition to killing the target, Rafik Hariri , and the nine other victims, the blast also wounded more than one hundred people. It was an horrific act, made more horrific by Hariri ‘s popularity.
Rafik Hariri was one of the few honest politicians in Lebanon’s recent history, having served as that country’s prime minister five times since 1992.
An ardent nationalist, Hariri was also a major player in the drive to end Syria’s forty-year occupation of Lebanon that ended in a Syrian withdrawal this year. His assassination sent shockwaves throughout the Arab world and prompted the UN to involve itself.
Kofi Annan dispatched a team of UN investigators to Beirut to dig into rumors of Syria’s direct involvement in the assassination of its arch-nemesis.
Annan’s handpicked lead investigator, German magistrate Detlev Mehlis, issued his final report to the UN Security Council yesterday. It said there was probable cause to believe the decision to kill Hariri could not have been taken “without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security official(s),” nor carried out without the complicity of Lebanese security services.
It accused top pro-Syrian Lebanese officials of a major role in the killing, with suspicion cast even on President Emile Lahoud.
In the wake of the report’s release, Syria’s Bashar Assad had only three options. Arrest those responsible, blame it on some underground network, or dismiss it all as a political conspiracy hatched by the United States.
Assad chose the ‘conspiracy theory’ — after it was leaked that the US offered Assad a deal.
The deal offered Syria a chance to avoid UN action if he agreed to surrender the guilty, end its destabilization efforts in Iraq and Lebanon and withdraw support for terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.
The offer caught Assad like a rat in a trap. To accept it would be suicidal. If he tried to arrest the guilty parties, his regime wouldn’t survive the night. But an outright rejection of the offer paints him as a conspirator in an official Syrian government assassination of a foreign leader on foreign soil. Hence the third option scenario. “It’s all a US conspiracy.”
But it won’t fly. This wasn’t a US investigation, but rather one conducted by the UN under official mandate of the UN Security Council. Among the members of the Security Council are a number of prominent Arab states. The chief investigator was German. The report was accepted by France, Russia and China. Assad’s goose is cooked.
U.S. officials quoted in a New York Times story last week suggested that Syria had become like Cambodia during the Vietnam War: a sanctuary for those opposed to stability next door.
On Wednesday, in an appearance before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to rule out the use of force against Syria because of its actions, particularly in Iraq. “The president never takes any option off the table and he shouldn’t,” Rice said.
Syria now faces mounting pressure from the UN and the international community at large, and perhaps even the imposition of UN sanctions, opening up a whole new can of worms in the region.
Assad is backed into a corner. Unlike Khadaffi in Libya, Assad can’t afford a sudden change of heart. Khadaffi is a genuine strongman of the old school of Arab dictators, as was Assad’s father.
But the younger Assad remains in power in something of a ‘first among equals’ arrangement with the Syrian military establishment. Assad rules at their pleasure. In a showdown, Assad would stand alone. And fall immediately.
Throughout history, one truism stands out. Dictators have a lousy retirement plan. Assad’s only hope of survival is to remain in power. And his only hope of remaining in power is to stay the course, ride out the UN, and hope his efforts to destabilize Iraq will keep Washington occupied.
Assad has evidently decided to follow the Saddam Hussien Guide to Crisis Management and hope it turns out better for him than it did for Saddam.
Like Saddam before him, Assad is counting on the threat Syria’s WMD arsenal poses to Israel to shield his nation from US attack. Syria has an extensive chemical and biological missile arsenal pointed at population centers across Israel. To prevent Israel from destruction, an attack would have to simultaneously destroy all command and control plus all missile launch sites — before the launch command could be given from Damascus.
But, according to Bible prophecy, Assad’s gamble won’t work any better than Saddam’s did. Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Damascus suggests exactly that scenario — the complete destruction of Damascus in a massive, single attack.
Damascus holds the record for being the longest continually inhabited city in world history. Damascus is first mentioned in Scripture in the Book of Genesis during the time of Abraham. Damascus was one of Israel’s principle enemies since the time of King David. Throughout the Old Testament, God promises to send judgment on Damascus for its transgressions.
“Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron:” (Amos 1:3)
“And I will kindle a fire in the wall of Damascus, and it shall consume the palaces of Benhadad.” (Jeremiah 49:27)
But Damascus has yet to face the judgment forecast for her by Scripture.
“The burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap.” (Isaiah 17:1)
As noted, Damascus is the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. So we know Isaiah’s prophecy remains yet future. Should Syria prepare to launch its chemical or biological missile arsenal against Israel, Israel will have one of two choices. The destruction of Damascus or the destruction of Israel.
Isaiah also provides another clue as to when Damascus can expect to meet its prophesied fate:
“And it shall be as when the harvestman gathereth the corn, and reapeth the ears with his arm; and it shall be as he that gathereth ears in the valley of Rephaim.” (Isaiah 17:5)