Who killed Rafik Hariri?

Former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri (and 11 others) were killed in a Beirut car bomb attack Feb. 14. Because he had been an outspoken opponent of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon, suspicion immediately fell on Damascus and Damascus-backed armed factions. A previously unknown group, Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria, has apparently claimed responsibility, and authorities are said to be hunting down a Lebanese-based Palestinian refugee, Ahmed Tayseer Abu al-Ads, who is said to have appeared in a video taking credit for the attack. (Lebanon Daily Star, Feb. 16)

Noted commentator Rami G. Khouri in the Jordan Times (reprinted on the Middle East Window website): "The fact that within just hours of the murder five distinct parties were singled out as possible culprits — Israel, Syria, Lebanese regime partisans, mafia-style gangs and anti-Saudi/anti-US Islamist terrorists — also points to the wider dilemma that disfigures Lebanese and Arab political culture in general: the resort to murderous and destabilising violence as a chronic option for those who vie for power, whether as respectable government officials, established local warlords or freelance political thugs."

Others don’t even have the humility to speak of "possible" culprits, much less to see the problem as anything so amorphous as "political culture." Left-wing blogger Kurt Nimmo states flatly: "Harriri’s killing, like so many of those in Iraq, is the work of either Israeli dark ops or American mercenaries who have been hired out to kill people who are progressive in the Arab and Muslim worlds."

Could be, Kurt. He points out Hariri had opposed Israeli as well as Syrian military meddling in Lebanon, and that Hariri’s death serves perceived Israeli interests by further pitting Washington against Damascus. But pretending to know more than we can, and dressing up speculation as fact, doesn’t serve the truth. It just further muddies the water—even if the allegations are ultimately proved correct.