February 20, 2008

Last Thoughts on Imad Mughniyeh. We Promise.

When Imad Mughniyeh was first killed, there was a great deal of speculation as to whether or not Syria played a role in the assassination. Analysts who have been particularly strong critics of the Asad regime (Barry Rubin, Lee Smith) or have been strong supporters of the March 14th coalition in Lebanon (David Schenker, Tony Badran) have tended to dismiss these suggestions out of hand. At least, they have dismissed the idea that Syria could have played a role in the assassination as some kind of "olive branch" or peace offering to America or Israel. And Abu Muqawama tends to agree with their arguments. Michael Young, the urbane editorial editor of Beirut's Daily Star, lays out a persuasive argument on the MESH blog with which Abu Muqawama more or less agrees.

And yet these suggestions that Syria might have played some sort of role in the assassination -- for whatever reason -- persist. Kip pointed out this post on the Counterterrorism blog, but what really caught the eye of Abu Muqawama was this post by Andrew Tabler. Andrew is the best Syria analyst you've never heard of. He's lived in Syria for the past seven years and knows the inner workings of Syrian politics about as well as anyone can know them. (He also hasn't published much, so unlike others, he doesn't have any preconceived theories about the Asad regime, pro or con, he feels obligated to defend.) He basically asks, How the hell could this have happened?

Those of us in Syria spent the day scratching our heads over the assassination of Imad Moughniyah by car bomb in Kafr Suseh, Damascus' newest upscale neighborhood complete with two shopping malls and adjacent a number of security offices. I heard the blast from my apartment in Jisr al-Abyad nearly 3 km away, but dismissed it due to the country's strong security. A work colleague walking back to his hotel from the Sham city center mall in Kafr Suseh actually saw the blast - a ball of flame shooting three stories high into the air.

So many questions remain. How could this happen in a country renowned for security? Its true that an attempt was made to assassinate a Palestinian official a few years ago, but that bomb missed its target and was far too small to do the job.

If it was an outside power (Syrians are saying Israel is main suspect), how could they have penetrated the security surrounding one of the world's most wanted men ($25m bounty on his head)? Of all areas in Damascus, Kafr Suseh - which is adjacent a number of Damascus' security agency Headquarters, is the most secure of all.

And last but not least... What was he doing in Damascus?

Yeah, and how does a headrest bomb create a ball of flame that shoots up three stories? Who knew you could pack that much C4 into a headrest?