On the Tenth Anniversary of Hariri's Assassination: Ever Since That Dark Day When Hariri Was Murdered, Assad Has Been On The Back Foot
11 February 2015
By Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Imagine if you could ask Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad whether, if he were
able to travel back in time, he would do anything differently regarding the
assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Hariri was killed exactly 10 years ago today. It was a politically-motivated
crime that shocked the region and marked a historic milestone that has
changed the political equation. Following his assassination, and also as a
direct result of it, much blood has been shed, staining both Lebanon and
Was Hariri's assassination the mere whim of a young man who had just ascended
to power and who refused to take ''no'' for an answer? Or was it an
Iranian-Syrian scheme orchestrated with Hezbollah to get rid of rival leaders
and curb opponents?
I cannot confirm whether it was a whim or if it was driven by the desire to
dominate. But the series of assassinations that followed the murder of Hariri
implied that Assad, along with Hezbollah, was working to eliminate the
opposing camp and perhaps rule Lebanon. It must be said, though, that when it
comes to Lebanese affairs, it's never possible to place the issues of
sectarianism and conflicting forces—with shifting loyalties and alliances—on
the back burner. The murderous elimination of leading political, security and
media figures only increased the Lebanese people's resolve to stick to their
positions and pushed them toward further entrenchment, especially with regard
to what later came to be known as the March 14 Alliance.
But to return to the question at hand: would Assad have taken the decisions
that he did at the time if he could have read the future?
Of course we don't know what is going on in his mind, but what we can infer
from his recent interview with the BBC is that he is incapable of uttering
the words ''I admit'' and ''I'm sorry.'' Despite killing a quarter of a
million Syrians and displacing ten million others, he refused to admit to any
of the mistakes he has committed. This was true even when he responded to
questions on his approach during the early days of the revolution. He
insisted on repeating that he is responsible for protecting his people from
It's been 10 years since the assassination of Hariri and Assad is still
incapable of admitting his mistakes in the handling of Lebanese affairs. It's
been four years since the Syrian uprising and he still refuses to admit any
wrongdoing. Thus, it is fair to say that he hasn't changed at all.
The crime of assassinating Hariri is the most important event of Assad's
life. Ever since that dark day when Hariri was murdered, Assad has been on
the back foot.
Following the crime, the UN Security Council forced him to withdraw his
forces from Lebanon. He was also directly accused of orchestrating the crime
and was politically besieged for four years. Furthermore, governments who
were once friendly with him, such as Gulf and European governments, boycotted
him and his foreign affairs ministry became focused on denying accusations.
At the beginning of 2009—five years after the murder of Hariri—his isolation
receded slightly at the Kuwait economic summit after a reconciliation was
announced. However, assassinations continued, implying that the president
hadn't changed his ways, perhaps indicating that he saw the summit outcome as
a win rather than a reconciliation. This superior attitude towards others and
lack of value for human life, as well as pressure by regional and
international forces, led him to face revolt in Dera'a and other Syrian
cities. He has now ended up besieged in Damascus.
Today, Assad is just a president on paper and is shored up by Iranian leaders
and Iraqi and Hezbollah militias who fight his battles for him. Who would
have thought that assassinating a peaceful man like Hariri, who had no
militia or tribe to defend him, would lead to all these wars and suffering?
Al Rashed is the general manager of
Al -Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-
Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine, Al Majalla. He is also a
senior Columnist in the daily newspapers of Al Madina and Al Bilad. He is a
US post-graduate degree in mass communications. He has been a guest on many
TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.