Syria’s furtive war claims another victim

Gebran Tueni didn’t look the part of the bravest
newspaperman in the Middle East, says Scott Macleod
in Time. But after he was assassinated in
a car bombing as he travelled to his office at the openly anti-Syrian An-Nahar
newspaper founded by his grandfather,
it’s clear that’s exactly what he was. Tueni’s assassination comes not only as
a loss to the Lebanese, says Claudia Rosett
in The Wall Street Journal – it’s also a hideous affront to the entire Free
World. And coming within hours of the latest UN report of the investigation
into the February assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri,
it also raises the question of whether the current UN efforts are sufficient to
bring an end to Syrian manipulation of Beirut.

The latest crime sets a “new international standard for
brazenness,” says The Washington
. Not only has Syrian President Bashar Assad sought to obstruct a UN
investigation into his country’s actions in Lebanon, but his agents
are continuing to murder Syria’s
Lebanese critics, as Tueni’s death attests. Assad seems to assume that his
continuing acts of terrorism will eventually force Lebanon
to accept Syrian dominion again – and that the Security Council will shrink
from an all-out confrontation. But in fact, Tueni’s death brought tens of thousands
of Lebanese to the streets of Beirut
on the day of his funeral, reports Megan K Stack
in the Los Angeles Times, weeping and cursing Syria and culminating
into a “livid
political protest.” Such scenes haven’t been seen since the widespread
fury over the February assassination of Hariri swept through Beirut,
filling the streets with protestors
championing the Cedar Revolution, and, using An-Nahar as a mouthpiece,
demanding Syrian troops leave the country, says Macleod. But today’s
Lebanon isn’t the same nation that struggled
to set aside religious division to unite against Syrian influence back
February says Stack. These days, “the enemy is murkier, the demands
and the country more obviously fractured.”

Many Arab journalists are fearless when it comes to
criticizing Israel
or the United States, but one other has written as passionately-and in the face of such peril-in support
of freedom against Arab dictatorships as Tueni, says Macloed. But perhaps the most
fitting metaphor was written by the group claiming responsibility for Tueni’s
death: “We have turned the day into a dark night.” Not only, says
The Economist,
is An-Nahar the Arabic word for “day,”
but Tueni’s killing has also darkened the “cloud of deception and fear” that’s
shrouded efforts to bring the truth into Lebanon’s
murky and dangerously polarised politics. In one of his last columns, Tueni
asked, “When will this despotic regime come to its senses?” He might
have answered, “Not until the Security Council, led by the United
States, ensures that those who murder are
brought to justice,” says The Washington Post. Meanwhile, we can expect more
bombings and deaths in the months ahead, says Rami G Khouri in The Daily Star
– but let’s just hope that public anger will be channeled in a constructive,
sustained, democratic and peaceful process that will bring justice to Lebanon.
Ultimately, this could be a “breakthrough for the entire Arab
world,” perhaps bringing to an end the ugly modern era of political cultures defined
by chronic intimidation and political violence.
Lucy Morieson

READ MORE: When it comes to who’s to blame for Tueni’s – and Hariri’s – assassination, The Wall Street Journal doesn’t pull any punches.
So, it asks, are France, the US and the rest of the world let Syria get
away with it? … Make no mistake, says Scott MacMillan in the Chicago
Tribune, Syrians are in denial about their government’s likely role in
the Hariri assassination. But scratch beneath the surface and people will start to
tell you what they really think … And the real situation is that Syria is in trouble. According to The Guardian, Assad’s Ba’athist
regime has been on edge since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, it’s attracting
US ire for supporting Lebanon’s Hezbollah and for allowing Arab fighters
to cross into Iraq to join the insurgency – and apparently it’s trying to get back into the diplomatic process with Israel.