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Rafik Hariri, One Year Gone

Prepared by: Esther Pan
February 14, 2006

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One year after the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and more than twenty others in a massive Beirut car bombing, the search continues for those responsible. Cfr.org offers a range of resources to help explain why Hariri's death continues to reverberate in Lebanon, Syria, and beyond.

The February 14, 2005, assassination sparked massive street protests in Lebanon that focused the world's attention on Syria's historical role in the politics of its smaller neighbor, explained in this CFR Background Q&A. Intense international pressure eventually forced Syrian forces to pull out of Lebanon after nearly thirty years of occupation. Under Syria's watch, Lebanon became a haven for terrorists and a staging ground for attacks by Hezbollah, an Islamist terrorist organization whose political wing is now represented in Lebanon's parliament.

Syria's April 2005 withdrawal opened the door for Lebanese parliamentary elections to take place in June. The vote, Lebanon's first since 1976, elected an anti-Syria coalition led by Rafik Hariri's son, Saad. The election results are analyzed in this CFR Background Q&A.

Syria is widely suspected in Hariri's death, as CFR fellow Steven Cook told cfr.org's Bernard Gwertzman in this interview. The suspicions over the extent of the Syrian government's involvement in the assassination have clouded already strained U.S.-Syrian relations and limited U.S. policy options toward Syria.

An initial UN inquiry into Hariri's death led to a more thorough investigation by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis. His October 19 report to the UN implicated high-level Syrian officials in Hariri's death, including members of President Bashar al-Assad's inner circle. Syria's leadership is profiled in this CFR Background Q&A.

Throughout the fall, Assad found himself isolated internationally and rapidly losing the influence his father and former President Hafez al-Assad had built over three decades of autocratic rule. This CFR Background Q&A examines Syria's decline.

The Mehlis report eventually prompted the UN Security Council to pass Resolution 1636 (PDF) on October 31. The resolution called for travel and economic sanctions against those implicated in Hariri's death and warned Syria to cooperate with the ongoing inquiry. But in December 2005, U.S. Institute of Peace expert Scott Lasensky told Gwertzman that Syria was still acting like it had something to hide.

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