It's fun watching dictators squirm. The assassination of Rafik Hariri is turning out to be one of Bashar Assad's biggest miscalculations in his short career as Syrian strongman. The evidence of course isn't all in, but clearly the motivation for the assassination lies with the Syrian government. They thought they could get away with it.
In a quasi peace offering yesterday, Assad offered up Saddam's half-brother and 29 other Iraqi Baathists to the Iraqi government. Apparently the group was arrested over the weekend, but the real question is how long Assad allowed these Iraqis to freely operate within Syrian borders. I suspect Assad has let this happen since April 2003. This one-off gesture is nowhere near good enough. Syria sponsors and harbors terrorists and terrorist groups, they provide aid and comfort to Iraqi "insurgents", they keep Lebanon under lock and key, and they are responsible for attempting to scuttle the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. From the Washington Post:
Palestinian and Israeli security forces arrested seven Palestinians on Saturday in connection with a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv the night before, while leaders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria asserted responsibility for the attack.
Emphasis mine. The international lens on Assad and Lebanon is having its effect. Publius Pundit is reporting on protests by the Lebanese opposition, even though the government instituted a ban on such activities. Assad would only make it worse if he applied Hama Rules to these protests, especially now that the number protesting approached 200,000. In effect, Assad is losing control of Lebanon, and it's about time. The Caveman in Beirut is also covering these historic events. Importantly, Lebanese business leaders are also in full support:
Leaders of Lebanon's banking, industrial and commercial sectors said they would shut down next Monday to demand the country's pro-Syrian government resign and that a "neutral" one replace it.
The strike would coincide with an expected vote of confidence in parliament, two weeks after the murder of former premier Rafiq Hariri in a bomb blast for which the opposition has pinned blame on the government and its Syrian backers.