wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05DAMASCUS6444 2005-12-12 15:25:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

TUENI ASSASSINATION PROVOKES SHOCK, DENIAL, AND A

Tags:   PGOV PREL SY LE 
pdf how-to read a cable
VZCZCXYZ0007
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #6444/01 3461525
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 121525Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6082
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD 0540
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L DAMASCUS 006444 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR ZEYA; LONDON FOR TSOU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/12/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL SY LE
SUBJECT: TUENI ASSASSINATION PROVOKES SHOCK, DENIAL, AND A
CLAIM OF RESPONSIBILITY IN SYRIA

Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Stephen A. Seche, per 1.4 b,d.



1. (C) Summary: SARG officials condemned the December 12
assassination in Beirut of an-Nahar publisher Gibran Tueni,
calling it an act of terrorism and insisting that enemies of
Lebanon and Syria had committed the crime to further
destabilize Lebanon and to worsen Syria's international
position just as UNIIIC head Detlev Mehlis is set to release
his second report. A SARG proxy speculated that the killing
is designed to strengthen the arguments inside Lebanon for an
international tribunal outside the region to try the suspects
for former PM Hariri's killing. Human rights activists
expressed outrage at the killing and seemed convinced that
the SARG was involved in the assassination. The Internet
website Elaph.com published a purported claim of
responsibility for the Tueni assassination from a previously
unknown group calling themselves the Strugglers for Greater
Syria. End Summary.



2. (C) OFFICIAL SYRIAN REACTION: Syrian Minister of
Information Mahdi Dakhlallah condemned the killing of Gibran
Tueni as "a terrorist act." He added that the enemies of
Lebanon "would not allow it to be stable" and attributed this
destabilization to "foreign interference." Christian MP
George Jabbour called the killing "a hideous crime," and said
that "Lebanon and the Arabs have lost a brave voice."
However, he urged Lebanese public opinion not to point
fingers until there is a thorough investigation. Other
official and quasi-official reactions, for example from the
Syrian Journalists Association, offered similar
condemnations. The Syrian news agency SANA also condemned
the killing and quoted an unnamed official saying that
enemies of Lebanon and Syria had committed the crime to
undermine Lebanese stability and "to aggravate the situation
against Syria" just before the release of the Mehlis report.



3. (C) Foreign policy analyst Dr. Imad Shueibi, a SARG
proxy, told Polchief that the SARG was not involved in the
killing, in his view. The assassination had been undertaken
by elements in Lebanon who wanted to harm Syrian interests.
When asked how the killing would accomplish that, Shueibi
insisted that whoever killed Tueni wants to force a change in
internal Lebanese politics. The objective is create a
groundswell of support for a Lebanese government request that
an international tribunal be formed outside the region to try
suspects in the assassination of former PM Hariri. Many in
the Shia community, and Hizballah, have refused to accept
this idea, said Shueibi. That opposition had been strong
enough until now to prevent any such GOL request. The
killing of Tueni is designed to tamp down such opposition.
Shueibi described the assassination of Tueni as another phase
in the long campaign to harm Syria that began with the
killing of Hariri.



4. (C) ENSURING A TRIBUNAL IS SET IN EUROPE: Damascus-based
al Hayat correspondent Ibrahim Hamidi told Polchief he had
spoken with a range of SARG officials about the killing.
Most expressed views, echoing Shueibi, that Tueni was killed
by elements that wanted to entrap Syria in a further
"internationalizing of the Lebanon issue" to ensure that any
international tribunal would be formed and would be set in
Europe (and not under the auspices of Arab League countries).
Hamidi predicted that the next target for assassination
would be Walid Jumblatt. His killing would be used to
further "internationalize" and bring pressure to bear on the
issue of Hizballah disarmament, said Hamidi. Some SARG
officials also told Hamidi that Syria's case in the UNSC
following the release of the second Mehlis report would now
be weakened, with allies like Russia and Algeria on the
defensive, said Hamidi. Repeating exculpatory arguments
heard after the assassination of Hariri, Hamidi noted that
Syria more than any other potential party would be harmed by
this assassination.



5. (C) TUENI WIDELY HATED IN SYRIA: Nonetheless, Hamidi
noted that Tueni was widely hated in Syria, by officials and
ordinary Syrians. He recounted an incident at his
barbershops months ago when fellow Lebanese journalist Samir
Kassir was killed. As Tueni was interviewed at the site of
the bombing, Syrians in the barbershop commented acidly, "It
was meant for you, Tueni."



6. (C) CIVIL SOCIETY QUIETLY POINTS FINGER AT SARG: Initial
reaction among civil society activists here is one of shock.
Human rights activist Anwar al-Bunni noted that news of the
killing had paralyzed him and others emotionally. Bunni told

poloff he was convinced that the SARG had been involved in
killing Tueni. Bunni noted that the killing, in tandem with
the December 12 interview that President Bashar al-Asad gave
to Russian TV, is a sign that the Syrian regime is willing to
do anything to stay in power.



7. (C) Activists Da'ad Musa and Wissam Tarif were similarly
shocked and upset by news of the killing. Tarif, a Lebanese
national who resides in Syria, told Poloff he was planning to
visit Lebanon immediately to check on the situation after the
killing.



8. (U) A CLAIM OF RESPONSIBILITY: In the afternoon, the
Internet website Elaph.com published a purported claim of
responsibility for the Tueni assassination from a previously
unknown group calling themselves the Strugglers for Greater
Syria. The group is quoted as saying that it finally broke
the pen of Tueni and "shut his mouth forever" and added that
it would target any party that degrades those who defend the
honor of Lebanon. Elaph said the claim was faxed in and that
its authenticity could not be verified.
SECHE