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February 06, 2006

Cartoon Conspiracy?

I don't usually believe in conspiracy theories, but the idea that Iran, the Syrian government and it's client the Hezbollah were behind this weekend's anti-Scandinavian violence may be an exception. Meghan Clyne, reports in today's NY Sun:

. . . On Saturday, Muslim rioters in Damascus torched the Danish, Norwegian, Chilean, and Swedish embassies, purportedly expressing outrage over Danish political cartoons featuring Islam’s foundational prophet. The illustrations, including depictions of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban and of Muhammad lamenting that heaven has run out of virgins for suicide bombers, initially were published in September in Denmark’s largest daily newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. The newspaper commissioned the cartoons from Danish artists to illustrate the dangers of self-censorship. . .

. . . The violence spread to neighboring Lebanon yesterday, where demonstrators set fire to the Danish Consulate in Beirut - which also housed the Austrian Embassy and the Slovakian consul - and then spread the destruction through one of the city’s Christian neighborhoods, killing at least one person, the Associated Press reported. The Syrian regime exercises significant influence in Lebanon, and, according to AP accounts, 76 of the 200 people arrested for the riots were Syrian and 38 were Lebanese. . .

. . . The president of the American based opposition group Rally for Syria, Mohammed Aljbaili, told The New York Sun yesterday that the regime was “encouraging these particular demonstrators to achieve certain political gains.”

One goal, the Syrian exile said, was for the secular Baathist dictatorship to gain credibility among the country’s Islamists, especially since Mr. Assad and his ruling family are part of Syria’s Alawite Muslim minority. The country is overwhelmingly Shiite. “They are trying to be seen as pro-Islam, and defenders of the prophet and the writing of Islam and the Koran,”Mr. Aljbaili said. “The real people who believe in Islam and believe in religion - I don’t believe they were behind this.”

The embassy attacks in Damascus and the violence in Beirut, Mr. Aljbaili said, could also lessen the Western diplomatic presence in both Syria and Lebanon as European countries withdraw their diplomatic representation out of safety concerns. Having violent protesters effect the withdrawal of European observers in Beirut and Damascus, Mr. Aljbaili said, was a shrewd method of erecting obstacles to an international, U.N.-led investigation into the assassination of a former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri.

The president of the Washington based Reform Party of Syria, Farid Ghadry, raised questions about the timing of the riots, given that the offending cartoons were initially published in September.

The exile said that the embassy attacks bore all the fingerprints of President Ahmadinejad of Iran, who met with Mr. Assad and a noted Lebanese terrorist, Imad Mugniyah, in Damascus late last month. Mr. Ghadry likened the Syrian attacks on the Western embassies to the Iranian assault on the American embassy in 1979. Mr. Ahmadinejad is said to have been one of the perpetrators of the 1979 attack.

This weekend’s assaults, Mr. Ghadry said, were a “war-waging message,” warning Western powers not to interfere in Middle East affairs. Iran, Mr. Ghadry said, was likely using Syria as a proxy, and the riots there served the dual purpose of getting Western powers to back off both the Hariri investigation and their mounting pressure on the Ahmadinejad regime over its nuclear ambitions.

Motive, means and opportunity:ah I'd vote for an indictment, but it will be up to future historians to convict.

February 6, 2006 at 11:06 AM | Permalink


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