Notes on Kanaan's death

A few quick notes from a busy day:

Nick Blanford, one of the best Beirut-based foreign correspondents, give his two cents here, and concludes:
"I have just been talking to a very prominent Damascus analyst, who predicts that Kanaan will be blamed for the Hariri assassination.

"This would lift the international pressure off the Syrian regime, and avoid the risk that Kanaan might launch a coup backed by the US and take over the presidency."
Blanford also has a story here, in which he gives this handy clarifications over the radio interview Kanaan gave a few hours before his death:

On Tuesday night, the New TV channel broadcast allegations that General Kanaan had admitted to Mr Mehlis that he had amassed millions of dollars during his “reign in Lebanon�.

“Premier Hariri had at the time given me a $10 million cheque,� New TV quoted General Kanaan as saying in his testimony to the UN investigators. “We were making money from Premier Hariri so how could we possibly kill him and close the flow of his riches?� Yesterday morning General Kanaan spoke to the Voice of Lebanon radio station to reject the allegations aired the previous evening.
Robert Fisk has the usual "I, Robert Fisk, knew Ghazi Kanaan" article, but you have to pay for it.

L'Orient Le Jour starts its piece on Kanaan today with some rather amusing phrasing: "Did he commit suicide? Was he forced to commit suicide? Was he 'suicided'?"

The article's author, Michel Georgiou, then continues to mock the Syrian official position on Kanaan's death:

Some in Damascus have described, with obvious bad faith that at times is close to burlesque, a man "eaten by anxiety on the future of Lebanon." Perhaps instead they should blame Kanaan's "suicide" on fear of the avian flu, which, having already reached Turkey, is knocking at Syria's door.

Georgiou then goes to examine the possibility of Kanaan having spilt the beans to the Mehlis enquiry, and his suicide being a way out of the Hariri scandal for the Syrian regime who can then blame him.

Ghazi Kanaan may have become the perfect example of a scapegoat--the ideal suspect since he can no longer defend himself--by which the Syrian regime hopes to buy its salvation in the 14 February affair, or at least remain in purgatory. But does the sacrifice of one man suffice to absolve an entire regime?
There is a lot of analysis and reporting taking place on this issue, but not much that is bringing actually new information. Le Monde's article today adds a little bit more:

D'autres font état de divergences au sein de l'appareil de pouvoir syrien, dont Ghazi Kanaan devait, entre autres personnalités, faire les frais : il devait être écarté du ministère pour un poste "protocolairement plus important" , mais qui est en fait une voie de garage, rapporte un diplomate. I

Translation: Others speak of schism at the heart of the Syrian regime, which Ghazi Kanaan among others were to bear the brunt of: he was to be moved out of the ministry in favor of a "by protocol, more important" post that was in fact a kick upstairs, according to a diplomat.

Josh of Syria Comment says:

One good reporter I heard from today said they are "hearing Kanaan was tried in-camera and executed."

I have to wonder, though, that if Kanaan knew it was coming, why did they let him give out his "final statement" to Voice of Lebanon? Anyway, he has a lot more on this.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.