Rafic Hariri Explained

Rafic Hariri
رفيق حريري
Order:Prime Minister of Lebanon
Term Start:31 October 1992
Term End:2 December 1998
Predecessor:Rashid el-Solh
Successor:Selim al-Hoss
Term Start2:23 October 2000
Term End2:21 October 2004
Predecessor2:Selim al-Hoss
Successor2:Omar Karami
Birth Date:November 1, 1944
Birth Place:Sidon, Lebanon
Death Place:Beirut, Lebanon
Party:Future Movement
Religion:Sunni Islam

Rafic Baha El Deen Al-Hariri (November 1, 1944  - February 14, 2005, Arabic: رفيق بهاء الدين الحريري), was a business tycoon and the Prime Minister of Lebanon from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2000 until his resignation, 20 October 2004.

He headed five cabinets during his tenure. Hariri dominated the country's post-war political and business life and is widely credited with reconstructing Beirut after the 15-year civil war.

Hariri was assassinated on 14 February 2005 when explosives equivalent to around 1000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove past the St. George Hotel in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. The investigation, by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, into his assassination is still ongoing and currently led by the independent investigator Daniel Bellemare. Hariri's killing led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.

According to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news investigation, the special UN investigation team had found strong evidence for the responsibility of Hezbollah in the assassination.[1]

Background

Hariri was born in a modest Sunni Muslim family, along with two siblings (brother, Shafic and sister Bahia) in the Lebanese port city of Sidon. Hariri attended elementary and secondary school in his city and pursued his business administration studies at the Beirut Arab University.

Rise to wealth

In 1969, Hariri established Ciconest, a small subcontracting firm, which went out of business soon. He then went in business with the French construction firm Oger for the construction of a hotel in Ta’if, Saudi Arabia, the timely construction of which brought him in good graces with King Khaled. Hariri took over Oger, forming Saudi Oger, which became the main construction firm used by the Saudi Royal family for all of their important developments. As a result, only a few years after his first contract with King Khaled, Hariri had become a multi-billionaire.

Beginnings in philanthropy

Having accumulated his wealth, Hariri started a number of philanthropic projects, including the building of educational facilities in Lebanon. Hariri became progressively more embroiled in politics. His appeals to the U.N. and services as an emissary to the Saudi Royal family won him international recognition on the political stage for his humanitarian efforts but also slowly caught him in the web of Lebanese politics.

In 1982, he donated $12 million to Lebanese victims of the 1978 South Lebanon conflict and helped clean up Beirut's streets with his company's money. After the conflict, he acted as an envoy of the Saudi royal family to the country. He laid the groundwork that led to the 1989 Taif Accord, which Saudi Arabia organised to bring the warring factions together. Taif put an end to the civil war and paved the way for Hariri to become prime minister.

Political career

Hariri returned to Lebanon in the early 80s as a wealthy man and began to build a name for himself by making large donations and contributions to various groups in Lebanon. He was implanted as the Saudis' strong man following the collapse of the PLO and the paucity of any viable Sunni leadership in the country, as well as a response to the rising power of the Shiite militia Amal. In 1992, becoming prime minister under Syria's watchful military occupation of Lebanon, he put the country back on the financial map through the issuing of Eurobonds and won plaudits from the World Bank for his plan to borrow reconstruction money as the country's debt grew to become the largest per capita in the world.

1992-1998 economic political policies

Hariri implemented an aggressive new economic policy. Perhaps Hariri's most important creation in the beginning of his career was "Horizon 2000" the government's name for its new rejuvenation plan. A large component of "Horizon 2000" was Solidere, the privately-owned[2] construction company that was established to reconstruct post-war Lebanon. Solidere was owned by the government and private investors. Solidere was largely focused on redeveloping Beirut's downtown and turning it into a new urban center as quickly as possible as one aspect of the various infrastructure redevelopment plans that would be implemented by "Horizon 2000". Another aspect of the decade-long plan was the privatization of major industries. Numerous contracts were awarded in important industries such as energy, telecommunications, electricity, airports and roads. The last and perhaps most significant aspect of "Horizon 2000" was economic stimulus via foreign direct investment. Specifically, Hariri supported foreign firms and individuals taking an interest in Lebanon's developmental potential. Hariri simplified tax codes and provided tax breaks to foreign investors. Due to his previous successes in the private sector and the numerous resulting international connections, Hariri was able to garner a significant amount of low-interest loans from foreign investors. Hariri also pursued aggressive macroeconomic policy such as maintaining strict regulations on bank reserves and inter-bank interest rates to curb inflation and raise the value of the Lebanese pound relative to the dollar.Hariri's economic policies were a remarkable success during his first year in office. From 1992-1993 there was a 6 percent increase in real national income, the capital base of commercial banks effectively doubled, the budgetary earnings hovered at around a billion dollars, and commercial banks’ consolidated balance sheets increased about 25%. By 1998, however, real GDP growth was around 1%, a year later it would be -1%, national debt had skyrocketed 540% from two to eighteen billion dollars, Lebanon's economy was in a miserable state.

Hariri and Lebanon's political environment

Amid the political crisis brought on by the extension of President Émile Lahoud's term, Hariri resigned as Prime Minister, saying: "I have... submitted the resignation of the government, and I have declared that I will not be a candidate to head the (next) government."

During a BBC interview in 2001,[3] [4] Harīrī was asked by Tim Sebastian why he refused to hand over members of Hezbollah that were accused by America of being terrorists. He responded that Hezbollah were the ones protecting Lebanon against the Israeli occupation and called for implementation of passed United Nations resolutions against Israel. He was further accused of making the American coalition in the War on Terrorism worthless and asked if he was ready for the consequences of his refusal, reminding him that George W. Bush had said: "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists".[5] He replied that he had hoped that there would be no consequences, but would deal with them if they arrive. Hariri further said that he opposed the killing of all humans - Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian or Lebanese - and believed in dialogue as a solution. He further went on to say that Syria will have to stay in Lebanon for protection of Lebanon until they are no longer needed and Lebanon asks them to leave.

Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a recent recruit of the anti-Syrian opposition, emboldened by popular anger and civic action now being called Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution," alleged in the wake of the assassination that in August 2004 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad threatened Hariri, saying "[President of Lebanon] Lahoud is me. ... If you and Chirac want me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon.".[6] He was quoted as saying "When I heard him telling us those words, I knew that it was his condemnation of death."

On June 22, 2005, Beirut International Airport was renamed Rafic Hariri International Airport.[7] Additionally, Beirut General University hospital was renamed Rafiq Hariri Hospital.[7]

Assassination

See main article: Assassination of Rafic Hariri. On 14 February 2005 Hariri was killed, along with 21 others, when explosives equivalent of around 1,000 kg of TNT were detonated as his motorcade drove near the St. George Hotel in Beirut. Among the dead were several of Hariri's bodyguards and his friend and former Minister of the Economy Bassel Fleihan. Hariri was buried along with his bodyguards, who died in the bombing, in a location near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

A 2006 report by Brammertz has indicated that DNA evidence collected from the crime scene suggests that the assassination might be the act of a young male suicide bomber.[8] A UN backed tribunal issued four arrest warrants to members of the Hezbollah.[9] Hezbollah blames the assassination on Israel.[10]

Aftermath

See main article: Cedar Revolution. Hariri was well regarded among international leaders, for example, he was a close friend of French President Jacques Chirac. Chirac was one of the first foreign dignitaries to offer condolences to Hariri's widow in person at her home in Beirut. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was also created at his instigation.

Syria was initially accused of the assassination, which led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following widespread protests.

Following Hariri's death, there were several other bombings and assassinations against minor anti-Syrian figures. These included Samir Kassir, George Hawi, Gebran Tueni, Pierre Amine Gemayel, and Walid Eido. Assassination attempts were made on Elias Murr, May Chidiac, and Samir Shehade (who was investigating Hariri's death).

The United Nations special tribunal (see Special Tribunal for Lebanon) investigating the murder of Hariri is expected to issue draft indictments accusing Hezbollah of murdering Hariri.[11] [12]

Hezbollah has accused Israel of the assassination of Hariri. According to Hezbollah officials, the assassination of Hariri was planned by the Mossad as a means of expelling the Syrian army from Lebanon. In August 2010, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah presented evidence, consisting of intercepted Israeli spy-drone video footage, which he said implicated Israel in the assassination of Hariri.[13] After an altercation between male Tribunal staff and women at a gynecology clinic in October 2010, Hezbollah demanded that the Lebanese government stop all cooperation with the Special Tribunal, claiming the tribunal to be an infringement on Lebanese sovereignty by western governments. On November 1, 2010, a report was leaked by Al-Akhbar, a local secular, leftist newspaper, stating that Hezbollah has drafted plans for a quick takeover of the country in the case an indictment against its members is issued by the UN Special Tribunal.[14] The report states that Hezbollah conducted a simulation of the plan on October 28, immediately following a speech by its secretary general.[15]

On the other side, it has been revealed by leaked US embassy cables that Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate director Omar Suleiman reported that Syria "desperately" wanted to stop the investigation of the Tribunal.[16]

Corruption

Hariri was considered as the principal actor in the widespread corruption that plagued Lebanon during the Syrian occupation. His wealth grew from less than $1 billion dollars when he was appointed prime minister in 1992, to over $16 billion when he died. The Company for the Development and Reconstruction of Beirut's Central District, known as Solidere, in which Hariri is the primary shareholder, expropriated most property in the central business district of Beirut, compensating each owner with shares in the company, were worth as little as 15% of the property's value. That Hariri and his business associates profited immensely from this project was an open secret.[17] [18]

Hariri and his protégés were not the only beneficiaries of this spending spree. In order to secure support from militia chieftains, and pro-Syrian ideologues that Damascus had installed in the government, Hariri allowed kickbacks from public spending to enrich all major government figures. Contracts for the import of petroleum were awarded to the two sons of President Elias Hrawi.[17] [18]

As result of the growing criticism and popular discontent with Hariri's policies, the government banned public demonstrations in 1994 and relied upon the Army to enforce the decree.[17] [18] In return for a relatively free hand in economic matters, Hariri cooperated with Syria's drive to consolidate its control over Lebanon. Under the guise of "regulating" the audiovisual media, the government placed control of all major television and radio stations in the hands of pro-Syrian elites. Supporters of Michel Aoun were also perpetually harassed and detained.[17] [18]

He is mainly credited with the widespread corruption that followed the war and the crippling damages done to the economy, with the public debt rising from $2.5 billion to over $40 billion and economic growth slowing from 8% to –1% during his time as prime minister.

Books

External links

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Notes and References

  1. News: CBC Investigation: Who killed Lebanon's Rafik Hariri?. CBC News. 21 November 2010.
  2. Web site: ''About Solidere''. Solidere.com. 2011-07-04.
  3. Web site: ''BBC Interview With Rafiq Hariri''. Informationclearinghouse.info. 2011-07-04.
  4. Web site: ''Rafiq Hariri''. BBC News. 2005-02-16. 2011-07-04.
  5. Web site: "You Are Either With Us Or With The Terrorists", President Bush Warns. Iran-press-service.com. 2011-07-04.
  6. Web site: By Neil Macfarquhar. The New York Times > International > Middle East > Behind Lebanon Upheaval, 2 Men's Fateful Clash. Lebanon;Syria. Nytimes.com. 2011-07-04.
  7. Web site: Rafiq Al-Hariri's biography. Rafiq Hariri Foundation. 2008-03-01.
  8. Web site: UN probe into murder of former Lebanese leader nears sensitive stage – inquiry chief. Un.org. 2011-07-04.
  9. Web site: Owen Bennett-Jones. BBC News - Hariri murder: UN tribunal issues arrest warrants. Bbc.co.uk. 2011-06-30. 2011-07-04.
  10. Web site: By the CNN Wire Staff. Hezbollah leader says Israel was behind Hariri killing. But Hezbollah is the one who ended Hariris live- CNN.com. Edition.cnn.com. 2011-06-30. 2011-07-04.
  11. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,626412,00.html New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder
  12. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20110112/ts_nm/us_lebanon_hariri_resignation Hezbollah and allies resign, toppling Lebanon government
  13. http://articles.cnn.com/2010-08-09/world/lebanon.nasrallah.israel_1_hezbollah-leader-hassan-nasrallah-israelis?_s=PM:WORLD Hezbollah chief: Israel killed Hariri
  14. News: US embassy cables: Egypt spy chief promises pressure on Hamas. London. The Guardian. 28 November 2010.
  15. News: Lebanon's vast web of corruption unravels. Fisk. Robert. 6 December 1998. The Independent. 25 June 2011. London.
  16. News: Sect Symbols. http://web.archive.org/web/20071206142558/http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070305/ciezadlo. 2007-12-06. Ciezadlo. Annia. February 21, 2007. The Nation. 25 June 2011. New York City.