This really ought to be a comment on Marco's blog, but Blogger says it does not exist when I try to comment. Granted for the purpose of argument that the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri has the hallmarks of a state-sponsored killing, Marco has raised the question 'which state?' and has suggested 'France' as an answer. My position is that this answer is silly. France is basically just inner western Sydney expanded to the size of a country, and Marrickville council would never do such a thing.
My suggestion was that Iran is the state most likely, as they are the only one that benefits from the assassination whatever happens.
Who would want to assassinate a universally popular, secularly oriented Sunni Lebanese leader? Someone with an interest in maintaining political division in Lebanon. Hezbollah would want this; they do not want a strong central government that would make them give up their weapons and mini-state. Iran, Hezbollah's main backer, would want this. If- as it looked already a few months ago- international pressure is hotting up on Syria to get out of Lebanon, it becomes more urgent to plan for the post-withdrawal power struggle and get rid of opponents.
Iran would not be concerned about getting Syria in trouble, notwithstanding recent signs of co-operation, because Iran is the country in the world with the most reason to hate Ba'athist regimes. Saddam killed more people in Teheran in one air raid than died in Osama bin Laden's attack on the United States. The insurgency that Syria is covertly supporting in Iraq is continually killing Shi'ites and delaying the departure of coalition troops necessary for the formation of a Shi'ite islamic republic of Iraq.
Iran has more freedom of action against the United States than Syria, and thus is a more likely candidate to rock the boat. I believe they are confident the US will not move against them, because their co-operation is necessary to maintain relative stability in southern Iraq, and also because they are on the brink of having a Kim- Jong-Il style nuclear deterrent. An invasion of Syria would be, in purely military terms, a fairly straightforward extension of the war in Iraq; an invasion of Iran would completely over-extend the US. Even if their hand in the assassination is exposed, therefore, Iran has relatively little to fear.
Iran knows that the Arab Street will believe Israel was behind the bombing, and immediately moved to encourage this belief. Unlike the frontline states who are beginning to realise that Palestinian-Israeli peace is in their best interests, Iran cannot be directly threatened by the ongoing disorder and has every interest in maintaining a demonised Zionist entity for its five-minute-hates. From Al-Jazeera again: "An organized terrorist structure such as the Zionist regime has the capacity for such an operation whose aim is to undermine the unity of Lebanon," Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.