A very good synopsis from the Wall Street Journal Opinion Journal:
Death of a Businessman
Rafiq Hariri was also a Lebanese nationalist.
BY FOUAD AJAMI
Thursday, February 17, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST <-- a link to the article
"Rafiq Hariri, who was struck down on Monday by a huge car bomb on Beirut’s seafront, was the unlikeliest of martyrs for the cause of Lebanon’s independence. He had risen from the obscurity and poverty of Sidon–on Lebanon’s coast–to the upper reaches of Lebanese and Arab society, largely through the patronage of the House of Saud and the inner dealings of Arab rulers and courtiers. A former prime minister of Lebanon, he wasn’t particularly articulate, or given to the call of political causes. He believed in the power of wealth and of pragmatism, and saw Lebanon’s mission in the time-honored way of Sidon’s Phoenician heritage: commerce and trade, banking and tourism. Over two long decades in the political game, he had made his accommodation with Syrian power. He no doubt paid off Syrian intelligence operatives and officers, cut their sons and daughters and wives into business deals, did what he could for the restoration of his battered country, while staying on the safe side of Syria’s hegemony in Lebanon.
Hariri knew the risks of Syria’s wrath: how could he not? For three decades, bigger players than he had been struck down right when they had begun to agitate for their country’s sovereignty against the power of Damascus.
In 1977, it had been the turn of a Druze leader by the name of Kamal Jumblat; he was assassinated because he was a proud and difficult man of Mount Lebanon who had paid no heed to Syria’s claims of hegemony. Five years later, it had been a headstrong young Maronite, Basheer Gemayyel, who had risen through the civil war of Lebanon to the heights of power. Gemayyel had been elected president in a cruel summer of Lebanon, the summer of 1982. He was a Lebanese nationalist, eager to put together a state that had come apart. But he was never to assume office. A memorable deed of terror, a blast that shattered the three-story building of his political party’s headquarters, took his life. There would be other victims along the way–a president, a prime minister, lesser political figures. The regime in Damascus was hell-bent on erasing the border between Syria and Lebanon."(excert of article)