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Rafik Hariri

Rafiq Bahaa El Deen Al-Hariri — (November 1 1944February 14 2005), (رفيق بهاءالدين الحريري) a self-made billionaire and business tycoon, was 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, but also for 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.

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 into his assassination is still ongoing and it is conducted under the supervision of the United Nations and led by the independent investigator Daniel Bellemare. Some have speculated that the Syrian government is linked to the assassination.

Hariri's killing led to massive political change in Lebanon, including the Cedar Revolution and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.


Rafiq 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.

Hariri married twice, and his oldest children, including Saad and Bahaa Hariri, Bahaa being the eldest, were born from his first marriage to Nidal Al-Bustani, an Iraqi. His third son Houssam died in a car accident in Boston while attending MIT. He married his second wife, Nazik (Nazek) Audeh, in 1965, after his first marriage ended in divorce. In 1978 Hariri was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia by the Saudi royal family as a reward for the high quality of his entrepreneurial services, and became the kingdom's emissary to Lebanon. Rafiq and Nazik Hariri had three children Aiman, Fahad and Hind being his only daughter) along with one step son and step daughter and seven grandchildren.

Rise to Wealth

In 1969, Hariri established CICONEST a small subcontracting firm. Although mildly successful for a brief period of time, CICONEST began to be, counter-intuitively, damaged by rising oil prices. As the oil boom took off, CICONEST’s profits diminished further and further due to the rising costs of raw materials that quickly outstripped the rising contract construction costs themselves. CICONEST could no longer operate and was forced out of business. During the oil-boom Saudi Arabia’s wealth increased exponentially. In the midst of its boom, Saudi Arabia became an important center in the region for business and political interests. Hariri’s partner at the time was solicited by King Khaled to construct a new hotel in Taef within a brief time span. Hariri accepted the contract and immediately went to Europe to source capital for the project. He found his support in Paris, “an active Lebanese banker who had appropriated Banque Mediterranee in Lebanon and started operations in Paris…was impressed by Hariri.” The banker guaranteed Hariri thus enabling him to finance the project. Hariri then partnered with the failing French construction firm Oger to source the construction side of the development. Hariri knew that the rest of his career rested upon the success of this single contract, and came to devote all of his resources to its timely completion. Hariri finished the project a week before it was due and came into the good graces of King Khaled. The profit from that single project formed the launching pad of Hariri’s career. “Hariri achieved considerable profits and made a successful takeover bid for Oger, a company that was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.” Hariri formed Oger International out of the merger and went on to be 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 enormous wealth, Hariri began to focus his attention on contributing back to his community. Going back to his roots, Hariri’s first major endeavors involved developing educational facilities in Lebanon. Three main projects consumed a large portion of his time. First was the redevelopment of a new school in his hometown, Sidon; the school had been razed in previous warfare with Israel. Second was the establishment of a large educational institute. The Kfar Falous project was one of enormous scope, encompassing roughly eighteen-million square feet of land at an estimated project cost of one-hundred and fifty million dollars. This initiative was of particular sentimental importance to Hariri because it acted as a center for education where all of Lebanon’s different sects could join together and pursue greater goals than the advancement of their own sects. Unfortunately, only a year after it’s completion, the Kfar Falous project was completely and utterly destroyed. The third push with regards to education was the creation of the Hariri Foundation. The Hariri Foundation, originally called the Islamic Institute for Culture and Higher Education, was an organization that helped finance students’ higher education tuitions. The institute also frequently paid college tuition fees for the children of prominent figures in the Assad government. . Hariri’s "generosity" was not only apparent in his educational efforts, but also in his relief efforts. His compassion for his people is illustrated by numerous occasions. After Israel pushed into Sidon and the West Bank, Hariri housed literally thousands of displaced Lebanese civilians, “’We used to have as many as 1,500 people staying with us,’ recalls Saad Hariri” In addition to that, Hariri, “purchased 700 tons of food and blankets and organized a ship to carry the supplies from Limassol in Cyprus to Sidon. But the Israelis refused to allow the ship to dock in Sidon’s port.” It was during the period of Hariri’s life that his business and philanthropy began to take a more political tone. As he became more involved in aiding those affected by war, 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. Fundamentally, however, Hariri was a businessman-philanthropist. “He (the Lebanese Ambassador to the U.S.) remembers…listening to the tycoon enthusiastically describe his reconstruction activities in Lebanon. When the conversation turned to politics, Hariri fell silent.” Soon, however, the tycoon would shift from businessman to politician and put his leadership and management skills to the test.

Hariri, at heart, was a businessman, something he could not let go of. “Explaining once the purpose of his largesse…Hariri asked what he would gain if he had $100 million and gave $50 million to his family and the other $50 million to help people. A lot of friends, the politician replied. Exactly, Hariri said.” Hariri was also well aware of the extent of corruption in the region. For Hariri, bribery was simply a way of life, “Wahhab said, ‘he believed in bribing people with money, he didn’t know how else to deal with a situation.’” Another friend once succinctly described Hariri’s moral compass, “He was a corrupter, rather than corrupt.”

In 1982, he donated $12 million to Lebanese victims of Israel's invasion and helped clean up Beirut's streets with his company's money. After the Israeli invasion of Lebanon, he acted as an envoy of the Saudi royal family to the country. He laid the ground work 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 80's as 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 Saudi's strong man following the collapse of the PLO and the inexistence of any viable Sunni leadership in the country and as a response to the rising power of the Shiite militia Amal. In 1992, he became a prime minister, under Syria's watchful and 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. However, Hariri was the cause of a mounting debt, which reached USD43 Billion, a figure that is more than 200% of Lebanon's GNP.

1992-1996 Economic Political Policies

With a significant amount of the public behind him, Hariri implemented aggressive and reformative 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 construction company that was established to reconstruct post-war Lebanon. Solidere was largely focused on redeveloping Beirut’s downtown and turning it into a new urban center as quickly as possible in 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 to important industries such as energy, telecommunications, electricity, airports and roads. The last and perhaps most significant aspect of “Horizon 2000” was economic stimulus via direct foreign investment. Specifically, Hariri supported foreign firms and individuals to take 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 numerous international connections that were a result of said successes, 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 real increase in national income, the capital base of commercial banks effectively doubled, the budgetary earnings hovered at around a billion dollars, and commercial banks’ consolidated balance sheet 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, and Lebanon’s economy was in a miserable state.


Hariri was a 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.

Hariri and his protégés were not the only beneficiaries of this spending spree. In order to secure support from militia chieftains, such as Walid Jumblat and Nabih Berri, and pro-Syrian ideologues that Damascus had installed in the government, Hariri allowed kickbacks from public spending to enrich all major government figures. For example, a contract to build a section of the coastal motorway was awarded to the firm of Randa Berri, the wife of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, at a price estimated to be at least $100 million in excess of construction costs. Contracts for the import of petroleum were awarded to the two sons of President Elias Hrawi.

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.

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.

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."

Hariri's contributions were numerous. Among the most notable, he donated a great deal of money to charity, and invested in Lebanon when few others were willing to risk doing so. Like all prime ministers since the end of the French mandate in 1943, he was a Sunni Muslim, which was a requirement under the National Pact.

During a BBC interview in 2001, 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". 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.

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


By the 1980s, Hariri entered the Forbes top 100. In 2002 Hariri became the fourth-richest politician in the world. Forbes estimated his personal and family's fortune at $4.3 billion on its 2005 World's richest people. After his assassination, his family inherited a total of $16.7 billion in 2006, which drew some questions which haven't been explained by the Hariri family on how $4.3 billion became $16.7 billion in the course of the year after the assassination. All his family members appeared on the Forbes' list of billionaires in 2006.

Rafiq Hariri had interests stretching from Riyadh to Paris to Houston. Until returning to Lebanon, his son Saad Hariri ran Saudi Oger, a USD $3.15 billion (sales) construction conglomerate. Oger paid $375 million to increase its ownership in Arab Bank in order to keep out interested Arab-American investors.

In 1990, on the occasion of the graduation of his son, Bahaʻa, from Boston University, Mr. Hariri made the naming gift for what became The Rafiq B. Hariri Building, home of Boston University's School of Management.

Distinctions, medals and awards

  • Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (1981)
  • Chevalier of the Italian Republic (1982)
  • Cedar National Medal / Rank of Commandor (1983)
  • Saint Peter and Saint Paul Medal (1983)
  • Save the Children 50th Anniversary Award (1983)
  • Medal of King Faysal (1983)
  • Médaille de la Ville de Paris (1983)
  • Golden Key of Beirut City (1983)
  • Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (1983)
  • Officier de la Légion d’Honneur (1986)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of Boston University (1986)
  • Docteur Honoris Causa de l’Université de Nice (1988)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of the Arab University of Beirut (1994)
  • Goldaen Key of Sao Paolo City / Brazil (1995).
  • Medal of the Liberator of Argentina – General José St. Martin (1995)
  • Prix Louise Michel – France (1995)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of Georgetown University – Washington USA (1996)
  • Grande Croix de la Légion d’Honneur (1996)
  • The Grand Cordon (1996).
  • The Order of Diplomatic Service Merit Grand Gwang Hwa Medal - Korea (1997)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Ottawa, Canada (1997)
  • Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Montreal, Canada (1997)
  • Le Grand Collier du Trône – Morocco (1997)
  • Cavalier du Gran Croce (1997)
  • Al Nahda medal, First Category, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (2001).
  • Medal of Honor of the Arab Union / The Arab Union of Veterans Associations (2001).
  • "Star of Romania" Order at the rank of “The Grand Cross” (2002).
  • Union Medal / Republic of Yemen (2002).
  • Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters, Lebanese American University, Beirut, Lebanon (2003).
  • Orient Doctorate Degree, Moscow State Institute for International Relations (2003)
  • UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honor Special Citation for Post Conflict Reconstruction / World Urban Forum, United Nations - Barcelona, Spain (2004).
  • King Faysal International Award for Serving Islam, jointly with the Islamic Bank for Development (2005). >
  • Tipperary International Peace Award (2005).


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. Rafiq Hariri was buried along with his bodyguards, who died in the bombing, in a location near Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

The latest progress 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.

Jürgen Cain Külbel

Jürgen Cain Külbel, a former German criminal investigator of the GDR, maintains in his book "The murder of Hairiri", that the CIA and the Mossad are responsible for Hairiri's murder. In an interview with Global Research, Kubel maintains that one hour before Hariri's murder Hariri's jamming device for remote control bombs, which was installed in his car, was turned off. And that Israel as the inventor and sole manufacturer of this device was the only one in position to turn it off, thereby making Hairiri's motorcade susceptible to remote control bombs. Kubel furthermore alleges that both the US and Israel wanted to bring down the Syrian government, and that they needed an event such as the assassination of Hairi in order to weaken Syria and have it vulnerable and ready for a possible invasion, like the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. In the interview Kubel maintains that Detlev Mehlis, the first UN prosecutor, casually worked with the CIA and neo-con think tanks. Kubel's book stirred controversy in Lebanon, because it turned the whole scenario of Syrian responsibility on its head. When Lebanese journalist Maria Maalouf invited and taped a program with Jürgen Cain Külbel, the next day she received a text messaged death threat in English from a Lebanese stating "you are a dead girl". Maria Maalouf quickly alerted the authorities.

UN Investigation

Hariri and others in the anti-Syrian opposition had questioned the plan to extend the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, emboldened by popular anger and civic action now being called Lebanon's "Cedar Revolution". Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a recent recruit of the anti-Syrian opposition, said in the wake of the assassination that in August 2004 Syrian President Bashar al-Assad threatened Hariri, saying "Lahoud is me. ... If you and Chirac want me out of Lebanon, I will break Lebanon. He was quoted as saying "I heard him telling us those words." The United States, the EU and the UN have stopped short of any accusations, choosing instead to demand a Syrian pullout from Lebanon and an open and international investigation of the Assassination. Jumblatt's comments are not without controversy; the BBC describes him as "being seen by many as the country's political weathervane" - consistently changing allegiances to emerge on the winning side of the issues du jour through the turmoil of the 1975-90 civil war and its troubled aftermath. He was a supporter of Syria after the war but switched sides after the death of former Syrian president Hafez al-Assad in 2000. His account is quoted, but not confirmed, in the UN's FitzGerald Report. The report stops short of directly accusing Damascus or any other party, saying that only a further thorough international inquest can identify the culprit. Lara Marlow, an Irish journalist also said that Hariri told her that he received threats. The Lebanese government has agreed to this inquiry, though calling for the full participation, not supremacy, of its own agencies and the respect of Lebanese sovereignty.

According to these testimonies, Mr. Hariri reminded Mr. Assad of his pledge not to seek an extension for Mr. Lahoud’s term, and Mr. Assad replied that there was a policy shift and that the decision was already taken. He added that Mr. Lahoud should be viewed as his personal representative in Lebanon and that “opposing him is tantamount to opposing Assad himself”. He then added that he (Mr. Assad) “would rather break Lebanon over the heads of [Mr.] Hariri and [Druze leader] Walid Jumblatt than see his word in Lebanon broken”. Irish journalist Lara Marlowe with whom Hariri talked reported similar allegations. According to the testimonies, Mr. Assad then threatened both long time allies Mr. Hariri and Mr. Jumblatt with physical harm if they opposed the extension for Mr. Lahoud. The meeting reportedly lasted for ten minutes, and was the last time Mr. Hariri met with Mr. Assad. After that meeting, Mr. Hariri told his supporters that they had no other option but to support the extension for Mr. Lahoud. The Mission has also received accounts of further threats made to Mr. Hariri by security officials in case he abstained from voting in favor of the extension or “even thought of leaving the country”. Many analysts also believe that Mr. Assad was unhappy with Mr. Hariri for his support of Resolution 1559 and of the Syria Accountability Act". The resolution was sponsored and spearheaded by Jacques Chirac, France's former president and personal friend of Mr. Hariri. Given the strong relationship that Hariri enjoyed with Chirac, many believe that if the former was not directly invovled he could have at least swayed his friend from sponsoring a Resolution that meant to harm the Syrian government and people. Things in the Middle east are not always as they seem.

— "Report of the Fact-Finding Mission to Lebanon inquiring into the causes, circumstances and consequences of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, 25 February24 March 2005" (the Fitzgerald Report)

The United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1595 to send an investigative team to look into Hariri's assassination. This team was headed by German judge Detlev Mehlis and presented its initial report to the Security Council on 20 October 2005. The Mehlis Report implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials, with special focus on Syria's military intelligence chief, Assef Shawkat and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law. United States President George W. Bush has called for a special meeting of the UN to be convened to discuss international response "as quickly as possible to deal with this very serious matter. Detlev Mehlis has asked for more time to investigate all leads. Lebanese politicians have asked to extend the investigative team's duration and charter, to include assassinations of other prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese, such as Gebran Tueni. A second report, submitted on 10 December 2005, upholds the conclusions from the first report. On 11 January 2006, Mehlis was replaced by the Belgian Serge Brammertz.

Syria had extensive military and intelligence influence in Lebanon at the time of Hariri's murder, but Damascus has claimed repeatedly it had no knowledge of the bombing. A United Nations report sponsored by the US and UK found converging evidence of Syrian and Lebanese involvement in this attack. The UN Security Council voted unanimously to demand full Syrian cooperation with UN investigators in the matter, and Serge Brammertz's last two reports praised Syria's full co-operation.

On 30 December 2005, former Syrian vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam in a televised interview implicated President Assad in the assassination and said that Assad personally threatened Hariri in the months before his death. This interview has caused Syrian MPs to demand treason charges against Khaddam.

On March 28, 2008, the 10th report of the UN's International Independent Investigation Commission found that, "a network of individuals acted in concert to carry out the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and that this criminal network — the "Hariri Network" — or parts thereof are linked to some of the other cases within the Commission's mandate.

UN Special Tribunal

As of 6 February, 2006, both the United Nations and the government of Lebanon had agreed to a proposal establishing a Special Tribunal for Lebanon. If the Lebanese government follows the final proposal, it will mark the first time that an international court tried individuals for a "terrorist" crime committed against a specific person. The United Nations acted in early 2007 to force the process ahead, a move strongly opposed by Syria and its allies in Lebanon, and for reasons of security, efficiency and fairness, the location is to be outside Lebanon.

In December 2007 the Netherlands agreed to host the tribunal in the town of Leidschendam, a suburb of The Hague. The court should open in 2009.


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.

Following Hariri's death, there were several other bombings and assassinations against 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 Smir Shehade (who was investigating Hariri's death).



  • Sallam, Qasim (1980). Al-Baath wal Watan Al-Arabi [Arabic, with French translation] ("The Baath and the Arab Homeland"). Paris: EMA. ISBN 2-86584-003-4
  • Jürgen Cain Külbel: Mordakte Hariri: Unterdrückte Spuren im Libanon, 2006, ISBN 3897068605
  • Jürgen Cain Külbel: Ietail Al-Hariri. Adellah Machfiyyah, 2006, ISBN 3897069733
  • Nicholas Blanford: Killing Mr. Lebanon: The Assassination of Rafiq Hariri and its Impact on the Middle East, 2006, ISBN 1845112024

External links

Print articles not available online

  • Family of Slain Lebanese Leader Demands Probe Into Killing -The Associated Press/New York Times 17 February 2005
  • Rice Says Syria Is at Least Indirectly Responsible for the Blast By Brinkley Joel The New York Times-17 February 2005
  • Death of Businessman By Ajami, Fouad The Wall Street Journal-17 February 2005 Page A12
  • Wails at Loss of Lebanese Leader, Cries for His Vision By Fattah, Hassan M. The New York Times-17 February 2005
  • Huge Crowds Mourn Lebanon's Ex-Premier By Saidi, Leena The New York Times-16 February 2005
  • Hama Rules By Friedman, Thomas L.-The New York Times 17 February 2005

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