Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Nasrallah: UN Tribunal Will Indict Hizbullah Members

Hizbullah’s secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah gave a press conference this evening, in which he addressed the issue of forthcoming indictments from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL).

You can watch the entire thing on YouTube (see here for parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6). For those who don’t speak Arabic, a summary in English is available here. The salient points are the following:

  1. Saad al-Hariri visited Nasrallah before the former’s recent trip to Washington DC, and informed him that the STL would soon issue indictments against members of Hizbullah for the murder of former Premier Rafiq al-Hariri. Saad assured him that when these indictments were announced, he would absolve the party of any responsibility, and insist that these accused figures were “undisciplined” members and not connected with the leadership in any way.
  2. For his part, Nasrallah categorically refused any connection between the party and the crime whatsoever, and insisted that the most likely culprit was Israel.
  3. Nasrallah demanded that the leadership of March 14th engage in an honest and thorough review of all the “mistakes” it had made over the past four years (with its accusations against Syria and its allies).

Perhaps the most important point that Nasrallah made was that this press conference was only Part I of a two-part series. The second installment, he promised, would present all kinds of highly sensitive information dealing with the Tribunal itself and its proceedings.

It will be interesting to hear how Saad al-Hariri and his allies respond to the press conference tomorrow. I must say that the fact that Nasrallah disclosed the details of a private conversation between him and Hariri is highly unusual. It makes it impossible for the latter to climb down from it in a graceful way, which leads one to wonder whether Hariri knew what Nasrallah would say tonight, or whether he was just snookered.

Judging from all of the cozying up to Syria in the past several months, my suspicion is that Saad Hariri and his advisors would like nothing more than to put the entire STL episode behind them, and are looking for a way to save face while doing so.

If everything that was said tonight is true, then Nasrallah’s strategy (familiar to any West Wing devotees out there) was a shrewd one: break the story yourself so as to control it as best you can. By the time that the STL gets around to indicting Hizbullah members a few months from now, the development will be old news, already dissected, analyzed, and picked over by Beirut’s punditocracy. No one will be surprised, and (if Nasrallah, Jumblatt, and increasing numbers of former M14ers get their way), no one will really care.

Some further reading…

  • On the rumors of Hizbullah being infiltrated by Israeli spies, click here to see Nasrallah’s response. It’s a classic…

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41 thoughts on “Nasrallah: UN Tribunal Will Indict Hizbullah Members

  1. Only very naive people are going to believe that a rouge team inside Hizballah conducted a series of sophisticated assassinations over a lengthy period of time and nobody else inside the organization was aware of it.

    Nasrallah may have broken the news, but what is the real news is the evidence brought forward in the indictments and the actual names of the people indicted. If these are people close to the leadership…

    I understand the reluctance to hear the truth since it may lead to a civil war. But where does this stop? Does it mean that Hizballah can do whatever they want and nobody will stop them for fear of a civil war? I guess so. March 14 have shown themselves again as a bunch of pathetic grovelers.

    Posted by AIG | July 22, 2010, 10:43 pm
  2. AIG voice of reason?
    Sadly he’s right.
    Demagoguery works in Lebanon. Is it going to work with the thinking elite on this forum? There comes a time when principle must rise above convenience and accommodation. The assassination of Hariri must never be forgiven.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 22, 2010, 11:06 pm
  3. So if Nasrallah says that neither Hezbollah nor Syria did the assasination, who did??

    Posted by Won | July 22, 2010, 11:44 pm
  4. Funny, when I read that Nasrallah was going to address this issue head on, I immediately thought of the US PR mantra about getting in front of The Story and wondered.

    Judging from this bitchy conjecture from the authors of the useful Haaretz MESS Report milblog, some Israelis are miffed that Hariri has slipped the “Western” leash.

    They offer up some creative scenarios:

    “But Hariri’s political survival depends on Hezbollah’s acquiescence, something evidently more important to him than his family honor. He may also have concluded that if he supports the international probe, he will share his father’s fate – or, alternatively, that doing so could risk renewed civil war between Hezbollah and his own March 14 movement. In such a face-off, Hezbollah would certainly win. Thus Hariri hopes to resolve the problem by distinguishing between the operatives and the organization.”

    On future actions:

    “The leader of the Shi’ite movement also said he had no intention of attacking Israel. But Israeli officials have never considered such an attack very likely. Rather, they say, the most likely spark for a war in the north is a Hezbollah attack on an Israeli target overseas to avenge the 2008 assassination of its operations chief, Imad Mughniyeh, for which it blames Israel.”

    Note the latest causus belli for “Operation Do-Over” will be triggered by a hit on an Israeli something somewhere that will be attributed to Hezbollah. There’s another trigger-in-waiting floating around military circles involving HA possession of anti-aircraft capabilities.

    We’ll see.

    Posted by lally | July 23, 2010, 1:59 am
  5. Elias,

    What’s your take on this? i.e without the journalistic objectivity and professionalty aside, what is your gut telling you happened here? Do you believe that a rogue element in HA would pull something like this off alone or that HA themselves would be involved or are they scapegoat in a bigger cover up/deal?

    Posted by Innocent Criminal | July 23, 2010, 3:11 am
  6. So ‘rogue’ elements within the Hizb are responsible according to Saad Hariri… Israel is behind it according to Nasrallah… There is probably some truth to both these scenarios. Does that mean that there are rogue elements within the Hizb working with the Israelis? Why is this not at all surprising? My thought is they both need each other to prevent weaning from their paymasters.

    And so the plot thickens. Oh poor little Lebanon. I thought I’d get to enjoy you for at least a few more years.

    At least we got to see the Gorillaz before the onslaught. What a great show.

    Posted by Johnny | July 23, 2010, 4:19 am
  7. Mr. Nasrallah said that “Unless the court’s resolutions were based on solid and true evidence, I cannot accept its decisions, and it does not seem to me that the court is founding its decisions on solid evidence”. What he and most people/media with him seem to forget is that there hardly have been decisions taken by the court and that the indictment will be only the BEGINNING of a very loooooong judicial process…

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 23, 2010, 4:23 am
  8. Maybe Fisk might have scope to do “Pity the Nation” Volume 2 ?

    We’l see how this pans out, lets wait for the evidence, there is too much clutter, and way too many murders and asasinations to see clearly through this.

    Johnny lol there goes my trip as well.

    Posted by Enlightened | July 23, 2010, 4:30 am
  9. Umm iDriss, I think you are missing the point. He is aware of the legal procedure. But this is the Middle East, and given the highly emotional and tense situation in Lebanon, even if a single Hezbollah associate is called as witness to the trial, then all hell will break loose. I can’t imagine all the conspiracy theories that will pop up everywhere. And this will spread quickly in the ME.
    Nasrallah’s approach is quite understandable in this context.

    What I don’t understand is why from day one Hezbollah and Syrian allies didn’t promote the alternative, Israeli involvement, narrative (which we can’t exclude, given Israel’s history).

    Posted by XP | July 23, 2010, 4:49 am
  10. The best defense is offense. That’s the simple motivation behind Nasrallah’s speech. Is there any doubt in any objective observer’s mind that indeed a deliberate plot fomented by a combination of Syrian military leaders and HA military leaders is what doomed Rafiq Hariri? Doubt may exist whether the full political leadership in Syria and/or HA was fully informed or perhaps deliberately shielded to allow for plausible deniability. Oh! the irony of political intrigue. Will any of this be elucidated eventually for history? in 10 years? 50 years? 100 years? ever?

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 5:02 am
  11. My two comments above are “awaiting moderation.” For the record the first comment was #2 in this sequence, right after AIG’s first post. The second is #10 right after XP’s post. I hope I get read.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 5:04 am
  12. I meant #11

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 5:05 am
  13. An interesting question is what will the General (Aoun) have to say about this? The ultimate disappointer.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 5:11 am
  14. XP, thank you, I do understand the point, but it’s just that with all the political fuss around STL, people tend to forget that it’s actually a legal institution – how it is used is indeed another thing. The chances it will ever come to a legal conclusion become smaller and smaller with what’s happening on the ground – at the end all parties could prefer peace over justice, without even giving it a chance…

    I think Hezbollah say since a very long time that IIIC/STL should investigate the Israeli piste, but which “serious/famous” media will report their story? Don’t know for Syria.

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 23, 2010, 5:55 am
  15. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this, but I think it’s relevant to the discussion:

    [audio src="http://richmedia.lse.ac.uk/publicLecturesAndEvents/20100127_1830_theSpecialTribunalForLebanonWhereCouldJusticeGoWrong.mp3" /]

    It’s a lecture delivered by Dr. Omar Nashabe at the LSE in January 2010, basically outlining some of the major flaws and inconsistencies of the STL. ‘Selective Justive’ seems to be the key component.

    QN, I’m sure you’re more than aware of what his lines of argument are, so would be interested to hear your thoughts on it.


    Posted by SK | July 23, 2010, 6:10 am
  16. Innocent Criminal

    I don’t believe a rogue element could have pulled this off, particularly if we are assuming that the same party was responsible for most if not all of the assassinations (although many of them would have been fairly easy for almost anyone to carry out… but Hariri’s was different.)

    At the same time, I remain unpersuaded by the Hizbullah hypothesis. What interest would they have had in killing Hariri, to say nothing of everyone else who followed? Unless they had information that he was going to join the Lebanese opposition and push for 1559, etc., but even then…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 6:17 am
  17. One more to comment to release, QN. #2 right after AIG’s. Thanks!

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 6:43 am
  18. So… who had interest in assassinating Hariri ? and why ? What of the hypothesis of the military wings of HA and of the Syrian intelligence cooperating on this? How else do you explain the “suicide” of the Syrian official at the time?

    Is it really unreasonable to posit that regardless of the sophistication of Israeli intelligence and means, an operation of the magnitude and depth needed to carry out the Hariri assassination was, at the time, beyond their capability? What have they done in the past? commando raids to kill Palestinian leaders in their homes? How does that compare to what was needed here?

    Is it me or is all this so blantantly obvious to anyone with 100% objective observation of the publicly disclosed facts and the full history and politics of the region?

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 6:47 am
  19. The blinding hatred of Israel and the shrewd manipulation of public opinion by HA (which should be given a prize for the best political planning in the history of the Arab world) are so successfully steering the opinions of the local populace in Lebanon, at least most of the local populace. Not to mention the fear (probably well founded) of renewed civil war and destruction.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 6:51 am
  20. May we have an answer to:

    3. Won Says:

    July 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm
    So if Nasrallah says that neither Hezbollah nor Syria did the assasination, who did??

    Remember this analysis:

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 6:56 am
  21. Re-read AIG’s first comment in this thread.

    My post about AIG’s comment:

    Moment Tane Says:
    (July 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm)

    AIG voice of reason?
    Sadly he’s right.
    Demagoguery works in Lebanon. Is it going to work with the thinking elite on this forum? There comes a time when principle must rise above convenience and accommodation. The assassination of Hariri must never be forgiven.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 6:58 am
  22. Just to be clear on my ( I believe objective ) thinking: Neither do I excuse or forgive or justify in any way the “targeted assassinations ” of Palestinian leaders by Israel. Two wrongs do not make a right. The “Jewish State” has a lot to answer for in terms of Human Rights, the part of their population that is just as fanatical and dangerous as what is termed “islamic extremism.” Not to mention the insanely unjustifiable principles of “God-given land” that was part of the foundation of Israel. Sure, accommodation must be made now, going forward, for a workable solution, but wanton assassination, extremism, and religious fanaticism must be condemned and, hey, if possible, eradicated! (how’s that for a “good” extremism?)

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 7:30 am
  23. Wake up people! The “Moment” is hogging this blog.

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 7:32 am
  24. Qifa Nabki: The “…” in your post above with “but even then…” is not obvious. Care to elaborate? (Hint, please review the Landis post linked above)

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 7:34 am
  25. … and QN, for goodness sake, DON’T reveal my identity since I have a feeling you’ll guess. Cheers!

    Posted by Moment Tane | July 23, 2010, 7:36 am
  26. Lest we forget , every credible investigation of the Hariri investigation, starting with the Fitzgerald report, have concluded that the operation was too sophisticated to be carried out in the general environment that prevailed in 2005 without the knowledge of both Syrian and Lebanese Mukhabarat. Who pulled the trigger is not important but who planned the operation is.

    Even if a few members of Hezbollah are indicted and no one is sure that they would be , could they have done this without the approval and knowledge of the Syrians? I doubt it.

    At the end of the day, I do not understand the talk about civil war. Rafic Hariri was assassinated and if the guilty are found then they should stand trial, end of story. If the guilty had strong connections to one party or another and if active involvement of that party can be proven then the political future of that group would more than likely be over.
    This was not the first political assassination in the world neither would it be the last. To suggest a civil war when the “truth” is finally revealed is highly irresponsible and very far fetched. What is most likely is a plausible deniability for those at the top of the pyramid and the indictment of some “foot soldiers” no matter who was the real brain behind this sordid affair.

    It is time to accept whatever the STL concludes and for the life of a state to resume. This preoccupation with the details of a five year old assassination at the expense of governing a state cannot go on.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 7:41 am
  27. Ghassan, yes, but!
    Your own analysis concludes that any party with proven active involvement will have its political future over. Do we really believe that “any party” is going to allow “proven involvement” of any of its members regardless of whether they had informed the leadership or not. If the leadership knew then they are condemned. If they did not know then that party would have revealed its inability to control its members and hence become weakened. My guess is that no party will want that. Maybe I’m underestimating the genius of HA to come up with a way to jiggle itself out of this. My guess is that they will deny everything, blame any “proofs” on set-up, fabrication, and conspiracy, and say it’s all done by Israel. Many Lebansese will believe it. Those who don’t will not want to argue and continue living in denial or emigrate.

    Sorry to be cynical but that’s how I see it. Maybe it’s the old age.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 7:52 am
  28. “AIG voice of reason?
    Sadly he’s right.”

    He’s not the voice of reason. He is the grotesque expression and openly-admitted voice of zionism : his comments systematically advocate for his own interests and expect nothing from Lebanon but crawling – if you are not able either to crawl or to practice a very selective mourning, please kill each other.
    These “rationalists” long for continuous civil wars so they could expand their colonial project with impunity. Suave mari magno turbantibus aequora ventis, etc. Hopefully, the next wave will drown the onlydemocracyinthemiddleeast’s colonial illusions.

    Posted by quelqu'une | July 23, 2010, 8:03 am
  29. Honest Patriot,
    We are not in disagreement. If the STL present a solid case, and I expect that they would, then an involvement by HA will spell the begining of the end of this run where by they have been dictating policy in practically all areas of interest to them.
    The leadership will protest and make a case against Israel but in the final analysis the party will be tainted. The Syrian regime , on the other hand, might have mended its fences with the Hariris, through the liquidation of its “rogue” elements. To what extent were these elements operating on their own will never be determined.
    But what is singularly important is that no strife or civil war is to be expected or allowed no matter who the guilty party turns out to be. Its time to govern and to hopefully stop the misguided efforts to consecrate Rafic Hariri. Let him rest in peace and let history have its say on his role in the creation of a revived Lebanon.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 9:00 am
  30. Hassan Nassrallah declared in the past few days:

    * The STL is an Israeli tool
    * “rogue” elements (I wonder which PR agency came up with that gem) in HA could be involved
    * M14 should apologize to Syria for their “numerous” mistakes since 2005
    etc.. etc… etc..

    Are we being fooled for idiots or everyone outside of the “mullah zone” can not comprehend the stone age mentality and logic of Nassrallah!

    Why do you think only HIM is concerned along with off cousrse Syria? Why do you gather?

    Now anyone with some knowledge of how Beirut(Lebanon) was controlled by Syrian Mukhabarat; HA’s own intelligence people; Jameel Sayed’s ISF as well as the army Mukhabarat….Can anyone fathom that in that small country where your thoughts were known before spoken…Does anyone really think that these “rogue” HA elemnts planned and executed along with their other “rogue” Syrian mukhabarati agents a super sophisticated crime…and NO ONE knew about it?

    I think you someone should write a mystery book lol…It sure would be best seller!!
    Also, I would like to hire these uber intelligent planners LOL.

    Hassan Nassrallah feels the heat that his party (most likely castrated) and maybe him could be sacrificed to defuse the matter. He does not make sense even to his own sheeple! He seems to know that his time might be up to! Syria has already cleaned house and is still leaving a few people like Rostum Ghazali & Shawkat that could be “legally” eliminated by tying the noose of the “rogue-ness” around their neck!

    On a somber note..Poor Nassrallah seems as sweaty as ever.I guess no AC in the hole he is hiding. Someone should have told him to pay his EDL bills 😀

    Posted by danny | July 23, 2010, 9:24 am
  31. QN,

    The Hizballah motives are clear in my opinion:
    1) Hard cash. The organization resorts to many unsavory means to raise money, why wouldn’t they work as mercenaries for Syria?
    2) Why aren’t Hizballah and Syrian interests aligned regarding wanting Hariri our of the way? Hizballah knew that less Syrian influence, what Hariri was pushing for, meant more Saudi and American influence,
    3) Hizballah were hoping that with Hariri dead, the Sunnis in Lebanon would again be much more divided and more easy to manipulate by Syria, therefore strengthening the Shia hand.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 9:27 am
  32. Interesting analysis by Imad Marmal in As-Safir today:
    He says that not only PM Saad Hariri, but also Mufti Qabbani, suggested to Nasrallah that in case of an indictment against Hezbollah members, they would differentiate between Hezbollah and “some members”.
    According to Marmal, “Nasrallah categorically rejected the “booby-trapped offer”, especially because the members of the targeted group are not ordinary members, but would include symbols equal to martyr Imad Mughniyeh” […]

    We’ll see said the blind maid.

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 23, 2010, 9:28 am
  33. danny,

    تقبرك امك شو مهضوم ولهلوب

    Posted by Lebanon | July 23, 2010, 10:05 am
  34. What’s with all this hate towards Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah?

    Posted by nasrallah | July 23, 2010, 10:14 am
  35. Jamal asks what everyone else is afraid to:

    “Really though, who would want to listen in on Lebanese phone calls?”


    Posted by david | July 23, 2010, 10:47 am
  36. I tend to not really buy the Hezbollah hypothesis, but as long as we’re speculating, it would have been an ingenious move on Hezbollah’s part.

    Kill Hariri knowing that Syria would be immediately blamed and then forced out of Lebanon, thus allowing Hezbollah much more latitude and freedom of action in Lebanon.

    Otherwise, I think it’s foolish to assume that all of the various bombings were perpetrated by the same people. The Pierre Gemayel assassination, for example, could have been done by anyone over anything.

    Posted by sean | July 23, 2010, 5:45 pm
  37. Common Lebanon, you can overcome this and unite or you can all go to where Hitsrael wants you to go. Yellow+Blue = strong Lebanon.

    A, See Dick get mad
    B, See Dick grab a gun
    C, See Dick shoot his brother
    D, Let’s not be Dicks

    Posted by r | July 25, 2010, 2:35 am


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