Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14

Hariri Painted Into a Corner by the STL?

The most significant piece of information that was announced last night during Hizbullah secretary-general Sayyid Hasan Nasrallah’s press conference was not the fact that members of his party would soon be indicted by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon. That much we’ve known (or, at least, been told) for several months.

Rather, the most noteworthy thing that Nasrallah said was the following:

“Before his trip to Washington, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri visited me, and I am grateful for his visit. What I am about to report right now comes from my estimation that [al-Hariri] was eager… and prepared to cooperate for the sake of protecting the country. So he said to me: “ Ya Sayyid, in such-and-such a month… an indictment will be issued that accuses members of Hizbullah [of assassinating your father]. These people are renegades, and the party has no connection with them.  I promised you in the past that if such a thing were to occur, I would declare publicly that Hizbullah has no connection with it… [and that] there were some renegades who carried out this operation.” [And we discussed] the country and the sensitive conditions, and how we need to cooperate, etc. ” (Click here for the Arabic clip)

This is, in my opinion, the most important statement that Nasrallah has made since his speech of June 8 2009, in which he accepted the election results and effectively ended a four-year period of political polarization between the March 14 and March 8 blocs.

Why was this statement so significant? Because it signaled that, for all intents and purposes, Saad al-Hariri and the Saudis are ready to close the book on the Special Tribunal and allow it to die a quiet death. There is no desire anywhere — except among certain politicians in the Kata’ib and Lebanese Forces — to use the STL as a battering ram against Syria or its allies in Lebanon. If anything, given the new strategic dynamic in the region, the STL has become a liability for Hariri and the Saudis; they’ve been painted into a corner because of it, and are now looking for a way to make a graceful exit.

This is not to say that the STL could not be damaging to Hizbullah; in fact, its ability to hurt everyone involved is precisely what has aligned Hariri and Hizbullah’s interests. The press conference last night was meant to send a message to those who still harbor hope that the STL can be used to their political advantage. The message was clear: “The train has left the station. If you don’t believe me, ask the Prime Minister, the slain man’s son.”

Update: Nick Noe has a response to this post, which can be read here.
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153 thoughts on “Hariri Painted Into a Corner by the STL?

  1. QN, ok, so with that analysis, how can we then understand the strongly challenging admonition by the Sayyed for March 14 to confess their sins? Is it just a matter of taking an aggressive initial position so as to end up on neutral ground? Isn’t March 14 essentially Hariri himself in a prominent way?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 11:12 am
  2. HP

    Nasrallah is making the obvious play that is there for him to make. March 14 was built on the accusations against Syria and on the idea that the international community was going to implicate Syria in Hariri’s murder through the mechanism of the Tribunal.

    Now it seems that the Tribunal is not going to provide any such result. So why not make political hay out of it? Why not use it to throw his opponents on their back foot? As long as the LF and the Kataeb and Dory Chamoun etc. keep coming after the Hizb with accusations of their involvement in the crime, Nasrallah will simply neutralize this rhetoric by pointing to the STL and saying: “It’s you who need to explain yourselves.”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 11:19 am
  3. If Nasrallah were to accept such a bargain with Hariri (i.e. let the verdict come out and I’ll distance you from it), is that not a trap and tantamount to political suicide for Hizbullah? It’s obviously unacceptable for them, as Nasrallah said.

    And it’s not as if Hariri can just denounce the whole STL as that wouldn’t be ‘face saving’ as you put it.

    So between the two is there anything that would be acceptable to Hizbullah and Hariri/Saudi, as well being somewhat likely given what we already know about the STL?

    Posted by SK | July 23, 2010, 11:28 am
  4. Astute, but haven’t we known this since at least Doha? I would argue even before then, but that is just cause I think nothing ever changes …

    As I have said before, STL could only do one thing: consolidate Lebanese Sunnis under the House of Hariri – a weird kind of beatification of Rafik’s political life.

    Mission accomplished.

    The problem for the LF/Kataeb is gauging when their shrieking (and they are entitled to shriek, like all the others) becomes parody, only amplifying their own irrelevance.

    In my book, M14 was never going to end well, not that that would make its short history too different from that of other recent Lebanese political coalitions.

    For a grandiose statement let me say this, the Syrian period is now over, and with it we have the eclipse of Lebanese Christian politics, which was on life-support anyway for several decades. Lebanon is now a pure Shia-Sunni game.

    Ironic, yet not.

    Posted by david | July 23, 2010, 11:33 am
  5. Wishful thinking QN.

    First, let’s wait patiently for Hariri’s reaction to Nassralah’s statement.

    Second, one needs to read the indictments. If Mugniyeh is implicated what then? How could Nasrallah then deny knowing?

    Third, the tribunal is out of the hands of Hariri. It is under UN chapter 7.

    Fourth, if Hizballah is implicated, the whole Lebanese government could suffer the consequences because Hizballah is part of it. How is Hariri going to retain Western support for Lebanon in this case? Can you imagine the US congress granting any help to Lebanon if Hariri is seen as supporting and aiding Hizballah?

    Fifth, the rallying around the Martyr Hariri and the personality cult have been a strong force in uniting 85% of Lebanese Sunnis around the Future Movement. Is Hariri Jr. going to dismantle this with his own hands? Could be, but I am sure there would be a huge disagreement inside FM about this issue and the outcome can go either way.

    I don’t think Lebanon will face another civil war, because it is in nobody’s interest. However, I do think there will be a severe political crisis that will have to be eventually solved with another Doha type agreement.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 11:47 am
  6. Ya AIG. To me, you make a lot of sense. My only complaint is that, in light of the financial fiasco in the US in 2008/9, AIG has become a pretty negatively viewed acronym. You certainly don’t need more negativity thrown your way 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 12:22 pm
  7. HP,
    Gotta stick with the brand name…
    Hard to say which is a more negative connotation to Lebanese, Israel or the company AIG. Probably Israel. So it seems I have gained from the company called AIG’s infamy! 🙂

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 12:32 pm
  8. Many questions come to mind,

    1)Could Ghazi Kanaan’s “suicide” suffice for Hariri and the Saudis (and the STL, thus the departure of Mehlis)? What sections of the Syrian regime–that was not on Rafik Harriri’s pay, and may have been playing out internal politics–could have planned and implemented this–maybe even unbeknownst to Bashshar, and thus the falling on the sword of Kanaan? The STL was supposed to explore this further; is that over now?

    2)Is HA another patsy or are they seriously involved, in some of the operations? They do not have the intelligence capacity or the subtlety to pull off most of the operations. Why would they accept the deflection; and if there is –non manufactured or bleached– evidence that some HA members are involved, how could Nasrallah brazenly defend them. He is not that politically unsavy–he must know something about what is going on! Both him and Jumblatt are covering up something, trying to blame it on “Israel”..

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 12:38 pm
  9. OMG, they have designed a LOGO for STL?

    Posted by Cruella | July 23, 2010, 12:39 pm
  10. QN,
    I havent had a chance to watch the press conference yet (though i did watch the brief clip from it on AlJazeera), but to go one step further than you, it seems to me that this is not only an effort to close the book on the tribunal, but that little hariri is essentially trying to move to a whole new post-M14 paradigm with Hizbullah. Essentially, it the most concrete expression that lebanon will go to a shia, sunni, druze, FPM alliance. I guess, you could say it’s a post facto ratification of jumblatt’s nihilism, and a recognition of Hizbullah as THE power center in the country.

    Also, I still find it very very hard to believe that Hizbullah was involved in the killing of hariri, and i am interested to see what type of evidence they have come up with to connect hizbullah (members) to the murder. I think this would have been a major issue years ago if there was strong evidence connecting hizbullah as an institution to the murder. And although i’ll wait to see the evidence to draw any solid conclusions, the argument that it was rogue hizbullah members doesn’t pass the smell test. This whole investigation seems to have already failed, regardless of the end result.

    Posted by Joe M. | July 23, 2010, 12:43 pm
  11. I find myself in strong disagreement with part of the QN analysis. If anyone is weakened then it is Nasrallah who apparently will go to the mat in an effort to protect what he has gained over the past few years. The Hariri message shows a very mature person who is in essence saying that there is no need for either civil strife or civil war over this. My dad has been assassinated and once the indictments are issued we do not want to go beyond that, There is a country that is dying to be governed.
    Your point is to be taken very seriously. I have already blogged about that. The Syrian top of the pyramid has been given immunity by the UN and it could be that Kanan was the “rogue” in all of this whose suicide was to placate the Hariris.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 12:55 pm
  12. Forgot to associate with the “internal” Syrian struggle the old news about Mughnieh’s assassination, and the Shawkat-Suleiman face-off, and the assassination of Suleiman in 2008, etc… Maybe a deal was struck with Assad to let bygones be bygones since he had no control over anything taking place at the time.

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 1:03 pm
  13. Given a second reading and some of the comments, IMO, I think you misread to see this as a ‘cornering.’ More like haggling over a future modus vivendi — okay some haggling might involve cornering, but let’s call it angling. Hariri’s visit itself to SHN was a kind of cornering/haggling/angling (not that I take SHN’s account of such a meeting as gospel).

    Still, what we may have now is HA’s counteroffer, if you will.

    Of course, some will see it as Syrian genius, but really it is evidence that they are no longer the final arbitrators in a Lebanese-Lebanese dispute, but rather a wedge issue for the increasing irrelevant: LF/Kataeb/ AND FPM.

    PS: It should be noted that the fate of the STL will also provide the effective international blessing for the HA-Hariri power-sharing arrangement (the consular Mass is now a Dutch court).

    Posted by david | July 23, 2010, 1:14 pm
  14. Here is the most likely turn of events:
    1) The tribunal issues an indictment against Hizballah members.
    2) Hariri says that judgement should be postponed until the suspects are proven guilty in a court of law and suggests that Lebanon fund their defense.
    3) Hizballah rejects the legitimacy of the tribunal, does not agree to put forward the people indicted but most importantly, convinces FPM to support a veto of the approval of the Lebanese funding of the tribunal for next year. Lebanese is then thrust into a political crisis.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 1:27 pm
  15. AIG — funny analysis; I like it.

    QN, what’s the take of the Aounists on all this?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 1:44 pm
  16. AIG — funny referred to your post #7 of course, not 14.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 1:45 pm
  17. With intellectuals like Joe M. saying in the same sentence:
    1. “I’ll wait to see the evidence to draw any solid conclusions”
    2. “the argument that it was rogue hizbullah members doesn’t pass the smell test.”
    then in the same paragraph:
    3. “This whole investigation seems to have already failed, regardless of the end result.” who needs enlightenment?
    and belittling people condescendingly with ” that little hariri” when the young man has answered the call of service to his country to the best of his ability after his father’s assassination (curious to know, what has Joe M. done?),
    with all that,
    who needs more enlightenment?
    Long live HA, long live Joe M.
    Down with the rule of international law. What do these neutral, competent, committed, hard working investigators and judges know that Joe M. doesn’t.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 2:01 pm
  18. I still don’t get why the 4 generals were held in detention for so many years if the case has taken a turn towards implicating hizb members.

    What I am asking is if the net of suspects is SO WIDE why so little to show for it? With so many people involved as is being asserted you would think someone would mess up or fess up along the way.

    Posted by tamer k. | July 23, 2010, 2:22 pm
  19. David,

    Without the STL and the martyrdom of Hariri père, Hariri fils does not have the “Sunni” block–and maybe there is no Sunni block without the “event” of Hariri’s assassination. [for background, check the International Crisis Group MENA report 96 -May 26, 2010]

    Your thesis that there is a Shi’a-Sunni standoff presupposes a unity of goals and interests solidly bringing together “Sunnis”. The situation is much more complex than that, as always. Alliances are the de facto only future path for Lebanese politics, and hopefully cross-sectarian alliances will become a necessary part of the equation.

    I am not quite sure if Hariri Jr. will survive this “agreement”–he may become something of a Hoss or Karami (with more money, but eqaully powerless)!

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 3:35 pm
  20. Honest Patriot,
    I simply said that it sounds fishy and Im predisposed against finding the results legitimate, unless i see good and solid evidence from the investigation.

    I come to that conclusion based on my views of Hizbullah as an organization, my views of the internal dynamics of the situation, and the tribunal’s history of politicization and clear mistakes (for example, it’s statements against Syria and the arrests of the generals).

    Im open to believing members of Hizbullah were involved, but I don’t believe that this is an impartial investigation.

    As for “the rule of international law”, when i see tony blair and/or george bush jr. (or any significant and popular figure from rich countries) under international investigation and at risk of life imprisonment, then I will believe there is such a thing as international law. Until then, there is nothing more idiotic than to think international law is anything but victor’s justice.

    Posted by Joe M. | July 23, 2010, 3:36 pm
  21. Joe M.

    Your points are well taken. Thanks for clarifying and for being gentlemanly, civil, respectful and clear. Hats off to you.

    Now, I do think that the style and tone of your second posting above is so much more effective than that of the first posting. The second is persuasive, clear, calm, and effective. The first allows a bit of emotion and its choice of words to cause a negative reaction from otherwise objective readers.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 4:39 pm
  22. David said: “Given a second reading and some of the comments, IMO, I think you misread to see this as a ‘cornering.’ More like haggling over a future modus vivendi — okay some haggling might involve cornering, but let’s call it angling.”

    I wasn’t arguing that Hariri was trying to corner Nasrallah, but rather that Hariri himself has been cornered by the STL.

    If this were 2005 or 2006, the news that the Tribunal was preparing to indict members of Hizbullah would have led to Siniora declaring a national holiday and a 3-day dance party in downtown Beirut, and every major backer of March 14th would have warned of the “grave consequences” of this revelation.

    But this isn’t 2005 or 2006. It’s 2010. And what does Hariri do? He lets Nasrallah tell the Lebanese that he’s going to absolve Hizbullah of any connection to the crime if the indictment does finger them. We’re living in a different world.

    Unless what Nasrallah said is completely made up, or unless some kind of quid pro quo has been reached behind the scenes, it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much fight left in this STL business, at least from the M14 side.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 5:09 pm
  23. I recommend that everyone read Nick Noe’s analysis. He is closer to the truth, and many Lebanese politicians and editorialists — including from Hizballah — are beginning to wonder about the Syrian position on the Tribunal now that it’s pointing at Hizballah. Syria and Saudi Arabia’s interests in taming Hizballah’s ascendence may very well be aligned in this matter.

    Posted by Mushkelji | July 23, 2010, 5:14 pm
  24. QN,
    If the STL does indict as expected then there is no way in hell that this will be positive to HA no matter what spin you want to put on it.
    No one has anything to gain from social strife and so all measures to keep the peace ought to be welcomed.
    If anyone is cornered then it is Nasrallah who is put in a position where he has to fight for survival

    Time will tell over the next two months.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 5:26 pm
  25. The problem with all the comments is how everyone is so unwilling to even consider that “Israel” was behind Hariri’s assassination, when it is my absolute belief that it was. And the International Tribunal has been nothing but a circus freak show every since its inception. I believe Nasrallah said it best when he said that we cannot accept the legitimacy of the international tribunal so long as it refuses to look into the “Israeli” possibility.

    Posted by Nour | July 23, 2010, 5:54 pm
  26. Ghassan

    Where have I said that this is positive for Hizbullah? Of course it would be bad for Hizbullah. But the point of this post is to argue that Hariri’s behavior reveals that he (and his allies and sponsors) are no longer interested in using the STL as a weapon against Syria and Hizbullah, nor as a tool to find out who killed Hariri Sr.

    Otherwise, why would he absolve the principal suspect before the indictment is even issued?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 6:01 pm
  27. Nour,

    In this, as in many other cases in Lebanese and ME politics, blaming Israel is typically Code for when the major political players decide not to share with the populace a truth determined to be no longer relevant to the particular behind-the-doors agreements of the time.

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 6:06 pm
  28. Nour,
    I don’t see why Israel would be so interested in assassinating Hariri when in 2005 no one would have guessed that the repercussions of such an assassination would have been so far reaching. But let us assume that Mossad did train a team and arranged for the hit. Did they also arrange for the claims after the hit, did they also coordinate with all the Lebanese authorities to cover up the evidence instantaneously, did they also make sure that Ghazi Kanan committed suicide… In an investigation nothing should be overlooked but we should also let the evidence lead the investigation. The Sayed claims that it has led to Hezbollah members . If that is the case then so be it. We need to learn more about the details but I would not be surprised if the details suggest that there is evidence to prosecute these individuals but there is suspicion that they did not act on their own. Which takes us back to Ghazi Kanan and even possibly Mughanieh. Where is John Le Carre when we need him?

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 6:07 pm
  29. Agreed Hariri has clearly changed his position

    Indeed, Saad Hariri, the son of the assassinated former prime minister and the leader of the biggest political bloc in the Lebanese parliament, said in an interview with SPIEGEL that he favors the “unrestricted punishment of all the guilty and their political backers.”


    Posted by tamer k. | July 23, 2010, 6:09 pm
  30. Nour,

    You are pathetic if you believe things “absolutely” without a shred of evidence. The UN investigation mandate included all parties including Israel. If you want us to consider the possibility that Israel was behind Hariri’s why don’t you provide us with evidence?

    Don’t you think that if Syria and Hizballah had any evidence that Israel did it, they would have put it forward by now? But who needs evidence for “absolute belief” when it comes to the “little Satan”.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 6:11 pm
  31. QN,

    How do you come to the conclusion that Hariri has absolved the principal suspect? He has not said that he will abolish the tribunal. He merely said that he will not jump to conclusions and focus only on the people named by the tribunal. Look a moment at the glass half full scenario. What Nasrallah wants is the end of the tribunal. Hariri did not give it to him. Hariri knows that people are smart enough to connect the dots by themselves and no additional provocation from M14 is needed.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 6:22 pm
  32. Uh oh, AIG almost lost it when “Israel” was mentioned. There is plenty of evidence connecting “Israel” to the assassination and it has been provided; yet he international tribunal has refused to look into it. The latest evidence is the spies working for “Israel” within Lebanon’s telecommunication network. Also, “Israeli” jets were seen by witnesses flying over Lebanon at the time of the assassination, when all communications, including cell phones, were jammed, as affirmed by many Lebanese. Finally, “Israel” definitely had the motive, unlike HA, to kill Hariri and create chaos in Lebanon in a bid to pressure Syria and weaken the Resistance.

    Rather than looking into all such credible evidence, the so-called International Tribunal took the route of false witnesses and fabricated testimony in order to focus its supposed investigation strictly on Syria and the Resistance as it was commanded by the US and other world powers. The bottom line is that the most likely culprit is “Israel” and this international tribunal has proven to be a complete farce.

    Posted by Nour | July 23, 2010, 6:28 pm
  33. How are spies evidence? If the spies planted anything or did anything, that is what is important. Where is the evidence of that? Why isn’t it put forward? Because there is non.

    Israeli jets fly over Lebanon all the time. That is evidence for nothing. Where is the evidence for a connection between the jets and the assassination? Why can’t Hizballah or Syria provide it?

    No, you view yourself smarter than the US, Europe, and the rest of the world combined. The tribunal can fool everybody else but not you. How can anyone fool you since you do not require evidence to form your “absolute beliefs”.

    The trials of the tribunal will be public. All the defendants have to do, is bring evidence that Israel is behind the assassination and they will be set free. Of course they will not do it because the evidence exists only in your imagination.

    Posted by AIG | July 23, 2010, 6:41 pm
  34. Your responses are always bordering on nonsensical rants. First, one of the main so-called pieces of evidence claimed by the International Tribunal is the cell phone records of certain individuals. Now we find that there were spies inside Lebanon’s cell phone companies working for “Israel.” The objective thing to do by the International Tribunal would be to investigate these spies and see what type of information they gave “Israel” and what services they provided them. However, the IT has thus far refused to do so, although many in Lebanese circles have publicly demanded it. Lebanese Army intelligence is continuing its investigation and more evidence will be coming out soon, which will make it ever more clear that “Israel” was behind the assassination.

    Moreover, some of the previous spies that were arrested were found to have in their possession explosives. Again, it would have been the reasonable thing to do for the IT to look into the link of those spies to any or all of the assassinations that took place in Lebanon since the killing of Hariri. But again, the IT refused to even interrogate those spies.

    The “Israeli” jets were flying over Beirut at the very same time that communications were jammed and the assassination took place. Would it not be prudent on the part of the IT to at least look into this matter?

    Given all the above, and especially given the clear motive “Israel” had to kill Hariri, any real investigation would have thoroughly investigated “Israeli” complicity. Yet they failed to do so repeatedly. Instead, false witnesses and fabricated testimonies and hearsay evidence were used in a desperate attempt to implicate Syria. What has happened to those who planted those false witnesses and provided the fabricated testimony? Nothing. Why hasn’t the IT taken any action against them or interrogated them to see why they tried to obstruct the investigation?

    As for being “smarter” than the US and Europe, you are here implying that the US and Europe do not know of the politicization of the IT. Everything I am saying is well-known to all those actors. They are definitely not stupid. But there are political interests at play here, which is why they politicized the investigation to begin with.

    Regarding the supposed publicity of the tribunal, that’s just pure nonsense. The defendants can bring all the evidence they want, but that won’t be equivalent to the IT actually itself investigating and looking into the “Israeli” scenario. Besides, since when is it the job of the defendants to provide evidence of the complicity of other parties? It should be the job of investigators to properly investigate crimes so that all possibilities are examined, but there is no way the US or even Europe will allow “Israel” to be implicated in anything. We have seen that time and again, as the premier terror state of the world can always get away with its crimes.

    Posted by Nour | July 23, 2010, 7:03 pm
  35. Nour, please stop wasting time connecting things randomely. There is no logic to your arguments and you are basically speculating. I do not think we know who assassinated Hariri, but there are no causal connections between the “evidence” that you provide for considering “Israel” as a culprit. Wishful thinking is no substitute for hard evidence.

    One could critique the STL for being politically motivated, but they noentheless have to provide some evidence in support of their claims; some may stand scrutiny, others may not. And there are always political dealings but not everything in the processes of “justice” can be corrupted and an astute journalist or analyst can always come to some supported conclusions about investigations.

    QN asks the right question, however: if indeed Hariri did say what Nasrallah quoted, why now and to what end? And what would happen to the various “alliances” built around the question of justice –and the end of assassinations and rule by fiat.

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 7:26 pm
  36. AIG said: “How do you come to the conclusion that Hariri has absolved the principal suspect? He has not said that he will abolish the tribunal. He merely said that he will not jump to conclusions and focus only on the people named by the tribunal.”

    No, what he said (according to Nasrallah) was that the tribunal is going to indict a few members of Hizbullah, and that he [i.e. Hariri] would publicly state that these people acted independently of the leadership and had nothing to do with it.

    First of all, how does Hariri know who is going to be indicted? Secondly, how does he know whether or not they were acting independently of the Hizbullah leadership? Thirdly, why would he try to throw a wet blanket over the indictments before they are even announced?

    If Hariri wants to let Hizbullah get burned by the STL, then he would not give Nasrallah any carte blanche guarantees whatsoever. He would simply say: “We are not going to speculate on any scenarios until the STL has done its work.” By telling Nasrallah that he intends to publicly disavow any connection between Hizbullah and the “undisciplined” members who allegedly carried out the operation, he is doing one of two things:

    1. Trying to find a way to defuse the potential domestic strife that would result from a full-blown accusation against Hizbullah (which is more or less equivalent to burying the issue and moving forward).

    2. Cutting some kind of a deal with Nasrallah, the details of which we are not privy to.

    How else are we supposed to understand it?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 7:35 pm
  37. An-Nahar reports that Hariri stated that what Nasrallah reported was not accurate. First, both met after Washington; second, the discussion was not about the STL report which Hariri had no access to but about reports in the press and a possible scenario (if that were to happen, then…). So it seesm that Nasrallah has distorted the truth to achieve some political effects. Supposedly, the STL issued a statement that it does not comment on Lebanese squabbles. Could this be Nasrallah’s version of “pre-emptive strike”? Let us hope that Hariri would not cave to pressure–and sit back until Kind Abdallah’s visit to Syria and Lebanon to try to “resolve” the issue.

    Posted by Parrhesia | July 23, 2010, 8:02 pm
  38. QN,
    Maybe the following from Al Akhbar wprovides a definitive answer to the question that you have raised about Saad Harir. (I am still convinced that yiou are misreading this totally but hey thats what makes a horse race?)

    ذكر أحد المشاركين في الاجتماع أن الحريري أوضح لنوابه أنه، في لقائه الأخير مع نصر الله، كان يتحدث وفقاً للسيناريوهات المطروحة في وسائل الإعلام، وأنه لم يقل إنه يعرف مضمون القرار الاتهامي.
    وأضاف الحريري إنه كان يسعى إلى الحوار مع الأمين العام لحزب الله من أجل البحث في السبل الآيلة إلى تجنيب لبنان المخاطر، «إذا صحّت هذه السيناريوهات».

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 8:12 pm
  39. Hers another quote about the dialogue between Saad Hariri and Nasrallah according to the Al Mustaqbal , his newspaper:

    أكد عضو كتلة “المستقبل” النائب عمار حوري بعد اجتماع الكتلة أن “الرئيس الحريري لم يبلغ نصر الله بمضمون القرار الظني الذي سيصدر عن المحكمة الدولية بشأن اغتيال والده وإنما تطرق معه إلى المعلومات الإعلامية المتداولة بشأن هذا القرار”، وقال في اتصال مع “المستقبل” أمس “أوضح لنا رئيس الحكومة أنه تكلم مع نصر الله في المعطيات المتداولة إعلامياً عن القرار الظني، وغير صحيح أنه أبلغه بمضمونه”. وتابع حوري أن “الحريري ذكّر نواب كتلته بأن التحقيق الدولي لم يستبعد الفرضية الإسرائيلية عن الاغتيال”، ولفت إلى أن “(المحقق الدولي السابق سيرج) براميرتس تكلم عن فرضية الاغتيال بصاروخ أطلق من الجو بما يعني إسرائيل”. مضيفاً “أكد لنا الحريري أنه إذا لم يكن القرار الظني مبنياً على أدلة واضحة متينة فنحن من سيرفضه”.
    من ناحية أخرى، نقل حوري عن الحريري تأكيده بأن زيارته الأخيرة الى سوريا “ناجحة”، وقال “أبلغنا بأنه سيكون لها نتائج ايجابية تظهر خلال عشرة أيام”.
    “تيار المستقبل”

    I hope that this will put an end to the spin that Nasrallah is negotiating from strength.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 8:21 pm
  40. Ghassan

    I feel that you’re the one who is doing the spinning here… spinning my arguments. 🙂

    First of all, neither of these quotes addresses my point at all. All Hariri is saying here is that he never told Nasrallah that he knew the details of the indictment, but that they were simply discussing different possible scenarios. Most importantly, he did not deny that he told Nasrallah he would absolve the party of any connection with “undisciplined” members. If he comes out and says that, we’ll have to revisit the issue.

    Second of all, it’s not a question of whether or not Nasrallah is negotiating from strength. It’s a question of whether or not Hariri’s backers (i.e. the Saudis and, more distantly, the Americans) have any interest in stirring the pot in Lebanon. My point is simple: if Bush were still president and neocons ran American Mideast policy, Hariri would not be promising Nasrallah anything. To the contrary, March 14 would be looking for every possible way to milk this indictment for all it was worth.

    But we are not living in 2006. Today, Saad Hariri goes to Damascus and puts his arms around Bashar al-Assad, and tells the media all about how wonderful a person he is. He has meetings with Nasrallah and promises him that he will not hold the Hizb responsible when the indictment comes out.

    These are not the actions of a man who is singlemindedly dedicated to finding and punishing his father’s killers. They are the actions of a man who has resigned himself to changing regional realities. And in these new conditions, the STL is no longer the winning card that it once was.

    To stick with the “card” analogy, I would liken this whole affair to a game of hearts. Between 2005-09, March 14 was trying to shoot the moon (i.e. to punish Syria for Hariri’s murder) and the STL was the Queen of Spades. Now that the rest of the hand is incomplete (i.e. insufficient evidence to connect it to Syria), al-Hariri is trying to dump that Queen of Spades before it’s too late.

    That’s my sense, at least for now…

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 8:48 pm
  41. Ghassan Karam,

    What credibility do you have when you put your own spin on what Al-Akhbar related as being said by those in Hariri’s circles. Amar Houri, who once fled his house disguised as a woman, did not attend the meeting between Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah and PM Saad Hariri.

    You demonstrated yourself that you have no credibility whatsoever by distorting what Al-Akhbar printed in its Saturday’s edition. One can only verify this by checking its website:

    Front page
    Qreitim: yes to Syria, no to Hizbullah
    Inside pages:
    Al-Mustaqbal deputies answer Nasrallah and avoid Syria

    As Ibrahim Al-Amin wrote: صمت الحريري لا يعطيه البراءة من الفبركة

    Parrhesia, An-Mahar also printed that Hariri’s men in the ISF were going to arrest the spies who worked at Alfa but were outmaneuvered by the Military Intelligence! And An-Nahar also printed a few months ago that there is no such thing as Israeli spy equipments on Al-Barouk, And An-Nahar………………….

    Posted by Lebanon | July 23, 2010, 8:59 pm
  42. QN, in the context of your analysis and observation, would you then commend Saad Hariri on his approach. Is this young man developing a much needed wisdom and common sense and maneuvering to the best interest of his nation?


    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 9:00 pm
  43. The STL is the ‘bitch’?

    Oh dear, QN …!

    Posted by david | July 23, 2010, 9:11 pm
  44. HP,
    Thank you , thank you, thank you. That has been my point all throughout. Sa’ad , whom i have never been a fan of, is acting like a mature smart statesman. The STL will issue ita findings and Hariri wants to spare the country a potential serious conflict. That is the way it should be. Sa’ad Hariri is holding the winning hand and Nasrallah is fighting to save his credibility. But as we all know this is pure conjecture. Time will tell.

    The Hariri offer was a magnanimous offer for a Lebanese politician. Those that can forgive and move on are not weak, it is exactly the opposite, they are the strong.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 9:18 pm
  45. HP and Ghassan,

    It’s very difficult to know how “mature” Hariri has become, when he still relies on his spokesmen to issue statements on his behalf, particularly when it comes to such a sensitive matter like this one.

    Let’s wait and see what he has to say for himself in the coming days.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 23, 2010, 9:28 pm
  46. Well, OK, we should wait. On the other hand, we all know that Hariri is far from articulate (to say the least). The inevitable ineloquence of his expression should not automatically mean that he is not, himself, making certain strategic decisions that are wise. We don’t know but I don’t think hearing him speaking is going to answer that question.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 23, 2010, 9:30 pm
  47. “Unless what Nasrallah said is completely made up, or unless some kind of quid pro quo has been reached behind the scenes, it doesn’t seem to me that there’s much fight left in this STL business, at least from the M14 side.”

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Micho Mouawad as the jack of diamonds?

    Posted by david | July 23, 2010, 9:32 pm
  48. Qn,
    I can’t help myself, one more jab 🙂 Being articulate is an asset when you have to say but being articulate is not to be confused with maturity.
    I can’t believe that we are judging the guy as a loser because he has the interests of the state before that of personal and sectarian revenge.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 23, 2010, 10:21 pm
  49. QN,
    Do you see this in terms of a realignment of alliances along the lines of jumblatt? Also, if these facts are true, do you see this as recognition that Hizbullah is the single most important power broker in Lebanon?

    As I said above, I find it very hard to believe that Hizbullah organized the killing of hariri. So, i don’t see the downside to Hizbullah to be that great. At the worst, if there are strong facts to substantiate that Hizbullah members were involved, Hizbullah can will likely be as shocked as anyone. it hurts their image as a disciplined movement, but doesn’t substantially relate to their organization. if the facts are weak, this could actually strengthen Hizbullah by giving them more reason to be the underdog under attack by foreign powers (with even little hariri, apparently, coming to their defense)…

    Posted by Joe M. | July 23, 2010, 10:25 pm
  50. Qifa cited:

    واعتبر إلياس مهنا، وهو صاحب مدونة إلكترونية سياسية، أن السجال الحالي حول المحكمة الدولية سيؤدي إلى احتواء التوتر في المستقبل. وكتب في مدونته “قفا نبك” أنه “عندما يحين موعد إصدار القرار الظني في حق عناصر في حزب الله بعد أشهر من الآن.. فإن هذا الحدث سيصبح بمثابة حكاية قديمة”. وأضاف “حتى سعد الحريري يريد وضع السجال حول المحكمة وراءه”.


    Posted by # | July 23, 2010, 11:45 pm
  51. For those who think that Hezbollah is either totally innocent or that a few “undisciplined” members carried out the assassination, what is the reasoning behind that belief?

    Is Antonio Cassese, someone with a long and distinguished career in international law, allowing the tribunal to falsely indict people for larger political gains? And if it was just a group of “undisciplined” party members, were they just mercenaries? If so, for whom?

    Like I said in the other thread, I’m not sure I buy the Hezbollah connection, but it would surprise me that they didn’t know about it, and if they did do it, it would have been an ingenious move. They would have known that Syria would immediately be fingered, and after that, the withdrawal of Syrian troops would afford the party much more freedom of action in Lebanon.

    Posted by sean | July 24, 2010, 12:52 am
  52. Ok Sean, I’ll bite on this one. And i will say at the outset that I have not been following this as closely as i should.

    1) Your latter point that “it would be an ingenious move” could apply to anyone, not only Hizbullah. Everyone with any clear thinking could have known Syria would be fingered as a prime suspect. So it’s hard to apply that logic to Hizbullah without also applying it to all other potential suspects (or players in Lebanon), like Syria, Israel, the Lebanese Forces, islamists, hariri’s creditors… whomever..

    2) Antonio Cassese is only the last in a pretty long line of investigators. His work is contingent on all the previous work, subject to its biases, and is also accompanied by lebanese jurists (who no doubt have their biases). Further, when put in a position of pressure to bring charges (after 4+ years) it’s easy to turn to an internationally demonized political organization that has military capacity and has been in the political opposition. even if Cassese is the utmost professional, the extreme duration of the investigation (with all its resources) is a strong indication that there is weak evidence at best. This late in any investigation, and especially politically important ones, it’s not uncommon (at least in the american criminal “justice” system) to bring charges on the best “theory of the case” you have.

    3) As it is unlikely that pro-syria/pro-hizbullah members are employees/appointees of this investigation team, the absence of such balance can easily lead to a bias in toward their indictment if there are no other obvious suspects. In this type of environment, indicting Hizbullah members could easily make sense to an outsider (some random italian jurist who probably only knew that hizbullah is a “terrorist” organization when he began his tenure as investigator). he’s not necessarily making false indictments, but probably trying to tie together weak loose ends in the easiest way he can, and being influenced in the process.

    4) Hizbullah didn’t have a particularly bad relationship with hariri. They have had worse relationships with almost every other factional leader, including their “patrons” in syria. So, just on the smell test, it doesn’t make sense to me. they have never been involved in political assassination before, why would they start which such an obviously politically volatile one, and one that they had pretty good relations with (in general)?

    5) we have previous evidence that the tribunal acted politically (statements/reports of Mehlis, arrests of the generals, primary reliance on a man who admitted lying to the investigation team…), and it’s unclear how impartially it is acting (just on the basis of the political environment it has been working in).

    6) they have issued numerous reports, and none (that i am aware of) connected hizbullah to the killing. similarly, we simply don’t know what evidence they are basing this indictment on. We can be confident it is weak, but that’s all we have.

    7) what did hizbullah have to gain from doing this? I see very little. Particularly since they still consider themselves a resistance organization, and hariri was not opposed to their resistance efforts. there are other factions (islamists, business partners, Israel, syria) who had much more to gain from killing him.

    7) Assuming the operation was as complicated as it is made out to be, and assuming the evidence fingering hizbullah members is also weak generally, it would not be hard to frame hizbullah in an operation like this. Although we don’t know what the level of evidence used to connect this to hizbullah, it could be as simple as tracing telephone cards bought in stores owned by hizbullah members (or something). If we look at the lengths the mossad went to hide their identities (as european or other nationalities) in their dubai operation, it’s not hard to think that Hizbullah members could easily be framed.

    Anyway, i’d like to see the evidence. im sure it’s weak, but let’s see what it is. then we can see whether it’s totally incoherent, or whether there’s some substance to it. do you think the above are sufficient enough reasons to be skeptical?

    Posted by Joe M. | July 24, 2010, 2:22 am
  53. oh, and those are just the first things that come to mind. and obviously, the last one should be “8”, not “7”.

    also, i didn’t really do a good job of making distinct points, these bleed together a lot. but you get the point.

    Posted by Joe M. | July 24, 2010, 2:27 am
  54. Welcome to Realpolitik par excellence 🙂

    Posted by Badr | July 24, 2010, 3:36 am
  55. Joe M., debater par excellence. It is extremely instructive to read your long post above to those of us who are interested in the objective arguments for-and-against the various theories. Thank You.

    If you permit me I still have one more admonition for you corresponding to your post #49. While the style and tone of your three recent posts have been excellent I maintain that your use of demeaning qualifiers (and capitalization) like ‘little hariri’ completely take away from otherwise instructive posts and cast doubt on your ability to be persuasive and objective. You are emerging as the kind of debater that is sorely needed in the Arab world to appear on American and International media and present effectively the kind of point of views you hold. However, unless you are able to completely do away with the emotionally driven phrases like the one above that you sometimes use, your effectiveness will be completely lost on all objective neutral observers. And finally, on the human level, why belittle Saad Hariri? Do you have any compassion for the man? Would you want to trade places with him?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 6:24 am
  56. How about use ‘young’ instead of ‘little’ ?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 6:26 am
  57. Joe m,
    How can you possibly disagree with a decision/indictment that has not been made?
    Your strategy and that of Nasrallah, I might add, appears to be based on painting the STL as illegitimate because you have reason to fear its judgement. Based on what you have stated , you will never accept anything that comes from a judicial body that is “impartial, political, israeli” and out to get you. What a defense? The crazy thing is that many have already bought into that.

    Judicial systems ultimately rest on subjective judgements in substantive issues. That is why there is the possibility of appeal to higher courts. But ultimately there are judicial judgements that cannot be appealed and in that case all parties must accept the final say of the courts although at a personal level they disagree with it. Without such respect for the institutional structure then the system cannot function.
    An excellent example of the above was the Bush vs Gore. As soon as the Supremes ruled against Gore then Gore made an immediate appearance infront of the TV cameras in which he stated that he accepts the decision of the court but disagrees with it.
    I hope that we will wind up with a similar outcome in this case. STL, to the best of my knowledge can’t be appealed and so once they make a judgement some will agree , others will disagree but all must accept it. No need for civil strife , civil war and social tensions. We accept the rule of law and move on.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 24, 2010, 6:37 am
  58. Ghassan, you always make good points but I never thought I’d have to argue on behalf of Joe M. since all his posts – while admitting that he is predisposed to doubt the court – do state clearly that he will wait and see what the evidence is. In fact even SHN said something along these lines although he also more forcefully said he rejects the accusation. In fact, except for one blogger on the previous article who stated emphatically being “absolutely convinced” of Israel’s guilt (quite a silly and ignorable attitude undeserving of debate) everyone is leaving various size doors open to see the evidence first before a final pronouncement.

    So, patience my friend…

    Time will allow folks to fall into more rigid opinion camps and each can chastise the other at that time with more certainty.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 7:37 am
  59. I am certain Hariri must have mumbled along the lines of what Nasrallah said as I am certain as well they have been recorded!

    I do not see this as STL cornering Hariri. I see this as every party posturing and positioning itself for the inevitable circus atmosphere and conspiracy scenarios.
    I agree that SHN has everything to fear. It seems Syria has purged a few prominent actors that were related to the Lebanon File and most likely still has a few to sacrifice.

    I think HA has been played by Syria & KSA. It is feeling very vulnerable as well as the change in regional dynamics seem to be supporting and strengthening Syria will trying to isolate Iran.

    Nassrallah is not worried as much about his party’s survival as much as his own!

    We’ll wait and see how the dominos shall fall!!

    Posted by danny | July 24, 2010, 7:55 am
  60. Nice, danny. I would advise changing your “I am certain” to “I think it very probable (or likely or very likely, etc.”
    I also recommend against the pejorative characterization of “mumbled along the lines…”
    The fact is you don’t know anything for certain. Of that fact, I am certain 😉
    But I like your reasoning. (Of this I’m certain as well :-))


    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 9:01 am
  61. I very much disagree with your analysis QN.

    In the wider context, Hariri is still very much defending the STL and its credibility. March 14 (across the board, not just the Christian parties) have been vigorously defending the accuracy of any evidence based on phone call logs, and rejecting Hezballah’s attempt to discredit them based on the Israeli agent at Alfa.

    FM’s MPs and media had been attacking and indicting Hezballah for the past week after Nasrallah’s previous speech. It was not restricted to March 14’s Christian parties. There was much discussion in Akhbar about what to make of this duality in Hariri and Future’s positions.

    Nasrallah himself saw the matter differently: Hariri was trying to make Hezballah to swallow a bitter pill by giving guarantees and promising its only ‘a little thing, wont hurt at all’. But once Hezballah has provided legitimacy to the STL by accepting the initial low-level indictments, new indictments would start working their way up the chain of command.

    Hariri’s public stance on the initial indictments would be irrelevant. The STL would proceed on its own, and Hariri’s media outlets would take care of the incitement. Its been done before. Its already happening.

    If Hariri and Nasrallah were seeing eye to eye on this issue, Nasrallah would not have publicly revealed the details of the attempted deal. Its quite embarrassing for Hariri, as it shows a man whitewashing his father’s murder investigation. So much for ‘al haqiqa’.

    Posted by RedLeb | July 24, 2010, 9:15 am
  62. Some people have been urging that we ‘wait and see’ before pre-judging the STL. We have been seeing the investigative committee and later the STL in action for the past 5 years. It does not fill one with confidence.

    1. The four generals: Detained for 4 years without charge. Stuck in a farcical judicial limbo where the Lebanese judiciary and the IIIC insisted the other had jurisdiction and that it wasn’t their responsibility. And now again after their release, the local judiciary and the STL both state the other should look into their lawsuit for unlawful imprisonment.

    2. The false witnesses: The IIIC blundered and believed their lies. Fine. Why doesn’t the STL investigate the matter? How can you find any investigation credible if they don’t investigate people who mislead it?

    3. The legal twilight zone: Often the Lebanese judiciary and the STL each refuse to look into an issue (the detention of the generals, the false witnesses, Sayyed’s lawsuit) because ‘the other has jurisdiction’. You would think that over 5 years they would have sorted out some mechanism to decide who really has jurisdiction over what. If your aim is really ‘justice’ that is.

    4. The media frenzy: We know, from what happened to the four generals, that it doesn’t take much to indict, discredit, and convict in the public eye. You can do it on ‘a gut feeling’. There is a very real danger that any indictments against Hizballah members will be used to whip up a murderous frenzy against the party. There will be no ‘wait and see’.

    While it is local political parties that wage these campaigns, the IIIC and the STL allowed themselves to be used in this. Where are all the investigation leaks coming from? Why did they not publicly repudiate the Lebanese judiciary’s insistence that they were detaining the generals on the IIIC’s request?

    Posted by RedLeb | July 24, 2010, 9:42 am
  63. RedLeb wrote:

    “In the wider context, Hariri is still very much defending the STL and its credibility. March 14 (across the board, not just the Christian parties) have been vigorously defending the accuracy of any evidence based on phone call logs, and rejecting Hezballah’s attempt to discredit them based on the Israeli agent at Alfa.”

    Sure he is. It would look ridiculous if he were disparaging the STL given the fact that he is, after all, Mr. Haqiqa.

    But as long as we’re talking about the wider context, isn’t it obvious that this wider context also includes a completely different relationship with Syria? How is he supposed to square that circle? Use the STL to bludgeon Hizbullah while continuing to make nice with sister Syria? It doesn’t compute.

    “FM’s MPs and media had been attacking and indicting Hezballah for the past week after Nasrallah’s previous speech. It was not restricted to March 14′s Christian parties. There was much discussion in Akhbar about what to make of this duality in Hariri and Future’s positions.”

    The FM MP’s and media mean nothing at the end of the day. The only thing that means anything is Hariri himself and, beyond him, the Saudis. If a decision was taken in Riyadh to lower the temperature on the STL as part of some kind of quid pro quo with Syria, then the opinion of Hariri’s MPs is totally irrelevant. Who is Ammar Houri in the face of King Abdullah?

    My suspicion is that Hariri and the Saudis are trying to keep as many irons in the fire as possible. If the STL turns up some kind of home run — incontrovertible evidence of the involvement of senior officials in Damascus or Hizbullah — then they’ll use it for political gain. If it’s more of a whimper than a bang, then they’ll still need a face-saving way to “forgive and forget.”

    But I don’t think that the game plan is the same one that was operative a few years ago. Can we agree at least on that point?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 24, 2010, 10:48 am
  64. QN,
    Well according to today’s Al-Akhbar, Hariri was trying to get Assad on board the whole indictment-lite deal. Maybe he figures Assad will be so relieved he’s not the accused, that he will play along. I don’t know if this is true. But Assad seems to be broadcasting very strongly, via Al Akhbar, that Hariri should NOT rely on that scenario. It must be a reply to some overture.

    FM’s media and MPs are subordinate to Hariri. That is my point. If they are still attacking Hezballah, then it must be part of Hariri’s (and by extension the Saudi’s) strategy. I was pointing out the underlings’ behaviour to show their superiors’ intentions. The STL bludgeon is still very much in play.

    So yes, they are keeping all irons hot. Which I would posit contradicts your assessment of ‘ready to close the book’.

    The game plan has changed in that they are no longer after Syria. But I think de-legitimizing Hezballah is still very much on the table. I don’t see that they’ve accepted the political status quo in the country.

    I think the change you are talking about is a change in tactics. Hariri is not openly accusing Hezballah as he did Syria. He is trying to avoid a tumultuous backlash that could derail the indictments altogether. But he still wants the indictments to pass.

    Bottom line: If Hariri really wanted to close the book on the STL, he would have managed to work out some deal with Nasrallah. The fact that they ended up in a media war indicates they are working at cross purposes.

    Posted by RedLeb | July 24, 2010, 11:31 am
  65. RedLeb, forgive me if this should be obvious from earlier posts that I haven’t looked at but I’m very interested in where you stand on the STL. On the one hand your analyses above are very impressive, on the other hand you put forth a lot of arguments undermining the competence of the STL. Are you expecting that whatever conclusion it comes to will be untrustworthy?


    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 11:42 am
  66. Honest patriot?

    “The fact is you don’t know anything for certain. Of that fact, I am certain”…

    Really? I am certain that you have no facts! Stop substituting your opinions for facts… 😀

    Posted by danny | July 24, 2010, 12:21 pm
  67. I think the problem in the discussion (except for the lack of definitive info) is the question of what is a “political tool” and how can it be used? As the simplest and most straightforward sense of the concept I would suggest that a “political tool” is something that helps you win elections. Assuming that the only swing voters in Lebanon are the Christians, I think the question then becomes how much would good evidence against Hizballah influence the FPM voters in the next elections? The more it does the better a “political tool” it is.

    A secondary meaning of “political tool” is something that allows you to better advance your political agenda. Perhaps if Hizballah will find itself on its back foot it will be less likely to purse an adventure ala 2006 thus furthering Hariri’s aim of stability. Since I think Hizballah rely mostly on the support of the Shia, I don’t think this is a big factor though perhaps the support of about half the Christians could prove important.

    But whatever Hariri does, can the tribunal change significantly the status quo by forcing Hizballah to join the army for example? Extremely unlikely. In order to do that Hizballah needs to lose the support of the Shia community and the tribunal allegations will only make the Shia more defensive and more likely to stick with Hizballah.

    Posted by AIG | July 24, 2010, 12:40 pm
  68. RedLeb wrote:

    “Hariri is not openly accusing Hezballah as he did Syria. He is trying to avoid a tumultuous backlash that could derail the indictments altogether. But he still wants the indictments to pass.”

    Let me ask you this: what happens when the indictments pass? Let’s say the STL indicts several people, all of whom are connected with Hizbullah and/or Syria in such a way that it would be hard to believe that they couldn’t be “rolled up” to the leadership.

    What’s Hariri supposed to do with that? Without powerful backers who are ready to go to the mattresses with him against Hizbullah and/or Syria, he’s just going to look weak, because he’ll be forced to discredit the STL just because Hizbullah told him to.

    If the Saudis had any appetite for confronting Hizbullah and Syria in a big way right now, your point would be legitimate. But this does not appear to be the direction in which things are heading.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 24, 2010, 12:45 pm
  69. QN,

    You seem to think that Hariri needs to confront Hizballah to use the STL as a political tool. But why? He could just keep playing the reasonable statesman telling everybody to wait for the results of the trial and let Lebanese public opinion do the rest.

    Posted by AIG | July 24, 2010, 12:53 pm
  70. Honest Patriot,
    I think the STL lost all credibility when it failed to deal with the false witnesses issue in a believable manner. They should have either indicted them (if they had links to the perpetrators) or formally transferred the case to the Lebanese judiciary (if no links were found). To not investigate at all is scandalous.

    I think Bellmare is under a lot of pressure to focus on one line of investigation, and ignore other lines. The fact that the four generals were (eventually) released, means not everyone in the STL is willing to play along. The worry is that Bellmare would issue indictments on weak evidence, which would eventually be overturned by the judges, but after the damage has been done.

    I can’t dismiss out of hand a case that has yet to be presented. But I am increasingly anxious it will be a weak case presented because of political pressure.

    Also note we don’t know when the evidence will be presented. Is it going to be all at once when the indictments are issued? Or in dribs and drabs during court proceedings? That could mean a year’s wait between an indictment and being able to assess its credibility.

    Posted by RedLeb | July 24, 2010, 1:07 pm
  71. AIG:

    “Perhaps if Hizballah will find itself on its back foot it will be less likely to purse an adventure ala 2006 thus furthering Hariri’s aim of stability. ”

    I don’t see the logic in this. On the contrary, as someone else I’m sure said somewhere, a scenario where “Hizballah will find itself on its back foot” might be a trigger for a military adventure with Israel to distract the public opinion form the STL issues, create sympathy and rallying around HA.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 1:29 pm
  72. HP,

    I don’t know. That would seem like going from the frying pan into the fire. A war that will bring destruction on Lebanon will not be popular and since the Shia would suffer most, Hizballah would risk alienating their base. They would have to find a really good reason to attack Israel.

    Posted by AIG | July 24, 2010, 1:34 pm
  73. Not knowing too much about domestic Lebanese politics, I’d like to make the following points.

    1) After five years, the STL is quickly approaching the end of its sell by date. That is not to say it’s irrelevant, but that its relevance and power diminish with time.

    2) Having previously pointed suspicion towards the Syrian government and come up empty, subsequent accusations lose credibility.

    3) I’ll leave it to others more familiar with Lebanese politics to decide how this affects HA’s legitimacy within the country. My guess is those predisposed to dislike HA will believe its guilt. Those who support it will dismiss the STL entirely.

    4) There has been a media campaign against HA in high gear during the last 6 months. Along with that Israeli maneuvers, ‘successful’ tests of the Iron Dome, numerous hints of war from Israeli officials and detailed discussion of how Lebanese civilians wont get off so easily this time. (as the Israelis see it)

    5) Within this context, its hard for me not to assume that this is part of the plan to soften HA up for the intended kill. Any disunity between HA and the non-Shiite Lebanese makes Israel’s job easier.

    I can guess that Saad Hariri may have deduced that last point. Also, I suspect his actions may be based on whether he personally believes HA was involved in his fathers death. Perhaps he doubts the STL’s indictments.

    Posted by Lysander | July 24, 2010, 2:38 pm
  74. QN says:

    “What’s Hariri supposed to do with that? ” i.e the indictments. Why do you expect him to do anything with that? He , like any other citizen, is expected to accept the judgement, thank the STL for their time and effort and close the book on this affair. Enough about a political assassination that took place five years ago. There are other fish to fry, bigger fish to fry like socil and economic issues.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 24, 2010, 2:53 pm
  75. Ghassan

    He’s not “any other citizen.” He’s the guy whose father was blown up by a a 1000 kilogram car bomb in the middle of Beirut. He’s the guy who has to sit across the table with the people who are now accused of carrying out the crime. He can’t just “thank the STL for their time and effort and close the book on this affair.”

    It’s more complicated.


    You might be right. Hariri may be playing the long game, in which case, he’s finally gotten some decent advisors.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 24, 2010, 3:47 pm
  76. Lysander (#73, point 5) may be onto something:
    I also remember reading another report in US press but can’t find the source right now – expecting a Israel-HA conflict soon.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 4:02 pm
  77. I guess each person is entitled to his/her ideas. But I do not understand for the life of me why is it that he is different. Of course he can thank the STL and of course he should close the book and of course he is not to use this as a political tool and of course there is life beyond the Hariri affair…

    Do you really expect him to seek revenge? Is he expected to trade the welfare of a nation for personal revenge? Justice ie what he should be after. Justice ads defined by the judicial system. Justice as the STL rules in the case. That is it. No appeals . Just move forward.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 24, 2010, 4:10 pm
  78. AIG, give us some inside information. Is Lysander (#73, point 5)guessing correctly?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 6:38 pm
  79. HP,

    I beg to differ. The STL will have a stabilizing effect. Israel has no interest in attacking Hizballah as long as the border is quiet. Furthermore, any Israeli government that wants to survive needs to give both Israelis and our friends in the US and Europe good reasons why we chose war. Unless Hizballah attacks us (or attempts to acquire WMDs), there is no good reason. Let me put it in a little more colorful way: If the assholes in the government are going to make me spend a couple of months eating dirt in Lebanon at the expense of my family and business and also put me in mortal danger and have some of my friends die, they better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, they will suffer badly in the next election which will be very fast in coming.

    And again, a Hizballah facing even a small threat of civil war, will be loath to start anything with Israel.

    Posted by AIG | July 24, 2010, 6:44 pm
  80. Ya QN, is this recent news resulting in comments becoming much more numerous? feels like good old days on SC. What are the statitics of comment count vs. subject, roughly?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 6:58 pm
  81. HP,

    I want to add something to the above. The point that is sometimes lost on many people is that the IDF is a conscript army. In Israel we go to the army because we have to by law. It is NOT a volunteer army. Also, the IDF is based on reserves call up for large operations. In Israel, unlike the US, we cannot fight a war that inconveniences just a small part of the population and therefore going to war without a good reason has dire political consequences. I always wonder if the US would be still in Iraq and Afghanistan if 80% of people had a relative fighting there instead of 2%.

    I hope I was able to convince you that the Israeli PM telling us Israelis to go to war to take advantage of Hizballah’s weakness is not something that can fly in Israel even more so with regards to Lebanon (we remember well the mistakes of 1982).

    Posted by AIG | July 24, 2010, 7:00 pm
  82. AIG, you made very good points and I think your contributions in the last few points really help one, taking all the comments here, form an excellent rounded view of all the possibilities and factors. I appreciate your sincerity. Here’s to hoping that one day we’ll all be celebrating somewhere a final and lasting peace. I hope I’m alive when that happens.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 7:15 pm
  83. I meant “… contributions in the last few posts…”
    I’ve only recently started re-following closely all this

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 24, 2010, 7:16 pm
  84. QN Re scenario in #68
    “Let me ask you this: what happens when the indictments pass? Let’s say the STL indicts several people, all of whom are connected with Hizbullah and/or Syria in such a way that it would be hard to believe that they couldn’t be “rolled up” to the leadership.”

    Assuming they are connected to HA then,

    1-Harriri will ask HA to hand over the “rogue” perpetrators
    2-Harriri and current Government are accused of being a tool of Israel since the STL is a tool of Israel to begin with
    3- A military coup de tete by HA takes place and Michel Aoun is framed as President. Government and Parliament are dissolved
    4- As a just as grim but less bloody alternative to #3, a few choice assassinations of M14 Ministers and MPs take place so that the government can be dissolved legally and the M14 majority is no longer a majority and a more “democratic” change in power takes place in Lebanon installing M8 in charge of the government since they now have a majority in Parliament. This is just in case Jumblatt has any second thoughts about what camp he should be in.
    5- Lebanon is officially and unabashedly fully in the Iranian camp. Aoun and/or his PM Abdel Rahim Murad view the STL’s indictments as an act of war by Israel and the International community.
    6- Given #5, Israel will have another front to worry about if and when it decides to attack Iran. Don’t underestimate how valuable this point is for SHN and Ahmadinajad.
    7- Civil war 2.0 starts in Lebanon after accidents with religious and sectarian overtones start taking place all over Lebanon particularly in mixed areas. Lebanese army is divided across sectarian lines – again.

    So basically, all of Harriri’s efforts to avoid civil war and his current well intentions towards HA, as described earlier in this article and comment thread, will lead to naught.

    I hope to God I am totally wrong.

    Posted by MM | July 24, 2010, 7:58 pm
  85. If what AIG says is correct, then there is almost no chance of war. HA can’t afford to be seen in Lebanon as the instigators of any conflict. STL or no STL. And so, they will not instigate one. Any revenge for Immad Mughniye, should it happen, will have to offer HA plausible deniability.

    I hope he is correct about Israeli views toward another war. I agree that GOI will need a more conclusive result than 2006, or political careers will end. Especially if they choose to strike first. OTOH, If they feel a decisive victory is attainable in 1-2 weeks, then Netanyahu would be a national hero. A suitable excuse, such as HA is obtaining chemically tipped scuds, will bring the populace on board. It did in the US, anyway. That said, I do not know what GOI’s assessment of HA vs their own capabilities is.

    Tough talk and threats of war take on a life of their own. Both sides are preparing for war, and both assume war is only a matter of time.

    As for the STL, there seems to be an assumption that HA is guilty. Perhaps it is, but I doubt it. If it were, Assad would have fingered them in 2005 or 2006 when all the heat was on him. I also have to ask myself, why is the STL indicting HA now, five years later after having exhausted all their leads on Syria? Did they discover some new evidence that wasn’t there five years ago? Were phone records only checked now? I’m not familiar with the ins and outs of the STL, but that just makes me wonder.

    Posted by Lysander | July 24, 2010, 9:44 pm
  86. HP

    We tend to average lots of comments here at QN whenever the subject of Hizbullah comes up. My favorite subjects — wonky discussions of policy issues and political reform — aren’t nearly as popular. 🙂

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 24, 2010, 10:17 pm
  87. Here’s Bobby Worth in The New York Times on the STL issue, with a quote from yours truly.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 24, 2010, 10:18 pm
  88. Sadly, having to make nice with the people who killed your father isn’t exactly something new for Lebanese politics–just ask Walid Jumblat.

    I think QN is absolutely right in his reading of this (and congratulations on the NYT quote!). I suspect that:

    1) we’ll get the indictments

    2) Hizbullah will continue to blame it on Israel (pointing to the telcom spies)

    3) Hariri will continue to offer the “rogue elements” escape hatch

    4) some or all of the indicted suspects will vanish before they can be arrested

    5) Lebanese and international funding for a second phase of the STL investigation that would pursue the next level of command responsibility for the assassination will dry up.

    Nick raises the issue in his blogpost of what this means for Hizbullah’s status and reputation. I’m not sure it will hurt much in its own constituency–too many will buy into the “Israeli plot” arguments. It will certainly solidify sectarian tensions (as if they needed “solidifying”).

    As for what it has to say about Nasrallah’s decision-making, and Hizbullah’s once much-vaunted reputation for clever strategizing… well, I think the bloom has been off that rose for quite a while.

    Posted by Rex Brynen | July 24, 2010, 11:25 pm
  89. QN, try a combined Israel/Palestinians-in-Lebanon/Hizbullah post, and see how many comments that gets you!

    Posted by Rex Brynen | July 24, 2010, 11:26 pm
  90. The offer supposedly made, does not mean that “Saad al-Hariri and the Saudis are ready to close the book on the Special Tribunal and allow it to die a quiet death.” Assuming HA is the culprit, what is siqnificant to me is not that Hassan Nasrallah is being offered a compromise deal, which is still damaging – perhaps seriously – to HA if he accepts it (why otherwise has he not accepted what he said was the offer?), but rather finding a way out of a looming crisis, if the STL’s indictments cannot be postponed indefinitely.

    Posted by Badr | July 24, 2010, 11:30 pm
  91. Many have critiqued the STL by pointing to the arrest of the four generals and then their release a few months ago. I am not sure that the facts support such a conclusion. If my understanding of the admitedly “legal” relationship between the STL and the UNIIIC is correct then the release of the generals is actually an indication that the STL is quite impartial.

    UNIIIC was established with Mehlis followed by Brammertz and then Bellemare. It was upon the recommendation of Mehlis that a Lebanese arrest was executed against the four generals. When Mehlis left , Jan 2006 his successor reconfirmed all his conclusions which were also reconfirmed by Bellemare. Then in mid 2007 the STL was formed and the head of the UNIIIC became automatically the prosecutor of the newly formed STL. Bellemare decided to free the generals for lack of sufficient evidence to make the accusation stick. Why did it take so long to make such a discovery? I submit that a Prosecutor is free to indict whoever he/she pleases it is the chamber of the STL that would have to eventually make a jugement. Isn’t it rather obvious that Bellemare , who had initially agreed with Mehlis and Brammertz was forced to release his 4 accused. under pressure from the potential judges in the STL.
    I am the first to admit that I am not a lawyer and so I do not have a complete understanding of the relationship between the STL and the UNIIIC. Is there anyone who can shed a light on this?

    (Another related and important issue: What does the historical record reveal about indctments and guilt in circumstances similar to the STL. Have there been many circumstances where indictments did not result in convictions?)

    For one reason or another I find myself on the opposite end of all your analysis 🙂 I do not believe that the STL was convened to bludgeon Syria or anyone else for that matter. It was convened because of the dysfunctional Lebanese state that could neither investigate nor depend on an impartial judicial system.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 24, 2010, 11:35 pm
  92. Ghassan,
    I am a lawyer, and i can tell you that in the american criminal “justice” system, no one is arrested unless there is enough evidence to bring charges (of course, this does not apply to the american military torturers and/or the cia…). The point is that they do the investigation first, gain evidence to bring charges, and then arrest the suspects and bring them to trial.

    And the question is not that their being released is evidence that the process is fair, but the issue is why were they arrested in the first place? Similarly, no one will look at guantanamo and say, “see, the american system is fair, the inmates were released after 8 years of unjust confinement.”

    The release itself is acknowledgment that the system was not fair in the first place!

    Posted by Joe M. | July 25, 2010, 1:13 am
  93. Do I rememeber correctly? Did Hariri Senior have any connection with UN resolutions that would have weakened or disarm the resistance HA? Would that not put them in a survival mode by striking out the danger from within? Have I ever heard that he had strong western ties and might have talked to some Israeli’s? .. maybe like Gibran Twieni was trying to convince the west to come to Lebanon and be very interested into making it the example they were looking for in Middle East?

    Is it only me that remember all above? Does not all trigger survival strikes by HA. HA is not interested in any western influence in Lebanon nor would they like it, nor would they want it. And you know what? I cannot blame them for that although I do not support their tactic of taking out the people that they did.

    Wake up folks; HA does not want any western intereference or influence in Lebanon. The west with it’s blind support for Israel has made itself the sworn enemy of HA. HA does what HA has to do to survive and thrive. I do not like the dirty part but I learned to accept it just I had to accept what bush junior did to Iraq, and what zionists did to Palestine.

    Posted by r | July 25, 2010, 3:38 am
  94. Joe M., maybe you discussed this before and I missed it. What scenario do you see as probable in terms of who planned and who pulled the trigger in the Hariri assassination?
    Also, what level of relevance, do you think, is it at this time to find out exactly who did it, given the local Lebanese and regional Arab and Middle Eastern conditions?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 3:39 am
  95. QN,
    I’m not going to predict what happens after the indictments. For one, it really depends on whether Hezballah did it or not. For another, my predictions would not be as entertaining as the coup/war/blood-in-the street prophecies of other posters on this thread.

    But I can tell you what I suspect Hariri wanted to happen, by getting Nasrallah to accept the deal: The STL would indict some members, they would go to court, and at some point they would get convicted. All this would happen without accusation of Israeli plots or violence in the streets.

    Do not underestimate the power of a court conviction, especially one that Hezballah tacitly endorses.

    It could lead to more indictments: The convictions could lead to superiors one level up. You wouldn’t have to start targeting Nasrallah from the beginning. You wouldn’t have to target Nasrallah at all. Hezabllah is the main target, not the person of Nasrallah.

    You would increase the scope of indictments gradually, year by year, always on the footsteps of convictions. By getting Nasrallah’s initial consent, you make it very difficult for Hezballah to challenge the STL’s credibility later on.

    It could lead to control over Hezballah: Even with the initial convictions, and especially with later ones, it would make Hezballah supporters (whether politicians like Auon, or there own base among the Shia) supportive of policies to ‘cleanse Hezballah of rogue elements’ or ‘place controls so the crime does not happen again’. It might not be the slam dunk of disarming the party, but you could pressure it to accept some oversight, army liaison, or other governmental interference in its command.

    It could be used as a wedge issue between Hezballah and the Syrians, especially if the Syrians were not involved. The Syrians would face a lot of pressure to control their wayward ally. The Syrians themselves would be pissed off that their ally caused them to lose Lebanon. Saudi wants to make nice with Syria, after all, not Hezballah.

    And election-wise, it would be the gift that keeps on giving.

    In summary, he’s not planning on going to the mattress with Hezballah. He’s trying make them step into the pot of water and very very slowly raising the temperature to a boil.

    Posted by RedLeb | July 25, 2010, 6:01 am
  96. RedLeb, interesting. Well, it seems like SHN didn’t take the bait, right? So, what now?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 6:11 am
  97. Ghassan,
    What does it mean that a ‘Lebanese arrest’ was made based on the ‘recommendation of Melhis’? Is that a joke? Do you have no problems with a Lebanese being arrested based on a ‘recommendation’ by a person who has no jurisdiction in our legal system?

    Actually Brammertz did repudiate Melhis, but quietly and privately so as not to embarrass his predecessor and the entire investigation. He gave the Lebanese all the evidence on which the ‘recommendation’ was made, and stated that his predecessor had no standing to issue such a ‘recommendation’ at all. He ought to have publicly rebuked Melhis for professional mis-conduct AND the Lebanese justice ministry for repeatedly, and untruthfully, claiming they can only release the four generals after Brammertz issues a counter ‘recommendation’.

    In total, the IIIC allowed its name to be used to cover up an illegal detention by the Lebanese authorities.

    And get your facts straight: the four generals were never accused, nor indicted, not by the Lebanese justice system nor by Bellmare, or anyone else. They were never charged. The STL got custody of them from the Lebanese because they were part of the ‘file’, not because of any indictments issued by the STL prosecutor.

    The judge’s decision clearly stated that there was no ‘credible evidence’ for their detention. Not ‘insufficient evidence’, that is, the evidence used by the Lebanese to justify their detention is not believable.

    And finally: The STL was convened because the Lebanese justice system could not prosecute Syrian officials (you know, because they did it). An international court with UN backing was required.

    As for being unable/unwilling to investigate, if the rumours are true, the STL is basing their indictments on a Lebanese investigation of phone call logs. Ho hum.

    Posted by RedLeb | July 25, 2010, 6:35 am
  98. Yesterday, Kuwaiti newspaper al-Rai published a report that, IMHO, is a very likely scenario:

    “The suspects behind the Hariri assassination are dead.
    According to an unnamed Western security source, Hariri’s alleged killers were wiped out to prevent investigators from gathering any clues to the crime and also to protect the people who planned the assassination.
    The source said that some people who were accused by investigators of involvement in Hariri’s murder have vanished either by assassination or bombing, while other unknown suspects were eliminated in a calm manner.
    “What is certain, according to intelligence analysis, is that it was one group that carried out the crime because a crime of this magnitude cannot be carried out by two partners,” the paper quoted the source as saying.

    http://bit.ly/baOVnL [Al-Rai]
    http://bit.ly/aasRVB [Now Lebanon]

    If this is true, it still might be that STL will indict some Hezbollah members, but whomever it will indict, it will not reach the truth, whole truth and nothing but the truth. However, the damage will be done.

    PM Saad Hariri is not in an easy position. Nor is Mr. Nasrallah. Nor is Lebanon.

    As for the detention of the four Generals, one can note that Judge Elias Eid was on the point of releasing them when Judge Ralph Riachy – who is now the Vice-President of STL, sacked him. He was reportedly sacked on charges of corruption [receiving fuel coupons from].
    Anyhow, maybe the lawsuit by General Jamil Sayyed might shed more light on this issue in the near future, if Judge Fransen decides that he has indeed standing before the STL and if Sayyed will be granted access to the requested files.

    Another thing:
    In post #52 Joe wrongly refers to Antonio Cassese as “only the last in pretty long line of investigators”. Cassese is the President of the STL. He is not the one to bring the charges. If anyone will bring charges, that will be Prosecutor Bellemare; he will submit his indictment to Pre-Trial Judge Fransen. If Judge Fransen accepts the application and confirms the charges, only then Judge Cassese will be the in the picture as a Judge.

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 25, 2010, 7:02 am
  99. RedLeb

    You are basically arguing along the same lines as AIG, and I think both of you guys could well be right. It’s a possibility that I hadn’t fully considered. The alternative, in my opinion, is the scenario I laid out above. We’ll see.

    The problem with your scenario, in my opinion, is that it really wouldn’t be feasible, if Hariri and the Saudis are committed to improving relations with Syria.

    Nasrallah stated in his speech that he wouldn’t accept “even half of a Hizbullah member” being indicted, let alone several “undisciplined” shabab. So he is perfectly wise to the plot that you’ve laid out. He’s not stupid. And I don’t think that Hariri imagines that Nasrallah is stupid. He knows that Hizbullah would tar any kind of guilt-by-association indictment tactic as an Israeli conspiracy.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that I still find the “let’s close the book on the STL” theory to be more convincing. Sure, it would be nice for Hariri if he could get a parting shot against Hizbullah as they were closing the book, but I don’t think that what he and the Saudis are aiming for is a sustained building-boil campaign against the party. They know that Hizbullah would not tolerate that, and the Syrians wouldn’t either. In Lebanese politics, biting off more than you can chew can be a grave error, as we saw with the May 5, 2008 decision to shut down Hizbullah’s communications network. By the same token, if the STL indicts Hizbullah members and Hariri does not issue an unequivocal rejection of this finding (as Hizbullah will surely demand), then he will be painted as an Israeli collaborator. He can’t adopt a wait-and-see posture, and let the pot boil.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2010, 7:17 am
  100. Fellow children of Lebanon, lest we forget:

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 7:44 am
  101. Red Leb,
    This is the second time that semantics/language structure has caused a major misunderstanding.
    Mehlis issued a recommendation (whether I agree with the recommendation or not is not essential for this discussion)to detain the four generals and the Lebanese authorities obliged. They did not have to go along.
    But more importantly you do not , neither does Joe m address the issue that I am raising. There is a difference , a clear one in my mind, between the STL and the UNIIIC. If we are to assume , for the purposes of the current discussion, that all the criticisms of the UNIIIC are correct, then as soon as STL was established, funded,… it played a role in convincing its prosecutor that the arrest of the four generals carried on by the UNIIIC does not stand. If the above interpretation is accurate, from a legal perspective, then the release of the generals is a positive reflection on the STL. It is crucially important also not to equate the STL with the Prosecutor. There is much more to it than that.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2010, 7:52 am
  102. Saad Hariri was 5 at the start of the Lebanese Civil War (in 1975). SHN was 15. I was 17. I remember. Too well. Chaftari (see video above) lived a few buildings away from our building in Beirut. Will the younger generation heed the call to repudiate civil war and any danger of it?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 7:55 am
  103. (I’ve updated my comment #100, RedLeb. So be sure to read it all before responding.)

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2010, 7:55 am
  104. AIG’s post #80 above is also very instructive. Anyone who tastes war does not want to taste it again, at least not without the kind of absolute, irrevocable, indispensable need that is clearly proven, articulated, and agreed-to by universal consensus. Like fighting Hitler.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 8:00 am
  105. He-he-he.


    1) You are a puss for not saying ‘bitch’ in the NYTimes!!!

    2) One thing to keep in mind is that the players in this game are of just as many minds as the commenters here. Conflict of interest, information asymmetry, etc., etc… My gut says he a key-hole moment would leave us all even more confused … (Q: what’s going on, sheikh saad? A: S**t if I know …). Call it bounded irrationality if you like.


    I respect your opinion, mostly because it used to be mine (circa 2007). And yes, complexity. Tis hard to wax on political macrotrends in 27 words or less in the comment section of a blog.

    Still, I think we are moving into a new phase of hyper-sectarianism (sunni-shia), at least at the level of ‘high national politics.’ HA’s success and regional dynamics are but two additional contributing factors in this continuing evolution.

    Posted by david | July 25, 2010, 8:02 am
  106. “r” in post #94 (http://tinyurl.com/2c4jd4s) is presenting the same argument as in the “Syria Comment” post of 2006: http://tinyurl.com/24fuo8v

    I tend to agree with the argument, although I vehemently agree with the blind rejection of engagement with the West. If the blind support for Israel is wrong and if redressing the injustices against the Palestinians is a worthy goal, there are much more effective ways to “fight” this “war” than the horribly ineffective and inhuman resort to terrorism that was adopted over the years or the stupid decision to not engage and not talk (just as stupid as President G.W. Bush’s and his administration’s prior decisions not to engage with Syria or other factions they don’t agree with and don’t like, going against the advice of his former advisor and super-intelligent statesman — who saved his hide in the Bush-Gore legal action — Jim Baker III).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 8:14 am
  107. … vehemently “disagree” …. above. Sorry.
    Ya QN, can you put a feature to edit one’s post within a few minutes, like in SC ?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 8:15 am
  108. Umm iDriss #99,
    Obviously I am not in a position to confirm or deny the story tha you refer to . At one level, a gut level, I find it to be very difficult to believe that so many accused of involvement in the Hariri assassination have taken the fast route out of planet earth.
    Furthermore I would not be surprised to learn that these eliminations were justified on the grounds that they were “rogue” elements and so they paid a heavier price than the one that would have been exacted by the tribunal.
    The downside of that is that if the tribunal is to indict and convict at this late stage then it would be dealing only with foot soldiers and not with master minds. It is becoming increasingly clear that the real planners will not be found.This will not be the first unsolved political assassination and that is not the end of the world.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2010, 8:15 am
  109. HP, there’s no such option on WordPress blogs, so as to keep them stable and spam/hacker-free.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | July 25, 2010, 8:18 am
  110. The emotional drive of the ancient Arab times, appropriately referred to as the “age of ignorance” (الجاهليت) where the motto was:
    الا لا يجهلن احد علينا فنجهل فوق جهل الجاهلينا
    “Let no one display ‘ignorant behavior’ on us lest we display the most ‘ignorant behavior’ of the all the ‘ignorant behavior’ ever”
    is completely anachronistic in our times (and since the dawn of the 20th century) and if followed (as in terrorism and other stupid oratory pontifications – like declaring victory including divine victory when your azz has been kicked) can only lead to further defeats and backwardness.

    The intellectual power of people like Joe M. needs to be channeled and coupled with the technical/scientific abilities of the new Arab generations to develop a new paradigm moving the Middle East nations forward to modernity in thought, technology, political and social progress.

    (And of course my nominee for supreme leadership of all this is none other than our own Qifa Nabki ;-))

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 9:03 am
  111. Blaming Hezbollah for the assassination of Hariri is just another way to reach Syria , apparently Syria did not respond to the carrots offered by KSA and the US to break ties with Hezbollah , Hams and Iran , therefore they are going back to the time of direct confrontation and raising the pressure on Syria as was called for by many Lebanese and American commentators , no winners , no losers will only extend conflicts and deny the future generation a chance of good future ,

    It is time to make Lebanon a real Democracy and call for one man one vote and a country wide election , with equal rights and equal obligation to all ,

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 9:05 am
  112. We missed you 3ammo Norman (if you permit me, despite my age, to borrow from our QN leader’s humor of a few years ago). Yalla, QN, how about that? I like 3ammo Norman’s idea. Has lots of merit as a likely scenario. Can’t wait to hear your view on it.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 10:09 am
  113. Parts of the present article should’ve been published in the “Conspiracies” page. STL verdict’s may be beneficial to certain Lebanese parties and regional countries. But to say “to their advantage” is a clear judgment that our planet is lawless. the STL is headed by the UN and several countries are directly in charge of its functions and to hint that they are not judicious is not professional.
    On another note, Lebanon cannot afford more bitter divisions. JFK died some 47 years ago and the question remains: who killed JFK? Before being assassinated King Fahed tied Saudi aid to Lebanon to the nomination of Rafic Hariri as PM which Bashir refused and labeled Hariri “the most dagerous octopus to enter Lebanese potlitics”. May I propose a conspiracy? Hariri’s role in Bashir’s assassination? And the question remains: who killed Bashir?

    Posted by Noble | July 25, 2010, 10:20 am
  114. Honest Patriot ,

    Actually I believe that is QN idea at least a couple of years ago ,

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 10:22 am
  115. Norman,

    Can you explain why democracy is a solution for Lebanon and not for Syria?

    Posted by AIG | July 25, 2010, 12:18 pm
  116. AIG,
    Can you explain why democracy isn’t a solution for Israel?

    Posted by Joe M. | July 25, 2010, 12:26 pm
  117. Joe M.,

    Israel is a democracy already.

    Like all democracies it is not a perfect one. My government is accountable to me. I have complete freedom of speech. The Israeli courts are independent and have no problem bringing to justice people in powerful positions.

    The West Bank is OCCUPIED. The people there don’t vote in just the same way that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan don’t vote in US elections. Does that make the US not a democratic country?

    Don’t you think it is somewhat amusing for a Syrian to recommend democracy as a solution for Lebanon while overlooking his country which is one of the worst regimes in the world?

    Posted by AIG | July 25, 2010, 12:41 pm
  118. AIG,
    I would like syria to be a democracy too, but at least it doesn’t claim democracy as a justification for oppression.

    And don’t forget, Gaza is OCCUPIED too.

    But you know what democracy really is, and you know that Israel is not one. Israel is a democracy for some of its citizens, and an oppressor for others. by the same logic, syria is a democracy for the assad family!

    Before you start preaching democracy to people, look in a mirror!

    Posted by Joe M. | July 25, 2010, 1:01 pm
  119. AIG,
    Would a muslim be arrested in syria for having consensual sex with a jew? Does syria require loyalty oaths to the alawi sect? Do 1000 year old jewish homes ever get bulldozed for not being correctly permitted? Even jews are scared that their rights will be restricted by the upcoming regulations on who qualifies as a jew (ie. full citizen with full rights)… I could go on, but there’s no need to have this discussion here.

    Posted by Joe M. | July 25, 2010, 1:13 pm
  120. Joe m says:
    “Israel is a democracy for some of its citizens, and an oppressor for others. by the same logic, syria is a democracy for the assad family!”

    Wow. I am speechless.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2010, 1:20 pm
  121. that’s a first. But why are you speechless ghassan?

    Posted by Joe M. | July 25, 2010, 1:24 pm
  122. STL and the outcome of its investigation will go beyond the murder of Hariri. The accused parties will also be found guilty in a court of public opinion of the subsequent assassinations.

    1) Was it Syria and her allies projecting their power after Syria left Lebanon in shame

    2) Or was it a party interested on making Syria look guilty by killing people that were clearly not pro Syrian

    Posted by tamer k. | July 25, 2010, 1:26 pm
  123. For Syria to move to Democracy she has to have a wide middle class so hatred will not force the vote , peace with Israel is a must to prevent Israel from interference in Syria affair , stopping the foreign money from influencing the vote like in Lebanon is also needed and a district system is preferred in Syria to make people vote for people they know not for a party or a religion , In Lebanon it is difficult to have a count as religion is written on their ID cards , not in Syria , free movement of people and registration to vote where people live not where they come from is essential and anti discrimination laws in housing and employment will diverse people and create integration , people do not fear people they live and work with ,

    They can put all their energy to make their local towns and neighborhood better ,and elect the people who can do that , having local election will create a mature leaders that can work for the people instead of making the people work for them ,

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 2:14 pm
  124. 3ammo Norman, the new Lebanese ID cards no longer indicate religion. A baby step towards one man one vote but a step nonetheless.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 2:28 pm
  125. Whether Nasrallah is aware of this or not, the ME is slowly moving toward democracy…


    Posted by Akbar Palace | July 25, 2010, 2:39 pm
  126. Honest Patriot ,

    Thank you , tell you how old i am ,

    i used to go to HAJ Dawood with my dad in the sixties , i heard it was destroyed during the civil war , is that the case , I loved looking at the see and fishermen from the second story cafe ,

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 2:57 pm
  127. AIG,

    Israel is a democratic theocracy.

    Posted by noble | July 25, 2010, 4:53 pm
  128. Oh! the sweet memories, dear Norman. If you read French, flag it here or tell QN and I’ll send you in an email (maybe via QN) a nice sentimental reminiscence essay about downtown Beirut. I would post it here but it’s kinda long and I don’t want to be out-of-line and out-of-topic in this thread (unless I get the permission of the Tzar!) Thanks for sharing.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 5:01 pm
  129. Honest Patriot ,

    I do not know French , that was a nice place , My dad , drinking coffee and smoking the Argela and i was looking at the Fishermen and biting myself on who is going to catch the first fish , there were the days ,

    Elias , you can give my E Mail to Honest patriot ,

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 5:17 pm
  130. Photo of “Haj Daoud Cafe” from before even HP and 3ammo Norman were born:

    Posted by Honest Patriot | July 25, 2010, 5:24 pm
  131. HP
    I am told that Haj Daoud Cafe is still there. I used to go to an Italian restaurant right across the streetI believe that Haj Daoud, if it is still a going enterprise , must be one of the oldest Cafes in Beirut. It usedo count Amin Nakhle among its habitues.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 25, 2010, 6:22 pm
  132. That was a nice place , thank you

    Posted by Norman | July 25, 2010, 7:00 pm
  133. Photo of “Haj Daoud Cafe” from before even HP and 3ammo Norman were born:

    This spot looks to me as Ain El Mreyeiseh. A good spot allright, but not as good as the Manara in my book or even Raouche.

    By the end of day, Manara is best as it is where Hamra ends. Into the infinite sea.

    Ah, I miss Ras Beirut.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | July 26, 2010, 12:16 am
  134. same picture

    Posted by norman | July 26, 2010, 8:56 am
  135. Ghassan Karam #109,
    I don’t know, but my gut feeling is that the masterminds will never be found / known, and that it’s only some low level executioners that will be indicted – possibly from Hezbollah. And I’m consciously saying indicted – the conviction is still something else. But OK, the political/regional damage would still be done.

    On another note, there is an interesting article today from Rosana Boumounsef in An-Nahar.

    She argues that it is also possible that there will be no STL indictments, but that instead, the Prosecutor will present a final report to the UNSC which will detail all the findings of the investigation so far. She says that this report would have the effect of the indictment even if the latter would not be issued. The difference with an indictment would be that the whole story could end with the publishing of the report, while the indictment entails two possibilities: first, the trial would follow its natural course and second, the STL would be halted by stopping the funding as a result of pressure. She says that there might be many levels which have an interest in stopping the STL, especially if it would go to a second round of indictments, which, according to Boumounsef, would go to the planners of the attack.

    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 26, 2010, 9:30 am
  136. Sorry, I forgot to mention that I found the article from Boumounsef particularly interesting because the former STL chief of investigations, Nick Kaldas, said last March that “there was no guarantee there would be prosecutions. He is confident, however, that the whole picture of the incident in which a car bomb killed Hariri and 22 others, will soon emerge… “What I can say is the evidence and material and information the tribunal gathers will eventually be placed by the prosecutor where it ought to go. It’s his decision whether it needs to go to a court or some other forum. There are a number of options open to him. I would not say there is certainty that it will be a prosecution. It could go quite a number of ways.


    Posted by Umm iDriss | July 26, 2010, 9:37 am
  137. Let’s stop day dreaming! STL will convene and indictments will be issued! If someone thinks that after thousands of hours of investigative work will culminate into a “report”; you are living in a ME-rn frame of mind!
    These investigators are not ISF mind you; but close enough LOL!

    Hassan Nassrallah has blown his ammunition cartridge; scatter shooting everywhere in three separate speeches in three separate rants!
    He has threatened everyone alive and dead. Nothing new.

    I think it is Nassrallah who will be tossed out for incompetence!!

    Posted by danny | July 26, 2010, 12:35 pm
  138. It is funny that danny and Rex Brynen are “analysing” as if they are Human Resources functionaries.

    Posted by Lebanon | July 26, 2010, 1:05 pm
  139. Lebanon…Did you say something?

    Posted by danny | July 26, 2010, 2:56 pm
  140. Ras Beirut,

    The picture you posted is now a restaurant called Le Pecheur. Not sure what Hajj Dawood was before but le Pecheur is (like most places in Beirut) a fancy place for the elite to dine alongside the foreigners.



    Posted by Johnny | July 27, 2010, 6:26 am
  141. Interesting article about the gas issue and HA:

    Now the very fact that Israel is has been successful in finding gas reserves is a reason for HA not to disarm. I have to say they are creative.

    Posted by AIG | July 27, 2010, 2:18 pm
  142. Johnny/Ras Beirut/Norman,
    I can confirm to you that Johnny is right when he says that the Haj Daoud has become Le Peucher. I called Lebanon to confirm that since Haj Daoud was no more. That was very sad when whoever answered the phone sounded proud of the change. Well at least know the telecommunication ministry is $1 richer 🙂

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 27, 2010, 3:49 pm
  143. Ghassan Karam,

    I guess you’re living abroad, right? If you were living in Lebanon, would you feel free to write in your blog the same things that you’ve been writing?

    Posted by Badr | July 27, 2010, 4:51 pm
  144. Badr,
    No one should ever write or say anything that would not be said anytime and anywhere. That is one reason that I use my real name. I do go to Lebanon a lot.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 27, 2010, 5:41 pm
  145. Badr, I got to thinking, what makes you think that I have anything to hide or that I will be ashamed of the positions that I advocate for: Here is a quick run down of the last ten entries:

    Against Sedition

    Opposed to Nasrallah rhetroric

    For Palestinian rights including naturalization

    Strongly opposed to shallow ecology

    Believer in Peak Oil

    Wish that Arab Philanthropy will mature

    Encourages a scientific approach to Natural gas field

    Warn of Real Estate Bubble

    Support Internet Freedom

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 27, 2010, 5:55 pm
  146. Thanks Ghassan ,

    Posted by Norman | July 27, 2010, 9:23 pm
  147. Johnny said:

    Ras Beirut,

    The picture you posted is now a restaurant called Le Pecheur. Not sure what Hajj Dawood was before but le Pecheur is (like most places in Beirut) a fancy place for the elite to dine alongside the foreigners.



    Thanks Johnny & Ghassan for the info. I just remember the place as a kid walking in that area few times. Never been inside it either. Too expensive for my allowance as a kid, he he!! But what stuck in my head is the architecture of the place and the quaint setting. There was a little fishing landing around it at the time with few active small fishing boats.

    It seems that the water front has been taken over by the rich and famous with lesser and lesser access for the common folks. Heck even the Bain militaire is huge now compared to its humble past.

    Nothing new, even 35 years ago, that area (Ras Beirut water front) was the most desireable and expensive in Lebanon. But back then ( I think) there was some zoning control over building/expanding right on the rocky beaches, and from what I see now, it has been breached all over the place, which is a shame, as I think the common joe should have access to enjoy the place, etc..

    Now, I’ll say something relating to the STL. Why on earth would the STL folks leak such info vis a vis HA, knowing full well that it will create discord and a bunch of drama. It only diminishes its credibility in my view. Why not act professionally and issue their report publicly when they finalize their investigation, no matter what their findings are, and keep it leak free while the investigation is ongoing. Just my 2 cents.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | July 27, 2010, 9:59 pm
  148. Ghassan,

    What you thought I was thinking when I asked you my question, was not really what I was pondering! 😉


    Posted by Badr | July 28, 2010, 9:42 am
  149. According to this statement it does not seem that M14 is backing down:

    Furthermore, according to other articles the Saudi-Syrian-Lebanese presidential summit is not about stopping the tribunal but about assuring peace while it moves forward.

    Posted by AIG | July 28, 2010, 9:55 am
  150. As Umm Idriss has already pointed out on a different Blog, an article in the Al Rai quotes an unidentified authority that was involved with the STL since its inception nothing will stop the STL from indicting.

    The issue then becomes whther the country/countries will arrest and deliver the accused to stand trial. If Lebanon choses not to deliver the accused , and it looks that Lebanon has been offered that option then STL would use Article 17 of the statutes which gives them the right to hold a trial in absentia.

    A ruling in absentia , in my mind, opinion would be as damaging to the accused.

    Let me say though one more time, it is time that we close the book on tghis issue and move forward. The purpose of the trial is not to bludgeon one party or the other, not to use it as a political tool but simply to investigate what had happened and to let the judicial system have its say. Thats it.
    Its time for this circus to fold its tent.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | July 28, 2010, 10:32 am


  1. Pingback: (Ita) «A journey to the centre of Hezbollah» « A Roman Dictionary - July 24, 2010

  2. Pingback: Nasrallah to Issue Decisive Word on U.N. Tribunal Indictments? « Qifa Nabki | A Lebanese Political Blog - August 2, 2010

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