The Lebanese media is caught up in a frenzy trying to parse the results of yesterday’s summit in Beirut. A few observations are in order.
The little information that has trickled out of the closed-door meetings held in Damascus and Beirut seems to suggest that the point of King Abdullah’s visit was both to instill confidence among his allies in Lebanon and to take the temperature of Syria and Hizbullah on the issue of impending indictments.
Al-Akhbar reports that Assad was unequivocal on the point that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) should be terminated because Lebanon could not bear the results of its anticipated accusations. Furthermore, he insisted that Hizbullah remained a red line for Damascus and any attempt to target it would be regarded as part of an Israeli conspiracy against the Lebanese resistance.
A glimpse of King Abdullah’s response to Assad’s entreaties appeared in today’s cover story in An-Nahar:
واذا كانت مسألة المحكمة الخاصة بلبنان والقرار الظني المرتقب صدوره عنها قد احتلت صدارة الاهتمام قبل القمة بفعل تحريك الأمين العام لـ”حزب الله” السيد حسن نصرالله المستمر لها، فان المعلومات التي تواترت من بعض الاوساط التي شاركت في اللقاءات التي عقدت على هامش القمة افادت ان الملك عبدالله ذكر “أن جهوداً تبذل من اجل معالجة مسألة المحكمة، لكن المسألة ليست سهلة لانها اصبحت في يد المجتمع الدولي”. ونسبت أوساط نيابية وسياسية في قوى 8 آذار الى الرئيس الأسد ان العاهل السعودي “تعهد تأجيل صدور القرار الظني وفرملة عمل المحكمة وانه سيسعى لدى الولايات المتحدة من أجل هذا الهدف على رغم الشكوك في نجاح هذا المسعى“. لكن مرجعاً حكومياً سابقاً قال لـ”النهار” إن “أبرز ما حملته القمة الثلاثية هو العمل على التهدئة، أما المحكمة فليس لأحد القدرة على تغيير مسار عملها”.
[Gist: The Saudi king promised to try to postpone the issuance of the indictments, but noted that this was difficult because the Tribunal’s proceedings were in the hands of the international community. Parliamentary and political sources from the March 8 coalition also claimed that the king said he would discuss postponing the indictments with his American allies but doubted the success of such an endeavor.]
These reports seem to confirm that there is little appetite on the March 14/Saudi side to pursue a maximalist path against Hizbullah using the STL as a weapon. On the other hand, all that the Saudis have offered so far by way of a compromise is to try to postpone any indictments, rather than joining Syria and Hizbullah in condemning the whole thing as a Zionist conspiracy.
In other words, the two maximalist positions (viz., dismissing the Tribunal altogether, or accepting its findings come hell or high water) seem to be off the table for now, or at least are only on the table to serve as initial bargaining stances. The shape of a compromise solution between these two positions depends on what kind of pressure can, in fact, be placed on the Tribunal by outside actors such as the Lebanese government and the Saudi king, and also on the likely repercussions of pursuing only certain indictments and not others.
I hope to pursue this question of compromise solutions a bit further in the next few days as more information becomes available. In the meantime, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves.
So nothing has changed. Syria wants the STL dissolved but that is not in the cards and so this is be filled under demagogey. The Saudi position is to “promise” a delay in the indictment which is again not realistic and is to be filled under “bite more than you can chew”.
The STL is a problem only because of the way that the parties are acting. If both just accept the rulings, as they should, then none of this summitry and fear of strife need be an issue.
You are correct as usual. However, let’s not forget that Syria & HA/Iran have been mortified of the possible outcome of the trials…They can not accept the results unless it pointed to an obscure group pulling off the crime of the century; leaving no evidence and especially all these happening under the Syrian Mukhabarati regime!
I’ll wait to see what unravels. As to how these butchers and autocrats want to spin it or “agree” to forget about it…well the UN will have something to say about that too. To my knowledge this was established under chapter seven….and a unique court at that!
If UN makes a mockery by allowing deals then they’ll lose all credibility altogether!
I think accusing HA is the compromise. Syria is only half guilty (by association). M14 gets there ‘ha2ee2a’ and HA can easily call the whole thing a politicized charade aimed at disarming them (and they’d have a point).
when it comes down to it I believe Syria must be pleased of how things are turning out. Accusing HA has delegitimized the STL in the eyes of many. Assisting KSA in diffusing the situation in lebanon will only increase Damascus’s influence. So as long as no other serious threats are posed to HA, there will be lots of goodies for the taking.
Ghassan said: “The STL is a problem only because of the way that the parties are acting. If both just accept the rulings, as they should, then none of this summitry and fear of strife need be an issue.”
Ghassan, we began this conversation a few days ago but never really finished.
I don’t understand your position. What does it mean to say that both sides should “just accept the rulings.” Let’s say that the STL indicts individuals who are part of Hizbullah’s operational leadership or have close connections thereto. Do you expect Hizbullah to “just accept the rulings”? And if Hizbullah rejects them, do you expect the Syrians to accept them?
Let’s say that Hariri follows your advice and just accepts the rulings. How is he then supposed to “move on” as you have been saying? As the main champion of the STL and the head of the Lebanese government, he is presumably supposed to have the Lebanese security forces carry out the arrest warrants issued by the STL for the indicted individuals. How’s that supposed to work without leading to another May 7th?
The most important lesson from the crisis is the fate of small nations in the game of large powers.
And ultimately of the political minorities therein who hitch their fates to great powers.
You have to use your imagination in this. As I have written several years ago, the political value of the tribunal is almost 90% in the indictments. This will be enough (assuming that the evidence is solid) to put Hizballah and Syria in a hole. There is little anyone can do at this point to stop the indictments (though one should not rule out a terrorist attack on the tribunal offices in the Hague).
Then, as you correctly say, there will be the issue of actually putting the people indicted under arrest. Here Hariri has many options that do not mean a frontal confrontation with Hizballah. First, after the indictments, Hariri will say that people are innocent until proven guilty and that he will only react when the STL issue its rulings. Then he will pass a government resolution to pay the full costs of the defense for all Lebanese indicted. Then, he will say that he will leave it up to those people to give themselves up. Why do you think he is forced to make arrests? This puts the ball squarely in the Hizballah court. The fact that they won’t give themselves up will only make them look more guilty. By this point, all the political/public opinion advantages he could have milked from the STL would have materialized. The trial itself would not add much.
There is only one way for HA to get out of the hole, and that is to stop the indictments. After the indictments are issued, most of the damage has already been done as I explained above. It seems unlikely HA can stop them but I would not rule out some kind of violent preemption by them. A repeat of May 7 with an ultimatum to stop the STL, or at least stop the Lebanese backing of it is not out of the question.
This was a horrific crime but in the final analysis was a crime. Societies set up mechanisms and structures to deal with such situations. Ever sincePlato and probably from earlier days the principle of the rule of law has been the way thst civilized societies handle any infractions , small and large. Allow me to use a very well known and popular quote by Plato to illustrate that this concept is a very old one indeed:
“if law is the master of the government and the government is its slave, then the situation is full of promise and men enjoy all the blessings that the gods shower on a state.”
This idea was repeatedly discussed and used by major political thinkers all over the world.
All what the above implies is that whenever a crime is committed or there is a controversy on how to interpret a particular circumstance then all parties have no choice whatsoever but to accept and abide by the rulings of the judicial system. Some will disagree with such rulings but that is fine. The system functions only because the appeal process stops at a particular level.
I have used this example before but let me remind you what hapened when George Bush and Al Gore were contesting the winner to to most powerful post in the universe. When the Supremes ruled against Gore he did not contest the ruling but immediately accepted it although he disagreed with it. Gore had no choice in the matter, the highest authority in the land ruled against him. This is not different than the STL. It is set up to be the highest authority in the land to deal with this issue. Its Final rulings once the appeals within the system are exhausted must carry the day. Neither Hariri, not Ha nor Syria nor anyone has the right to declare their rejection of the ruling of a structure that was set up by the international community to investigate and issue rulings on this matter. The judiciary are independent and in a sense the most powerful institution in society. If we want to always find an excuse not to accept a court ruling once it is against us then we are in reality favouring a society where some are above the law by virtue of their power, military or otherwise. That is the law of the jungle and we are free to apply it but not in this case. Lebanon has no choice by virtue of the way that STL was formed except to abide by its rulings.
If the Lebanese authorities fail to dfo their duties, this will not be the first time. They have failed to implement Taef and they have failed to implement 1559 and they have failed in some provisions of 1701 just to name a few instances. STL , during its formation became aware of such a possibility and so wrote in a provision to hold trial in absentia.
I have no idea of who is to be indicted, when or why and to be frank I can care less who is it. I care only about a society where everyone is subject to the rule of law. Let me answer your last question by another question:-) If our motivation is going to be constantly doing the wrong thing in order to satisfy those who are threatening us with mayhem unless we agree to dismiss their tresspasses then where does all this end? By your logic they can hold the repeat of May 7th over our heads whenever they do not want to go along with the rest of society.That kind of an outcome has a name: Blackmail and hijacking of the inherent and constitutional rights of others.
I agree with your assessment and I have been saying the same for some time. An indictment of any group of operatives especially if the accused choose to stand trial in absentia is tantamount to a “damaged goods” label. This might not be apparent immedistely but it will diminish the attractiveness and the luster of the brand. I think that HA is not so much concerned with the welfare of a few party members as much as it is concerned with what might happen to the “brand appeal” once it is tarnished. Furthermore Hassan Nasrallah has a personal concern in this issue. It has been a few months since I have reread the STL statutes but I believe that at one place the rules hold the head of an organization responsible for acts committed by others in the organization .
Another crisis (and it won’t be the last) to show that the current formula underlying Lebanon is not sustainable. Clearly Lebanon is still the hostage of one religious militia (and its external support) that is refusing legality -national and international- under the threat of war. There was a crime committed and the accused (whether innocent or guilty) are refusing to accept any jurisdiction to judge it, under the same old pretense of a zionist conspiracy. And on and on…
The fact that the head of government is from another religion is putting the whole country in the odd position of being against itself -in what it should represents in terms or legality, security and justice.
In the short term, Hariri has to be able to make the right calls under this severe stress (he’s probably under a huge moral and political pressure) as AIG describes above.
The only sustainable solution is in the long term, where new political forces in Lebanon can emerge to shape a new vision for the country based on peace, laicity, development, democracy and neutrality for the country.
AIG (and Ghassan)
The scenario you are describing is not one that Hizbullah has not anticipated. Nasrallah addressed this issue in his very first press conference last week.
Plainly put, the party is not going to accept a situation whereby Hariri defers judgment until after the trial and adopts a neutral position. Nobody knows better than Nasrallah that, as you say, 90% of the political value of the tribunal lies in the indictments. That’s exactly why they are going to insist that Hariri denounce the indictments themselves, on pain of sectarian strife, etc.
Your scenarios are certainly imaginative, but Nasrallah is not stupid.
The STL is dead, the Lebanese will never know who really killed Hariri and the other slain figures. We all must start to accept the fact that whomsoever disagrees with the Syrian or Iranian regimes and its instruments, he/she can expect nothing less than a roadside car bomb. I am never coming back to settle in this despicable country I used to call “home”.
Nasrallah I agree is not stupid. Therefore, he knows that he cannot ask Hariri to denounce the indictments. That is like asking Hariri to commit political suicide.
1) On what basis can Hariri denounce the STL? Does Nasrallah really want him to say that something he has supported for so long is a “Zionist tool” or is biased? How can Hariri even say that without seeing the evidence?
2) What would happen to the Future Movement and the Hariri Sr. personality cult that is so central to its being if Hariri denounces the STL?
3) What about all the international support that went into setting up the STL? Can Hariri spit in the face of his international allies?
In fact, I think Nasrallah has made a small mistake in pressuring Hariri on this issue. The best way out for Hariri is to have the indictments issued as soon as possible. I bet the Saudis are going to be asking that the indictments be issued as soon as possible rather that they be postponed as is reported in the press. This way, HA cannot do something rash before. Of course, they may resort to violence afterwards, but the returns on the violence will be lower and they would have again used their weapons internally without much gain.
It is funny that Ghassan Karam keeps repeating the example of Al Gore and the so-called US supreme courts as if those on it are immune from political pressure or biases. The British newspaper, The Independent, was the 1st to publish a long article on how the elections were rigged and how people were robbed of their right to vote and of their votes not only in Florida (poles did not open on time or were closed early, ballots were not made available in enough numbers while others were lost, voting rigged through machines manufactured by people affiliated with the Republican party, etc.), although what happened in Florida on the hand of George W. Bush’s brother was the most flagrant and blatant. In his Fahrenheit 911, Michael Moore captured what happened at the Senate when WHITE senators, including Al Gore, conspired among themselves to keep especially the millions of BLACK voters out of the elections. BLACK members of the Chamber of representatives needed the signature of ONE lousy member of the Senate in order to shed light on what really happened on the ground.
I am sure that if what happened in the US happened in any other country, the US media along with Ghassan Karam awould have cried foul and torn their clothes in the streets for the slaying of “democracy!”
Why exactly is Nasrallah supposed to just accept the results of the STL? If we’re to believe everything we’ve heard so far, the indictments are based on telecom records and witness testimony. Well, they’ve outed Israeli spies at all levels of the telecommunications network, and it’s been proven that the “witnesses” have given false testimonies at every turn – and no one is willing to ask them who put them up to it?
The STL is a joke. If an investigation was handled this poorly in the United States, any judge would throw the case out. I don’t see how the indictments can be taken seriously, let alone be used as a measure of guilt or innocence, when the whole process of gathering evidence has been tainted from the start (by both sides) and the accused unable to refute the evidence.
Nasrallah had to come out, invalidate the indictments, and throw the ball back to Hariri’s side of the court. Now Hariri needs to find a way to refrain from inflaming the situation – as per the wishes of the new Saudi-Syrian unified front – while avoiding the alienation of his domestic political base.
I think more than Nasrallah, Hariri is the one caught between a rock and a hard place. The only real way out is to do what his father did – appease the Syrians in public, and throw money at his allies in private to keep them from criticizing him for it. Anyone think King Abdullah brought his nice fat check book along for the trip?
It is true that I have mentioned the Al Gore vs Bush example twice but you still don’t get it 🙂 The idea behind the example is not whether the Supremes were perfect or not, we all know that all such institutions are NOT perfect. The idea is that once the Supremes ruled that was the end of the story. Of course they stole the elections from Gore but the structure says that you accept and are bound by a ruling irrespective of whether you agree with it or not.
I am not going to say anything on this subject anymore because just like the Palestinian/Israeli issue; the rights of the Palestinian s in Lebanon among other issues after a while we start going in circles. We just don’t see eye to eye on this problem and that is fine.
I will be willing to eat my beret if the STL is stopped from issuing an indictment and of holding trials. Furthermore if the indictments are of individuals close to HA then HA will pay a heavy political price. Time will tell.
If however I am right then you will have to let your hair grow for four months 🙂
The history of this investigation speaks for itself. For four years they were accusing Syria , and the heads of the Lebanese security apparatuses,(all of whom spend four years in jail with any charges). All previous accusations were made by witnesses who, turned out to be fake. The STL would have been regarded differently if it had investigated those fake witnesses and those who financed then and gave them political,financial,and security cover. One of those witnesses is an Israeli-Arab who was in a Lebanese jail for sneaking into Lebanon. That same person ,it was reported, was a double agent who worked for both Israeli and Palestinian intelligence.
It’s hard to believe that a UN STL falls for these witnesses. It’s obvious that the court changed venue after the election of the President Obama who decided to engage the Syrians. The Syrian -American dialogue wouldn’t have gone anywhere if Syria was still the suspect in the murder of late PM Hariri. My point is that the STL has a credibility issue to begin with. Also, the Israelis are making it obvious that they know everything about the investigations. An investigation that is supposed to be secret!It would be really funny( or not funny at all) when the indictment comes out and all the information that was leaked by Israeli official and media turns out to be accurate. How credible would the STL look then? So the Israeli factor, among other issues makes the STL not trustworthy in the eyes of many Lebanese and non Lebanese.
It’s clear by now that international politics has been influencing the course of the STL.
Has any one wondered why more than eight STL officials have resigned from the STL?
Your example of Bush v. Gore is a good one. Particularly because it shows that you think the process is more important than whether justice is served. Because, as you state, Gore won the election, and deferring to the Supreme Court without protest, in fact, cause the Bush presidency and all the mass destruction he generated. It made evident to all that the USA is not a democracy, and that the rule of law in the USA is as politically motivated as any banana republic.
And this is my point. Even if the tribunal’s founding documents seem fair on their face, that does not mean that the results will be fair, or that the outcome will be just.
“rule of law” (in the abstract) is simply an attempt to create justice and to make society more fair. the idea is that if the rules are fair, the outcome will most likely be fair too. But we know that is not the case. fair trials can produce unfair results, context must be considered.
My concern is that the tribunal will produce more injustice through its decisions than had it not existed at all (and i am not referring to potential civil strife, but that i feel it unlikely to make strong indictments). thsi is something you continue to ignore by saying to “accept the rulings”.
Also, to respond to your question from the previous post, “What specifically is it about the structure of the STL that makes it unacceptable although flawed like any other institution.” i am not an expert on the structure of this tribunal, but based on news reports and reading this blog, i will name three things (though there are many more):
1) the scope of the investigation was too narrow. for example, had it included the other, similar, political bombings, the tribunal may have been able to find direct evidence leading to specific people. as it stands, it will likely have weak and circumstantial evidence on which to base its indictments. If that’s the case, the indictments are no better than guesses formed by the biases of the prosecutors.
2) They were willing to investigate Syria, but not Israel. To be a fair investigation, they should have started with a clean pallet and gone where the investigation took them. but they started with a theory (which naturally feeds itself and is hard to get rid of), and they investigated within the framework of that theory. it’s like the old phrase “if you only have a hammer to solve problems, the first thing you do is go looking for nails…” Hizbullah seems to be a nail.
3)Are there any “pro-opposition” judges on the panel? if all the lebanese judges are pro-M14, that challenges the fairness of the tribunal.
When I am surprised by the reactions I read about the tribunal I remind myself that most Arabs still believe Jews/Israel/
Mossad were behind 9/11 and it puts everything in perspective for me.
Those dumb Arabs believe any conspiracy theory, as if Israel has spies that have infiltrated every part of their society!
AIG: “most Arabs still believe Jews/Israel/Mossad were behind 9/11?”
How do you know that?
But maybe I should first ask you to define “Arabs”
Mehdi2: “Those dumb Arabs”
Please answer the same question as I posed to AIG.
Arabs: More or less The citizens of the countries in the Arab league.
As for who was behind 9/11:
I believe that we are getting somewhere, we are starting to listen to each other:-) You are absolutely correct in your interpretation that I believe very strongly that the process is the single most important issue in civilized society.As to the other 3 points at the end of your post here are the “factual” responses
(1) Article 1 of the statute spells out clearly that the tribunal was established to investigate the Hariri explosion but then it goes on to say that if the STL determines that any of the other bombings between Oct 1,2004 and Dec12, 2005 are connected then it shall also have jurisdiction.(I could not cut and paste since the STL documents are pdf).
(2)The STL as we have stated before is not to be confused with UNIIIC. STL took over relatively recently , I believe late 2009. The first thing that the pretrial judge did was to ask the prosecutor for evidence regarding the four generals and when the pretrial judge was not satisfied with the evidence he asked the prosecutor to request their release.. My point is that the STL has not investigated Syria. As you know better than any of us non lawyers in most cases the investigations always take twists and turns. Prosecutors follow a lead and when the thread leads to a dead end they drop it.
(3)I honestly do not know a thing about the political views of the Lebanese judges who are sitting on the STL. I would hope however that judges answer to a “higher” power than most of us mortals 🙂
I haven’t read the documents of the tribunal, but:
1) That is not sufficient. to do a proper investigation, on the face of it, a series of commonly organized political assassinations by bombing provides reason to believe that they are connected (for the purposes of starting a joint investigation). so the question should not be whether, while investigating the hariri killing, they come to evidence that ties all the bombings together, but resources and evidence must be shared when investigating all the bombings to find whether there is reason to believe that they are connected. otherwise, it’s going into the situation blind (and, i am not saying they are connected, but that a joint investigation is clearly justified).
2) are you claiming that, as of the opening of the tribunal, all the work of the UNIIIC was scrapped and the tribunal started from scratch? because, either they are building on work that was clearly biased (even if they tried to wade through it fairly), or they are starting an investigation after a case has been 4 years old. either way, it’s a very dangerous way to do the work. they are standing on a lot of sand.
3) even if the individual judges consider themselves fair (or have a good reputation in general), it is highly unlikely that they represent a diverse spectrum of lebanese opinion. Just by definition, as lebanese judges are not a highly representative population. And the nature of the tribunal itself makes it more unlikely that they will be representative. so, without knowing explicitly, i am quite skeptical of this group in general. just as i would be skeptical of any unrepresentative group deciding the fate of others. but particularly in a highly politicized situation as this.
also, though there is no need to repeat myself, you are fooling yourself regarding the role of institutions. while they can be fair (when representative), they are also highly likely to be unfair. institutions themselves mean very little. the goal should be justice, not the process. sometimes they are directly correlated, but equally often they are inversely correlated. you seem to ignore that fact.
I simply must assume that this is the result of your not having much experience with these types of situations. But i can tell you from personal experience that it is not enough to put your faith in the process and hope for good results, even if the process seems fair in general.
Justice is non-objective. People differ about it all the time. Rarely does a person who loses in a trial believe that justice prevailed. Institutions are not about justice. They are about rules we all agree to and therefore save ourselves from having to resort to violence to solve differences. If you have rule of law, you do not get justice. You just have a method of resolving differences without violence.
Seeking “justice” from a system that can never deliver it is just a ploy for not accepting the rule of law.
Forgive my ignorance, but I’m hoping someone could tell me if this scenario is plausible.
HA, assuming its members are indicted, do something along the lines of the following;
Accept a trial as an opportunity to proclaim their innocence.
HA can then
1) use its power and influence to manipulate the verdict in its favor.
2) Present a solid defense by attacking the damaged credibility of the STL and the chain of custody of whatever evidence it has.
or some combination thereof.
It is, of course possible that a Lebanese court could find HA guilty, but I doubt it. If, as QN suggests, M14 is nervous about indictments, how will they feel about an actual guilty verdict?
There is no chance in a million years. Hizbullah is first and foremost a resistance organization, and they see this as an attempt to weaken their ability to resist. if pushed into a corner, they will react as if this is an act of war (probably similarly to the way they tried to shut down the last government via sit-ins and such. but not to the extent they acted against the attempt to dismantle their communications network, because it’s not as direct a military threat).
I don’t think it will end up getting to that point because M14 doesn’t have the strength it did back then to make such dramatic challenges to Hizbullah’s popular/political/military strength.
As QN has been saying, really, it’s just a question of how the tribunal will be disarmed. either by Hizbullah forcing what’s left of M14 to outright reject the tribunal, or through a direct attack (though im not saying violent) at the tribunal itself.
Thank You Joe,
So you don’t think there is any possibility that all the parties concerned would not disarm the STL through a trial where a not guilty verdict is agreed upon in advance?
Because after that the STL would be dead. HA would give the appearance of submitting to state authority and, assuming they aren’t double crossed, would come out with a not guilty verdict and smelling like roses. M14 would be able to claim they got HA to go along with the government’s authority.
Then again, I’m not Lebanese and know nothing about Lebanese law, court procedures or the deep details of the political conflicts. So I’ll take your word for it.
How about this as a compromise: let the STL try in absentia and in an open manner, whoever it deems suspect, and then have the Lebanese react to the verdicts as they see fit in the next parliamentary election?
Did AIG answer you question? Did you check his link?
Let me up the ante a little bit. I just have anecdotal evidence for this so I do not know how many Lebanese actually believe this. But do you know what is the favorite line among the M8 followers on the Lebanese forums I follow as to why the people assassinated were only from M14? They believe that each time that M14’s popularity was waning they would murder one of their own to gain support! To me, this is just more evidence to the same. One shouldn’t be surprised by the reaction to the tribunal from certain quarters.
I guess it’s also possible that Hizbullah will verbally attack the tribunal, and then not cooperate with it. And if a verdict is rendered against them, they will simply ignore that and then force the rest of Lebanon to reject it… until it goes away.
but they are not going to deal with it like it has jurisdiction over them, and thus there is no chance they will get into the details of the chain of custody of evidence or stuff like that. They will do everything they can to discredit the tribunal and the evidence, but won’t cooperate with the tribunal. Nasrallah said that much.
“Nasrallah I agree is not stupid. Therefore, he knows that he cannot ask Hariri to denounce the indictments. That is like asking Hariri to commit political suicide.”
Not true. He asked (nay, demanded) that Siniora’s government rescind a direct order to dismantle the Hizb’s communications network, making M14 look completely anemic and pathetic. Did it amount to political suicide? No. M14 won the election in 2009.
I don’t think Nasrallah would have any problem demanding that Hariri denounce the STL, depending on whom it accuses.
“1) On what basis can Hariri denounce the STL? Does Nasrallah really want him to say that something he has supported for so long is a “Zionist tool” or is biased? How can Hariri even say that without seeing the evidence?”
Of course he can demand that. Why couldn’t he? As far as Hizbullah is concerned the STL IS a Zionist/American tool to target the resistance. They have already made this clear. They’re just waiting for Hariri to come to this conclusion as well.
“2) What would happen to the Future Movement and the Hariri Sr. personality cult that is so central to its being if Hariri denounces the STL?”
The Future Movement would continue along just fine; there is no real alternative to Sunni leadership in Lebanon. As for the personality cult, that’s all but dead already. In fact, it’s become something of a liability, I’d argue. Most people, even those sympathetic to M14, are getting a little tired of hearing about Hariri Sr. They’re ready to move on.
“3) What about all the international support that went into setting up the STL? Can Hariri spit in the face of his international allies?”
Don’t you see that it’s precisely Hariri’s international allies who are pressuring him to find a compromise? The Europeans have already made up with Syria, the Obama administration is paying lip service to rapprochement, and the Saudi king just visited Beirut arm-in-arm with Bashar. Whose face is left for Hariri to spit in?
Note that I don’t disagree with you entirely. I do think that Hariri is going to try to look like he is supporting the Resistance (by offering to pay defense expenses etc) all the while letting the indictments hang in the air to taint Hizbullah’s image, especially among Christians.
But I also think that Hizbullah is wise to this strategy, and they’re going to demand a stronger line from him.
Do you think the course of action the STL ought to follow taking into account what is best for Lebanon is to do nothing?
AIG, maybe maybe maybe on the points you make, but I can tell you that there is a silent majority of honest and wise Lebanese folks who will not forget nor forgive what happened to Hariri Sr.
This is not a cult.
A dirty game was played to get rid of Hariri Sr. and of the many other victims of the assassinations that followed. Letting this pass without the kind of persistent pursuit of the truth and without exposing it to some degree – even the full punishment cannot be extracted – is an invitation to have this happen again and to have such tactics perpetuated.
What if the same happened in Israel? Would you say move on?
I don’t know what the evidence is. I presume that it is weak evidence. and if it is weak evidence and they are just coming to indictments to close the investigation, then yes, they should just publish the evidence and say that it was not sufficient to come to any firm indictments on people directly responsible for the murder. If they make indictments of people (especially hizbullah people) who are 3 or 4 degrees removed from someone who they think did the murder, they are going to cause more trouble than it is worth.
On the other hand, if they have strong evidence of people directly tied to the murder, then they should proceed with the trial (regardless of whether it’s against hizbullah members or anyone else). I just think that will be very unlikely.
Also, any prosecutor who’s been on a case for a long time will almost always think their evidence is strong, because the investigation is their baby. particularly in this case because the political pressure, the money, and effort spent on this investigation will make it seem even more important and solid to them. so, i don’t think it is likely that they will just close up shop and say they didn’t come to any conclusions…
You are confusing my position with QN’s position. He seems to think people will just accept HA’s demands. I do not believe so for many reasons including the reason you put forward.
Before I answer you, can you clarify how you think HA can pressure Hariri? Just threatening violence?
I am not sure Hariri can afford to denounce the STL completely because while it might not result in polictical suicide as you mentioned so well, it could very will result in a different ‘suicide’. the real kind. Lets face it, Hariri will have to toe the US position whatever it might be. as they control the UNSC and therefore the STL, and until the indictments are out they can change their position drastically in either direction
I am going to be on a train for the next several hours, so I’ll have to pick this up later. But for now: HA can threaten Hariri in a variety of ways, the most obvious being the threat to bring down the government and damage the country’s economy by holding constant protests and sit-ins, etc. as we saw from 2006-08. They don’t have to threaten violence directly. An atmosphere of confrontation in the country can easily lead to violence perpetrated by people sympathetic to Hizbullah (like AMAL, the SSNP, etc.) and HA will simply claim that this is an example of sectarian strife that they can’t control, and that Hariri has brought upon Lebanon by allowing himself to be manipulated by a Zionist/American plot to sow strife in the country.
It’s an old script.
I think you are over estimating HA’s ability to bring pressure. If Lebanon’s economy is damaged, this will hurt all Lebanese citizens, including the Aoun Christians and the Shia.
In order to make what you listed credible threats, you have to convince me that at least the Aoun Christians will accept the results as legitimate. Many of them were not overly happy with the sit ins previously and my estimate that there will not be a wide support from them for these kind of moves over the STL.
In any case, such moves are only possible AFTER HA leaves the government. Are you sure the C&R Block will leave the government over not stopping Lebanese support for the STL? And if HA leaves the government, what is stopping Hariri from declaring early elections based on the format agreed in Doha? He will say, let the people decide.
What could HA do in these cases?
“It’s an old script.”
What you forgot to add is that it is a tired old script and that is why it won’t work. Pressure is not a one way street.
HA can refuse to abide by the STL findings but then they will have to use force and that will hurt them in the long run.
Innocent criminal says:
” I am not sure Hariri can afford to denounce the STL completely”
Innocent, there is nothing to prevent anyone from denouncing the STL but no matter who denounces the STL will proceed unimpeded. It is an international structure that is judicial and independent of what some political parties are going to say especially those that expect to be indicted.
The STL will not be affected by what individuals say about the process. So many are making the STL look as if it is the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. That is rubbish.
I expect good evidence and defensible positions against whoever the Prosecutor is going to name. Whether that will stand in a court of law, no one can say. We will have to wait and see. But the train has already left the station and there is no stopping it.
IMHO, all other speculation is based on nothing more than wishful thinking. (The STL is not a Lebanese court and is not just any other international court it was established by chapter 7).
I agree that it is an old (and tired) script, but it begs the question of how much confrontation little hariri is willing to have with hizbullah. What is the goal of confrontation on his side? What is the goal of his relations with Hizbullah? Does hariri want to integrate hizbullah into the government and the army (to make them a ‘normal’ political party?)? Does he think he can “force” them to accept his terms for policy in Lebanon?
If hariri takes a confrontational attitude, do you think Hizbullah is likely to agree to dealing with the lebanese government in the future?
Hizbullah doesn’t have to use “force” in the sense of direct military confrontation. But they can easily reject relations with the government (ban the government from having jurisdiction over the south and Shia… can revert more to a military organization than a political party…). Where does that leave your love for institutions?
I know you like to talk about Hizbullah being a “state within a state,” but just wait and see what happens if what’s left of M14 tries to force Hizbullah to accept the tribunal (assuming it goes against Hizbullah). Hizbullah has the capacity to literally divide lebanon in half. And as they are the most powerful force in the country, no one can stop them. So it ends up hariri’s decision. how far is he willing to go. i have no doubt that hariri will blink first, we just have to see how it happens.
Also, while the “train has already left the station,” there are many ways to stop it. You have a childish belief that there is objective truth in legal structures, or that the international community somehow automatically begets fairness. But just as Israel was able to block the goldstone commission, if need be, hizbullah and hariri can block the tribunal. And, depending on the circumstances, it may be the best option.
Speaking of trains leaving stations, mine is on its way as well, but the Acela has wi-fi, so here I am.
AIG said: “In order to make what you listed credible threats, you have to convince me that at least the Aoun Christians will accept the results as legitimate. Many of them were not overly happy with the sit ins previously and my estimate that there will not be a wide support from them for these kind of moves over the STL.”
AIG, I don’t know which Aounists you’ve been talking to, but I’ve met very few who are supporters of the STL. Most FPMers regard Rafiq al-Hariri as a corrupt tycoon who collaborated with the Syrian regime to keep their hero (GMA) exiled from Lebanon while he milked the country dry. They see the STL as a political tool cynically used by their bitter rivals (Hariri’s descendants and the loathed Lebanese Forces) to beatify a former “Syrian stooge” and give him the status that they believe belongs to Aoun himself.
Many analysts (including myself) have had to eat their hats because of inaccurate predictions about what the Aounists would or would not tolerate. Aoun has already hinted at the direction he is likely to take if HA is implicated, and my guess is that he understands his base better than you or I do.
“In any case, such moves are only possible AFTER HA leaves the government. Are you sure the C&R Block will leave the government over not stopping Lebanese support for the STL?”
I wouldn’t be surprised.
“And if HA leaves the government, what is stopping Hariri from declaring early elections based on the format agreed in Doha? He will say, let the people decide.”
First of all, Hariri cannot dissolve the parliament. Only the President can do that.
Furthermore, how would this solve anything? Early elections would produce another parliament, not another cabinet. Even if new elections give Hariri and his allies a bigger parliamentary share than they have now (which I seriously doubt, given that Jumblatt would probably not agree to the same kinds of concessions as he agreed to in ’09) Hariri would still face the same kinds of sectarian constraints in putting together a cabinet that took him so long the first time. Hizbullah and AMAL would refuse to participate in his cabinet if he did not denounce the STL, and would call his cabinet unconstitutional if they were not represented in it. Again, an old script.
How was Israel able to block the Goldstone commission? It wasn’t able to block it because it was UN human rights council initiated commission. The US which is represented on the council also voted against the commission but that did not help. The commission convened and issued a report. In the same way, Hariri cannot stop the STL. The train has left the station.
You assume that if Hariri just says that he will wait for the results of the trial, that would be a confrontational attitude. Very few people would agree with you. Hariri is not going to confront HA in anyway. He will not even arrest the people indicted. He will just let the events run their course. Most Lebanese would not agree that this amounts to looking for confrontation.
HA of course can reject relations with the government and cut Lebanon in half. But that is not a credible threat. That is the last thing they want. That would make them much much weaker. If they take over the South of Lebanon, they would have to kick out both the UN and the Lebanese Army. Any one of these moves will make them international pariahs. Also, as we know, Hariri does not much care about the South. Of course, they have the power to take over all of Lebanon. But they do not have the power to hold it. Even if they invite the Syrians to help them, that shit would have hit the fan by then and a Sunni-Shia battle would be inevitable.
I agree with you about the hard core Aounists. They will just accept whatever Aoun says. Though I think Aoun will be in a bit of a conundrum if he rejects the STL since he raises much of his money in the US and Europe. However, there is a Christian swing vote that will be alienated by this.
You are right that Hariri having a majority in parliament will not stop HA from claiming that a cabinet without them or Amal is illegitimate. But, I think the elections will help if Hariri calls elections and frames them as a referendum on the tribunal. This will buy him time and put HA more in the hole. In the end, as I wrote a few days ago, only another Doha like agreement will solve the problems.
Hariri already framed an election as a referendum on the Tribunal. That was the 2009 election, and it netted him a parliamentary share smaller than the 2005 election.
Don’t you think that a better description than childish might be idealistic or utopian 🙂
Seriously though, and we have; I think; dealt with this before, I have never ever claimed that there is such a think as objective justice or that the institutiona deliver unblemished justice. Quite the contrary, I have often qualified the statements by speaking of all institutions as being flawed and that no ruling will ever satisfy everyone but my basic concern has always been with the type of chaos and everything goes world if we do not have a powerful and independent judiciary whose pronouncements are accepted by all at a particular point in time. Laws and institutions can and do evolve over time but the alternative of not having a rule of law is unacceptable to me. Without it it is the law of the jungle.
But that was before there were indictments. The strength of the evidence behind the indictments will play a big role.
We won’t know what evidence there is until the accused are tried.
My guess is that you simply haven’t seen laws and judges and courts work. Because, if you think they are any less political and any more trust worthy than “the law of the jungle”, you are seriously mistaken.
And your explanation of your support for the Bush v. Gore decision is enough for me to see how “childish” your view is. Because, in my opinion, if the question becomes one of upholding the decision of the tribunal v. serious civil disruption in Lebanon, i will throw the tribunal out the window. Just as id throw the Bush v. Gore decision out the window (especially seeing the destruction it ended up causing).
Your view of Arab opinion (or Arab politics) is about as reliable as the statements of the former Iraqi information minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf.
The band of hunters in Lord of the Flies threw the rule of law out the window. There is no civilized society without it, don’t kid yourself.
You are becoming paranoid and delusional. Its time you seek help. Yes, there are politicized and corrupt judges. But all in all, the US court system certainly does not follow “the law of the jungle”. I know this from personal experience. Any person who has any doubt, ask a couple of lawyers you know.
In fact it is you who is advocating the law of the jungle. You would be willing to let HA criminals go free because they threaten the peace of Lebanon if put on trial. Very nice.
I am not against the rule of law (im a lawyer for god’s sake). But no institutions deserve unwavering trust. And we must defy them when they are unjust, and support them when they are just. And there is more to what is just and unjust than doctrinaire application of some procedures… Bush v. Gore was wrong and unjust and it should have been opposed more vociferously. the proof is in the destruction it caused.. I feel this tribunal runs a high risk of creating more injustice than justice, and if it comes to that point, it should also be opposed.
some time, go and sit in a court room. say, go to eviction court in any city in any state in the usa. if you don’t think that’s the law of the jungle, you’re crazy. giving someone 30 seconds to defend their home and life, allowing unrepresented clients become homeless on the basis of hearsay evidence, judges who have not read a word of the evidence simply making uninformed decisions by the hundreds every day…. (some courts are more fair than others, but that’s part of my point)
Im saying that justice has more too it than just the application of some law or some system. And anyway, it’s surprising to hear an israeli defend the rule of law, considering how much of a rogue state israel is, and how often it fights the rule of law…
oh, and ghassan, “rule of law” can be just as uncivilized as rule without law. laws can always be crafted to empower racism, violence, or injustice… the goal of a legal system is to create justice and social harmony. but, if laws are making a society more unjust, they should be ignored. and hopefully the law makers of the society will eventually come to agree and fix the problem.
unfortunately, you’re only looking at it in one direction. but law is a two way street. the law effects the behavior of the people, but also the people effect the behavior of the law. and it’s important not to simply try to push in one direction or the legal system creates a bubble that’s bound to burst…
I personally have been involved in evicting people both in NJ and PA and the process is fair and just and very much in favor of the person being evicted. It is definitely not the law of the jungle.
Your problem is that you think the rule of law needs to deliver justice, whatever that is. The rule of law is just a social contract that if widely accepted allows resolving differences without resorting to violence. But you know what, have it your way. It will just make Israel much stronger if its enemies do not accept the rule of law as a governing principal.
And as for Israel, the rule of law is very strong. The judiciary is independent and not corrupted. The Israeli prosecutors are not afraid going after the most powerful people. Nobody is above the law.
And yes, between countries, it is the law of the jungle that prevails. It is a fact that if Israel would have lost the war of 1948, it would not exist despite the UN resolution.
you just made my point for me. you support “rule of law” when it suits you, just as i have been arguing. You claim israel has a “very strong” rule of law, yet it never prosecutes war criminals, and hands down endless sentences to palestinians, only to ignore jewish violations of the same law. or how many settlements face law of the bulldozers? how many jewish homes are rejected building permits, despite all the proper documentation? it’s just common sense that people apply law in proportion to what they think is dangerous. and if you think the outcome of the application of law is more dangerous than the crime, you adjust as necessary.
Anyway, im just saying that law is flexible. Im surprised your arguing because it’s a basic point. im really speaking to ghassan, not you.
The mistake here is assuming that Hariri can act unilaterally. He can’t – more than Hizballah is beholden to the Syrians and Iranians, Hariri is beholden to the Saudis. It’s clear Saudi Arabia and Syria have issued a policy of kiss and make up. It doesn’t matter anymore who killed Hariri; it was only an issue so long as the Saudis (and the Americans) wanted to pressure the Syrians. That’s off the table, so the incentive to use political capital to back the STL is also off the table.
Again I would like to note – we heard so much about how sure everyone was it was the Syrians. We had evidence, witnesses, motive – they were already tried and proven guilty in the court of public opinion. Now all of a sudden the accusations against Syria are off the table, all that certainty washed away, because the new target is on Hizballah’s back? And somehow Der Spiegel and the Israelis were the first to know? I have to say again, the STL has absolutely no credibility in my eyes. It has been politicized from the start, and the accusations against Hizballah aren’t as a result of solid evidence, but rather a shift in political rhetoric. It’s not even mildly veiled at this point. I find it laughable, to be honest.
I am not sure how many others are following this thread but let me addat least one more response 🙂 When the rules are unjust they are to be changed and when slavery was abolished that was accomplished through the rule of law.
Let me go back again to Lord of the Flies, a masterpiece that is taught in many Political Science courses: when they broke Piggy’s glasses and then killed him, that was the result of the total breakdown, actually the rejection of the rule of law. That was their descent into a lawless society.
Short of the need for a revolution then all reforms come from working from within the system. Had Gore not accepted the ruling by the Supreme court then he would have had to become a Nasrallah and the US would have become a banana republic.
If anyone feels that they have not had enough about this topic I have written a 1400 word post for the Middle East Political and Economic Institute and I have also posted it on Yalibnan.com and my personal aggregator rationalrepublic.blogspot.com.
Im glad to keep this up, particularly in a thread that no one else is reading (so as not to distract from the topic of lebanon). And I am not as familiar with the lord of the flies book as you, but i am in disagreement with your general point.
You are practicing a form of cognitive dissonance. you are essentially saying that the law is right because it is the law (even if you know the outcome of the law is wrong). so, even in the face of injustice, you are willing to defend the law. for some reason you seem to think law is the only means to create justice. but there are lots of ways to create justice and social harmony.
law need not be applied in an absolute sense in order for a society to function. if it did, then you should turn yourself in for speeding or jaywalking or littering… or whatever indiscretion you have committed. because, you imply that the breaking of SOME laws necessitates the decent into chaos. and that’s simply not true. it’s senseless, actually. it implies that law is perfect, when we all know it is not. laws are often passed without proper information, with different goals than the future holds, in times of passion… or whatever. and sometimes, when a law is known to be more trouble than it is worth, it is swept under the rug. Ask any prosecutor in the world whether they prosecute all the cases before them, just for the sake of following the law. obviously they don’t because it is not worth it. they pick what they believe to be most important. and yet “the rule of law” in general remains in tact enough for societies around the world to function.
it’s basic, and i have a hard time believing you don’t understand it.
Also, just for the sake of accuracy, you said that “when slavery was abolished that was accomplished through the rule of law.” but slavery was not abolished in the USA by rule of law, it was abolished through a war. It was abolished in france through war too. in britin it was abolished by law, but they continued to encourage it in their colonies for decades, to feed their industrial revolution.
The STL indictments and rulings are not for Lebanon, rather they are meant for the international community at large that will accept them and act accordingly.
SInce Lebanon is notorious for its impoverished and manipulative politics, whatever the indictments will be, there will always be a major political fraction that will reject them whether it’s an Iranian, Syrian proxy or both.
I think the critical issue is how the wraths of Hezbollah and Syria will impact Lebanon and in that I think Lebanon will need another restructuring adjustment. I don’t see a way out of at least a violent phase period. Indeed, Hezbollah took the streets for a relatively minor reason compared to what the STL is about to divulge and this time they will demand their allies to join in.
I personally have been involved in evicting people both in NJ and PA …
So as you were accused in the past of hiding, you do reside there, don’t you! 🙂
There was a case in economics called the capital controversay in which Cambridge England had a position and Cambridge Mass. had another. They ket at it for years publishing papers and even books each making the case for his/her side. Ultimately the controversy was resolved when it became abundantly clear that they were not discussing the same things.I have a feeling that this is also the problem that we might be encountering.
I have never spoken about only one law but always tried to make it clear that I was talking about the concept of judicial system, in toto. If a specific law is not fair or just then one has the option to fight it by appealing to a higher court and a higher one still but one does not have the right to just disregard the law even if one disagrees with it.
Now that you mention the traffic laws let me use that as an example. If I belong to the old purist school of motorcycle riders that do not believe that the helmet law is fair then I must be willing to pay a fine whenever I am stopped. I can lobby the political system to change the law but meanwhile I have t accept the dictates of the system as a whole.
Joe, I do not know whether you have an interest in Charles Rangel. As you might know Charles Rangel is fighting for his political life. He thinks that the committee that is investigating his case is being too thorough and is applying some case law that has not been used in decades. He claims that he is being treated unfairly and has hinted that he thinks that is due to the color of his skin. Charles Rangel does not deny any of the specifics ( not paying taxes on some income, using a rent controlled apartment as a campaign headquarters…) but he intends to fight the committe vigorously through the law system. I wish him luck because he has always been a favourite of mine.
So to sum up, I am not suggesting that each and every judgement by any particular law must be accepted. One has the right to self defense and to appeal but appeal must end somewhere, at the highest court of the land.
I happen to think that had there been an active judiciary in Lebanon then president Suleimans election would never stand. His election was unconstitutional as it stands. But as bad as that might be he is my president and I have no choice but to accept it. Meanwhile I should lobby to make sure that next time around the constitutional court is functioning.
AGerman government run organization that promotes sustainable development world wide has this to say: “Democracy requires a rule of law framework in order to govern the interaction and co-existence of all citizens. By guaranteeing civil rights, the rule of law also creates the basic conditions in which individuals can pursue their own personal development as they choose. Human rights, the state monopoly of power, the separation of powers and an independent, effective judiciary play a key role in this context. ”
A functioning judicial system is crucially important for the rule of law in a democracy.
No, I have business interests that reside in NJ. And I do spend part of my time there. I have explained this before.
Let’s all give the leaders of Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon a big “high-five” for averting war over the Zionist-imposed STL.
I was beginning to worry…