Saad al-Hariri has yet to issue a statement about last night’s press conference, since he is apparently out of the country (where he always seems to be whenever Nasrallah issues one of his earth-shaking statements about the tribunal.)
Until he returns and provides some indication as to how his government is going to respond to Hizbullah’s accusations against Israel, I’m going to give him some unsolicited advice: Thank Nasrallah for his efforts and immediately call for the creation of a Lebanese commission to look into Hizbullah’s “material evidence,” just as the party is demanding.
If Nasrallah is bluffing, Hariri should call him on it. If he’s not, Hariri loses nothing by agreeing to take a closer look at the evidence.
However, if Hariri simply ignores Nasrallah or dismisses his demands, he will be increasing the likelihood that this government will not last the year, throwing the fate of the STL itself into question. Why would this be the case? Let’s play out the most likely scenarios.
If the STL indicts any members of Hizbullah, we can be assured that the party will reject the accusations and will demand that Lebanon’s government reject them as well. Walid Jumblatt (who now counts himself as a bonafide member of March 8th) and Michel Aoun have been expressing their doubts about the integrity of the STL for weeks, and Hizbullah’s new evidence against Israel provides the perfect excuse for them to join in calling for the creation of a Lebanese commission to investigate the “Israeli theory” before any Lebanese citizens are sent to The Hague.
In other words, Hizbullah and its allies (who control over a third of the cabinet) will effectively be able to throw the brakes on the STL’s proceedings by threatening to resign from the coalition government. Without a majority in parliament, Hariri would not be a lock to be re-appointed Prime Minister, opening the door to the possibility that an alternative candidate might be chosen who does not recommit his cabinet to funding the STL.
On the other hand, if Hariri takes the initiative now to form a Lebanese investigating commission, he will force the spotlight back onto Hizbullah and its claims that Israel killed Rafiq al-Hariri.
Nasrallah did not say last night that his presentation provided conclusive evidence against Israel, but simply that it represented a compelling reason to open “new horizons” in the investigation. On this point, he is right. However, there are many reasonable objections that come to mind when considering Hizbullah’s case, for example:
- How do we know what Israel was actually surveilling and when, unless we see the entire archive of footage?
- How do we know that the evidence presented was not taken from a ten-year long film and edited into a compelling made-for-TV montage?
- If Israel started encrypting its feeds after the Ansariyya incident, why would they have encrypted some feeds and not others? How much of this archive derives from the months directly before al-Hariri’s assassination?
- So far, we have heard little from the alleged spies, who are currently on a fast track to the gallows. Should we simply take Hizbullah’s word for it on the matter of their testimonies?
All of these issues can be explored through an investigation into Hizbullah’s archive of evidence, which is why Hariri should not hesitate to launch such an investigation. If the materials are unconvincing, this will surely become clear when they are subjected to intense scrutiny. If there is something actually there, we will be one step closer to discovering al-haqiqa.
In other news, I’ve written a commentary for Foreign Policy’s Mideast Channel about the latest twist in the Hariri murder mystery, which you can read here.
Update: I recommend reading Khalid Saghiyyah’s analysis of Nasrallah’s speech in al-Akhbar, the final paragraph of which I’ve translated below. It is noteworthy because it represents a fairly prevalent line of argument about what Hariri should do. I myself disagree with Saghiyyah, but I think his point of view makes sense to many people.
The question is not, therefore, whether Israel killed al-Hariri. The question is whether the accusation can be directed against Israel. This is the question that Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah responded to yesterday. And perhaps this was what he meant when he said that what he was offering was not evidence but data. Data is enough to save the country. The documents that were presented yesterday say, simply: “Yes, it is possible to re-direct the accusation towards Israel.” And this alone represents a suitable exit for everyone. An exit for the fabricators of false witnesses. An exit for those who are rightfully accused. An exit for those wrongly accused. An exit for the descendants of the victims.
The time now is 2:00 in the morning. So, let us accuse Israel. And let Bellemare go to sleep.
In a country with a functioning government, the investigatory team, which you [QN] suggest be created, would have the authority to subpoena all of Hezbollah’s intercept tapes as well as the transcripts/tapes of the collaborator/spy confessions (indicating the conditions under which they were obtained).
Is that possible or realistic here? Would Hizbollah provide to the government investigatory team its film archive? Has it provided it to the STL?
QN, if an internal investigation is lauched it has to be non-partisan or else
1. It risks being as ineffective as the dialogue sessions; & being inconclusive
2. it will deligitimize the international court.
Further, is a non-partisan internal investigation possible at all? and will it be subject to pressure? how will it deal with sensistive (secret) information? How will it deal with the STL? Who gives it legitimacy? etc.
3. If Israel started encrypting its feeds after the Ansariyya incident, why would they have encrypted some feeds and not others? How much of this archive derives from the months directly before al-Hariri’s assassination?”
Exactly what I was thinking yesterday !!
Now we need some investigative journalism. Analyze the videos presented yesterday, to try to determine the dates / periods they were shot.
I’m quite sure that the IDF is now comparing those vids with aerial photographs of Beirut.
A Lebanese commission? That begs the question of why UNIIC and the STL were involved in the first place. Would not such a commission supersede the STL and result in precisely what Hizbullah and Syria want to achieve, namely burying the whole affair?
Whatever Hariri thinks of Nasrallah’s performance, isn’t the right thing for him to do is leave it up to the STL to decide whether this new “evidence” is worth investigating? Alternatively, he can give up in the higher interest of national cohesion, as his Saudi backers seem inclined to advise him to do.
A couple of questions for those more knowledgeable than me:
Has anything been said (formally or informally) about the whole string of assassinations that followed Hariri’s? Surely this must be brought up. Is there any sign that accusations will be levelled against Israel for those too, or is all the talk centred around the STL’s case?
Also, Nasrallah mentioned in his speech a reason behind them not coming out earlier with all this information: the series of arrests of Israeli agents recently. Do we know what’s behind all of this? Was it just how things naturally progressed, was it simply that Lebanese internal security got lucky or is there something else behind it?
It seems to me that it might not be very difficult to evaluate the date(s) of the footage shown yesterday for somebody with some knowledge of construction activities/new buildings etc in this part of Beirut in the last 10/15 years. There have been quite dramatic changes in the city landscape between Saint George and Rawshe in this period.
Nasrallah already said that he does not trust the STL enough to look at this evidence impartially, and even though a Lebanese commission brings with it all kinds of problems (as suggested above by some of the other commenters), Hariri would be playing into Nasrallah’s hands by insisting that the evidence be sent to The Hague instead of remaining in Beirut.
Nasrallah will simply say: “Do you really expect a UN Tribunal established with the support of the Bush administration to accuse Israel of killing Hariri?” And most Lebanese will agree with him on that.
The suggestion of a Lebanese investigation does not negate the STL as some have suggested. In a sense it will strengthen the STL case, would show Hezbollah that their concerns were taken seriously and could make the final verdict from the STL acceptable to all parties.
The only requirement for this to work is to announce the Lebanese investigation by charging the team with a specific mission, a date certain to complete their work and the coordination with the STL.
Article 4 of the STL statutes ( again I just cannot cut and paste from a pdf documment) spells out the fact that the Lebanese judicial authorities shall refer to the STL all their findings on the issue of the assassination of Rafic Hariri and any of the other assassinations also. There is nothing, to my knowledge, that forbids the Lebanese judicial system from pursuing its investigations as long as they refer the findings for the STL who has been given jurisdiction in this matter.
Right on QN and Ghassan. Lets hope that Harriri’s advisers concur with you. Unfortunately, The caliber of Hariri’s advisers is certainly no match to that of the council of advisers advising SHN. It has always amazed me how little HA’s antagonists in Lebanon have learned from the Hizb as opposed to how much the Hizb has learned from its antagonist, Israel. That is why the Hizb is rather effective or more effective in dealing with Israel than FM, LF and the other Hizb antagonists will EVER be in dealing with the Hizb.
Sorry, this whole discussion seems naive to me. How can a fact finding commission in Lebanon be free and independent? What would stop HA and Syria from intimidating its members or even assassinating one member as a warning to others? It is not as if they have not done these things before.
If Hariri calls Nasrallah’s “bluff” on this, he would quickly find out that Nasrallah has a royal flush and is suckering him in. If Nasrallah can take over Beirut as he has shown, he can also easily manipulate an internal Lebanese investigation to do his bidding.
The best course of action is for Hariri to request the tribunal to comprehensively investigate the Israeli angle. It is not great, but it is the best he can do.
A better option for Hariri is to try to setup an Arab (but not Lebanese) inquiry. For example he could ask the Egyptian Mohamed ElBaradei, until recently the head of the IAEA and a very respected man, to take a look at the evidence. This will play well with the Sunni street and preempt Nasrallah. Intimidating ElBaradei will not be so easy, especially if he works in Egypt.
This may seem like an aside, but it is sort of relevant.
Recently I’ve been reading Ron Rosenbaum’s book, “Explaining Hitler.” It largely deals with various theories about the personal life and behavior of Hitler, and the factual basis of those theories. One of the problems that arises over and over is not so much a lack of information as an excess of it. Because of his fame and infamy, numerous people had reasons to lie about Hitler out of fealty, antipathy, a desire to sell books etc. We probably already know, say, why Hitler’s niece/probable mistress Geli Raubal committed suicide in 1931, we just have no way of picking out the correct theory from the fifty competing phony ones.
What I’m getting at is that this is why it can be much harder to solve the murder of a Prime Minister than the murder of a drug dealer in Baltimore, despite the much greater resources poured into the former case. And this is why anyone presenting any Hariri murder theory should be able to turn up several witnesses backing their case. At least some of the Hezbollah evidence seems, if not quite provable, at least falsifiable, which is the basis of any good scientific hypothesis. It should be possible to ascertain the age of the videos for example. Thus, a commission seems like a reasonable idea.
In the end, I think the question we should be asking ourselves, internal investigation commission or not, is whether SHN is ultimately willing to give up some of his most loyal men, to (possibly) rot in a western country prison, away from the land & cause they defended and “gave” their life for? In other words, is SHN’s loyality to Lebanon (& its current government & state institutions)higher than his loyality to the party (and its cause)? I doubt …
One thing I didn’t get. Did the videos show the actual assassination site or not? It wouldn’t be at all surprising if Israeli drones videoed Hariri’s route the day after the attack, in which case everything would look exactly right, except that presumably you could tell that the blast had occurred at the attack site.
I think that you are the one that is letting your emotions get in the way.
The crucial idea is to preserve the authority of the STL and yet to diffuse the domestic Lebanese tension over this issue. The statutes under which the STL was established offer the perfect solution.
There is nothing to prevent the Lebanese judiciary from conducting an investigation, if my understanding of the statutes is accurate. I trust that the judiciary will do a good job if they are set up in such a way as not to have to answer to any politicians. Once the Lebanesae commission arrives at any conclusions it must refer the conclusions to the STL where I jimagine the Prosecutor ( The international prosecutor plus his deputy) will decide what to do with these findings by discussing the case with the pretrial judge.
Note what such a process accomplishes:
(1) It gives HA the outlet that it has been after
(2) Domestic tension and possibility of strife decrease
(3) The integrity of the rule of law is preserved. STL has final say in this matter.
As a result we close the book on this , as we should, and life goes on.
If the Lebanese judiciary could have been trusted, why was an international court set up in the first place?
Isn’t May 7 proof enough that HA is not afraid to use force to get what it wants? Why do you think HA will not attempt to intimidate the inquiry?
I understand that the death of RfqH was an important and sad event. But isn’t all this story getting out of proportions? Even in the region there ARE far more important issues, closely or lousily related to Lebanon and Hizb’ullah.
I think that The STL and the death of RfqH is a lebano-lebanese issue. All the surrounding aspects (which are important) such as the zionist state relationship with lebanon, the political power of HA … are already present in other news, and far more burning.
The clash between the zionist army and the Lebanese army last week is far more important, there might be a war coming up. Let’s focus on how to avoid this, rather than old news from 2005;
Major international media outlets are not even covering (in front page / focus) these talks about STL;
The STL should be ignored, lebanese people should move on and try to make the best unity for the present.
Question: does the Hizbulah own nude beaches in leanon and do the carry on illegal activities (drugs, prostitution) ? i often here anti-HA people spread these rumors ….
You are missing the nuances of what I am suggesting 🙂 To start with the conditions of 2005 are not the same as the current ones. It is true that I am not a fan of either of the major blocs , or any of the Lebanese politicians, but the conditions in Lebanon are more stable and the trust in the ability of government institutions is greater. The fear of another term for Lahoud and his entourage was a major reason that the Lebanese felt they had to seek more neutral grounds.
What you are conveniently missing is that the Lebanese commission/investigation will report its findings to the STL who will be the final arbitor. The Lebanese commission cannot come to unwaranted conclusions if it wants the STL to take these conclusions into consideration. Such an arrangement could prove to be unifying for the country and yet preserve the STL.
I noticed a few minutes ago that Labour Minister Harb is calling for something that borders this. I am becoming even more convinced that something along this line is the best way to please most of the concerned parties without diluting the concept of rule of law.
“Even in the region there ARE far more important issues[than the Hariri assassination], closely or lousily related to Lebanon and Hizb’ullah.
The STL should be ignored, lebanese people should move on and try to make the best unity for the present. ”
Nasrallah yes to the first part and a qualified no to the second.
The Hariei investigation has been a circus for five years. No matter who is behind it it will be very difficult to justify the atmosphere that the investigation has created in Lebanon and especially the justification that no one needs to govern because we are waiting to find out who killed Hariri, as if the truth shall perform miracles.
The way out is not to compound the incompetence by “neglecting”
the STL , but just the opposite. Accept the ruling and go on. Restore credibility to the rule of law and pay attention to what ails the country.
BTW, what if the Hariris are satisfied that the real guilty parties have already been dealt with in an old traditional just way? Just a thought:-)
In May 7 2008 the Lebanese were way after 2005. Still, no government institution could stand to HA. I don’t see that things are very different. Have the government institutions grown stronger relative to HA? I don’t think so.
HA does not care if the STL uses the commission’s data. In fact, it hopes they don’t so as to delegitimize it more. A good course of action for them is to intimidate the commission to provide STL with a report that Israel is behind the Hariri murder, and then leak the report and attack the STL for being biased and ignoring the report.
Another issue I do not understand in your proposal is why if HA distrusts the STL it will agree that the STL will be the final arbiter. It will just be giving the STL legitimization which is against HA interests.
I don’t care what anyone says … I did not kill Rafik Hariri. And moreover, no one cannot prove that I did.
More seriously, it is ‘nice’ to see the HCFA put a hold on the US aid to the LAF. I wonder if the M14ers in DC can get their money back? Not that they care …
I’d like to see the STL question Israeli officials the same way the questioned Syrian and Lebanese officials. That would be a good start for the STL to regain some credibility. When all accusations were directed at Syria, the “evidence” they based their questioning of Syrian official was mostly political. The STL had no evidence, not even circumstantial evidence that Syrian security official were involved in the murder of late Pm Hariri. Yet, they demanded, and were eventually able to question who ever they wanted to.
When it came to Lebanese official, it was even worse. Not only they questioned them , but the landed the heads of Lebanese securtity establishments in jail for four years without any charges or even explanation. No wonder why most Lebanese, not only the leader of HA, distrust the STL.
I know that what HA leader presented in his press conference didn’t amount to concrete evidence that Israel was behind the assassination, but I think He offered enough information to warrant close look at the possibility , if not the likelihood , that Israel was behind the assassination. whenever a crime takes place, the first things that an investigator looks at are the motives, and the means, and who benefits the most from certain crime. In this case, Israel had both the motives, and the means. The motive is to create an atmosphere that forces the Syrian out of Lebanon. It was not a secret that the late PM. Hariri and the Syrian leadership were in disagreements since the extension of president Lahood, but it wasn’t so bad that they were enemies. Israel had all the means to carry such an operation. They have a long history of murdering people in Lebanon and Palestine, not to mention attacking international ships and killing people in the middle of the sea in international water.. As who benefited the most and who lost the most as a result of the assassination of PM Hariri, It’s obvious that Syria and HA had -and did- the most to loose. The only suspect who gained the most was Israel. Neither the Syrians, nor HA had the motives to get rid of Hariri. Even though HA and PM .Hariri had a rocky relationship throughout the 90’s, yet they never viewed each other as enemy. We all remember how PM Hariri went out of his way in 1996 to protect HA, And ensured that the April agreement between Israel and HA was to the benefit of HA. HA and Hariri had reached a good understanding ,and eventually had a great relationship.
I think you took the quote out of contest. He did say that He does not trust the STL, but He offered to cooperate with a trustworthy Investigation. He didn’t close the door on any UN investigation at all. He clearly was hinting to the UN to clean up this STL, and then He’ll work with them. He said flat out that if or when there is a serious investigation, He will present his information either through Lebanese Government or directly. Correct me if wrong.
For those of you who don’t read Arabic, allow me to summarize the interesting piece by Khalid Saghiyyah in today’s Akhbar.
Basically, the gist is the following:
The question of who killed Hariri turns on the issue of 1559.
One side believes that Syria or Hizbullah killed Hariri because he was getting ready to support 1559, and join a chorus of voices in the U.S., Europe, and the Arab world calling for Syria to withdraw and Hizbullah to be disarmed.
The other side believes that Israel killed Hariri because 1559 alone was not going to kick Syria out of Lebanon or disarm Hariri, and they needed an “earthquake” to create enough outrage to put the necessary pressure on Damascus.
In both cases, Saghiyya argues, the STL is not going to deliver “justice”. It will not be able to prove Syria’s or Hizbullah’s guilt, nor will it ever dare to accuse Israel.
Therefore, the truth will never be known, so it’s best to just use the “Israel did it” escape hatch, and allow Lebanon to move on. This is the exit strategy being offered by Nasrallah to Hariri.
“free and indepedant”. You mean like the current government. HA, will then insist that they appoint 35% of the committee members and we are back to square one. He said, she said.
I wish you didn’t ignore his reasoning for the STL not daring to accuse Israel. Saghiyyah made it clear that He didn’t believe that the “ International justice” is/was here to accuse Israel or any other foreign intelligence agency.
If the Hizb owned nude beaches we would all here be card carrying members by now and none of this STL mumbo jumbo would be an issue 🙂
True, men have to heads to think with. We mature when one doesn’t function anymore,lol .
Even if Hizbullah insists that they appoint or vet the members of the commission, how is that any worse than the current situation?
What we are in right now is the very definition of “he said she said”.
The problem for Hariri is that Nasrallah is succeeding at transforming it from “he said she said” into “we said, the Zionists said.”
Make no mistake: this is a battle for public opinion in Lebanon. If Hariri tries to diminish Nasrallah’s evidence without even looking at it, then he will be playing into his hands, because Hizbullah will be able to gesture to all kinds of evidence they possess that is being kept from the eyes of the public.
On the other hand, if Hariri welcomes the evidence, then he will be placing it under the same scrutiny that the STL has been under for the past five years.
Why would Israel want Syria out of Lebanon? It was an American and Saudi interest granted. But why was it an Israeli interest?
As for blaming Israel and dumping the STL, if Hariri does that, the US Congress is going to give him a very hard time. If Lebanon does not need US support or aid, then maybe it is the right thing to do.
Now just allow me to voice my personal disdain from the nonchalant way some are considering blaming Israel in order to solve your problems. Isn’t that just the continuation of many of the problems bugging the Arab world? Instead of taking responsibility, again Israel is blamed. By the way, what would you think of Israel if in order to limit internal strife it blamed Rabin’s murder on Lebanon? This is how I would feel if Lebanon follows these suggestions.
My post did not quote Sayed Nasrallah but Nasrallah the blogger on QN 🙂 That was who I was responding to.
Anyway, many of the posters/bloggers, and maybe some think that the same applies to me, seem to do reverse engineering. What I mean by this is that they make up their mind regarding a position and then they go in search of a justification and rationalization for that position. That type of decision making is not uncommon both in the political and business world but I find it objectionable in the judicial world. Business schools, especially reputable MBA programa, speak of decision making as usually one of the two following procedures:
(1) Collect evidence—–>Decision Process—> Decision
Alternatively some use a different procedure
(2)Intuition—>Decision Process—>Evidence+ Decision.
Guess which one HA is trying to follow?:-) They decided that Israel did it and then went out to collect evidence to show that Israel could have done it. No one has shown a credible motive yet (sorry Joe m, I think your explanation is based on hind sight).
What is interesting about the above is that in the business world, it has been shown that (2) is not necessarily a process to be shunned since it has often been superior to (1). But , call me naieve or call me an idealist, that does not apply to the judicial field. We should let the evidence dictate the outcome, including the UMV intercepted feeds.
Thank for the clarification.
It’s obvious that I rushed to judgment.
I’m new to this blog.
I’m enjoying only the objective posters/bloggers . lol
The killer of Robin was caught right on the spot. Please give a more reasonable example for your analogy.
And I don’t think there was any Lebanese drones over Tel Aviv that night either. Nor was there any F-16’S circling the skies of Tel Aviv.
I don’t think Hariri will blame Israel and dump the STL.
I think that he is trying to find a way to keep the STL viable without losing control of his government.
You totally missed the analogy. Using false or unsubstantiated claims against anyone to solve your own problems is morally wrong in my book.
While yesterday’s presentation did not provide enough evidence to warrant a conviction, it certainly presented enough evidence to warrant an investigation. That was Nasrallah’s objective, as he himself stated yesterday.
In the past two years, dozens if not hundreds of Israeli agents have been arrested in Lebanon, with many actually convicted by a court of law. Their activities included not only spying, but transporting explosives and Israeli field operatives. This evidence alone requires that Israel be considered a possible suspect in any security incident, alongside any regular practitioner of terrorist activities in Lebanon (not naming names here, make your personal picks).
A primary motive for Israel would be to instigate Sunni-Shiite strife, and cause a loss of support for Hizballah domestically. Another motive would be to force Syria to withdraw from Lebanon under a wave of condemnation.
For the naive, in this scenario Israel would not simply execute the assassination and then sit back and watch the magic unfold. It would be part of a matrix of actions that include political, media, and diplomatic agitation.
Syria did not withdraw as a result of a haphazard reaction in the Lebanese people. It was a result of a concerted effort by the US and local parties to mobilize the masses, and shape the diplomatic environment. Israel could have easily anticipated and influenced this effort through its close contacts with the US, and through its agents in Lebanon.
So the argument is that if Israel is just a likely a suspect as the other sure-to-have-done-it parties, why was it never investigated or seriously considered?
Of course if the STL has slam-dunk evidence convicting somebody else, this becomes moot. But if it did have slam-dunk evidence, we probably would have seen indictments years ago around the first press leaks. And of course, if Hizballah didn’t do it, then Nasrallah knows for a fact there is no slam-dunk evidence with the STL.
I didn’t miss the analogy at all.I do suspect that Israel killed Hariri, but I know that Rabin’s killer was an Israeli jew.
1- Why should Israel be above suspicion?
2- STL reminds me of J-J Rousseau’s thought : “the strongest is never strong enough to be always the master, unless he transforms strength into right, and obedience into duty.”
3 – Published in Le Monde diplomatique – avril 2007 : Douteuse instrumentalisation de la justice au Liban
“Le tribunal spécial pour le Liban serait donc la première juridiction internationale instituée pour traiter exclusivement de crimes qui ne figurent pas parmi les plus graves et ne sont « internationaux » que par décision du Conseil de sécurité. Ce serait la seule juridiction de ce type chargée d’appliquer essentiellement du droit interne, le droit pénal libanais, à peine complété par des dispositions excluant la peine capitale. De la sorte, l’importance que les Nations unies attachent à la répression des assassinats de personnalités libanaises est spectaculairement soulignée. Toutefois, il est douteux que l’image de l’ONU et, surtout, celle de la justice internationale en soient renforcées. Au contraire. (…)
Dès l’origine, ce tribunal est apparu aux uns comme le moyen de venger la mort de personnalités politiques tout en combattant le régime syrien, et aux autres comme l’instrument des Etats-Unis, de la France et d’Israël. Ces représentations perverses mobilisent les fractions opposées de la société libanaise au point de paralyser le pays et de provoquer des affrontements armés. Otage de ces joutes, la justice pénale internationale est ici fourvoyée sans même avoir pu s’incarner dans un tribunal réel jugeant effectivement des suspects de crimes internationaux. “
I think its a tough call for Hariri. A Lebanese investigation can still undermine the STL without necessarily arriving at a definite conclusion. Just as indicting Hizballah members will taint the organization even without a conviction, a Lebanese report could raise enough doubts and suspicions on Israel’s role to undermine the STL’s hypothesis without needing to prove anything definite. So it is risky.
Then again, Hariri could go along but fill the investigation with dead weights who will ensure nothing gets done, national dialogue style.
If a Lebanese investigation does get set up, it would be interesting to see who would be part of it. If its judicial or security professionals, it might be a meaningful enterprise. If its staffed by the political class, it will simply be a new battleground.
The 2006 post on SyriaComment.com still rings true today. I’m amazed at how many resources have been expended to slowly approach an asymptotic pronouncement that is likely to be antiseptic. The final word is not in yet but the intrigue and posturing are nothing short of remarkable. I’d even say they vastly surpass what Thucydides reported about the posturing of the leaders in the Peloponnesian war.
Here’s the old link.
With apologies for those who deplore lengthy cut-and-paste posts and to those who’ll accuse me of living in the past… here also is the full post:
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Who Killed Hariri? The “Pushed Against the Wall” Thesis” as elaborated by Nasrallah and Asad
Who killed Hariri? This is the question that runs through Hassan Nasrallah’s interview with al-Hayat. Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbullah, absolves Syria of responsibility, but he also tries to explain the context which led to Hariri’s murder. He blames Walid Jumblatt’s intransigent refusal to reconcile with the Syrians in December 2004 and join a Hariri government under Lahoud for leading to Hariri’s death. It is in this context that Hariri’s murder, according to Nasrallah, becomes understandable. In his explanation of the context, Nasrallah elaborates the “Syria Pushed to the Wall” thesis.
The complete Nasrallah interview with al-Hayat [was] available in English at (Dar Al-Hayat). T_desco, who has been following the Lebanon wrangle closely, underlines the importance of this interview, because Nasrallah is quite frank about his reading of Syrian-Lebanese relations and their history.
Nasrallah claims that Bashar al-Asad does not want to return to Lebanon to control its affairs as it did in the past. “When I said in an interview that Syria did not want to return to Lebanon in the way that prevailed in the past, I meant it, and I know this,” Nasrallah says. All the same Nasrallah is outspoken about his belief that Syria will always have a role in Lebanon. He argues that the present forces who oppose Syria are bad for Lebanese interests because they are determined to overturn the Syrian government, which will only provoke war between the two countries. More importantly, he claims they will lose. Here are his words:
Today, I’m not working to re-introduce Syrian forces in Lebanon, or re-introducing Syrian intelligence here, or Syrian influence. By the way, whether or not we like it, or whether or not others like it, Syria has influence in Lebanon that no one can eliminate, due to what is said about common factors of history and geography, and a network of interests, and the intersection of family and social relations.
There’s another goal that we’re working for. We reject fighting Syria from Lebanon. We reject seeing Lebanese involved in any project to bring down the Syrian regime. This is dangerous for Syria and Lebanon. Due to Lebanese, national reasons, we believe that any war, in terms of politics, security or the media, not to speak of a military war that some of them want to drag Lebanon into, represents something that is against Lebanese national interests, regardless of the pan-Arab issue, or Israel, or the strategic situation in the region, because it is a losing war, based on all criteria and balances of power. What we’re saying today is that in Lebanon, there are those who want to bring down the regime in Syria.
Nasrallah claims his fight is with Junblat and others, less vocal, who want to overturn the Syrian regime with US support. He regrets that an understanding with Syria has been torpedoed. He says:
The final attempt, in Jeddah, between King Abdullah bin Abdel-Aziz and President Bashar al-Assad was an attempt to arrange things between Lebanon and Syria, in a way that puts Lebanon at ease, and puts Syria at ease as well, providing an opportunity for the investigation to be concluded. Before anyone knew what happened during this meeting, the attacks began from Lebanon, of course using
language that was less (harsh) than what the secretary general of the Arab League, Amr Moussa, was subject to. I have the feeling that in Lebanon there are those who don’t want any kind of understanding to be reached with Syria, under any consideration, and some of those are the most fearful about revealing the truth about the assassination of Prime Minister al-Hariri.
Nasrallah argues that Hizbullah did not benefit politically from Syria’s presence in Lebanon as others parties did.
al Hayat: There are those who say that Hizbullah has a program to see Syrian influence return to Lebanon.
Sayyed Nasrallah (Laughs): First of all, this is a charge that has no evidence behind it. Second, if we take Hizbullah, how has it benefited from the Syrian presence in Lebanon? I’m not talking about the last 30 years, since Hizbullah didn’t exist prior to 1982. From 1982 until the present, when Syrian forces exited Lebanon, how has Hizbullah benefited from the Syrian presence in Lebanon? How has Junblatt benefited? Or the many, many others?
Let’s talk about the period of Syria’s presence in Lebanon. First of all, our presence in state administrations: we don’t have any presence. On the contrary, the doors have been closed to us when it comes to the bureaucracy. As for the regions in which we are active, and in which we enjoy a moral and popular influence, deprivation and poverty have increased. We haven’t benefited in terms of state positions, or projects, or development, or official political power, or in any domain where others have benefited. Therefore, we have no problem with whoever wants to judge this period; in fact we are comfortable about the topic because we were “outside” (the equation).
Of course, the Syrian presence in Lebanon concerned us in two respects. First, the principal factor involved securing domestic stability, due to the fragility of the situation. Second, this presence constituted a protective shield for the resistance against the Israeli occupation. Therefore, my position on Syria is subject to national and strategic considerations, and not personal calculations, or party-based calculations, or short-term interests. I didn’t support Syria in Lebanon because I would receive positions in state administrations, or because it would secure projects for me, or give me a budget to work with, or ministers, or MPs in Parliament. That’s how they work. On the contrary, the Syrian committee that used to manage Lebanese affairs up to 2000 would purposely ignore Hizbullah when it came to the Lebanese domestic (political) formula.
Sayyed Nasrallah: There are many such people, including Walid Jumblatt, who call for US troops to occupy Syria and eliminate the regime, like they did in Iraq. This is clear. He has called on the Syrian opposition to receive assistance from outside the country. Walid Jumblatt is distinguished by the fact that he says what he wants. There are others who do things and don’t say anything. Don’t ask me who these people are; when they say so, I’ll tell you. In our opinion, this is dangerous for Lebanon. Today, our problem is that some of them want us to be part of their open war against Syria, and we reject this. The problem isn’t that they don’t want Syrian influence in Lebanon, while we do. This is not true.
Who is responsible for the deterioration of Lebanese-Syrian relations on the eve of Hariri’s assassination on February 14, 2005? Nasrallah blames Junblatt and claims that Asad was trying to reconcile with Junblatt. Of course, this is a highly self-interested version because of the recent hostile exchange between Nassrallah and Junblatt, in which the Druze warlord stepped up his campaign against the Shiite warlord, claiming his party’s allegiance to Iran and Syria overshadowed its loyalty to Lebanon.
Also, it must be remembered that at the time Nasrallah’s attempted reconciliation between Asad and Jumblatt Syria had just extended Lahoud’s presidency in contravention to the Lebanese constitution and was trying to impose its will on Hariri and Jumblatt. Hamadeh, Jumblatt’s ally, had just been almost killed in an effort to intimidate Junblatt. Here are Nasrallah’s words about the atmosphere during the week before Hariri’s murder:
I realized that Walid Jumblatt had no serious intention of reconciling with the Syrians, even prior to PM Hariri’s assassination, and that Walid Jumblatt had taken the decision to enter into a conflict with this regime. Even so, I believe that what he said at the Bristol was hurtful to me personally, as a mediator, and to Prime Minister al-Hariri, who was enthusiastic about the mediation, and to the Syrians themselves. It was clear, and I can attest to the fact that this was the climate prior to PM Hariri’s assassination.
President al-Assad demonstrated the required positive reaction to overcome the problem with Walid Jumblatt, but Walid Jumblatt insisted on clashing with the regime in Syria. After al-Hariri’s assassination, things became more difficult. It was no longer possible to talk about mediation.
Nasrallah even obliquely accuses Jumblatt’s refusal to reconcile with Asad for creating the atmosphere of confrontation with Syria which led to Hariri’s death. According to Nasrallah, Rafik al-Hariri was ready to make up with the Syrians after the September 2004 Lahoud extension (which Hariri begrudgingly facilitated). Hariri told Nasrallah in December 2004 that he was prepared to form a government, but only if it included Walid Jumblatt. (Hamadeh was almost killed in October, well before this December effort to bring him back into the Syrian game.) Nasrallah explains:
We even worked with our Syrian brethren to clarify that the circumstances, and the country’s interest, after [Lahoud’s] extension, required that Prime Minister al-Hariri form the new government. However, al-Hariri said to me, “I have a problem with forming a government without Walid Jumblatt. In light of the difficult climate between Jumblatt and the Syrians, it will be hard to form a Cabinet. I want you to help me regarding Jumblatt, and his relationship with
Jumblatt refused to reconcile, having already committed himself to UN Resolution 1559 and the Franco-American effort to yank Lebanon out of Syria’s sphere of influence and into their own. According to Nasrallah, this is the key to the context of Hariri’s assassination.
The logic of Nasrallah’s history and explanation could also be used to explain why Syria killed Hariri, even though Nasrallah insists on pointing the finger variously at Israel, al-Qa’ida, or other obscure anti-Syrian and anti-“resistance” forces. Here is my reading: Syria believed that Lahoud is the key to its grip on Lebanon and its interests there so Bashar extended Lahoud’s presidency, despite US and French admonitions not to. Hariri was willing to re-enter the circle of Syrian domination, despite his humiliation at the hands of Bashar over the Lahoud affaire, but only if Jumblatt would also reconcile with Syria and join his government. Jumblatt refused, going over to the dark side. Hariri begins to go over to the dark side with Junblatt. Syria takes him out. In Nasrallah’s “resistance” logic, this is not really Syria’s fault, but Jumblatt’s. Syria, which, in Nasrallah’s view, still stands for “pan-Arab” interests, has been pushed to the wall by the West. Anyone who joins this pressure becomes a “traitor” and plays with fire. Thus, it is not Syria (even if it pulled the trigger) but the forces alligned against Syria who are the real assassins.
Bashar al-Asad has tried to bolster this line of reasoning. In an interview last October 7 with Jihad El Khazen, Asad claimed that France and the US had already made the decision to gin up a Security Council Resolution against Syria’s presence in Lebanon as early as June 2004. Thus Lahoud’s extension was a defensive move to fortify Syria’s team in Lebanon and not an aggressive initiation of the tit for tat war that resulted in Hariri’s murder. Here is how al-Khazen summarized his two-hour interview with Bashar al-Asad:
President al-Assad links the extension of President Emile Lahoud’s mandate to the battle in which France and the US joined forces against Syria, each for its own reasons. The White House is pressuring to rein in the Syrian position regarding the US military presence in Iraq and the confrontation with Israel. France found itself in a big political dispute with the US and decided to offer Syria as a price for reducing the harshness of Washington’s position against Paris.
*The agreement over Syria between President George Bush and President Jacques Chirac began in Normandy in June 2004, when the extension hadn’t yet been raised. When the Syrians heard in roughly August that the two countries were preparing a Security Council Resolution against Damascus and its interests, extension became possible.
This is the “pushed to the wall” thesis that both Bashar and Nasrallah elaborate. The death of Hariri becomes “objectively” not Syria’s fault because Syria was defending itself along with higher Arab interests against a plot by the Israeli oriented West and their minions in Lebanon. This is the logic that Asad is selling to Syrians. This explains why Asad accuses the Israelis of murdering Hariri and may actually believe it at some metaphysical level. More importantly, it is why so many Middle Easterners accept the logic. They believe it at some deeper psychological level, which helps them avow Asad’s technical innocence.
The Manichean struggle between Israel and the Arab World, in which both sides claim to be “existentially” threatened, has unraveled ordinary morality. Murder gets swept into a larger allegorical reading of light and darkness. As the cosmic logic of good and evil takes over, murder becomes “collateral damage” and we enter into the twilight zone of myth in which human actions lose their meaning in the face of contending Gods. The ends justify the means. Higher principles, such as Arabism/, Islam or democracy/ freedom trump smaller ones, such as murder.
Unfortunately, Arab leaders and their followers are not the only ones to do this.
posted by Joshua Landis @ 1/21/2006 07:26:00 PM
Let’s pretend we’re impartial consultants from the planet Objectivia.
Mr. Hariri calls us in to advise him on the best course of action. On the one hand, there’s this thing called the STL that apparently has evidence that members of a group called Hizbullah participated in killing his father.
On the other hand, this group called Hizbullah apparently has evidence that a country called Israel committed the crime.
What would be the most reasonable and just way to proceed?
Should Hizbullah hand over its evidence to the STL or should a new body be formed to investigate it?
Obviously, there is no ideal solution. Hizbullah regards the STL as untrustworthy, and most international observers would regard a Lebanese commission to be vulnerable to pressure and intimidation by Hizbullah.
What would you advise?
if i may also join you boys on the ship from objectivia, i’d advise hariri to do both.
there’s no reason he can’t hand the evidence over to the STL and set up a commission of his own. if anything, it would bolster the credibility (and, hopefully, productivity!) of both investigations by providing some form of checks and balances.
Im my opinion, the situation you are presenting would accomplish the most concrete manifestation of a total realignment of Lebanese politics. A complete abandonment of the M14/M8 binary, and a potential formalization of a politics of compromise.
In essence, it would be a reformation of the “national dialogues” but with an actual goal and a requirement of some form of success.
As your previous posts have implied, Hizbullah is asking Hariri to repudiate the tribunal, but now Nasrallah is also providing a concrete means by which to do so. Yet without the humiliation involved in a direct attack on the tribunal.
If little Hariri is able to transcend American influence, and such an investigation were to happen, it could transform Lebanon for a generation (in my opinion).
Is it just me or does the old theory/analysis of 2006 in SyriaComment.com continue to ring true so many years later? http://preview.tinyurl.com/24fuo8v
From a purely objective point of view I can’t find any rational reason, even when thinking of this as a chess game and seeing 10 moves ahead, that Israel would have had any interest in plotting, let along have had the level of sophisticated on-the-ground intelligence required for executing the assassination of Rafiq Hariri.
By the same token, many reasons existed for both Syria and HA. I need not repeat them here. Just re-read the excellent post quoted above from 2006. Furthermore Syria has used such tactics in the past both on Lebanese politicians (Kamal Junblatt) and its own. Now, it is important to distinguish between the top political leadership – both for Syria and HA – i.e., Pres. Assad and Sec’y Gen. SHN
and the military and intelligence operatives. Judging from the interviews with Pres. Assad, including the impressive one (way back when!) with Charlie Rose, and the general perception of SHN as a political leader with a large staff and many subleaders who may have operated with purposeful hiding from him certain actions (for plausible deniability), it is reasonable to assume that neither of them was involved in the planning and maybe even didn’t know at all. We can allow for that possibility. But to think that this was done by any other agent is improbable at best, and most likely simply trip into fantasy land.
Perhaps, as some suggest, the world needs to move on and let bygone be bygone. Perhaps. Still, it bugs the hell out of me that this is the method used to effect political goals.
Of course there was miscalculation and unpredictable consequences ensued. The Machiavellian perpetrators did not expect the uprising that resulted and the worldwide outrage which forced Syria out of Lebanon. It’s that simple. No more, no less.
Since that time, by sheer use of intimidation, the charm and charisma of SHN, and, when needed, military power within the country, along with remarkably effective propaganda, and the completely twisted and mysterious positions of Gen. Aoun, somehow the situation has been turned into the drama we see unfolding and the discussions thereof, including in this blog. It all still smells to me. Not because I’m partisan or affiliated or in any way an ideologue. Just simple logic and observation of facts in a purely objective way.
Remarkable. Truly remarkable. Oh! the power of rhetoric on people.
Rhetoric: 10 – Logic: 0
Not to mention, as someone pointed out, the series of assassinations that followed, all targeting politicians and/or journalists who were voicing convincingly the reasoning of logic or who would have established the constitutional majority that forced the exposition of same. No one will question that to solve a crime one looks for motive. Here we are witnessing all sorts of theories about motive for this or the other party. The only one that makes any sense is the one that points to both Syria and HA — with the clarification that the pointing is towards certain elements in that country and politico-military movements, not necessarily the top political leadership.
Voice of reason, speak up!
I hope they can keep Lebanon in one piece which I doubt they can if HA is accused.
We know they are a fact on the ground. they got almost every Shiite family –AMAL also on their side. They got all the druze, and 1/2 the christians. It is not looking good to have a face off that will destroy Lebanon after Hariri. The scenario you might get if push comes to shove is that HA takes over, installs their own government and kicks STL out. Who will displace them? The UN, Hitsrael –anyone should be ashamed if he thinks the latter; In any case neither can since majority of Lebanese through their Zo3ama are with them.
I am stating facts for you. You do not have to like it –I might not either– but that’s reality on the ground guys and gals. Let’s not make the next reality blood on the streets and sunni’s power eliminated as they did to Murabitoon back in 1983 or 84 — I was too young to remember excatly–
The cause of HA’s exitence is the Tsunami that happened in 1949, and exactly the 1982 invade and stay policy that Hitsrael did. The correct path to eliminate HA is to work towards ME settlement of the palestinian/golan/Sheb3a issues. Until then you’re wasting your time fighting HA. The more you fight them the stronger and more determined they become. In the end and when the situation in ME gets setteled, HA will on it’s own become a political party only. Nature will dictate it then and you would NOT have a need to fight them.
It could very well be #1, but knowing how kniving the Histraeli’s are I would not doubt #2 either.
Below what should have been between quotes for post #44:
One side believes that Syria or Hizbullah killed Hariri because he was getting ready to support 1559, and join a chorus of voices in the U.S., Europe, and the Arab world calling for Syria to withdraw and Hizbullah to be disarmed.
The other side believes that Israel killed Hariri because 1559 alone was not going to kick Syria out of Lebanon or disarm Hariri, and they needed an “earthquake” to create enough outrage to put the necessary pressure on Damascus.
As for blaming Israel and dumping the STL, if Hariri does that, the US Congress is going to give him a very hard time.
Looks like you’re right on target:
I had posted the following on the other thread. I would only add that an equivalent (if there is any equivaloence) to a Senate Intelligence Subcommittee could do the job of investigating “the truth” of the matter (as described below). Does the Arab League have an Intelligence Subcommittee?
August 10, 2010 at 8:17 am
The “evidence” presented by Nasrallah about Israeli observation of the scene of the crime, is very much like the reported “evidence” about HA operatives being in contact and in and around that same scene of the crime. Nothing conclusive linking either to the actual murder. The absence of definitive evidence and the preponderance of conjectural evidence cannot lead to any acceptable “conviction.” Thus, we are back at square one; both the STL investigation and the hyped-up “revelations” of HA lead us to naught when it comes to actually determining with certainty those directly responsible for the assassination of Hariri.
That also means that one needs to broaden the scope of the analysis of the event and to speculate using inductive reasoning about who most probably was responsible. This will not provide anything tangible for court proceedings (say goodbye to the STL), but it may help provide a sense of closure for those who may need it. Those Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials at the time, who were responsible for keeping “law and order,” failed in their assigned tasks of protecting Hariri. This failure must have been the result of incompetence or collusion: follow that lead and find someone to hold responsible. Certainly, internal investigations have been completed, maybe even with dramatic results (especially in Syria); maybe one can find there more reassuring or more adequate indications about the perpetrators.
It’s a very good Article in FP. You were quoted in As-Safir.
Yeah real smart USA policy makers, selling Lebanon for a 2nd time just to please your little spoiled daughter hitsrael. No wonder 3aoun knew right away where to stand.
The LAF thing is amusing because the US for years dangled a bargain: if you comply with the Israeli desire for you to deploy to the border, we will help you build up the army. Lahoud and others refused, under the slogan that the LAF would not police the border for Israel’s benefit. And then, well … 2006.
It is also amusing cause Berman (CA-28) has been getting cash from Lebanese-Americans — apparently so the HCFA can hold hearings on what a big meanie Assad is. Unfortunately for these Lebanese, Berman also collects cash from another group with interests in the Middle East.
It is also amusing cause as Worth notes, the hold has legal or constitutional consequence/meaning, but it can/does slow the bureaucracy down to a crawl if so desired.
It is also amusing cause one gets to see how ill-served Israel’s strategic objectives often are by its ‘friends’ in the US Congress, whose concern is domestic advantage where the competition is stiff not the military and political realities of the Levant.
here’s the Safir newspaper link quoting QN’s FP piece
does anyone detect the usual alsafir spin or maybe just inacuracy in the translation?
The only benefit for the US in supporting Lebanon is to get stability in the region (under Bush they also wanted a showcase for democracy in the Arab world). If the LAF itself jeopardizes stability by shooting across the border, why support it? Berman is acting in the interest of the US and in my opinion it is a good wakeup call for the Lebanese government and army. But please, try making a case why “the military and political realities of the Levant” should suggest another course of action.
AIG, it is not complicated. Having the LAF in the South gives the IDF targets, and by extension Baabda. That is a major political complication for HA on the Lebanese scene, and one the Israelis can manipulate to their benefit. I know that does not fit your fun propaganda of ‘HA controls Lebanon’ but life is not a cartoon.
So according to you the LAF are Israeli hostages in South Lebanon. If HA shoots missiles we kill Lebanese soldiers. How exactly would that help stop the missiles? And who in Lebanon would blame HA and not Israel for their death? What exactly can Israel gain from killing Lebanese soldiers?
The Lebanese army is as fragmented as Lebanese society and if the IDF hits the LAF it will hit specific brigades or battalions, there will not be attacks across the board. The Lebanese commanders of most army units are not suicidal and do not fancy themselves giving their life to further Nasrallah’s goals. There is much information passed through UNIFIL between the sides. So it is not true that the LAF soldiers are hostages. It is in the interest of Israel to assure the parts of the LAF that are committed to stability and to make sure that the parts that are not understand the consequences. And if they don’t, then their superiors.
That is why stopping the money to the LAF is a good idea. Let’s see the commander that decided to shoot in the tree incident do it again. Imagine doing something that cuts a large part of the budget of the organization you belong to. You won’t be that popular in the organization.
Where did I say that HA controls Lebanon? I view the relation between HA and Lebanon as the relation between a parasite and host. The parasite wants to keep the host alive and functioning because if the host dies, it will too. On the other hand the parasite does not want the host to be too strong and be able to get rid of the parasite.
Moving back to the issue at hand, QN writes (paraphrasing another author):
“Therefore, the truth will never be known, so it’s best to just use the “Israel did it” escape hatch, and allow Lebanon to move on. This is the exit strategy being offered by Nasrallah to Hariri.”
Wondering aloud how exactly would Hariri employ this strategy. If Israel is guilty, then it could assemble whatever commission and investigate. Actual serious proof of guilt, or even proof that Hezbollah’s videos are not a montage from 1995, would create reasonable doubt and perhaps provide something of a blow to global support for Israel. The Abe Foxmans of the world will support Israel unconditionally, but a lot of people who could explain away flotilla shootings will have a harder time with the dynamiting of a prime minister.
If Israel is not guilty, as I suspect is more likely, what would Hariri do though? Set up a bogus commission to provide reasonable doubt? Just leave things where they are and say it is time to move on? I don’t know enough about the political realities in Lebanon to know how plausible the latter option is.
I like f’s strategy, as I actually am curious about the truth, but then I’m not Lebanese and don’t have to worry about the s*** that could hit the fan when the STL report comes out. I’ve been searching the internet for more factual analysis of the IAV videos, coming up with nothing.
It is an interesting piece by Khaled Sagghiah indeed, however the question my biggest issue is that I am not really sure if a Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon was high on the Israeli priorities.
“If Israel started encrypting its feeds after the Ansariyya incident, why would they have encrypted some feeds and not others?”
This is a very good question. But surprisingly I recall reading an article less that a year ago on bbc that they found U.S. drone footage with an alleged terrorist in Iraq. They seem to have been able to tap into those drone feeds the same way as Hizbullah. The U.S. army was embarrassed and said they are in the process of encrypting all drones. So is it possible that Israel haven’t really encrypted their feeds after 1996? Or they did but the encryption was weak?
I don’t think American lawmakers moving to block Lebanon aid has anything to do with the STL.
On your objective planet each an every story has two equal sides. Thus the evidence that the STL has is of equal weight to the evidence of Hizbullah. Planet denial, more like.
What you really seem to be advocating is damage limitation in the process of burying the STL. As Jumblatt has suggested, it is time for Saad Hariri to get over it and move on…
The way you described the situation made me realise Hizballah does not have a legal forum to challenge Bellmare with accusations of negligence or professional misconduct. It makes the set up inherently unjust.
But back to advising Hariri:
The ‘nice’ course of action would be to set up a Lebanese investigative committee to review the case against Israel. The most important objective would be to achieve an internal Lebanese consensus around the accusation, and by extension, accusations against Hizballah.
It must be staffed by professionals from the judiciary and security services, and would review Hizballah’s evidence, confessions of Israeli agents, and anything else at their disposal.
If it is found that there is a reasonable suspicion to investigate Israel, the findings would be submitted to the STL and the Lebanese government would expect the STL to investigate the matter or else it would cease its funding.
There are two (inter-related) problems with this:
1. There is very little time if the indictments do indeed come out in September. You cannot expect to achieve results in a month while the IIIC has been labouring for five years to produce its body of evidence. It would not be feasible to ask the STL to wait for the Lebanese investigation.
2. What if Hizballah is actually guilty and will use the Lebanese investigation to delay or derail the STL investigation?
Hariri needs some guarantees here. He could require Hezballah go to court, in exchange for setting up the investigation, but it is doubtful Hezballah would accept.
The trick is that Hariri would still need to allow the STL to present its evidence, so the two bodies of evidence can be compared and contrasted.
How can he do that without triggering all the political ramifications?
Gang, all of this is very interesting, but what I find seriously theoretically under-labored is the reasons for Hariri’s assassination in the first place by the Hizb. Do we have any good theory about the reasons say (some) Hezballah members wanted Hariri killed? What were their objectives? The Israeli theory has already been spelled out (& I find it flawed and unconvicing, but this is debatable). But what about the Hezaballah theory–why would they (or any of their members) want Hariri killed?
Your suggestion:”On the other hand, if Hariri takes the initiative now to form a Lebanese investigating commission, he will force the spotlight back onto Hizbullah and its claims that Israel killed Rafiq al-Hariri.”…
Please let us know what do you mean by that? SHN will not accept anything short of a mirror of STL. Thus he would get what he wants; a Lebanese investigative inquiry to drag this case another 10 years. We all well know that words sound good; the devil is always in the details. In Lebanon white is NOT white and black is yellow LOL.
I disagree with establishing any (quasi or) legal commission as the main reason for the STL was the incompetence and corrupted legal and political system in Lebanon. I think the most Hariri could do id just suggest that the cabinet discuss the issue and ask ISF/LAF experts to follow up with HA as to the trail of this so called evidence and if credible forward it to STL for follow up.
Any other “commission” would trap Hariri and kill the investigation and the truth/details behind the assassination(s) for good.
Zubaida said: “On your objective planet each an every story has two equal sides. Thus the evidence that the STL has is of equal weight to the evidence of Hizbullah. Planet denial, more like.”
First of all, we’re not living on Planet Objectivia (or Planet Denial). 🙂
RedLeb and I are denizens of Objectivia who have come to Earth to make sense of a family dispute, as it were.
Secondly, who said that the evidence of the STL is of equal weight to Hizbullah’s evidence, or that each story has two equal sides on Objectivia? Quite to the contrary, the (theoretical) objective observer would be able to determine which set of evidence was more convincing.
The trouble is, no one has seen all of the evidence.
And so, while you or I may have our own suspicions, that’s all they really are, at this point. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen much from the STL that wasn’t later rendered inadmissible by recanted testimonies. Similarly, I have yet to see anything from Hizbullah that is terribly convincing, either.
This is the dilemma that we find ourselves in.
You also said: “What you really seem to be advocating is damage limitation in the process of burying the STL.”
Where did you get this impression? The passage I posted that advocated that solution was a quote from Khalid Saghiyya, which I think represents a very prominent current of opinion in Lebanon right now.
But it is not my opinion. I believe that the STL should not be swept under the rug. I would like to see it conclude its work. But I also believe that if Hariri does not play his cards right, there’s a good chance that the whole thing will be scuttled.
To give the interplanetary visitors the benefit of the doubt, I hope that they would be able to distinguish between evidence painstakingly collected from the crime scene and thoroughly analysed (while properly discounting some of the dodgy testimony)and some self-serving insinuations from an interested party.
As for Hariri, I fear that his Saudi friends may have confiscated his deck of cards.
I’m sympathetic to your point of view, but I’d like to reserve judgment until all of that painstakingly-collected and thoroughly-analyzed evidence is presented in a court of law.
On a similar note, here’s Bellemare today:
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) on Wednesday called for the submission of all material held by Hezbollah, which claims its data implicates Israel in the killing, AFP reported.
“In line with its mandate, the Office of the Prosecutor has requested the Lebanese authorities to provide all the information in possession of [Hezbollah] Secretary General [Sayyed] Hassan Nasrallah,” AFP quoted an STL statement as saying.
“This request includes the video material that was shown on television during the press conference, as well any other material that would be of assistance to the Office of the Prosecutor in unveiling the truth,” the statement added.
The Hezbollah chief presented alleged evidence of Israel’s involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, including footage he said came from Israeli Unmanned Aerial Vehicles monitoring Rafik Hariri and a confession from a suspected Israeli spy.
STL spokesperson Fatima Issawi told AFP earlier on Wednesday that the court was seeking all relevant information.
I think this supports my opening point that Hariri should leave this to the STL.
Note that the statement refers to “information” and “material” — which may or may not amount to evidence.
I have posted about the big difference between the STL and the UNIIIC a number of times but neither the press nor bloggers seem to make the distinction. Most of the complaints about the false witnesses and the apparent bias etc.. was done by the UNIIIC. There was no STL at the time. Even most of the work of Bellmare was not done for the STL but for the UNIIIC.
If someone is to blame for this confusion that was not called for it would have to be the SG of the UN.Had he not asked the head of the UNIIIC to become the prosecutor then this confusion could have been avoided.
Ultimately the final decision will have tio be from the STL. This is a fact and nothing can be done to change it.
The only thing that can be done is to either set up a Lebanese judiciary investigation whose results will be refered to the STL or just send the info straight to the STL. That is the only credible procedure to follow in this case. The integrity of the STL must be preserved and it has not done anything to deserve all the complaints that some quarters are leveling at it. It is also important to remeber that the law that is to be used by the Chambers is Lebanese, that Lebanese judges are members of the court and that the Deputy Prosecutor is a Lebanese. Let the evidence dictate the outcome and not the reverse.
It is nice to see the STL acting like a real investigatory body. Hezbollah, the apparently prime murder suspect, says “it wasn’t me – it was Israel” and claims to have evidence, not that Israel killed Hariri but that Israel should be investigated and considered a suspect. So the STL says “show us what you have”, as it should. I predict that Hezbollah will be very hesitant to turn over anything useful to the STL other than what it has already shown. The idea that Israel killed Hariri is absurd and no investigation will ever find any evidence that it did. The last thing Hezbollah wants is a UN investigation that finds its allegations baseless. They are much better off saying we can’t trust the biased STL with our military secrets and no one can trust the STL’s conclusions and then call for another, independent (meaning Lebanon/Hezbollah controlled) investigation.
This paragraph, added in an update to the blog entry and suggested as good reading, is symptomatic of what is wrong with Lebanon:
” The question is not, therefore, whether Israel killed al-Hariri. The question is whether the accusation can be directed against Israel. This is the question that Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah responded to yesterday. And perhaps this was what he meant when he said that what he was offering was not evidence but data. Data is enough to save the country. The documents that were presented yesterday say, simply: “Yes, it is possible to re-direct the accusation towards Israel.” And this alone represents a suitable exit for everyone. An exit for the fabricators of false witnesses. An exit for those who are rightfully accused. An exit for those wrongly accused. An exit for the descendants of the victims.
The time now is 2:00 in the morning. So, let us accuse Israel. And let Bellemare go to sleep.”
It admits that there is no evidence against Israel, but claims it is somehow a positive thing to be able to accuse Israel of a murder no sane person would believe they committed.
I know that Lebanon’s subjugation by Hezbollah is discussed here ad nauseum, but the idea that Lebanon can be saved by deflecting blame to the always guilty, even when innocent, Israel, shows just how dysfunctional the country really is.
Do any of you really believe that if Hezbollah killed Hariri, blaming Israel so you can let them off the hook is a good thing? If murdering the president doesn’t warrant a confrontation with them, then what does? Starting a war with Israel in 2006 and getting lots of you killed wasn’t enough. Invading Beirut wasn’t enough?
Do any of you think less Lebanese will die in a confrontation with Hezbollah than in the next war with Israel that they drag you into?
But don’t worry – O.J. Simpson is still looking for Nicole’s real killer. Perhaps he should demand that the LAPD investigate Israel.
Hi there mr Mouhanna..i just discovered your Blog thanks to al safir and foreign Policy, which led me to read an interview you did after the elections, where you talked about trying to be impartial in what you right.Well after visiting the Blog and reading your last article and your conversation with Zubaida i am not sure that you are realy impartial..but in the end who is?
“All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”
Considering that you continue to push the argument that the tribunal is different than the original commission, let me ask you, do you think this difference is because of a change in mandate, or a change in personnel?
DO you think the tribunal decided to start from scratch to investigate the commission’s investigation? You highlight that the tribunal reviewed the imprisonment of the generals, but i don’t find that enough evidence to make the distinction in organizations (as if the tribunal is 100% fair, while admitting that the commission was corrupted) that you make. It does show good will, but it also was the most controversial decision of the commission, and also the decision that was under the most scrutiny (many lebanese were demanding that the decision to imprison them be revisited).
My point is that we don’t know how different the two organizations are. Unless we can learn how much of the commission’s work the tribunal decided to ignore/review/revisit/accept… we can’t say how much trust the tribunal deserves. But I do think almost all people will agree that the commission was acting on very dubious grounds, and doing so with clearly political intentions.
The reason I posted that update is because, as I told Zubaida, the line of reasoning that Saghiyyah advances is very prominent in Lebanon.
As for Lebanon being dysfunctional, yeah well tell us something we don’t know.
I misunderstood your reason for posting the paragraph and apologize.
The fact that it reflects a line of reasoning prevalent in Lebanon is sad. More than sad – it indicates that you may have crossed a point of no return. You are like prisoners of a homicidal maniac. You are afraid to fight back, perhaps correctly as he will likely kill you, but you know he is also likely to kill you eventually. All you can do is try to survive another hour or two or three– perhaps someone will rescue you, perhaps the maniac will lose interest and you can escape; perhaps nothing. But at least you live for another hour. The maniac will probably drag you into a war with Israel and get you killed eventually, but if you don’t provoke him now, you will survive that much longer.
I am not trying to beat a dead horse, or maybe I am 🙂 I was tempted to stress this point when the STL asked to be supplied by all the information that Sayed Nasrallh used. I believe that over the year or so that the STL has been declared functional it has not, to the best of my knowledge, committed any of the usually used complaints against it. All the complaints actually belong to the Mehlis era. But to go straight to your question , yes the STL is a completely different institution than the UNIIC. The only connection between them is that the prosecutor of the STL , instead of starting from scratch was to receive all the files from both the Lebanese authorities and the UNIIC. That is it.
I can understand why some might not agree with the ruling of the STL, no court anywhere has ever been able to secure the agreements of all parties. But there is no reason, no grounds whatsoever for anyone to discredit the STL fif for nothing else but the simple reason that it has not acted yet. That btw, is also an indication about their causation not to rush to judgement and is also an indication that they do not have a solid case, a smoking gun. That should be accountable. Not all crimes are solved. So the prosecution will , when ready make indictments or will say that they do not have sufficient evidence to do so No matter which way it goes I believe that if there are no grounds to appeal then that should be that.
If in fact the STL is ready to indict HA for the crime, it begs the question as to how, all of a sudden, they found this evidence to implicate some members of HA after so many years and a botched investigation? Did UNIIIC hand over some this evidence to them, or is this all “new” and “fresh” stuff that the UNIIIC had failed to uncover? And if the UNIIIC had had this info, why is it that they went on a witch hunt against Syria and falsely imprisoned the four generals instead of targeting HA (and by implication would have more understandably gone after Syria as well. Two birds with one stone as they say)?
Ghassan Karam either feigns naiveté by advancing that all we have to do to get this behind us is to let the STL finish its job (by indicting HA), or he knows fully well that this is the recipe for another national crisis because HA will never ever accept such a responsibility and will never give up any of its members. HA has built its reputation on its ironclad organizational discipline and cannot allow the ridiculous possibility of rogue members, especially of such a level to carry such a sophisticated, multi-level, professional crime that targets a major figure as Hariri to take place under its nose without them knowing about it. What would that say about the organization? And is that even a remote possibility, really, unless by implication (and that’s how this poisonous ball will roll), everyone will come to the inevitable conclusion that HA’s top leadership, with SHN’s full authorization, must have planned and carried out the crime?
Come on folks, stop burying your heads in the sand. The STL, however it comes to its evidence, is there to indict no one but HA. Any whiff of any questions or suspicions in any other direction (especially towards Israel) would have seen the weight of the US and the Europeans crush it in its place. SHN was nicely trying, in place of emphatically slamming the STL as another witch hunt and putting Hariri in a sensitive spot, to give him (Hariri) a way out of this impending mess (the conference was there not just to show Israel’s possible culpability, but also to tell everyone, including Hariri, that HA will never admit to such a crime). So, for those who are waiting for the “truth” to come out, the only thing we will see is another round of political accusations aimed at diminishing HA’s image in Lebanon and the Arab world, fueling sectarian strife, and throwing the country into turmoil (again). Whither will Hariri Jr. go, and by implication take the country and most probably his government and followers?
“The STL, however it comes to its evidence, is there to indict no one but HA.”
What is the basis for this observation and differentiates it from reading tea leaves?
Why is all the first part of Saghiyyah’s analysis important or interesting. Isn’t the jist basically: If Hizballah is indicted bad things will happen. An accusation against Israel won’t cause anything bad to happen. So, lets just go with the second option.
“Truth and justice are impossible anyway,” is the hand wavy way out of saying that you don’t care about truths about the past, just wellbeing in the present. Fair enough. I can sympathise with that position, to some extent. But, it is what it is.
Ghassan Karam says:
“What is the basis for this observation and differentiates it from reading tea leaves?”
The same tea leaves that informed the first tribunal, UNIIIC, for 4 years that catapulted the whole region into a death struggle, inflamed sectarian strife and caused discord, disunity, death an destruction.
I mean seriously, will you address for us who was reading the tea leaves for UNIIIC? Who came up with the false witnesses? Whom, and why? Does this not give you pause that there are people, nations, in the world who went to such great length to orchestrate this whole investigation charade, while throwing Lebanon and the Lebanese (including the aggrieved family) to the wolves, to exact political retribution against Syria? Should we just forget about all this, all this struggle, all these machinations, all these conspiracies, as if no one was directing them, and move on with our lives and simply accept, again, another tribunal that is poised to start another fire in the region? Is the recent context of UNIIIC not serious enough for us to cast doubt about the integrity of any player who wishes to put their noses in this debacle? I am not sure what HA is waiting for to push for an investigation as to who was behind the first witch hunt. I know it is the political climate which they are trying to keep calm, but sooner or later, especially if Hariri keeps pushing with the current direction of the STL the hammer has to come down. If we have any integrity, and keep touting the rule of law, and judicial independence, and transparency, then we should all push for an investigation into the first “investigation” to find out who was (mis)using this crime to set the country on fire. Hey, maybe, just maybe, that will lead into clues about the crime itself. Just maybe.
Even if I was to assume that you r interpretation of the UNIIC was accurate you have managed to torpedo your own statement;-) Don’t you see that if the UNIIIC does not have the right to make judgements not based on evidence neither should you. Whatever happened to the basic simple principle the two wrongs do not make a right. And btw, why is it that whenevr something that you do not agree with is considered to be the product of a conspiracy that you never feel that you have to prove. If one is to live by that logic then nothing will ever get sttled because each side will claim conspiracy whenever the ruling is against it. A judicial system with enough protection for the accused and enough laws on what is allowed and what is not should be capable of letting the evidence rule the day.
I really don’t know why you bother. While entertaining to read, it gets very old after a while, dealing with a certain mentality.
It has become quite clear that while there are some people willing to discuss things following the rules of logic, rational thinking, and common sense, there is also a category of people for whom the laws of physics do not apply. Conspiracy theories do not need to be proven. Simply stating them as so makes them fact. Two wrongs seem to almost always make a right to those same people, who will somehow manage to always refute any argument you may put forward with “But you guys did the same thing.” or something along those lines.
It is a complete and utter waste of time to attempt reasoning with such individuals.
I enjoy reading QN’s posts, and some of the commenters. Even some that I disagree with. But I can’t help but cringe when I see you repeatedly butting your head against a wall…
Ghassan, please check your email.
Here is what I tend to believe is the likely scenario: it was nicely summarized on SyriaComment.com back in 2006!
Here’s the link: http://tinyurl.com/24fuo8v
I encourage everyone to read or re-read it and I will spare you a cut-and-paste here. However I do urge you to read it, otherwise don’t read the rest of my post…
Now, here’s my bewilderment:
Spin it as I try, I can’t fathom the logic behind Israel ordering the killing of Hariri. It just does not compute. As mighty as Israel is and as sophisticated its intelligence agency, it is inconceivable (to me) that they could have pulled off such a fantastic operation in broad daylight in the presence of all the other security apparatuses of the various factions at the time. Furthermore, I don’t see the logic in any of the motives attributed to Israel for proceeding with such an assassination. It defies my logic. And furthermore, all the theories about Israel’s calculation presume the most twisted predictions by Israel of what would happen, something completely unrealistic.
At the same time, much credit is given to what would have been Syrian and HA operatives for knowing that the assassination of Hariri would create the kind of uproar it did, both locally and internationally. After all, see, assassinations happened in the past with impunity. Remember Kamal Junblatt?
I’ll concede one point of uncertainty, and that is whether the political leadership, both in Syria and HA, knew of the plot. They either were deliberately shielded to provide plausible deniability, or, they ordered the shielding in a Machiavellian manner, or, they truly didn’t know and the military operatives in the two groups took that initiative and executed it. In particular, I found the expressions of denial by Pres. Assad to ring sincere, for example in his interview with Charlie Rose. SHN, him, well, has such a superior intelligence that all is possible there, although his incredible charisma and charm tend to make a large number of folks simply like him; they like his lisp, his smile, his poise, etc. As I commented before, the only issue with SHN is a certain level of hidden fanaticism about religion, politics, etc. Can be detrimental in the actions taken but the other qualities serve him well in influencing people, especially local people.
Finally, the biggest mystery of all, at least to me, is what the heck made Gen. Aoun take all these positions he has taken. Maybe he’s really the smartest person on earth to be working for the best interest of Lebanon in mysterious ways (as he often tells his followers that they may not understand the “why” of certain positions but they should trust him). Well, I find it odd, and strange, and, well, I just don’t like it.
And those were my 5 cents.
No lengthy comments are sought here. If you like the above give me an aye, if not, just a nay and I’ll fully understand. No point-by-point rebuttal needed.
I give you an aye but pls allow just one brief point:
(1) The facts do not agree with Nasrallah about deprivation in the south. The North has become the poorest in Lebanon. Nabatieh is practically the same as Mt. Lebanon.
Mine is a little political opinion, does no worse than state another position on this site. My only evidence is my reasoning based on the facts as I see them and my experience, no better or worse than your own belief, without any evidence, that the STL is a truly independent body who should be allowed to deliberate and issue indictments without comment or criticism.
The UNIIIC presented false witnesses and took the investigation on a charged and costly trip for years. It is not a conspiracy I believe in, but rather the facts as they unfolded. Who put up those witnesses to bear false testimony? Ok, so you object to the word “conspiratorial.” Shall I ask who “plotted” to put up the false witnesses? Who “planned?” There are vested political interests who conspire everyday to further common interests, especially in our neck of the woods. Lets’ not get hung up on a word.
The facts as we know them is that someone decided to take this investigation from the beginning to settle political scores, Hariri, his family and the murder be damned. Is it too much to ask whose interest that served and how they were able to steer an international commission to waste 4 years time and throw the region in chaos? And if they could steer the first one, what information do you have that they are not setting this one up as well? My own political read tells me that, other than another round of uncertain war against HA, the US, Israel and their allies, will try everything they can to try to weaken and dismantle the organization. They would be stupid if they would not be doing so. So, I imagine, it would not be unwise, whatever your political orientation, to ask some questions, considering these contexts, whenever the “international” community steps in and decides to give a “helping hand” that somehow always ends up accusing their enemies.
Do you really believe that there is a person or group of persons who asked the Lebanese authorities to request an STL and then when it was set was able to exercise influence to write its statutes pick up its international servants from all over the world , many based on a large commission who made recommendations to the Secretary General of the U N….
If that is your contention then we really do not have much to talk about since I do not believe even in black helicopters.
One other point that you have mentioned which again shows that we have completely different paradigms. Not only different but even the negation of each other. You ask how is it that I believe that the STL is an independent and international institution without submitting proof. Well , my friend, I belong to the school of thought that one is innocent until proven guilty. It is up to you to show that it is not what it claims to be. But you have no proof, you just said it is an opinion. That , as well as you know, is not sufficient ground for making the serious accusations that you are making. I am afraid that your case is a spurious one. Please do not confuse your right to disagree with a rule or interpretation and between making an accusation based on malice and intent. I might not like it when a judge fines me say $250 for not fastening my seat belt but he obviously is not conspiring against me.
@ it’s core, the extent of the STL reliance on UNIIIC *evidence* raises the problems associated with “fruit of the poisonous tree”.
The based-on-performance perception of tainted goods is a known known among those who take interest in these things.
The STL brand has been sullied.
Im curious, do you believe that the work of the commission was credible? Ignoring the tribunal and just speaking about the commission, do you believe the critics are justified in thinking that the commission deserves to be discredited?
Oh sure. How foolish of me to believe that any foreign person or entity would even dare “suggest,” let alone “order” a Lebanese politician to do something, such as request the STL. They, our dignified Lebanese leaders, have proven time and again their fierce patriotism and independent spirit. They have never ever compromised the national interest for foreign powers they feel beholden to, for the sake of petty personal or sectarian interests. Jeffery Feltman, Michelle Sison, Abd Al-halim Khaddma and Ghazi Kenan, including a score of Saudi and other brilliant personalities would attest to the heroic independent mindedness of these noble patriots. And to even insinuate that an international commission would even be politically influenced by the very international players who help set it up, and provide its budget, players who themselves have “national interests” in the very region where the murder took place is politically naïve and speaks of a traditional conspiratorial Arab mind. Indeed , and I am to treat an international commission, whose predecessor failed miserably, nay caused even more mayhem and destruction, and came armed with an agenda, just like the local town judge who levies a seat-belt violation against me for $250, because we operate in a political and historical vacuum and the people who make up the UN and other international bodies are descended from another planet and are devoid of the poisonous human traits of political, national affiliations and biases and prejudices.
Yes, Ghassan, we belong to different paradigms, maybe even different planets. Indeed, let the STL, as is already known will happen, throw the spark of indictment that will start another round of strife, may be even death and destruction, and only then shall we ask any questions about possible motivations on their part, and why or why not would they consider other possible culprits, such as the Israelis in the first place? Remember that the country went down a hell hole for 4 years because of dubious charges that did not see the light of day in the end. How far down will we descend this time, and how much more suffering will we have to endure before possibly never knowing whether these charges even have any merit? We all know that if the STL has a smoking gun, it would have presented its findings and issued indictments already. At best, they have circumstantial evidence which HA will deny right off the bat. But the most important thing is that the culpability of HA will be a moot point, since the very indictment itself will have served its political purpose and readied the country for another deadly plunge. No, this is not your everyday typical murder of some unlucky guy robbed at gun point to let it pass without questioning the motives of the STL itself and the very people who are standing so strongly behind it and pushing it to its inevitable conclusion.
Finally, I will say this: that you know all this yourself. You know the implications, the very dangerous implications and what this could mean for everyone involved, but you keep reiterating that you are simply an unbiased democracy and freedom, and a rule-of-law guy who just wants his country to abide by the law and find the truth. You know that the law and the truth in the murky swamp of Middle East politics are more malleable terms and could mean different things based on whose definition we follow, and that sometimes, we may need to simply put aside even the murder of a very important national figure, after so much blood has been spilled already and so many other material losses, especially when direct and hard facts cannot be ascertained as to who murdered him, to safeguard the national interest and protect life and property. You are either seriously glassy-eyed naive, or someone who knows fully-well what he is saying hoping for a day of reckoning, finally, after so many failed attempts in the past.
You are misleading in your characterisation between the STL and the UNIIIC. They are not completely distinct instiutions, nor is Bellmare the only connection.
UNIIIC became the tribunal’s prosecutor’s office. It was a name change. You have the same staff, same office, same evidence, same conclusions, same leaks, same political pressures. The only different thing was the name.
To rephrase: STL = UNIIIC + Court chambers
And for the umpteenth time, I really believe that if Hizballah challenged any indictment in the tribunal’s court, they would win (if they are truly innocent). I do believe it would be quite difficult (but not impossible) for the western powers to control the court proceedings.
But that doesn’t matter. The indictments are the thing. As soon as they are announced, Hizballah’s enemies, both foreign and domestic, will use them to discredit and isolate the party.
Look at the four generals: not even charged with any crime, and people still go around saying “they were guilty, but darn it, there wasn’t enough evidence.”
Could someone post some information and/or references about the “false witnesses” in the investigation? Curious…
Never mind, a quick web-search points to many links and articles, the best of which (with its embedded links) is, of course, from the QNcyclopedia 😉
Counterpoint from Geagea:
Nice recap quoted by the article from the QNcyclopedia above:
Apologies for those who know all this by heart! Some of us have other lives and miss certain news cycles 😉
Who would ever imagine Israel allowing an investigation, whatever its nature, about a crime for which they were not taped on video with the finger on the trigger? That has been the thought pushing me to keep Israel out of the suspect’s list (along with all the other arguments listed above by others, with which I generally agree)
This report from As-Safir today suggests that Hariri may be reading this blog. 😉 Not really, but his response is pretty much exactly what we discussed yesterday: to kill the Israeli theory with kindness:
وحسب المعلومات، فإن الحريري أبلغ المقربين منه أن كلام نصر الله شديد الاهمية والحساسية، وأنه يدعم بقوة إعطاء كل الوقت والجهد المطلوبين كي يأخذ المسار الجديد في التحقيق فرصته ويمضي حتى النهاية. وقال الحريري إن على المحكمة الدولية ان تنظر بجدية الى ما طرحه نصر الله وأن تخضعه للتمحيص، مشيرا الى ان كلام نصر الله يعكس وجهة نظر الكثير من اللبنانيين وهو يتضمن معلومات ووثائق لا يمكن تجاوزها، وأي تجاهل لها سيسبب مشكلة، «وأنا شخصيا أدعم البحث فيها لأنه يهمني ان أعرف الحقيقة كرئيس للحكومة وكولي للدم».
وأكد الحريري انه إذا تبين ان القرائن والمعطيات التي قدمها نصر الله تتطلب الاستماع الى إسرائيليين ورفضت إسرائيل التجاوب، فهي ستتحول بالنسبة إليّ من متهمة إلى مدانة.
Here’s the link to the full story
That article by Gary Gambill is one of the best overviews I’ve read on the subject.
The short answer is yes.But with some qualifications that we do not need to get into. Essentially the UNIIIC should have not “recommended” that anyone be held in custody when the evidence did not support it or when it became clear that the witnesses were false ones.
I do not want to split hairs but in the final analysis the UNIIIC never issued an indictment of anyone but they did leave the court of public opinion with the general implication that this sophisticated of an operation could not have been carried out without the knowledge of the Syrian and Lebanese authorities at the time.
So your position rests on the idea that a potential ruling from a court of law is not important if the alleged accused can threaten to make trouble? That is pure blackmail. I don’t see how in the world you can justify such a position. How about accepting the judgement and challenging as far as the law allows?
Isn’t it logical to look at the results of an investigation that has been going on for four years rather than start from scratch?
If you believe that the accused , no matter who it turns out to be, has ample opportunity to a credible defense and to overturn the charges then isn’t that an indication that the institution is fair and impartial?
If we are worried about what indictments might do to an image , a brand , if you will, then can’t we stretch this argument to imply that the damage has already been done since everyone seems to be certain on who is to be indicted. The damage to the image might eventually be substantial but so far it has not.
I have no problems whatsoever in having the Sayed Nasrallah use any strategy available to him in order to either reverse the damage or at least limit it as long as it does not become threats. As I said once before the notion of “the best defense is a good offense” has been around for a long time.
Does any one think that Israel would cooperate with this investigation? Would Israel allow its security officers to be interviewed by the STL Investigators ?Would Bellmar even go that far in his new venue of investigation? Or is it only “ a show” that he’s taking a look at the information that Nasrallah presented? Many of you seem to be smart enough. I hope you address my questions?
The idea that all the false witnesses were “Syrian intelligence” aimed at obstructing and derailing the investigation is such nonsense. First, why would Syrian intelligence send witnesses to implicate themselves and imprison their allies in the Lebanese intelligence and security apparatuses. Second, the testimonies were so farcical and comical, that any serious investigator would have dismissed them outright. Testimonies like seeing Assef Shawkat hold a gun to the head of Abu Adas, or witnessing Assef Shawkat driving the mitsubishi truck himself are so outlandish that the mere fact that they were at all taken seriously is in itself a testament to the investigation’s political agenda.
As for the above analysis that “Israel” could not have possibly been responsible for this crime, it is a silly assessment that lacks all elements of reason and logic. First, to compare the possible repercussions of assassinating Hariri at a time when the US and the rest of the western world were breathing down Syria’s neck and issuing one threat after another to the aftermath of the assassination of Kamal Jumblatt is so laughable that I can hardly believe that the person peddling it actually buys it. No sane person would have failed to predict what the world reaction would be to the assassination of Rafiq Hariri at that time and in the middle of such political environment.
The assassination of Rafiq Hariri, according to any rational person at the time, would have led to nothing but increased pressure on Syria, which would have clearly been the first side implicated as a result of the surrounding political tensions. This is precisely why “Israel” should be looked at as a suspect and why many have argued that it had the necessary motive to commit the crime. A motive that makes much more sense than the silly one attributed to Hizballah and/or Syria.
Unfortunately, however, certain groups in Lebanon have a political interest in seeing either HA or Syria accused of the crime, as it is likely to increase pressure on Syria and undermine the Resistance, which they so strongly despise. They therefore are quick to completely dismiss any slight notion that “Israel” could have possibly been responsible for the murder. Such people are thus not likely to accept any evidence implicating anyone BUT HA and/or Syria regardless of how strong or convincing it is.
The problem with trying to ascertain the author of the crime based on the actual consequences (rather than intended ones) should be obvious, no?
For example, several months before Hariri’s assassination, Bashar decided to extend Lahoud’s mandate, even though he must have known that this would be deeply unpopular in Lebanon, the US, and Europe, and would be used as a tool against him. Did it stop him? No. He thought that it was worth the price of further isolation and international condemnation of Syria, which he could ride out over time. Meanwhile, he’d have someone he trusted in Baabda.
Similarly, people who believe Syria did it argue that Bashar knew that Syria would be blamed for the murder (even if he never could have suspected that a UN Tribunal would be created and the Sunni community in Lebanon would turn on Syria, etc.), but in the long run, it would be worth it.
These kinds of arguments are very slippery and are sort of a waste of time. As Khaled Saghiyyeh pointed out, the specter of 1559 is at the center of both camps’ explanations.
Before Bellemare decides that he needs to interrogate Israeli officials, he has to determine the strength of Nasrallah’s evidence. Some people have suggested that some of the footage that Nasrallah showed came from several years before the assassination, while other footage came from after the assassination. We won’t know until we look at it carefully.
I would like to have some of the same cool aid! Syrian mukhabarat killed and maimed and assassinated thousands of people in Syria and Lebanon…Why do you think it would add pressure on them?
They are the typical neighborhood bully and mafioso; they always got away with it anf thought it would last forever!
Your logic; or shall I call it opinion has no factual basis! It is just an excuse and cockamamie fairy tale that would only impress the devoted brainwashed.
This after five years; you apologists have discovered that new evidence exists and Israel is responsible (or rather HA and Syria are innocent). Great let’s go with your new found spin! Bellamaire has asked Mirza to pass along all “new evidence” from SYN to him…and we wit…and wait…and wait….for the next accusations and regurgitation of tired old Zionist conspiracy theories!
It has been a terribly hot summer…and my car had a flat!!! The Israelis did it I say!!
More evidence of the Hariri strategy emerging:
Is it true, as Chatah claims, that the Syrians agreed to solve all problems within the context of the current government? If true, that is very meaningful and highlights the value placed on stability by Damascus. If that is indeed the case, there is room for a little optimism.
I think any reasonable person can see the clear difference between extending the term of Lahoud, which may carry certain political repercussions Bashar believed he could withstand, and ASSASSINATING a very prominent and well-connected political figure in Lebanon. No good could have come out of the assassination, as far as Syria was concerned.
Whether or not Syrian moukhabarat are mafiosos, in the end the Syrian regime is a rational state actor. They calculate their options and act according to whatever best serves their interests. In addition, I can also throw your comment back at you and say, “Israel” killed and maimed and assassinated thousands of people in Palestine and Lebanon, so why do you think they could not have done it?
Do you think that Nassrallah would take such a risk? He has a reputation of always being accurate and honest when He speaks to the public. I don’t know much about the footages, but I find it hard to believe that He’d put his credibility on the line with false or outdated footages . I’m sure Nassrallah expected those footages to be examined by the experts. He’d be a fool not to.
By the same token, there is a difference between Israel or America taking advantage of certain missteps by Bashar in Lebanon’s political scene to further isolate Syria, and “ASSASSINATING a very prominent and well-connected political figure in Lebanon.”
No one needed much of a reason to isolate Syria and demand for its withdrawal from Lebanon, and if we are to believe Bashar, the Syrians had already made plans for a gradual redeployment and military departure. So I could use the same logic against you: Why would the Israelis be interested in taking out Hariri, when they were quite happy with the status quo?
No need to respond… we’ll just go round and round.
If I’m not wrong, this is further evidence that Hariri is planning precisely the strategy I was advocating. The goal is to keep everything as calm as possible and to convey an atmosphere of national unity and solidarity in the face of Israel, so that Hizbullah has as little political cover as possible to torpedo the STL.
Of course, Narallah is not stupid. And this is why I believe that even though Hariri has shown eagerness at considering the Israeli hypothesis, Hizbullah is going to try to push him to take the further step of ceasing all cooperation with the STL until there is an investigation of the false witnesses.
I thought you were advocating that Hariri setup a Lebanese commission to look at the HA material.
The hitch in that strategy QN is that Hariri risks his international support — anyone want to guess what Congress will say if the STL even looks askance at Israel?
I agree Saad is trying to thread the needle, but SHN got scissors.
PS: Anybody got the breakdown on the STL’s voluntary funding since ’07? By state, I mean.
Qifa Nabki Says:
August 12, 2010 at 7:33 am
That article by Gary Gambill is one of the best overviews I’ve read on the subject.
QN, watch out. Good competition out there! Or maybe just a candidate to serve in your cabinet 😉
…… when the time comes….. and the time shall come…
AIG, read my post #85. All that’s happening now has nothing to do with seeking the real perpetrators or the truth. It has everything to do, alas, with maneuvering to avoid bloodshed and internecine fighting in Lebanon. I’m with GK’s opinion: The STL is going to provide the most objective and trustworthy pronouncement on the events. It may fall short of the full truth but that’s going to be the best thing obtainable in our lifetime on this subject. Future history, maybe, just maybe, might disclose the full truth.
“Investigating the false witnesses” amounts to the dog chasing its tail. It cannot lead anywhere, in my opinion. Thus HA is asking for something that leads nowhere and will fail; hence, the whole process is torpedoed, which is their real goal. Smart. Evil, but smart.
Puzzler/Survey: who is the most mysterious and unpredictable character in Lebanese politics in the past 5 years, and continuing on till today?
Just give a one name answer and then we’ll tally the statistics, unless QN wants to make up one of those sidebars that surveys the audience.
It has to be Walid Jumblat.
I don’t want to go around in circles here, but do you really believe that the US would ever fear being taken to court or having a UN resolution passed against it? Do you really believe that the US would ever allow the establishment of a tribunal that would ultimately convict “Israel” of anything? And would anyone really be able to enforce anything against the US or “Israel”? I believe the price Syria would have to pay for undertaking such an operation would be quite a bit higher than the price the US or “Israel” would ever be required to pay.
That is what I’m advocating. Creating a Lebanese commission would be part of the same strategy.
I defer to Gary’s wisdom on these matters; he’s been around a lot longer than I have.
This isn’t for David since he wants the funding by state. But I figured that some other readers might be interested in the overall budget.
Lebanon is required to pay 49% of the budget and the other 51% is voluntary cintributions from UN member countries.
2009 operating budget $51.4 million
2010 budget $55.4 million
The SG has said more than once that he activated the STL only when he became convinced that the money is there
The STL has about 260 employees from 50 different countries
Employees are part of the UN retirement plan
The headquarters building is leased from the Netherlands government for free
Is it really possible to create such a commission? It might take few years of negotiations among the Lebanese parties to agree on one. Keep in mind everything is subject to sectarian quota there. I know I sound cynical, but I can’t see PM Hariri agreeing to that. Most of his block sees nothing worth looking at in Nassrallah Information anyway.
For additional informational purposes, I am at pain to point out that ENTIRE annual budget for the Ministry of Justice is only $30 million …
Rule of law? For whom?
Syria has been treating Lebanon as a cash registry as well as acting as a loan shark. They have been in Lebanon; at least totally dominating its security apparatus as well have having their army and mukhabarat for 15 years! Now you are telling me that ALL Syrian ‘enemies” or dissenters were killed and assassinated in Lebanon by the Israelis…then that must be one hell of a partnership!
If I were to follow your assertion then Syria is a weakling of a state that cannot control anything…Except of course by the magic wand they stopped all assassinations after Doha!
I have never said that Israel is not guilty of killing Palestinians or Lebanese! It’s just that you defy logic when you assert that Israel could pull off all those (killing of politicians and prominent figures opposed to Syria…OFF course all other politicians on Syrian side live happily ever after!!) under the noses of total Syrian control!
Unless you suggest that a commission would give him a way out of suporting the STL INDICTMENT OF ha members.
Guys, guys, guys, Jumblatt is the most predictable of them all — pure, uncut feudality …
I go Saad, just cause it was hard to know how he would decide among the advisors at Koraytem and how he would be received by the Saudis.
Unless you suggest that a commission would give him a way out of supporting the STL indictment of HA members.
I am glad that you mentioned thisfact about the budget. Few people realize how miniscule are the sums of money that are available to the government to perform any of its functions. It took a protracted fight , over months, to get Minister Ria Al Hassan to release the funds for ALL the municipalities in Lebanon . The sum of money was $200,000.
Besides debt service the largest item in the budget (larger than national defense) is the over $1 billion allocated to the Presidency of the Ministers Council.
BTW, The Ministry of Justice had a budget of $80 million for 2010.
Again, this “court of law” operates in a fragile and stressed political theater, not a vacuum. Regardless of the weight of the evidence, the political accusation will have done its purpose. We saw what happened to the last accused du jure the last time Syria was blamed, no? HA will be put in a defensive position. It will be Hariri’s supporters whose passions will be inflamed, and other of HA’s detractors who will crawl from under every rock and who will be counted upon to stir the pot against HA one more time. No one is going to even petend HA is innocent until proven guilty. His enemies have been praying for an opportunity like this, they almost ran out of options. Everyone knows HA will not sit and eat it, and will have to respond accordingly. That is the strife I have been talking about. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
Why is there a 50 M discrepancy beteween GK’s and David’s figures concerning the budget of the Ministry of Justice? Maybe the 80 M includes the STL expenses?
the $80 million is the number issued by the Lebanese government but the point that David was making is that whether it is $30 or $80 that is the price of providing justice to 4.5 million people while the Lebanese share of only one investigation is about $30 million. Is that just?