Hezbollah, Lebanon, March 14, Syria

Syria: Conveniently Vulnerable Once Again?

A few days ago, the prosecutor of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, filed an amended indictment in the investigation of the 2005 murder of Rafiq al-Hariri. The only details reported about the new indictment were that it contained “substantive new elements,” which is what passes for breaking news on the STL front.

Today, however, two news stories in Lebanese media outlets (Naharnet and as-Safir) quoted anonymous European officials in The Hague who provided salacious new details about the contents of the amended indictment. According to Naharnet‘s source, Bellemare now has new evidence of Syrian complicity in the Hariri murder, which was made available to him by Syrian witnesses who defected to The Hague. The report in as-Safir discusses negotiations between the STL and French intelligence, part of an alleged effort to reach “the Syrian masterminds” behind the crime.

I don’t think I’m the only one who finds this latest twist in the Hariri saga to be more than a little far-fetched, or at least worthy of suspicion. Let’s point out the obvious:

  1. Witness testimony in a case like this is highly problematic, when you consider the likely number of layers between those who commissioned the crime and those who committed it. Unless the “witnesses” in the case are extremly high up the chain of command, it seems extremely unlikely that they could finger anyone in the Syrian government.
  2. But let’s say they could. Shouldn’t we regard the fact of their defection to The Hague as slightly problematic? This case has already been plagued by the credibility problems in witness testimony (cf. Zuhayr al-Siddiq and Husam Husam). How trustworthy is a regime defector unless he/she can furnish hard evidence of a plot (evidence which is exceedingly difficult to come by in a case like this).
  3. Finally, who are Naharnet’s sources? There is no precedent for a leak of this kind being handed to a Lebanese media outlet, one which does not have nearly the same visibility on the international scene as a publication like Der Spiegel, Le Figaro, or CBC (who carried the previous leaks).

The STL’s opponents in Lebanon are going to benefit from this latest press report. Given that most people in Lebanon already believe that the STL is politicized to some degree or another, the alleged re-emergence of a Syrian track in the investigation at a time like this — when the regime is battling internal protests and challenges to its authority — seems a little too convenient for me.

Finally, thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion with Camille Otrakji last week. As of this moment, the comment count is up to 685 and seems destined to top 700 by the end of lunch. You’ll have a chance to re-engage with Camille some time next week when I interview him over at Bloggingheads. Stay tuned!
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206 thoughts on “Syria: Conveniently Vulnerable Once Again?

  1. Lebanon violated the Geneva convention by handing over to Syria three Syrian soldiers that ran away to North Lebanon. At least one of the soldiers was injured.

    Posted by iceman | May 16, 2011, 9:53 pm
  2. Maverik,

    I think there could be a majority in Israel for the Geneva Plan (this is basically the Clinton Parameters 67 with small exchanges, no right of return, Jerusalem a capital for both peoples with the Palestinians controlling most of East Jerusalem) if there was minimal trust between the two peoples. As things stand, Israelis do not trust Hamas that they want anything else than the destruction of Israel. And of course, the Palestinians believe Israel wants to annex the West Bank and is not sincere about peace.


    For 63 years Arabs of different stripes have been peddling the mantra that time is working against Israel. The facts are that Israel is only getting stronger relative to the Arabs, and has been doing so consistently for 63 years. For example, Israel has 7 universities in the top 500 in the world. The whole Arab world combined has 1.

    Posted by AIG | May 17, 2011, 12:16 am
  3. We keep returning to the Humus theory AIG
    untill you can make better Humus we remain superior 🙂

    Posted by V | May 17, 2011, 2:05 am
  4. V,

    I already conceded that 🙂

    Posted by AIG | May 17, 2011, 9:41 am
  5. Issa, Gabriel, Danny

    You guys are still missing my point. What do I have to do to make it clear that I’m not talking about what’s FAIR or UNFAIR.

    In the world of war/nations/etc, there really is NO fairness. Facts on the ground end up dictating what really happens.

    Was it fair that the Armenians lost their land? Of course not. Do they have a RIGHT to return to their lands today? I don’t know. The word “RIGHT” implies some kind of legal framework that decides what rights one has or doesn’t have. And legal frameworks are man-made constructs, which ultimately means that in the “Free for all” jungle out there, it matters ONLY IF BOTH PARTIES AGREE TO ABIDE BY A GIVEN SET OF RULES.

    Let me put it this way: Back in the prehistoric times (before the rule of law was invented) when a tribe invaded another tribe, that was the fact on the ground. There was no concept of “right” or “Fair”.
    We’ve come a long way since then and have tried imposing some kind of order on the world, by having sets of laws (international and otherwise). I kind of digress here, but the point I am trying to make is that Armenians in Lebanon have never actually signed any kind of legal papers saying they abdicate their right to return to the land of their ancestors. So technically, there is no legal construct at play here. Who’s to say that in 100 years (after all the Jews got to wait 4000+ years!) Armenians around the world don’t press a claim for returning to native Armenia and breaking away from Turkey?
    Who decides this stuff?

    There is the concept of legality, embodied by such things as UN resolutions, the International Court, etc. But so far, history has shown that these bodies have had little power to enforce their rules, which means that ultimately, it is still, to a large degree, the law of the jungle out there.

    This is almost a philosophical discussion now. So I’m gonna stop before it gets even more out of hand.

    But the main point I was making is that regardless of what “rights” or “fairness” the Palestinian diaspora has or doesn’t have, it’s not gonna ultimately matter a whole lot as long as the forces on the ground in Israel/Palestine come to an agreement (which is obviously a far fetched thing anyway at this point).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | May 17, 2011, 12:53 pm
  6. BV, indeed, I think that arguing about the definition of a right will be too complicated, and not productive in this context. However, notice that a right is not necessarily included in the concept of legality, but in some extent it can be a matter of “ethic” or basic common sense.

    My allusion to Altai Mountains was not innocent :-)….

    Also, in my last post, I was just trying to demonstrate that it would be too easy to separate the diaspora from the Palestinian on the ground – and when you say that the forces not on the ground will not matter much, this is where we can’t find an agreement. I’ll move to the next thread.

    AIG, the Hummus plate that you are displaying every time has a musty smell today…

    Anyway, I’ll move to the new thread.

    Posted by 3issa | May 17, 2011, 4:26 pm

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