May 26, 2009

Did Hezbollah Kill Hariri?

The German magazine Der Spiegel dropped one heck of a political bomb on Lebanon a few days ago when it reported that United Nations investigators are now fingering Hezbollah, rather than Syria, for the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's assassination with a car bomb in downtown Beirut on Valentine’s Day in 2005.

The story is based on information from anonymous sources “close to the tribunal” and documents of unknown authenticity. We don’t know yet if the lead is accurate. Intriguingly, though, the UN’s spokesperson for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon neither confirms nor denies Der Spiegel's report. If a potentially explosive accusation like this one were false, I’d expect the UN to deny it emphatically.

Someone in Lebanon's anti-Hezbollah “March 14” coalition may be hoping to use disinformation in Der Spiegel as a political weapon. These things happen. I’ve been lied to in Lebanon by people I trusted. It’s also possible that someone inside the UN thinks the people of Lebanon have a right to know what Hezbollah has done before they go to the polls next month and place assassins in the saddle in Beirut.

One of my own well-connected sources in Lebanon had this to say over email: "A rumor that the tribunal is going to end up issuing its indictments against Hezbollah, not Syria, has been floating around Beirut for the past month or so, and among highly credible sources. The impression I've gotten is that it would be largely a political move, a way to nail Hezbollah – and by association Iran – while largely letting Syria off the hook in the interests of promoting this fantasy-world 'rapprochement' with Damascus. Everyone I've heard discussing this still believes Syria did it. It's a no brainer [sic] even if Hezbollah did play a role in carrying out the assassination."

It is strange that, according to the Der Spiegel report, the evidence no longer points toward Syrian President Bashar Assad. That doesn’t quite pass the smell test. It’s possible, I suppose, that the UN may want to whitewash or downplay Assad’s involvement for diplomatic reasons, to promote “rapprochement” with Damascus, as some Lebanese seem to think. What is far less likely – and, in my opinion, almost impossible – is a UN plot to indict Hezbollah on false pretenses. Either Der Spiegel’s sources are taking the magazine for a ride, or the evidence against Hezbollah is authentic.

Hariri’s son and Future Movement party leader Saad Hariri is being extraordinarily careful. “We will not comment on any press leaks that do not directly come from the Special Tribunal for Lebanon,” he said. Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, Hezbollah’s fiercest critic since Syria's ousting in 2005, is cautious too. “We cannot allow what the Der Spiegel magazine released on Saturday to become another Ain el-Remmaneh incident,” he said, referring to the Lebanese civil war’s trigger in 1975.

Leaders of the “March 14” bloc could hardly ask for a more effective political weapon against Hezbollah during the run-up to the election next month, but they also couldn’t ask for one that’s more dangerous. Jumblatt is right to invoke the incident that ignited the worst war in his country’s history. Accusing Hezbollah of assassinating Hariri – and, by implication, of assassinating a number of journalists and members of parliament in the meantime – could easily do to Lebanon what Al Qaeda’s Samarra mosque bombing in 2006 did to Iraq.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at May 26, 2009 11:00 AM
Comments

"A rumor that the tribunal is going to end up issuing its indictments against Hezbollah, not Syria, has been floating around Beirut for the past month or so, and among highly credible sources. The impression I've gotten is that it would be largely a political move, a way to nail Hezbollah – and by association Iran – while largely letting Syria off the hook in the interests of promoting this fantasy-world 'rapprochement' with Damascus. Everyone I've heard discussing this still believes Syria did it. It's a no brainer [sic] even if Hezbollah did play a role in carrying out the assassination."

HA!!! HA!!! Did I nail the landing, or what?! You can't be too paranoid -- try as you might, it's just not possible anymore.

Posted by: AZZenny Author Profile Page at May 26, 2009 9:41 PM

Michael,

You wrote: "If a potentially explosive accusation like this one were false, I’d expect the UN to deny it emphatically."

The U. N. is solely a political entity; it represents no one and nothing. That it's reality.

Syria is a sovereign nation and a member of the U. N. while Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. The sovereign Arab members of the U. N. will never allow Syria to be implicated by the U. N., one, because the Arab states close ranks against any and all external pressure, and, two, because, all of them are threatened by Iran/Hezbollah.

I recognize that what I write sounds simplistic, but, when dealing with and in the Middle East, it is imperative to remember the bottom line: whom is against whom. The Arab world attempts to sustain a balance of power, and all their alignments and maneuverings serve this purpose.

In Hebrew, the word for the United Nations is 'oom', and as David Ben Gurion said about the philanderings of the U. N., "oom shmoom!"

Daniel

Posted by: Daniel Author Profile Page at May 27, 2009 12:13 AM
Der Spiegel's Erich Follath, the journalist behind the report implicating the Hezbollah organization in the assassination of former Prime Minster Rafik Hariri has stressed to Asharq Al-Awsat that he stands behind his report and that the documents cited in the germen publication's report were "original." In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat Follath said, "The documents that I reviewed during preparation of my report were original, not copies." link
Posted by: Solomon2 Author Profile Page at May 27, 2009 5:15 AM
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