Lebanon�s former prime minister, Rafik Hariri, was a great
politician and the force behind the rebuilding of downtown Beirut, following 15
years of civil war.
His assassination on February 14, 2005, along with 22
others, was a terrible act that needed to be investigated.
However, the United Nations was not the right body to set up
a special tribunal for this purpose. Bringing those responsible to justice
should have been solely the responsibility of Lebanon, which has had its fill
of destructive foreign fingers poking around in the pie.
Firstly, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon cannot be trusted.
The UN�s investigator, Detlev Mehlis, issued his initial report to the then UN
secretary-general, Kofi Annan, in October 2005, which blamed top-ranking Syrian
security officials for the deaths. His conclusion was based on pure supposition
without any shred of proof.
The German magazine Junge Welt later revealed that Mehlis,
who resigned half way through, was the alleged recipient of a $10 million
(Dh36.78 million) slush fund to rig the outcome against Damascus. Mehlis also
ordered four pro-Syrian Lebanese generals to be imprisoned without charge. They
were eventually released after four years due to lack of evidence.
These serious charges resulted in Syria being universally
condemned, forced out of Lebanon and shunned by Western countries. George W.
Bush recalled his ambassador to Syria, whose parting message was one of �concern
and outrage.� The accusations resulted in a diplomatic rift between Beirut and
Damascus that was somewhat healed after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, following
Syria�s hospitality towards fleeing Lebanese refugees.
I�m not suggesting for one minute that the exit of the
Syrian military from Lebanon wasn�t desirable, but it would have been
infinitely preferable had it taken place without the UN�s faux cloud of
suspicion that was touted with such relish by the Bush administration and the
In recent years, Lebanon has gone through devastating
political turmoil, culminating in a clash between Sa�ad Hariri�s March 14
movement and the March 8 supporters of Hezbollah, Amal and General Michel Aoun
that, at one time, threatened to turn into civil war. Following a massive and
prolonged March 8 sit-in, which brought the capital�s downtown to a virtual
standstill, the two sides came together in the nick of time.
But now that Lebanon is enjoying some semblance of stability
and unity -- albeit fragile -- up pops the UN Tribunal, threatening to expose
senior Hezbollah operative Mustafa Badr Al Deen as chief suspect in Hariri�s assassination.
This is akin to pouring gasoline on glowing embers. Implicating one of the
Shiite group�s head honchos in the death of a man who was so revered could,
once again, split the country apart, leaving it vulnerable to its southern
Hassan Nasrallah vehemently denies his group�s involvement
and maintains his lieutenants are far too disciplined to act without his
express permission. He claims an Israeli conspiracy is behind the findings and
says he considers the tribunal nothing more than �an Israeli agency.�
Personally, I find it hard to believe that anyone from
Hezbollah would go to all the trouble of planting a bomb to kill Hariri when a
sniper�s bullet would have been simpler and a single assassin far harder to
There is one school of thought that this may have been a
Mossad false-flag operation designed to stir up international condemnation
against Syria and/or Hezbollah. In this connection, it�s interesting that no
mainline media outlet has ever cited Tel Aviv as a potential culprit,
especially when Israeli spies were known to have been crawling all over Lebanon
at the time.
Juergen Cain Kuelbel, a German criminologist, wrote a book,
titled Hariri�s Assassination: Hiding Evidence in Lebanon, based on his thesis
that Israel had a hand in the former PM�s death. As the tribunal has not sought
to investigate Israel, we can never know the veracity of his assertion.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia�s King Abdullah and Syrian
President Bashar Al Assad chose to make a joint visit to Beirut last Friday in
an effort to calm tensions and display an unprecedented show of unity, while on
the following day the Emir of Qatar, Shaikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, visited
southern Lebanese villages known to be Hezbollah strongholds. The fact that
these friends of Lebanon have gone out of their way to show support is
indicative of the seriousness of this crossroads.
If the tribunal insists on publicly denouncing Hezbollah,
its members risk having Lebanese blood on their hands. The sensible course
would be to let sleeping dogs lie. Rafik Hariri was a patriot first and
foremost. That�s what he would have wanted. That�s what his son wants and that�s
what the Lebanese government wants. The question is will they listen or must
Lebanon brace for yet another arrow through its heart?
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.