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Commentary Last Updated: Aug 4th, 2010 - 00:26:15

Special tribunal on Hariri murder cannot be trusted
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Aug 4, 2010, 00:12

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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.

Serious charges

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 US media.

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 enemy, Israel.

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 trace.

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?

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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