• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

All Eyes on Lebanon

While the world’s eyes are busy reading WikiLeaks cables, Middle Eastern eyes are focused squarely on Lebanon.

If the past week of frenzied diplomacy is any reflection of the region’s anxiety over the Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s (STL) upcoming indictment in the February 2005 assassination of the late premier Rafiq al-Hariri, imagine the mood in Beirut.

The Lebanese daily Ad-Diyar reported the country’s foreign ministry had received word via its ambassador to the Netherlands, Zaidan as-Saghir, that the STL’s verdict would be issued Dec. 2. Al-Manar TV said Dec. 4 or 5. Others say not until March. The date may be uncertain, but an imminent ruling is not.

Lebanon has been on-edge since it became known that the STL will likely implicate high-ranking Hezbollah officials in Hariri’s murder, despite credible evidence linking Tel Aviv to the crime.

The Hezbollah-led, opposition March 8 Coalition has sought to cut the STL’s funding as Hezbollah Secretary-General Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah called on the government to boycott the tribunal entirely, which he dismissed as an “Israeli project.” Prime Minister Saad Hariri and his Sunni and Christian allies in the ruling March 14 Coalition, on the other hand, have vowed to stand by the court and its judgment. It should be noted that a sizable segment of the Maronite Christian community throws its weight behind former general and current MP Michel Aoun, whose Free Patriotic Movement is a significant March 8 Coalition member and has likewise called for the STL to be sidelined.

The impetus behind the week’s diplomatic flurry was not only that the diametrically opposed positions could lead to government paralysis (which some contend is already the case) but spillover into sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni supporters of the rival coalitions.

Fear over the potential negative fallout from the STL’s report caused Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani to fly into Beirut on a surprise (emergency?) visit to assuage frayed nerves, just hours before Lebanese President Michel Suleiman boarded a plane for Qatar to meet with the emir and inaugurate the new headquarters of the Lebanese embassy in Doha.

Qatar’s role in resolving disputes between Lebanese parties is legendary; the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, famously brokered the May 2008 Doha Accord that led to the formation of a national unity government and ended an 18-month political stalemate before the near outbreak of civil war. He also helped finance reconstruction of southern Lebanon, devastated in the wake of Israel’s brutal July 2006 offensive, and was the first visiting Arab head-of-state to tour area he helped rebuild during a July stopover.

Days later came Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogen who hoped to raise his country’s profile as regional peacemaker. Whereas Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accorded a hero’s welcome by Lebanese Shia when he visited in October, Erdogen was unable to engender the same enthusiasm from Sunnis (and certainly not among Lebanese-Armenians). He nonetheless stressed the need for peace and unity between Lebanon’s many confessional groups.

Still angered by Israel’s May 31 commando assault on the Gaza-bound relief vessel Mavi Marmara that killed nine Turkish activists—and even more miffed at the lack of a forthcoming apology—Erdogen pledged Turkey would not let Israel attack Lebanon without serious repercussions:

“Does [Israel] think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?”

Soon after Erdogen left Beirut, Hariri embarked on his first state visit to Iran. Appearing decidedly uncomfortable, he sought to secure the regime’s assistance in tempering Hezbollah’s response to the expected indictment.

All this shuttle diplomacy comes against the backdrop of an alleged Saudi-Syrian “umbrella” over Lebanon, courtesy of King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and President Bashar al-Assad’s mediation efforts. The two leaders’ unprecedented joint visit to Beirut in July aimed to placate the coalitions they backed—March 14 and March 8 respectively—and symbolically reinforce the country’s stability. Whether they ultimately agreed on a practical mechanism to avert a crisis after the STL’s findings are announced remains unknown.

The precarious nature of Hariri’s government and predictions of its eventual collapse parallel the misplaced trust and confidence March 14 Coalition members have in the Netherlands-based tribunal.

Indeed, the STL has neglected to consider several key developments: the exposure of Israeli espionage rings operating in Lebanon resulting in the arrest of more than 100 people on charges of collaborating with the Mossad; the captured agents’ confessions detailing the collusion, including one who said his Israeli handlers instructed him to delude the late prime minister into thinking Hezbollah was out to kill him (Hariri) and so allow the agent to alter the route Hariri’s motorcade would take that fateful February day; Hezbollah’s assertion that its telecommunications network had been infiltrated by Israel, compromising all its communications and causing bogus text messages to be sent.

Earlier this year, four spies were apprehended at Alfa, one of Lebanon’s mobile service providers. One admitted to installing computer programs and planting electronic chips in Alfa transmitters on Israel’s behalf.

This is important because the STL is expected to rely heavily on phone records and other telecommunication data in drawing its conclusions. Evidently neither Hezbollah’s latest disclosure nor Israeli agents known to have operated in the critical telecom sector merits further investigation.

In addition, during an August press conference, Nasrallah displayed video footage intercepted from Israeli reconnaissance planes detailing the route of Hariri’s motorcade and the assassination site the same day a bomb detonated underneath it, killing him and 21 others.

Also unaddressed by the STL is the issue of “false witnesses”; those persons who provided information incriminating Syria in Hariri’s murder but whose testimony was later found to have been fabricated (but not before four Lebanese generals spent four years in jail as a result). Without a follow-up judicial inquiry, how can testimony of those now accusing Hezbollah be trusted?

Regional arbitration and reconciliation efforts between March 8 and March 14 are welcome endeavors. It will be for naught, however, unless all Lebanese parties and well-intentioned Arab and non-Arab states recognize the flawed, politicized nature of the STL, the deliberate oversight of Israel’s motive to kill Hariri, the political and military benefits it reaped from his death and the myriad of ways it could have manipulated evidence to frame Hezbollah.

Until those determined to know the truth behind Hariri’s assassination renounce the STL and its wayward path, justice, peace and stability will have no place in Lebanon.

RANNIE AMIRI is an independent Middle East commentator.

 

More articles by:

Rannie Amiri is an independent commentator on Middle East affairs.

May 26, 2020
Melvin Goodman
Trump Administration and the Washington Post: Picking Fights Together
John Kendall Hawkins
The Gods of Small Things
Patrick Cockburn
Governments are Using COVID-19 Crisis to Crush Free Speech
George Wuerthner
Greatest Good is to Preserve Forest Carbon
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Covid-19 Conspiracies of German Neo-Nazis
Henry Giroux
Criminogenic Politics as a Form of Psychosis in the Age of Trump
John G. Russell
TRUMP-20: The Other Pandemic
John Feffer
Trump’s “Uncreative Destruction” of the US/China Relationship
John Laforge
First US Citizen Convicted for Protests at Nuclear Weapons Base in Germany
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump, Resign Now for America’s Sake: This is No Time for a Dangerous, Law-breaking, Bungling, Ignorant Ship Captain
James Fortin – Jeff Mackler
Killer Capitalism’s COVID-19 Back-to-Work Imperative
Binoy Kampmark
Patterns of Compromise: The EasyJet Data Breach
Howard Lisnoff
If a Covid-19 Vaccine is Discovered, It Will be a Boon to Military Recruiters
David Mattson
Grizzly Bears are Dying and That’s a Fact
Thomas Knapp
The Banality of Evil, COVID-19 Edition
May 25, 2020
Marshall Auerback
If the Federal Government Won’t Fund the States’ Emergency Needs, There is Another Solution
Michael Uhl
A Memory Fragment of the Vietnam War
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
Make a Resilient, Localized Food System Part of the Next Stimulus
Barrie Gilbert
The Mismanagement of Wildlife in Utah Continues to be Irrational and a National Embarrassment.
Dean Baker
The Sure Way to End Concerns About China’s “Theft” of a Vaccine: Make it Open
Thom Hartmann
The Next Death Wave from Coronavirus Will Be the Poor, Rural and White
Phil Knight
Killer Impact
Paul Cantor
Memorial Day 2020 and the Coronavirus
Laura Flanders
A Memorial Day For Lies?
Gary Macfarlane – Mike Garrity
Grizzlies, Lynx, Bull Trout and Elk on the Chopping Block for Trump’s Idaho Clearcuts
Cesar Chelala
Challenges of the Evolving Coronavirus Pandemic
Luciana Tellez-Chavez
This Year’s Forest Fire Season Could Be Even Deadlier
Thomas Hon Wing Polin
Beijing Acts on Hong Kong
George Wuerthner
Saving the Lionhead Wilderness
Elliot Sperber
Holy Beaver
Weekend Edition
May 22, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Hugh Iglarsh
Aiming Missiles at Viruses: a Plea for Sanity in a Time of Plague
Paul Street
How Obama Could Find Some Redemption
Marc Levy
On Meeting Bao Ninh: “These Good Men Meant as Much to Me as Yours Did to You”
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Shallò: 120 Days of COVID
Joan Roelofs
Greening the Old New Deal
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Still Matters
Charles Pierson
Is the US-Saudi Alliance Headed Off a Cliff?
Robert Hunziker
10C Above Baseline
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
The Fed’s Chair and Vice Chair Got Rich at Carlyle Group, a Private Equity Fund With a String of Bankruptcies and Job Losses
Eve Ottenberg
Factory Farming on Hold
Andrew Levine
If Nancy Pelosi Is So Great, How Come Donald Trump Still Isn’t Dead in the Water?
Ishmael Reed
Alex Azar Knows About Diabetes
Joseph Natoli
Will Things Fall Apart Now or in November?
Richard D. Wolff
An Old Story Again: Capitalism vs. Health and Safety
Louis Proyect
What Stanford University and Fox News Have in Common
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail