News Round Up: Nov. 30, 2005 - Hizb and Hussam
Nick Blanford has added some interesting observations on the Hizbullah-Syria connection, which I added to my original post: Hizbullah and Syria.
Many readers have asked whether I believe Hussam's testimony. The question is not whether I believe him; rather, it is that all his testimony is now highly suspect, which has done great damage to the Mehlis investigation and his preliminary findings. If the Lebanese see his Syrian evidence as reminiscent of a "Chinese style show trial," the Syrians find his Lebanon testimony reminiscent of George Bush's WMD hype. Yes, I thought Hussam giving his testimony was visually appealing, which has a big impact on the way he was interpreted here in Syria. I also found Colin Powell's testimony about Saddam Hussein's WMD in front of the UN visually appealing. I like Powell; he is a good messenger, but the message turned out to be false. What we are now left with in the Mehlis Report is that Syria had motive for wanting Hariri out of the way. We do not have more than that. We also had motive that Saddam wanted WMD, but he turned out not to have any. Let Mehlis continue his investigation.
Vienna Interrogation Delayed, Jumblat Warns Against Attempt to Rescue 4 Detained Generals
The interrogation of the five Syrian officers linked to Rafik Hariri's assassination has been delayed till next week, An Nahar reported on Wednesday....
"Returning the flavor to the Truth," by Joseph Samaha in As-Safir
Click here for source in Arabic: English from Mideastwire.com
On November 29, Joseph Samaha commented in the independent Lebanese newspaper As Safir that: "What Houssam Houssam said in the interview broadcasted by Syrian cable TV and then repeated in the news conference yesterday is literally the same as what he told the international committee investigating the assassination of prime minister Rafik Harriri except for one difference: Now he is claiming that what he told the investigative committee was forcefully taken from him under threat of force plus bribery and that he was taught what to say to the committee."
Samaha continued: "Houssam's claims are very serious. For the report delivered by Deitliv Mehlis to the Security Council about the investigation into the crime was based, at least in part, on two testimonies. The first was made by Mohammad Zouheir Al Seddike, witness now turned suspect, a man who is a known crook and who is also accused of being enticed with bribes to testify. The second was made by none other than Houssam Houssam himself who moved from the position of ally to the prosecution to the position of ally to the defense. It has to be admitted that without these two testimonies the report loses a lot of its credibility especially regarding possible suspects."
Samaha continued: "What Houssam did require that at least a modicum of regard be restored to the 'truth,' or as much of it as was uncovered by Deitliv Mehlis. But this regard cannot be restored with silence, or pretended ignorance or underestimation. Nor will it be restored with a few lines denying all that has been said or by pretending that the investigation is a train that cannot be derailed or slowed by anything until it reaches its final destination."
He continued: "The only way to restore some augustness to the truth is through utilizing complete transparency in the investigation coupled to a detailed and clear reply. We all followed, as much as it was possible, the effort put in by the international and Lebanese investigators, the techniques they used, and the questions they posed to try to solve this crime (who stands to benefit from the crime? Who are the agitators? What do the phone records tell us? What part was played by bribery and corruption? ) and it is now obligatory to expend a similar effort to validate or dismiss these statements by Houssam." - As Safir, Lebanon
Investigation committee quashes Syrian witness' claims about his testimony
Click here for source in Arabic
A front-page article published on November 29 in the privately-owned Lebanese newspaper An Nahar reported that individuals accused by a controversial Syrian witness of having bribed him to give false testimony had refuted his claims.
"While Damsacus presented the statements of its citizen Hussam Taher Hussam yesterday… as proof of the collapse of the international investigation into the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, official Lebanese security sources revealed that Hussam had been in the custody of Lebanese Internal Security Forces, arrested on charges of fraud, a while before the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri and not after the assassination, as Hussam had claimed," the article said.
An Nahar added that Hussam was summoned yesterday by the Lebanese investigative magistrate, Elias Eid, to testify as a witness, but Hussam did not show up. "The statement issued by the international investigation committee, in response to the press conference which Hussam Taher Hussam had held in Damascus yesterday, revealed that he had showed up voluntarily before the committee, as attested by his written and certified statement, which refutes his subjugation to any threat, pressure or bribe. And the statement did not confirm that Hussam is the same person who was described as 'the masked witness'."
Meanwhile, Communications Minister Marwan Hamade, also refuted what Hussam had said in his press conference, describing Hussam's claims as "a comedy, and another ominous branch of the Syrian intelligence apparatus which, after having aggressed us with car bombs and threats, now turns to lies and a smear campaign through a person we have never seen before." Hussam claimed to have seen Hamade several times at the international investigation committee's headquarters. He accused Hamade of being one of those who instructed him to give a false testimony under pressure.
Similarly, An Nahar's Jibran Tueini also refuted the witness's statements, while the Syrian investigation committed questioned the credibility of the international investigation committee following the Hussam's statements, according to the An Nahar article. - An Nahar, Lebanon
Noureddine:"Lebanese less supportive of the resistance than ever before"
Click here for source in Arabic: Mideastwire.com
On November 29, Sateh Noureddine commented in the privately owned Lebanese newspaper As Safir that: "It cannot be claimed that Lebanon rose in unanimous defense and support for its resistance while it was facing the Israelis in tough battles last week. While the public scene of official and unofficial support was touching, the violations of this scene were wider and more serious than ever before."
He continued: "Disregarding the black pages written in Lebanese history by those who collaborated with the enemies and nearly shared power with them in the early 1980s, there was never any true Lebanese unanimity about the threat posed by Israel and the need to counter and resist it. Political speech was directed by the public sentiment of the majority and this plus the regional setting served to aid the resistance in liberating a major part of the Israeli occupied Lebanese territories.
"But this last episode left the impression that the resistance was on its own this time. The official statements released in support of the resistance were not totally convincing. This was partly due to a legitimate fear that the battles might rage far beyond the borders, but what is most disturbing is that this lack of support uncovered a deep hatred towards Hezbollah that goes beyond the fight against Israel and is due to the deep chasms in the fabric of the Lebanese society that have not mended since the withdrawal of the Syrians. The failure of the resistance's latest operation was used as an excuse to start stabbing the resistance in the back and to start looking for venues at which to discuss the "necessary" disarmament of the resistance in compliance with Security Council resolution 1559. Some even went so far as to predict the end of the resistance, which explains the severity of the speech made by the General Secretary of Hezbollah Hassan Nasrallah.
"What is certain is that the resistance is not as secure as it used to be, and Hezbollah is responsible for this development, because of its overblown victory speech back in 2000, because it surrendered to the allure of the 'military might that owns 14,000 missiles', and because they chose to leave the Lebanese accord at a very critical juncture in Lebanon's history to side with the traditional Syrian ally.
"But this doesn't mean that the resistance has lost or will lose its reason for being, especially for the people of southern Lebanon, who have always needed this invisible force to protect them against the Israeli oppressors, an invisible force that cannot be substituted even with the Lebanese army." - As Safir, Lebanon
Hezbollah official reaffirms alliance with Iran, Syria
Lebanese Hezbollah's Al Manar TV reported on November 27 that: "Hashim Safiy-al-Din, chairman of Hezbollah Executive Council, has reaffirmed the resistance's alliance with both Syria and Iran. He considered this alliance as a natural outcome and that it has achieved tremendous results in the region. Al-Sayyid Safiy-al-Din added that there is no force that can steer Lebanon to the US-Israeli axis as some dream.
"While commemorating the one-week anniversary of the martyrdom of Yusuf Barakat [Hezbollah fighter who was killed in Hezbollah's clashes with the Israeli forces on November 21] in his hometown Zibqin in southern Lebanon, Safiy-al-Din said that the problem in Lebanon is that some parties have not yet changed their previous views. He wondered that if Lebanon, which is bounded by the sea and the Zionist entity, does not ally with Syria, what other countries [are] left to ally with.
"[Safiy-al-Din - recording] The decision of the resistance is linked in the first place to confronting the aggression. The beginning of resistance in the first place is linked to the presence of the aggression. As long as the aggression, occupation, threat and injustice are present, the resistance will continue its mission in the upcoming days, months and years. At this critical and intricate political period our region and country are going through, nobody should think that Lebanon changed its political position irrevocably or even think that they should think of other calculations. This has never taken place and it will never take place." - Al Manar, Lebanon