Hariri Tribunal Releases Lebanese Generals for lack of Evidence

The release of four Lebanese generals imprisoned as suspects in the killing of Rafiq Hariri in 2005 is good news for Syria. It suggests that the investigation has turned up little or no evidence of Syrian responsibility for the assassination of Lebanon’s leader. The hope of anti-Syrian politicians that the Tribunal would act as a sword of Damocles hanging over Assad’s head is diminished. Neocons, in particular, believed that the ongoing investigation would confound attempts by the Obama administration to engage just as it would prevent Syria from successfully pressuring Israel to return the Golan Heights, which Israel snatched in its surprise offensive in 1967 and is obliged by UN resolution 242 to return to Syria in exchange for peace. [see more Landis comment below]

Men carried former domestic security chief Ali Hajj after his arrival home from prison in Beirut on Wednesday.By

UN Court Releases Lebanese Generals in Hariri Case
By Massoud A. Derhally

April 29 (Bloomberg) — A United Nations tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri ordered the release of four Lebanese generals held in connection with the killing.

Judge Daniel Fransen of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon said the four generals held in Lebanon since 2005 are to be freed because there isn’t sufficient evidence to continue their detention, given that some witnesses have modified or retracted their statements. Proceedings were aired live from The Hague by Arab and Lebanese broadcasters and on the Internet.

There were “inconsistencies in the statements of key witnesses” and a “lack of corroborative evidence to support these statements,” Fransen said.

Former Canadian Deputy Attorney General Daniel Bellemare, who took over the investigation last year and became the court’s chief prosecutor on March 1, said he wouldn’t appeal the ruling.

The judge ordered the immediate release of Mustafa Hamdan, former head of the Presidential Guard; Jameel al-Sayyed, the former general security chief; Ali al-Hajj, the former internal security head; and Raymond Azar, the former army intelligence director. All four were arrested in 2005….

Saad Hariri, the second-eldest son of Rafiq Hariri and the leader of the ruling March 14 coalition, said “we accept and respect” the decision. Hariri said in a televised news conference from Beirut that he expects the tribunal to uncover the person or group responsible for the assassination.

“We do not want revenge,” he said. “All we want is justice.” He urged his supporters to accept the ruling and said today’s decision affirms the court’s credibility.

In December 2005, Lebanon’s government asked the UN to set up a tribunal to try those responsible for the Feb. 14, 2005, killing of Hariri and 22 others by a roadside bomb.

Al-Sayyed arrived at his home in the Lebanese capital today, and was greeted by Hezbollah lawmakers and dozens of supporters who threw rose petals in the air and cheered as he walked by, live video footage aired by al-Jazeera showed….

“This verdict underlines how politicized the investigation was,” Lebanese American University Professor Amal Saad-Ghorayeb said in a telephone interview from Beirut. “It also discredits the Lebanese judiciary and the politicians who accused these generals.” The ruling has “far-reaching political implications,” she said. “It may weaken the pro-Western coalition in the upcoming elections and strengthen Hezbollah and its allies.” Lebanon holds parliamentary elections on June 7.

Robert Worth of the NYTimes adds:

The first prosecutor in the case, Detlev Mehlis, released a report in 2005 that said that the assassination had been planned by high-level Syrian and Lebanese officials, including some in the inner circle of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad.

[Landis Comment] Technically, it is not correct to write that the UN released a report that sadi that the assassination had been planned by high-level Syrian and Lebanese Officials.” Mehlis sent his report to the UN headquarters where it was released after redaction. The released copy did not name any Syrians, although the report argued that Syria had the means and motive. Journalists discovered that if they clicked on the “uncorrect” button on Microsoft Word, the eliminated names of Syrians appeared in an earlier unredacted version. I remember this because in 2005 Nick Blanford, the Christian Science Monitor reporter in Beirut, called me in Damascus in excitement to explain to me how to get the Syrian names. The UN mistake caused major excitement among reporters who could claim to be true investigative sleuths by doing little more than pressing a key on their computers. It was sensational and seemed to nail Syria – something the Bush-Cheney team in the White House was eager to do.

The UN did not meant to “release a report in 2005 that said that the assassination had been planned by high-level Syrian and Lebanese officials.” Instead cautious leaders took out the names, presumably because they did not believe the evidence was strong enough or because they did believed it unwise to release names. As it turned out the UN leaders that redacted the report were correct in their caution. The evidence implicating Syria gathered by Mehlis was based on the testimony of witnesses that later recanted and  explained that they were paid by Hariri operatives to give false testimony. One was Husam Husam [see this article about how he recanted] and another was Sadiq [see this article on his recant by Alex] claimed to have been pressured to testify or offered money give false testimony. Nevertheless, reporters have continued to write that the UN named the Syrians, when this is only partly true and largely misleading based on what we subsequently learned. Brammertz, the UN investigator who came after Mehlis, dropped Mehlis’ more sensational accusations and seriously toned down the report. Most reporters at the time suggested that this was due to tactical caution in order to lure the Syrians into cooperating and entrapping themselves. But Fransen stated: “There were “inconsistencies in the statements of key witnesses” and a “lack of corroborative evidence to support these statements.”

The Brammertz report, however, made it clear that a new avenue of investigation was being pursued that would not necessarily end at Syria’s door. A “criminal network” was being blamed for executing the car bomb. This was a vague term, but by reading the report carefully, one could determine that Islamists, many based in Tripoli, had planned and carried out the attack. Brammertz did not drop the possibility that Syria would be connected to the Islamist criminal network, but equally he suggested that there was nothing more than circumstantial evidence to implicate Syria; this was means and motive.

October 2005

Anyone wanting to get a sense of the impact of the Mehlis report on Syria and US relations with Syria need only scan through the October 2005 entries to Syria Comment. I was living in Damascus at the time.

Here is a quote from Damascus on the eve of the release of the first Mehlis report

Thursday, October 20, 2005
“Waiting for Mehlis” by Joshua Landis

The media Tsunami has hit. Journalists of every color have been flooding into Damascus these last few days to study the grimaces of the regime as it must submit to the delicate tortures of the Mehlis report, international condemnation, and very likely, UN resolutions.

A journalist just called to ask me if I could be standing by at 12:00 midnight when the first inklings of the Mehlis report begin to filter out. The main office suggests it will be bad for Syria and it wants immediate reactions. The political class has been bracing itself in Damascus and trying to manage the reporters as best they can, but everything is done in a ham-fisted way here. At such times of crisis, one realizes just how much of a third world country Syria is. Like a dear in the headlights, it has little clue what sort of terrifying machine is bearing down on it.

Ironically, the ordinary people are largely oblivious that their fate is being decided in the halls of distant capitals. Many don’t even know that a major clash is brewing between the US and Damascus. One taxi driver I spoke to yesterday had never heard of the Mehlis report and seemed surprised to be told that America and Syria were at loggerheads. He asked, “Is America going to invade?” When I reassured him that was not in the cards, he waved his hand in relief and said, “Oh, well, then it isn’t important.”

But even those who have some idea of what is transpiring believe it is a tempest in a tea pot. They have no influence over events anyway and seem oddly detached from “high politics,” as they call it. The streets are packed with Ramadan revelers looking for amusement and walking off their iftar…..

Here is the kind of spin “unnamed US Diplomats” were giving the New York Times reporters at the time of the issuance of the Mehlis report:

“There is evidence in abundance,” the diplomat said. “But to get every piece of the puzzle they need more time.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of what he described as the extreme sensitivity of the matter.

Mr. Shawkat is considered the second most powerful man in Syria and has been seen as a likely candidate to take over the country if the embattled Mr. Assad were removed from office.

The diplomat, describing Syria as a “country run by a little family clique,” said the involvement of any one in Mr. Assad’s inner circle would be a severe blow to the government.

“There is absolutely no doubt, it goes right to the top,” he said. “This is Murder Inc.”

Here is more Robert Worth summing up the political stakes well:

The tribunal has always been controversial in Lebanon. Many supporters have seen it as a way to punish Syria and its proxies here, which they tend to blame for all the assassinations since 2005. By contrast, those in the political opposition, including Hezbollah, see it more as a political weapon aimed at their Syrian ally. They also ask why such a tribunal is warranted for the death of a billionaire politician, Mr. Hariri, and not for the deaths in the many massacres and other assassinations that have taken place here in recent decades.

Rafei in LA Times:

“This is the moment of truth,” Hassan Fadlallah, a Hezbollah member of parliament, told reporters on Lebanese television. “This is the day of the fall of the [March 14] group, which based its judgment on falsification.”

Naharnet adds:

Speaking from their respective homes after their release, the generals said they had been vindicated by the court and insisted they had nothing to do with Hariri’s 2005 murder in a massive car-bombing that also killed 22 others.

“Four generals were freed today but the only remaining inmate is Rafik Hariri and his jailer is Lebanon’s justice system,” security services director Jamil Sayyed told a crowd of cheering supporters outside his home that included several MPs from Hizbullah.

Saad Hariri agreed to “exchange his father for the sake of politics. He embraced people who do not want the truth to be uncovered,” he said, referring to al-Mustaqbal Movement leader.

“I thank everyone who stood by us, and above all Hassan Nasrallah,” he said, referring to the head of Hizbullah. “Never in the history of Lebanon have people been jailed for four years with no charge or evidence.”

US Plans New Talks With Syria, Wall Street Journal

The Obama administration is dispatching two high-level envoys to Syria in coming weeks for a second round of talks focused on securing the Iraqi border and supporting the Arab-Israeli peace process, said officials briefed on the trip.

Jimmy Carter: US and Syria to restore full diplomatic ties soon, Ha’aretz

Jimmy Carter on Tuesday said that the United States and Syria are close to restoring full diplomatic ties. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens this year,” Carter said

Clinton Reassures Arab Allies as Iran, Syria Outreach Begin, Bloomberg

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completed a three-day Middle East trip intended to reassure Arab allies of U.S. support as the Obama administration begins to pull forces out of Iraq and engage with Iran and Syria. Clinton’s message in Lebanon, Iraq and Kuwait was consistent.

Ben-Eliezer: Netanyahu will surprise us with ‘serious’ Syria talks
By Yossi Verter, Haaretz Correspondent, 30/04/2009

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to conduct “serious negotiations” with the Palestinians and the Syrians, Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Labor) told Haaretz. The full interview will appear Friday in Week’s End.

“Netanyahu is going to surprise us all,” said Ben-Eliezer, who is industry, trade and employment minister, after several tete-a-tetes with the prime minister over the past month.

He said Netanyahu had assured him, both before and after he set up the government, that he would continue negotiating with the Syrians.

Regarding the Palestinians, Netanyahu’s plan will be based on a two-state solution, said Ben-Eliezer.

“It’s not the same Bibi,” Ben-Eliezer said. “He’s much more open, patient and relaxed. He’s not alarmed or dogmatic. Something happened to him. He realizes that he cannot afford another crash like the one in his previous term.

“He understands that there’s a new administration in the United States, which is neither the Clinton Administration nor the Bush administration, and that if we don’t come up with a peace plan, someone else will call the shots for us.”

“If we find that Bibi lied to us, we’ll quit [the coalition],” said Ben-Eliezer, who is a member of the security cabinet.

He said that he and Netanyahu believe the Iranian issue should be solved diplomatically, not militarily.

Ben-Eliezer said the Labor Knesset members who objected to party chairman Ehud Barak’s decision to enter the coalition were “terrorizing” the party, and called their conduct over Barak’s dismissal of party secretary general Eitan Cabel “insanity.”

Syria’s Credit Rating Sees Unique Boost
Written by The Media Line Staff, April 28, 2009

Syria’s international credit rating has been raised by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for the first time in over a decade. The report, issued earlier this month, raised Syria’s risk rating by one level from 7 to 6.

The OECD regularly rates credit risk – the likelihood that a country will service its external debt – on a scale of 7 to 0. Among the 181 economies surveyed by the organization, Syria was the only country to see an improvement in its credit rating, a positive sign of the country’s historically protracted path towards fuller integration into the global economy.

“Syria’s rating is still low and this does not mean Syria has become a country whose business environment has improved tremendously,” Jihad Al-Yaziji, publisher of the business newsletter Syria Report, told The Media Line.

“But it shows an overall improvement in the Syrian business environment after several years of changes to the investment, commercial and consumer legal and regulatory environments.”

The OECD also reported a significant increase in the ease of starting a business in Syria, bumping up the Arab republic to 124th place from last year’s 171 among the 181 economies surveyed.

The organization boosted Syria’s overall “Ease of Doing Business” rank by eight and reported noticeable improvements in the ease of cross-border trade, employing workers and registering property in Syria.

“What’s important is that the efforts of the government are starting to pay off,” Al-Yaziji explained. “Over the past few years a big chunk of Syria’s foreign debt was wiped out and GDP has grown steadily. Private banks and insurance firms have been allowed into the country and you can now import almost anything into Syria. None of this was the case 10 years ago.”

Al-Yaziji added that, “It’s still not very easy to launch a business in Syria, but the process has improved tremendously. One of the new incentives, for example, is that a business in Syria can now be owned entirely by foreigners. This is not the case in many other Middle East countries.”

The OECD puts the current cost of launching a business in Syria at 18.5 percent of the country’s per capita gross national income (GNI), about $1,760 at current levels.

ABBAS OFFERED WRITTEN PEACE PROPOSAL TO OLMERT
2009-04-27

Jerusalem (dpa) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas submitted a far-reaching, written peace proposal to the former Israeli government during the final days of the Bush administration, a top aide said Monday. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he presented the document to former US president George W Bush during a previously secret trip to Washington on December 18. Abbas had asked then outgoing Israeli premier Ehud Olmert to reply to the proposal in writing, but Olmert had failed to do so, Erekat told foreign correspondents in Jerusalem. Instead, Olmert chose to use his final weeks before leaving office and before Israel’s February 10 elections to launch the offensive in Gaza just days later, he charged……

Damascus Securities Exchange Volume Reaches Record $55,770
2009-04-27 11:17:51.461 GMT

Damascus Securities Exchange Volume Reaches Record $55,770, 2009-04-27

Damascus Exchange Sees Trading Volume Drop Ahead of Dividends: 2009-04-30

By Nadim Issa: April 30 (Bloomberg) — Trading volume on the Damascus Securities Exchange tumbled 61 percent compared with the last trading day as investors await their cash dividends. “Four companies out of the total of eight listed approved a cash-dividend distribution and this process will be completed in the coming two to three weeks,” said Sufiyan Haikal, operation manager at Damascus-based Cham Capital LLC. The total volume of traded shares reached 1.01 million Syrian pounds ($21,500) from 2.59 million pounds on April 27. The bourse opens two days per week. Shares of seven companies advanced, reaching the 2 percent fluctuation limit.

Economic reforms to continue, but speed unclear
Oxford Analytica, Friday, April 24 2009

SUBJECT: The outlook for economic reform in Syria.

SIGNIFICANCE: The recent opening of the Damascus stock exchange is the latest milestone in Syria’s reform programme and underlines the government’s commitment to the liberalisation of the economy. While the speed of reform will depend upon external factors, it will be sufficient to boost growth over the medium term.Go to conclusion

ANALYSIS: Several factors have historically undermined the economy’s growth:

· short-term macroeconomic policies, such as government expenditure, inflation and the current account deficit; and

· structural factors, including the financial system and trade policy.

Syria has put forward a reform programme to tackle these issues However, some argue that financial liberalisation and increasing openness to trade and investment will not achieve growth unless accompanied by cuts in government expenditure. While this view is exaggerated, there is no doubt that the global slowdown will have a negative impact both on the timing of the reform programme’s implementation and the country’s economic outlook.

Government spending. The immediacy of Syria’s difficulties has been underlined by the 2009 budget deficit of 9.25% of GDP (). While according to the government, the budget (including public spending) is in line with the tenth five-year development plan, the size of the deficit inevitably sets off warning bells about state finances:

· Government spending has been increased recently by the large numbers of Iraqi refugees in Syria and, over the longer term, by the commitment to a larger than average sized (by developing country standards) public sector.

· As a result, instead of job cuts, privatisation and the sale of public enterprises, the government will continue on the path of gradual liberalisation with the emphasis on facilitating private investments in sectors such as construction and tourism.

Inflation. Syria’s emphasis on achieving social harmony means that some scheduled reforms will be postponed. According to the IMF in October, inflation was just below 5%. However, Syria’s three-year drought and the removal of some subsidies have pushed up prices:

· This means that, although the introduction of a value-added tax (VAT) has been approved in principle, its implementation has been delayed until 2010.

· Exchange rate liberalisation will also be delayed.

Current account deficit. Senior officials have said recently that the price of the Syrian pound is determined in the market, and suggested that allowing the pound to depreciate would encourage exports. However, it is unlikely the pound will float freely in the foreseeable future as the current account, which is already in deficit, is expected to widen in 2009 to 1.0-1.5 billion dollars (more than 2% of GDP):

· Oil revenues. This year sees the end of net oil revenues, with the value of imports of refined products exceeding earnings form crude exports.

· Remittances. Remittances from Syrians working in the Gulf have fallen as a result of GCC governments seeking to reduce expenditure on foreign workers in the face of the global slowdown. Of an estimated 50,000 Syrian workers currently employed overseas, most are in the Gulf, and these hold middle-management positions making their remittances more significant than those of casual manual workers in Lebanon who have not been as badly affected. Remittances by Syrian workers in the Gulf have increased steadily over the past decade, reaching an estimated 850 million dollars in 2008.

Stock exchange. The most high-profile of the recent reforms has been the opening of the Damascus Securities Exchange (DSE) on March 10, after a hiatus of 50 years and frequent delays in the past few years:

· In theory, the exchange will widen the sources of finance available to listed companies, so allowing them to expand their activities.

· This is an enormous task as Syrian companies typically fund their expansion through internal finance and, thus, do not even have a tradition of banking relationships to prepare them for the leap of opening up to the scrutiny of publicly listed ownership.

· It is difficult to tell how successful the market will be over the long term at channelling funding to listed companies, although the initial signs are promising.

The first hurdle lies with the listing of a sufficient number of companies across the different sectors of the economy:

· The DSE began trading with six listed companies, although on the first day was it confined to one company, Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi.

· Another four companies have received initial approval, and a number of Initial Public Offerings (IPO) are also planned.

· Estimates of the number of companies expected to be listed by the end of the year range between 20 and 35 companies, with the former a more realistic number.

· So far the diversity of listed companies is promising, with publishing, transport and tourism as well as the ubiquitous financial sector well-represented.

At the moment, demand is difficult to gauge. Although the DSE is open to foreign investors, falls in values in regional stock markets mean that much cross-regional investment will not immediately be forthcoming. Also, the type of legislation — such as providing tax breaks for retirement plans — that will trigger a surge in domestic investment is many years away.

Trade policy. Syria has long been criticised for being insufficiently open to foreign trade. However a major step was taken to rectify this in December, with the initialling of an updated version of the EU Association Agreement:

· The Agreement, which should encourage greater trade with, and investment by, European companies in Syria, is now awaiting approval from European member states.

· Last month, the government formed the ‘Higher Council for Syrian European Association’ with the mandate of finalising the agreement. Its membership — which includes the prime minister, deputy prime minister for economic affairs, the head of the State Planning Commission, the governor of the Central Bank and the presidents of the Chamber of Commerce and of Industry — underlines the seriousness with which Damascus is viewing it.

· It is likely that the agreement will be signed before the end of the year.

Foreign investment. With Western investments adversely affected by regional geopolitical insecurity and US sanctions, the main source of funding in Syria continues to be the Gulf:

· While the regional economic slowdown will inevitably affect current Gulf investment, the outlook will improve over the medium term.

· Gulf investment will be increasingly attracted by Syria’s common language, geographical proximity and untapped resources.

· Investment will focus on tourism, banking and construction, with Gulf Arabs taking holidays closer to home, and wealthy Syrians requiring more sophisticated banking services.

Thus, although Dubai-based Emaar Properties, whose credit rating was recently downgraded by Standard & Poor’s, has temporarily placed on hold its second project in Syria, the ‘Damascus Hills’, the 500 million dollar ‘Eighth Gate’ project remains underway. Last month, the company invited investors to a reception to assure them of the project’s progress and show them developments at the site.

Last November, the governments of Syria and Qatar signed an agreement to establish a 5 billion dollar joint holding company to invest in real estate, tourism and industry projects. The property arm of the Qatar Investment Authority has recently announced its intention to develop two real estate projects. The Al-Khurafi Group, from Kuwait, also continues to show interest in developing infrastructure projects including electricity and water management.

CONCLUSION: Syria’s longstanding problem of rising government debt has been exacerbated by the global slowdown. Reforms will continue to take place but at a pace determined by external events, such as the global slowdown and drought. Gulf and — eventually — local investment will underpin future growth.

Comments (47)


1. Anonu said:

That Microsoft Word trick sounds shady. Try it out – open a word doc – make changes – close it – re-open it… the ability to “undo” changes you made before closing the document are not there.

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April 30th, 2009, 2:32 pm

 

2. majid said:

Jumblat, in a recent speech (today), renews accusations to Syria being behind the killing. The speech clearly indicates Jumblat is squarly in March 14 contrary to the recent theory of so-called Qifa Nabki that was posted on SC prior to this post. Observers also conclude there will be no effect of recent developments on elections. Jumblat is positive March 14 will emerge the winner from the elections:

وردا على سؤال عما اذا كان لا يزال يتهم سوريا بالوقوف وراء الجريمة، قال الزعيم الدرزي المناهض لسوريا، “لن نتخلى عن الادانة السياسية”، مشيرا في الوقت نفسه الى انه يقبل بحكم المحكمة. واضاف “معركتنا في الاساس سياسية. لم يمت رفيق الحريري (…) بالصدفة او في حادث سير. دخلوا (السوريون) على دم (والده) كمال جنبلاط وخرجوا على دم رفيق الحريري”. وتابع “العدالة القضائية لا بد من الصبر والتأني في انتظار نتائجها والعدالة السياسية تحققت. لقد خرجوا ولن يعودوا ابدا”.

وخرج الجيش السوري من لبنان في نيسان/ابريل 2005 تحت ضغط من الشارع والمجتمع الدولي اثر اغتيال الحريري في عملية تفجير في وسط بيروت. وقتل كمال جنبلاط في 1977، بعيد دخول الجيش السوري لبنان ابان الحرب الاهلية (1975-1990).

من جهة ثانية، قال جنبلاط للصحافيين “نحن جاهزون للمعركة السياسية، وسنستمر في التحدي والتحضير للانتخابات في كل شبر وزاوية من لبنان وسننتصر في الانتخابات من اجل العدالة ومن اجل رفيق الحريري والشهداء”.

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April 30th, 2009, 3:17 pm

 

3. majid said:

Academic freedom in the US is threatened due to the Gaza war. See the Robinson case:

http://sb4af.wordpress.com/robinson-case/

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April 30th, 2009, 3:35 pm

 

4. Joshua said:

Dear Anon,

Here is what Flynt Leverett wrote in the Post in October 2005:

\”These two [Maher and Shawkat] have been implicated in Hariri\’s assassination, and thanks to an alleged computer glitch, their names were briefly published online even though they were deleted from the Mehlis report in the final round of editing.\”

See: http://faculty-staff.ou.edu/L/Joshua.M.Landis-1/syriablog/2005/10/flynt-levertt-syrias-wobbly-godfather.htm

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April 30th, 2009, 4:13 pm

 

5. Qifa Nabki said:

It was not “Undo” that caused the revelation; it was “Track Changes”.

So-called Majid, so-called Jumblatt has so-called flipped, trust me. Unless so-called M14 so-called wins the so-called elections, in which case he will so-called flip back. Otherwise, he’s a so-called goner.

But don’t take my so-called word for it.

Cheers! (so-called)

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April 30th, 2009, 4:30 pm

 

6. Alex said:

The best is yet to come … Al-Siddiq was found .. just imagine what he will say.

Here is a hint:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=666

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April 30th, 2009, 5:07 pm

 

7. majid said:

Why should I believe your so-called ‘expertise’ (not knowing what your so-called credentials are hiding behind a so-called alias)? I’d rather look at your so-called opinion (regarding Jumblat) as mere rumor.

I forgot you already included a so-called qualifier (But don’t take my so-called word for it.) Ok, I won’t.

So this is how it goes. You spread a rumor based on a desire and dissociate your so-called yourself from it. Sort of like wishful thinking, and may be it’ll catch fire (some audience). Did you, by the way, tip the Achrafiya taxi driver (http://qifanabki.com/2009/04/28/sheikh-nadim/) for his quick answer at the end? He is a typical Lebanese street smart, isn’t he? He knows where the buck is and how to get it! If I were you I wouldn’t tip him just because of his obvious lie (I’m just kidding. I’m non-aligned)!

I’d say you start getting used to Saad as the next PM in a government without a veto.

And by the way. A quick answer to your previous question in the previous thread. The seats that Aoun will lose are the ones he got paid for in Doha.

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April 30th, 2009, 5:13 pm

 

8. norman said:

when are we to expect an analysis by T DISCO,?

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April 30th, 2009, 5:46 pm

 

9. majid said:

Alex now thinks he has unlocked the secrets of the universe:”The best is yet to come … Al-Siddiq was found .. just imagine what he will say.”

Does credibility mean anything to you? If he has been branded not credible by the court, then he could likewise be not credible with whatever he says now. Not credible then means not credible now. He is a burnt card.

This is no longer an issue for the majority of the Lebanese. To them, a hateful era (represented by Syrian occupation and its Lebanese symbols like the four Generals) is gone and there is no way back. This is what matters most in the upcoming elections. The mere fear that the generals may get their jobs back in an M8 government is enough cause for the voters to vote M14. Jumblat is always the best to articulate where the wind is blowing no matter the circumstances – hence his latest speech.

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April 30th, 2009, 7:41 pm

 

10. Alex said:

Majid,

Jumblat flips every other week … I think I would rather rely on a more stable wind indicator.

Salim Hoss is my reference politician in Lebanon.

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April 30th, 2009, 8:08 pm

 

11. majid said:

Alex,
I believe that Jumblat has proven to be an accurate wind indicator in Lebanon by admission of many Lebanese who are even against him – Karami for example.

Hoss is outdated. You have the full right to have him as your reference. But he is a spent amunition. What can he do without a constituency? His old age?…

You didn’t mention anything about what I said regarding Siddiq’s credibility! Do you still think whatever he says now will make a difference?

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April 30th, 2009, 9:07 pm

 

12. Sasa said:

You know what worries me most about the release of the four officers – March 8 is taking them under their wing, giving them a platform, making them heros of the opposition.

These officers are despised, and this will do nothing for March 8’s attempts to win disenchanted M14 voters.

It was a bad mis-step. Quiet contentment would’ve served the opposition much better.

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April 30th, 2009, 9:15 pm

 

13. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Now, when Syria had been acquitted, It’s all clear to me.
Rafiq al Hariri committed suicide.
.

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April 30th, 2009, 9:46 pm

 

14. majid said:

SASA IS UPSET, “These officers are despised, and this will do nothing for March 8’s attempts to win disenchanted M14 voters.”

But you missed the best part, SASA!!! The court can now ask ANY Lebanese government to send these officers to the court for questioning, and the government WILL HAVE to oblige. Previously, the court’s request to hand over the generals was stalled by the Siniora government because of the fear of the minority veto. The court’s recent action neutralized this veto. So, what do you expect will happen to the generals now?

Disappear? Get killed? We’ll find out.

If these generals are really innocent, the best course of action for them right now is to move over to Holland voluntarily and seek protection of the court!

This is what Saad and Jumblat meant by saying the court has started proceedings!! Strange huh?

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April 30th, 2009, 10:15 pm

 

15. majid said:

And this piece is from England, today Thursday April 30. British Government grants the International Tribunal an additional 371,000 English pounds:

لندن ستمتنح المحكمة 371 الف دولار اضافية

وعدت بريطانيا الخميس بزيادة مساهمتها المالية في المحكمة الدولية الخاصة بلبنان بمقدار 250 الف جنيه استرليني، مجددة “دعمها” لها وذلك بمناسبة زيارة الرئيس اللبناني ميشال سليمان.

واعلن وزير الخارجية البريطاني ديفيد ميليباند بعد لقائه سليمان ان بلاده ستزيد مساهمتها المالية بقيمة 250 الف جنيه (270 الف يورو) في المحكمة المكلفة محاكمة المتهمين باعمال ارهابية في لبنان، لتبلغ مليون جنيه.

وقال ميليباند في بيان “بذلك نؤكد دعمنا الحازم لعمل المحكمة الخاصة من اجل لبنان وهدفها وقف عدم محاسبة مرتكبي الاغتيالات السياسية”.

واضاف “نحن مصممون على احقاق العدل في اغتيال رئيس الوزراء اللبناني السابق رفيق الحريري، وعمليات اخرى كثيرة مرتبطة”.

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April 30th, 2009, 10:48 pm

 

16. George Ajjan said:

moral of the story: save as PDF.

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April 30th, 2009, 11:41 pm

 

17. t.desce said:

Sorry Norman (and sorry all),

not anytime soon, I’m afraid. Unfortunately I am not in good health and not able to follow the news in a systematic way (my only excuse for writing in the first place).

I couldn’t resist, though, and suffered through some of the recent press coverage of the Hariri case, excellent as ever… (did you know that Hizbullah “fought tooth and nails” against the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon? No? Markus Bickel (F.A.Z.) will tell you all about it…)

I couldn’t resist, though, and suffered through some of the recent press coverage of the Hariri case, excellent as ever… (did you know that Hizbullah “fought tooth and nails” against the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon? No? Markus Bickel (F.A.Z.) will tell you all about it…).

It is also nice to know that Nicholas Blanford is now discovering new “intriguing questions”. Pity there was no room for them in his Byzantine effort, “Lives of the Great Saints”.

By far the most interesting article was Georges Malbrunot’s “Meurtre d’Hariri : sur la piste des exécutants islamistes”(Le Figaro, 29/04/2009 , although I discovered two typos (I’m sure it should read: “L’Iran ?? Les deux, aidés par le Hezbollah ??”).

Having said that, the article contains nothing new, but it’s nice to have yet another source for this (if his source isn’t Talisman Gate…). It also enticed me to go through my notes, looking up the Nab’a/Taha cell, and I found that I may have overlooked something very obvious.

Originally I had thought that Badih Hamadeh was the “Abu Obeida” of the first Mehlis report.

This is an article I saved at the time:

“Three executed at dawn in Lebanon, first in six years” (AFP)

Capital punishment was rare in Lebanon until a 1994 law effectively
renewed the practice. Whereas only three convicts had been hanged in the past 35 years, the law cleared the way for 14 fresh executions.
Execution orders were then stopped when Lahoud first took office in 1998 because then prime minister Salim Hoss was an opponent of the death penalty and refused to sign any such orders.

The French-language daily L’Orient-Le Jour commented Saturday that Lahoud had been inflexible, adding that “deaf to European protests,
Beirut maintained that they were particularly odious crimes affecting
state security, and that in any case the country is not yet ready for
the abolition of the death penalty.”

In fact, Badih Hamadeh was the first to be executed after a long time, and the reason for that was not Lahoud, but… Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri who had replaced Salim Hoss,

Now allow me to simply quote myself:

1.

After recanting his initial testimony, Faisal Akbar even mentions another possible motive for the assassination of Hariri:

As Nur al-Cubicle pointed out yesterday, commenting on Bernard Rougier’s book, “(Rafik Hariri) also hanged three young men for the assassination of an Abash figure … much to the displeasure, again, of the Lebanese Islamic community.”

Faisal Akbar confirms this, saying that “it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution [orders] for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon.”

(1.1

“Among the Lebanese were Khader and Malek Nab’a, who are relatives of the suspects in the Dinnieh incidents of 2000 (see the indictment in Lebanon-based al-Nahar newspaper, July 11, 2000).

In addition, Khader Nab’a is associated with the appearance of the Salafi-Jihadist movement in Lebanon, when the leader of the al-Ahbash religious sect, Nizar Halabi, was assassinated in 1995.”

Al-Qaeda’s Presence in Lebanon
Murad Al-Shishani )


2.

Nibras Kazimi has translated the final part of Faisal Akbar’s testimony on his blog, Talisman Gate:
Narrative of a Conspiracy, Part 4

A: I remember watching him on the Aljazeera channel, in a film cut up into two or three segments, reading a statement [on behalf] of the Nusra wel Jihad group, taking responsibility for the Hariri assassination. I don’t remember all the reasons, but I remember some of them that revolved around the revenge for the martyrs of the haramein [Translator’s Note: the holy cities of Mecca and Medina], and it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution [orders] for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon.

(Yes, it is even mentioned in the statement read by Ahmed Abu Adas! t_d)

3.

“Blast near Lebanese army post
By Nadim Ladki
BEIRUT (Reuters) – A bomb exploded near a Lebanese army barracks in Beirut early on Thursday, destroying a car and slightly wounding a soldier, security sources said.

The sources said a local newspaper had received a telephone call from someone claiming to speak on behalf of al Qaeda and declaring that a security target would be bombed in Beirut in retaliation for the arrest last month of 13 group members. …

Al-Balad newspaper reported in its morning edition that it had received a phone call in which a man claiming to be al Qaeda’s representative in Lebanon gave the authorities two weeks to release two women detainees.

”The caller threatened to launch three qualitative military operations simultaneously and clash with the security forces if the two women… are not freed,” al-Balad said in a report.

The women are the fiancée and mother of an al Qaeda member who was recently executed for murdering three military intelligence agents.”
Reuters, February 2, 2006, quoted by me here.
(my emphasis)
The “recently executed” al-Qa’ida member was Badieh Hamadeh, also known as Abu Obeida, though most probably not the “Abu Obeida” of the first Mehlis report (Jihâd Moustapha, according to Bernard Rougier). Yet it is also interesting to note that the caller did explicitly link the barracks bombing to the arrest of the 13 members of a terrorist cell allegedly headed by Khaled Taha, according to some reports (never officially confirmed).

In conclusion, the attack on the Lebanese army barracks and the call from Ain al-Hilweh links the Nab’a/Taha cell and Badih Hamadeh. In addtion, the Nab’a brothers are linked to the assassination of the leader of the al-Ahbash.

We do have a possible motive.

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April 30th, 2009, 11:57 pm

 

18. Shami said:

Alex:Salim Hoss is my reference politician in Lebanon.

Bro Alex and who is your reference politician in Syria?

You are not obliged to answer.

But in my opinion ,Syria is in hostage of a complex understanding between some people in the Alawite minority,i would say the familly and the state of Israel.

When Syria will be back to its people ,the Syrian people’s choice would be for politicians like Al Hoss,Mikati and Saniora….or Erdogan and Gul…and why not you Alex!

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May 1st, 2009, 12:42 am

 

19. norman said:

SASA,
This does not agree with your assumption,

By JAY SOLOMON and NADA RAAD
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is dispatching two high-level envoys to Syria in coming weeks for a second round of talks focused on securing the Iraqi border and supporting the Arab-Israeli peace process, said officials briefed on the trip.

The diplomats’ visit is the latest sign of a reconciliation between Washington and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, which is partly driven by the U.S. desire to weaken Syria’s strategic alliance with Iran.

Syrian officials said this week they hope the diplomatic thaw could lead to an easing of trade sanctions enacted by the Bush administration. The sanctions were aimed at curbing Damascus’s support for militant groups operating in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories.

Supporters of Ali Hajj, center, welcome him in Beirut Wednesday, after he was released along with three other generals after being held since 2005 over the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“If the American president does not renew the sanctions, Syria would consider this the right way for better relations,” Syrian Central Bank Gov. Adib Mayaleh said in an interview in Washington on Wednesday.

The U.S. outreach comes as a United Nations court announced Wednesday the release in Beirut of four Lebanese generals detained in connection with the 2005 murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The generals’ release is seen undercutting U.N. efforts to secure indictments for the murder, and a boon for Syria’s political allies inside Lebanon.

U.N. investigators alleged that the four security officers conspired with Syrian intelligence operatives to kill Mr. Hariri using a massive truck bomb. The Lebanese were never formally charged and they denied involvement in the killing. The Lebanese government had held the four but deferred to the U.N. court on their status after the court was established in March.

Hezbollah issued a statement praising the court’s decision. Fireworks erupted in areas of Lebanon under the militia’s control.

Mr. Hariri’s death fueled nationwide street protests that forced Mr. Assad to end Syria’s decades-long military occupation of Lebanon.

A pro-Syrian political bloc, headed by the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, is battling a pro-Western coalition headed by Mr. Hariri’s son for votes in June parliamentary elections. “This decision will give the Hezbollah-led alliance a kind of aggressiveness,” said Nawaf Kabara, a political-science professor at Lebanon’s University of Balamand.

The two U.S. envoys visiting Syria in the coming weeks, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro, will be making their second trip to Damascus in less than two months.

The primary focus of their trip, according to the officials briefed on it, will be to secure Syrian assistance in sealing its border with Iraq. U.S. officials have regularly criticized Damascus for turning a blind eye to foreign fighters traveling through Syria into Iraq. This month, U.S. officials said a Tunisian militant entered Iraq through Syrian territory before carrying out a suicide bombing in Baghdad.

Syria denies the charges, but its diplomats said they are eager to better coordinate with President Barack Obama’s team on Iraq. The first round of negotiations, these officials said, developed common ideas between Damascus and Washington, and now they are hoping to put these strategies into operation.

“We both agree that it’s in our countries’ interests to stabilize Iraq,” said Imad Moustapha, Syria’s ambassador to the U.S., who took part in the initial round of talks.

Washington also wants Syria to be a central player in President Obama’s stated goal of achieving a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace. President Assad entered into indirect peace talks with Israel last year aimed at ending their conflict over the disputed Golan Heights region. But Syria is also a principal financier of Hezbollah and hosts in Damascus the political leadership of Hamas, the militant Palestinian organization that Washington designates as a terrorist organization.

U.S. officials said they ultimately want Syria to shed its financial and military links to Hezbollah and Hamas. But initially they would like Syrian support for better monitoring and controlling the groups.

Mr. Moustapha said Syria views Hezbollah and Hamas as legitimate resistance movements fighting Israeli occupation. But he added that Syria could play a role in fostering a dialogue between Washington and the militant groups, something Mr. Obama’s administration has declined to do.

“At some point, the U.S. will have to start talking to Hamas, either directly or indirectly,” Mr. Moustapha said in an interview. He played down the idea of Syria distancing itself from Iran, as the U.S. and Israel want.

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May 1st, 2009, 2:58 am

 
 

21. sean said:

I worked for several years at a UN agency, and I can say that the tracked changes thing happens from time to time. Written official documents are rarely from a single hand; they get sent back and forth for comments and changes before being finalized. Often enough, when the final version is sent out, it’s done without permanently accepting all the changes. For the record, this also happens sometimes with PDFs, because we would often make tracked changes using Adobe Pro.

As for Walid so-called Bek’s so-called acrobatics, ya QN, I think you need to provide us a signed affidavit with his stated intentions (sherifa, akid) and your so-called credentials to speak of him that way – in other words, wayn kint, inta, b’il jil el-madi?

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May 1st, 2009, 8:43 am

 

22. t.desce said:

Sorry for the unusually poor editing. I left out all my beloved links in order to avoid the spam filter, but it seems that’s where I ended up anyway…

The old address doesn’t work anymore (as you may have noticed), so I chose t_desce in light of the fact that the ablative, a Portuguese verb and my current state all come together very neatly…

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May 1st, 2009, 10:22 am

 

23. Akbar Palace said:

Academic freedom in the US is threatened due to the Gaza war.

Majid,

Don’t worry yourself too much about academic freedom in the US, it’s miles better than anywhere else in the world. Miles better.

http://www.campus-watch.org/article/id/7333

Why Netanyahu will attack Iran

What do you polls in Israel say about that?

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May 1st, 2009, 11:38 am

 

24. Joshua said:

Dear T_desco

We have missed you. I hope you are on the mend and getting back in good health.

You have maintained since the beginning that Islamist groups had the motive and means to kill Hariri. You have been skeptical of a Syrian connection to these groups.

Almost all Western reporters have discounted these theories, insisting that Islamists in Lebanon are too weak and incapable to have carried out the spectacular Hariri execution without support from the highest Lebanese state authorities… and behind them, the Syrian government. This was the supposition of Mehlis, whose initial report has been so discredited – even though few Western reporters have been willing to accept the fact that it has been discredited.

The release of the four Lebanese security heads is testimony to the lack of evidence that the UN investigation has turned up to support Mehlis’ allegations.

If Syria is responsible, one presumes that it would have acted through some or all of the Lebanese security chieftains who held sway in Beirut at the time. It is highly unlikely that Syria could run the Islamist groups without assistance from local Lebanese authorities.

All the same, many Lebanese and foreign analysts insisted that Syria was running Fatah al-Islam and other Islamist forces without using Lebanese authorities as go-betweens so they still cling to the notion that Syria is behind all these groups whether a connection to between Islamists and the Lebanese authorities can be found or not.

How do you analyze evidence surrounding the notion that Syria was paying for, signing off on, and organizing the Islamist organizations?

Best, Joshua

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May 1st, 2009, 2:04 pm

 

25. majid said:

AP said, “Academic freedom in the US is threatened due to the Gaza war.
Majid,
Don’t worry yourself too much about academic freedom in the US, it’s miles better than anywhere else in the world. Miles better.”

Akbar, the US usually does not measure how many miles it is ahead or behind other countries when it comes to issues of freedom. If it starts doing that according to your premise, it will get ruined. Wouldn’t it? As an American Jew, you wouldn’t want that to happen. Would you? Please see comment 43 at:

http://joshualandis.com/blog/?p=2752&cp=all#comments

T_DESCO’s incredible theory about the Hariri murder seeks to make this murder an isolated case and to put the blame on some revengeful Islamic groups against some acts that Hariri may have taken against these groups.

This is a typical scenario of deniability employed by the Syrians in order to point fingers in different directions of accusations that could no longer be ignored by the Lebanese themselves and by the world at large. The regime that the Syrians brought to Lebanon since they occupied the country in 1977 was a regime of systematic murders of prominent Lebanese that opposed them in order to deliberately make the country void of leadership, a scheme that will
eventually allow the Syrians to absorb their tiny neighbor. Dr. Joshua also comes in and reinforces T_DESCO’s theory with half truths. The Generals have been ordered to be freed because there is no credible evidence YET to warrant laying charges by the court. The court, after it was formed, has asked the Lebanese government to hand over the Generals. The Siniora government was stalling because it couldn’t do it due to the threat of veto by the HZB ministers. So the Generals are free because of court rules which prevent it from detaining a suspect without a charge longer than a certain period, thanks to HZB veto.

Beginning with the murder of Kamal Jumblatt on March 16, 1977 and until the murder of Hariri on Feb 14, 2005 and beyond, there was a series of high profile political murders in Lebanon. The perpetrators of these crimes were never brought to justice. The common denominator in all these crimes was the victim either opposed Syrian occupation outright or was perceived by the Syrians to constitute a threat to their occupation.

In the Arabic text of my comment # 15, British Foreign Minister, David Miliband after making additional contributions to the Court is quoted as saying:” We are determined to make justice prevail in the case of the murder of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and OTHER CASES THAT ARE RELATED.”

Where did Miliband get the idea of the existing relationship? As the Arabic saying goes: The sun is up in the sky and the whole world can see.

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May 1st, 2009, 3:22 pm

 

26. Alex said:

Sean,

While I agree with you, since many diplomats (and journalists) only know how to use MS word as a typewriter replacement, without bothering to know anything more about what that software can do (like the information saved with tracked changes), I still believe it was intentional from Mr. Mehlis to leak those names in that way.

His report was not some local UNESCO study about education facilities in Kurdish areas of Iraq, it was about a political criminal investigation that everyone, from President Bush to President Chirac, were waiting to analyze. He had huge resources behind him.

Besides, Mehlis did it again .. when he leaked (by mistake of course)the name of Elias Murr who used to be a staunch Syrian ally as part of a list of 9 names (i remember vaguely it was nine) of Lebanese figures who were about to be investigated by his UN staff for possible financial motives behind the killing of Hariri. Other Syrian allies were on that list, like Lebanese editor Charles Ayoub.

Of course Elias Muss did not want the sources of his impressive financial assets to become public information … so, somehow, Mr. Murr promptly joined M14 and he accused Rustum Ghazaleh, Syria’s former chief of intelligence in Lebanon, of the foiled assassination attempt against him in July 2005.

Then? … Mehlis the clown said that Murr’s name was included by mistake on that list … it was a mistake.

How many journalists cared to notice or report or analyze this “mistake”? .. very few. I googled a few key words and I can’t find anything to link about that story.

But try to google “syria was implicated in the Hariri assassination” and you will get thousands of links.

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May 1st, 2009, 3:27 pm

 

27. Alex said:

Shami,

I know you won’t like my answer, but my reference politician in Syria is President Assad.

His reference politician in Lebanon was Salim Hoss, that’s why before President Hafez Assad passed away and Bashar was already in charge of the Lebanon file, Rafiq Hariri was replaced by Salim Hoss … Bashar picked Hoss … he was the only Lebanese he trusted to be the prime minister.

But a couple of years later, President Chirac and Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia made it clear that they wanted Rafiq Hariri back, and Bashar realized that Lebanon would suffer economically if France and Saudi Arabia are not pleased .. so Mr. Hariri was back in 2000.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selim_al-Hoss

No one is perfect of course, fighting corruption in Syria is not a success story. But Bashar is the calmest and wisest of all Arab leaders … I would vote for him if we had democracy in Syria.

Despite all we hear in the stupid western media, Bashar’s leadership and experience means less bloodshed in the Middle East. If they listened to him and not started the Iraq war for example … he was the only Arab leader to tell them it was a big mistake.

Not to mention that he finally passed a serious anti-smoking law this year which also saves many more lives …

But of course we all would like to see meaningful results in fighting corruption and eventually .. more political freedoms.

Shami .. both prime minister Mikati and Prime minister Rafiq Hariri are multi-billionaires (in US dollars) … I still liked their leadership styles, but … they definitely were “corrupt”, no?

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May 1st, 2009, 3:46 pm

 

28. majedkhaldoun said:

“The release of the four Lebanese security heads is testimony to the lack of evidence that the UN investigation has turned up to support Mehlis’ allegations.”
I thought the reason Bellemare released them was, the tribunal requires him to issue formal accusation within 90 days,and he anticipates that he will need more than 90 days to do it.

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May 1st, 2009, 4:17 pm

 

29. Shami said:

Alex ,
Plz forget USA ,Ben Ladenn,Najad and co and stay in Syria.
You are not corrupt,more educated and from a good background ,and you dont suffer of minority complexes is that the case of Bashar ,uncles ,cousins and brothers ?And btw ,it’s not because he is relatively young and like good laughs that he is better than the group of the evil arab dictators,corruption has dramatically increased and this is obvious for all….it’s very easy to find better than all of those dictators,in Syria and other than Syria.,i believe in my people capabilities and anyone who doubt of them ,is victim of a sectarian minority complex and i’m now sure it’s not your case .
I really understand your stance ,we and you ,as syrians are not allowed to criticize Bashar but we should wait and see what would happen after regime’s end and its dirty crimes exposed.This is a known behavior in political psychology ,all totalitarian dictorships that inculcate fear among the people enjoy this kind of support(and even a relative popularity) and in such sad reality ,the impact is so important on the minds that ,a number are ready to die in order to show their loyalty ,but the excactly same people will eventually become the most enthusiastic and revanchist overbidders when the dictator is toppled.Yes ,i agree these billionaires like Mikati ,Hariri… make us wonder about their integrity but at least they dont fear crticism of their people,to lose elections and political power ,they did not kill anyone who dared to oppose their rule.We had several tyrants and dictatorships in the past but this kind of state terror was unknown in Syria.Now that the awful is done ,i hope it will not have dangerous repercussions for the post regime era.

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May 1st, 2009, 5:31 pm

 

30. majid said:

Alex said, “Shami .. both prime minister Mikati and Prime minister Rafiq Hariri are multi-billionaires (in US dollars) … I still liked their leadership styles, but … they definitely were “corrupt”, no?”

I am kind of amazed how some people throw judgments on others without any justifications. OK, both Mikati and Hariri are multibillionaires. Does that necessarily imply that they are corrupt? Have, Alex, bothered to investigate how these men acquired this wealth? Did they acquire the wealth before or after they came to power?

Let’s see. Hariri made his fortune in Saudi Arabia before he came to Lebanon in 1992 to become the Prime Minister. He definitely doesn’t need few more billions to add to his pocket from a country broke from a civil war caused by its neighbor which according to all reports had allowed its security apparatus to rule the country for 17 years and plundered its wealth in exactly the same manner as Hafez did with the wealth of the Syrian people. Hafez of course came to power penniless and he amassed his fortune and his family’s fortune from his abuse of the people’s wealth after he took over power by sheer force. Hariri never did that. In fact, his people attribute the end of the civil war to his efforts. Even after his death, he is still considered to have paid with his own blood for the independence of Lebanon from Syrian occupation. How many ordinary Syrians would truly look back at Hafez’s era and offer a prayer to his soul? On the other hand we haven’t seen in Lebanon yet, a country as you know ruled by sectarian allegiances, a funeral of a man attended by virtually all of the population regardless of sect, and they continue to flock to his tomb commemorating the event and paying respect! Do you think a man like this would really be tarnished by your so-called opinion?

Likewise, Mikati is a self-made billionaire. He only came to politics in 1998 after he had already amassed his fortune. When he was chosen a Prime Minister in 2005 after Hariri was assassinated he refused to enter the race for parliament on the basis that his government is only entrusted with conducting elections and as a PM he wouldn’t enter the race. I believe that shows that he has enough integrity in him to distribute on all the politicians including Bashar that you have in Syria!!

As a final remark, guess what? Mikati is not pro-Syrian. He may have good relations with Syria as any other politician may have who had not suffered the loss of a relative from Syrian occupation like Saad or Jumblatt. He is Pro-Lebanese, and you could go to his website and find out. He already made it clear he will not accept PM nomination unless he gets consensus, which means he and Saad are one and the same. In fact, none of them is hungry for power, but it is like a mantle that has been forced upon them and they have to wear it.

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May 1st, 2009, 6:29 pm

 

31. ausamaa said:

Cat got some people’s tounge nowadays?

The release of the four Lebanese generals who -in coordination with the “murderouse regime” of course- have planned and executed the assasination of Hariri draws a mere 30 comments from Syriacomment visitors!!

What happened to the days of the 300-plus comments we used to have here when Al Ssyasah and Ahmad Al Jarralah used to flood us with their most informative inteligence nuggets?? Those “golden bits” of information used to have lots and lots of buyers then! I hope they are not still “buying” -or waiting for- other “suitable” bits of news now.

Hate to say we told you so… long, long ago..

To those I only say: have you considered figuring out why your “analysis” went wrong…all along!

Cheers!!!!

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May 1st, 2009, 7:43 pm

 

32. Alex said:

Majid,

I think the late Rafiq Hariri’s fortune became significantly more impressive throughout his years in power in Lebanon. I don’t need to jusfy anything.

Shami,

I assure you I am not afraid to criticize. Both the regional scene and internal factors count … While I am totally happy with Syria’s regional policies, there is a lot to improve internally, I agree… but I am not optimistic as you are regarding how much better things can be if we replace the current system. I have not seen a single Sweden-like system in the Middle East .. even “democracies” in Lebanon, Iran and Israel are corrupt.

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May 1st, 2009, 9:09 pm

 

33. majid said:

Alex said, “Majid,

I think the late Rafiq Hariri’s fortune became significantly more impressive throughout his years in power in Lebanon. I don’t need to jusfy anything.”

Really?? Which bank in the world revealed its secrets to you Mr. Alex? Could you provide evidence of such bank accounts?

What is it that you do not need to justify, Alex? Is it your baseless claims against two respectable individuals (Hariri, Mikati), which would be considered a slander? And it could be prosecuted anywhere in the world especially in the West!!! Or do you feel you need to justify the penniless Hafez who took over Syria by force and plundered its economy (along with that of Lebanon) to his own benefits and those very few within his clan, and then handed it over to his son to continue with plunder?

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May 1st, 2009, 11:00 pm

 

34. t.desce said:

Dear Joshua,

you asked:

“How do you analyze evidence surrounding the notion that Syria was paying for, signing off on, and organizing the Islamist organizations?”

The fact that this specific cell included members of the Dinniyeh Group makes such a scenario highly unlikely, in my view. They are too radical and too well connected to the broader al-Qai’da network.

And they seem to have known Badih Hamadeh. Perhaps they even belonged to the same group? His death would therefore have been a personal matter for them, not something abstract.

Ahmad Miqati was also a member of the Dinniyeh Group. There can be no doubt that he and Badih Hamadeh knew each other.

Interestingly, some have suggested that the real target of the Miqati-Khatib cell may not have been the Italian and Ukrainian embassies, but that it was instead the first attempt to attack Hariri in the same downtown area.

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May 1st, 2009, 11:29 pm

 

35. Ehsani2 said:

T_desco
What is the main motive behind killing Harrir (assuming this islamist network did it)? You may have answered this before so forgive me

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May 1st, 2009, 11:41 pm

 

36. Shami said:

I have also a question to T desco ,what do you know about Abu al Qaqaa? who sent thousands of Syrians ,Palestinians,Lebanese ,Saudis,Morrocans,jihadists from all the world ….to Iraq ?
Killed 2 years ago ,who killed him ? and why ?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fBuR4oiLiOc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLFzmhOQmTk&feature=related
the same person :

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May 2nd, 2009, 12:04 am

 

37. norman said:

Does anybody think that the US killed Hariri, (( Cheeny )) team to rearrange the Middle East starting by forcing Syria out then destroying Hezbollah before forcing a settlement on the Palestinians.

This what Nassrallah said .

Print | Close this window

Hezbollah attacks inquiry into Hariri killing
Sat May 2, 2009 4:59am IST
By Tom Perry

BEIRUT (Reuters) – The powerful Lebanese group Hezbollah on Friday attacked an international investigation into the 2005 assassination of former prime minister Rafik al-Hariri, describing its work as politicised and dishonest.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Iranian-backed Islamist movement, said in a televised address that this week’s release of four Lebanese generals held since August 2005 in connection with the killing was “conclusive proof” that the international investigation had been unfair.

The Hague-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon on Wednesday ordered the release of the four generals seen as pillars of a Lebanese state dominated by neighbouring Syria at the time of the killing.

The generals were among a number of Syrian and Lebanese officials implicated in a preliminary report by the international investigation. The head of the inquiry at the time, Detlev Mehlis, requested their detention.

Syria has always denied any involvement in the assassination, which led to its military withdrawal from Lebanon. The generals always said they were innocent.

The prosecutor said in his filing to the court on Wednesday that an assessment of evidence had not proved sufficiently credible to warrant indictments due to inconsistencies in potentially key witness statements and a lack of corroborative evidence. [ID:nLT208083]

“After four years, the truth of the falsification and politicisation of the work of the international investigation commission has become clear,” said Nasrallah, a close ally of Syria whose group backed the generals’ campaign for freedom.

“Today, I hope that nobody will ask us in advance to accept anything from the prosecutor, or the international investigation, or the judges of the tribunal simply because it issued a correct decision two days ago,” he added.

INTERNAL CRISIS

The Hariri killing plunged Lebanon into its worst internal crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, opening a political chasm between opponents of Syria’s influence in the country and its allies.

The international investigation into the killing, which was followed by more assassinations targeting anti-Syrian figures, was established by the U.N. Security Council, which Hezbollah regularly accuses of bias.

Nasrallah attacked the United Nations over what he said was recent criticism of his group by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in remarks over Hezbollah’s activities in Egypt.

“Mr. Ban Ki-moon is dragging the United Nations into a confrontation with Hezbollah and with the resistance movements in the region,” Nasrallah said.

Egypt’s public prosecutor office has said 25 Egyptian, Palestinian, Sudanese and Lebanese men linked to Hezbollah have been detained over alleged plans to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Hezbollah has denied the allegations, but admitted last month that the Egyptian authorities had detained a member of the group who had been providing military supplies to Gaza, helped by up to 10 other people.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite Islamist political and military movement, fought a 34-day war with Israel in 2006. As part of a deal to halt the conflict, thousands of additional U.N. peacekeepers were deployed in south Lebanon.

(Additional reporting by Laila Bassam)

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May 2nd, 2009, 2:15 am

 

38. norman said:

T_Desco,

Thanks for you note above and i hope you get better soon ,

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May 2nd, 2009, 2:17 am

 

39. t.desce said:

Ehsani,

I think that I may have stumbled upon a concrete motive why this specific group (with links to the Dinniyeh “uprising”) may have wanted to kill Hariri.

Nibras Kazimi quotes Faisal Akbar as saying (in his testimony) that “it was widespread among us that Hariri had signed the execution [orders] for some of the Salafist mujaheddin in Lebanon.”

That does sound fairly abstract until you realize that members of the group actually knew the “Salafist mujaheddin” whose execution orders Hariri had signed. In fact, they may even have belonged to the same group!

It seems highly likely that they knew Badih Hamadeh. They certainly knew his fiancé… And Hamadeh testified in court that he knew Ahamad Miqati, another member of the Dinniyeh group.

In addition, Khader and Malek Nab’a (also with links to the Dinniyeh group) had some role in the assassination of the al-Ahbash leader (cf. Murad Batal al-Shishani, “Al-Qaeda’s Presence in Lebanon”, Terrorism Focus Volume 3, Issue 4, January 31, 2006 , Jamestown Foundation) and must therefore have known the three men who were hanged for that attack.

Shami,

Sami Moubayed wrote several articles about Mahmud al-Aghasi at the time, e.g.:

“But Abu al-Qaqa also had radical anti-al-Qaeda views. He accused the group of being a creation of the CIA, aimed at distorting the real image of Islam by carrying out terrorist operations against fellow Muslims.

He denounced al-Qaeda’s campaign against Muslim Shi’ites, praised Hezbollah in Lebanon, and opposed the targeting of anybody in Iraq who was not part of the international coalition that is headed by the US. In short, he said that everything done by al-Qaeda since 2001 was a grave mistake that had backfired on the Muslim community at large. Websites sympathetic to Osama bin Laden snapped back, accusing him of being an imposter cleric and a creation of the Syrian government.”
(Sami Moubayed, “An anti-US, anti-al-Qaeda voice is silenced”, Asia Times, Oct 2, 2007).

I have not seen anything linking him to this specific group.

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May 2nd, 2009, 1:26 pm

 

40. Shami said:

T Desco,

I’m dissapointed by your answer , Sami Moubayed who lives in Syria is he a reference of reliability ?

T desco , it’s impossible for a man to shout such slogans in the streets and build a network of jihadist militias for Iraq and othet than Iran without the approval of the regime.He was for sure a moukhabaret agent and Moubayed is fore sure aware of this reality ,in Syria it’s impossible to publish a rebuttal of the official version ,especially for Abu Al Qaaqa case,the syrian regime has a very rich history of such plotting.

Who killed Ghoul Aghasi abu Al Qaaqa ?
Who killed Ghazi Kanaan?
Who killed the General in Tartus ?

Honestly T Desco ,did you swallow the syrian regime(or Moubayed) versions ?
Or the movie the scenario they wrote about the torture until death of the very respectable Kurdish Sheikh ,Al Khaznawi

Probably Hariri assassination was a conspiracy by infiltration of young jihadits through a link like Abu al Qaaqa or other than Abu al Qaaqa.This probability is high.

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May 2nd, 2009, 4:51 pm

 

41. Majid said:

Shami,

Your arguments are quite sound and logical. But it is a waste of time arguing with the tools of the Syrian regime here on SC. The only benefit you may gain is to show these tools that you’re not buying their nonsense. However, effecting change in Syria requires different approach than just exchanging comments and actually allowing the tools to spout out their nonsense – just like the well known scenario of deniability the regime has been using for ages. Syrians who are seeking change in their country must be prepared to pay the price. Syrian people have to be prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice by confronting the murderous regime. You are dealing with a cancerous and murderous band which will stop at nothing to keep the majority of its people enslaved.

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May 2nd, 2009, 6:49 pm

 

42. t.desce said:

Shami,

I think you should read more carefully what I wrote (quoting Sami Moubayed):

“Websites sympathetic to Osama bin Laden snapped back, accusing him of being an imposter cleric and a creation of the Syrian government.”

That also seems to be your opinion, so what’s the problem?

You will also find that Sami Moubayed is very much open to this interpretation, see for example his article “Syria’s Abu al-Qaqa: Authentic Jihadist or Imposter?”, Terrorism Focus, Volume 3, Issue 25, June 27, 2006, Jamestown Foundation).

You should really stop accusing me of things I never said.

Now to your argument:

“Probably Hariri assassination was a conspiracy by infiltration of young jihadits through a link like Abu al Qaaqa or other than Abu al Qaaqa. This probability is high.”

I disagree.

1. Why did I chose that particular quote from Sami Moubayed’s Asia Times article? I did so because it characterizes al-Qaqaa in a way that makes him incompatible with the specific group of people I am talking about (“they are too radical”).

2. The probability of infiltration is not high, in my view:

Their links to the “broader al-Qai’da network” made infiltration much more difficult, particularly the infiltration of leadership positions (“too well connected”).

Norman,

it seems that Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah was talking about the “possibility of Israel being behind the assassination”, not Cheney and the US.

He also raised some valid points that Western journalists somehow seem unable to make:

“Today, the decision by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon to release the officers is a definite proof that the investigation committee had been politicized, unjust and did not conform to international standards. This is proof that the judicial course was wrong and the detention was political.””

“How will the international investigators act in the next stage and what paths will they choose? Will they make the same mistakes? Will they press charges against anyone new based on false testimonies, or will they scrutinize testimonies in a scientific way? Those who misled the investigation for four years can mislead it for a hundred years. Our information confirms that the door is still open for false witnesses, therefore we have the right to pose these questions.”

“We should start by holding the false witnesses and whoever is behind them accountable. If the STL reckons it is not concerned in this matter, we – as Lebanese – must demand that the Lebanese justice system punish them so as not to open another door for new false witnesses. Let us insist on a professional investigation to reach the truth.”

(my emphasis)

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May 2nd, 2009, 8:06 pm

 

43. Shami said:

”they are too radical”)…..

Al Qaaqa appeared to us as the most radical jihadist that you can have,,the majority of the people in fact ,have directly understood the Abu Al Qaaqa – Mukhabarat link,unfortunately many young naive people felt in the trap …and this is how the regime infiltrated many groups through people like him.
You should take into account his words before and the first months of Iraq occupation and the other Abu al Qaaqa ,the moderate …T Desco ,he played the role that he was asked to play by his superriors moukhabarat.

T Desco,we are not speaking about a regime born in 2005.

This regime has no color ,no party and no religion,it plays with all cards available.

It’s or you ou lack knowledge on its history or feigns to ignore it.

Of course ,when the syrian regime kills ,they would more likely do it by in infiltrating groups ..

If the Syrian regime was behind Hariri operation and likely the probability is high ,for sure it would not have used other than the infiltration of these young naive and desolated jihadists that exists everywhere ,even in the the western cities.

Of course no one can be sure at 100%,we are not God ,by intutition and knowledge of regime past ,i would say that the probability that the syrian regime is behind is over 70%.

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May 2nd, 2009, 9:21 pm

 

44. t.desce said:

Wow, I dust off Bernard Rougier’s book to look up Badih Hamadeh and this is the very first sentence I read:

“The Badih Hamadeh Affair

When three military intelligence officers came to his home in Saida on July 11, 2002, to interrogate him on his alleged involvement in the clashes that pitted jihadist Islamists against the army in the Diniyeh region of northern Lebanon (see Chapter 7), Badih Hamadeh killed them and went to hide in Ain al-Helweh. In the camp, he joined the group of Lebanese militants – the “Diniyeh group” – that had settled in the Tawari’ neighborhood, at the northern end of the camp, with Usbat al-Ansar’s support.”
(Bernard Rougier, “Everyday Jihad”, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA 2007, p.152)

(my emphasis)

I don’t know if this group killed Hariri, but they certainly had a clear motive. As good a motive as you can get.

Why did I not see this earlier? Probably because I was a little bit embarrassed about having confused the two “Abu Obeidas”, although, taking this additional information into account, I’m not so sure anymore that the Abu Obeida of the first Mehlis report wasn’t Badih Hamadeh.

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May 3rd, 2009, 2:57 pm

 

45. Akbar Palace said:

Akbar, the US usually does not measure how many miles it is ahead or behind other countries when it comes to issues of freedom. If it starts doing that according to your premise, it will get ruined. Wouldn’t it? As an American Jew, you wouldn’t want that to happen. Would you? Please see comment 43 at…

Majid,

The “miles” reference is my own opinion about the freedom academics have in the US. Tell me which ME country has greater freedom in academia. Maybe Israel.

I want freedoms to continue in the US in all aspects of life: academia, political and economic. Truth and debate is the best guarantee for the survival and the strength of any state. Of course, in academia, many professors grade according to their biases. If you are religious, Jewish, Israeli, Christian, anti-Israel, pro-Israel, Muslim, etc, you could find yourself at odds with some professors. This is something a student or a university should be aware of.

I read you comment 43, and I was disappointed. I don’t even feel like responding to it.

I do have a question. Why do you think Shai is insincere as a Palestinian sympathizer? Is there something he said that made you (or others) feel this way? There are quite a few Israeli and Jewish Palestinian sympathizers. Which do you appreciate and which do you not appreciate? What do you think of Conductor/Pianist Daniel Barenboim (for example)?

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May 3rd, 2009, 6:20 pm

 

46. Shami said:

T Desco ,your reason would agree with me that those who plotted to kill Hariri and the others(dont forget them !!!!!),they could have used such groups.(through infiltration)

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May 3rd, 2009, 7:55 pm

 

47. Sonya said:

T’Desco should go to The Hague. He has all the evidence we need to know.
Bullshit at the best.

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May 3rd, 2009, 8:05 pm

 

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