Lebanon PM: I was wrong to accuse Syria of Rafik Hariri murder

I was recently asked by a Turkish think-tank if I believed that the Special Lebanon Tribunal indictments would destabilize Lebanon? Here is how I answered:

The Tribunal’s indictments will probably not be politically explosive. Even though the Special Tribunal was originally conceived by the US to further its political objectives in the region which included eliminating Syrian influence in Lebanon and disarming Hizbullah, those objectives have largely been abandoned. Renewed Saudi-Syrian cooperation and the survival of Lebanon’s national unity government  suggest that regional powers and Lebanese politicians are cooperating to make sure that the indictments will not be explosive and will not change the communal balance of power in Lebanon or undermine the government.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s statement today that he made a mistake in blaming Syria for killing his father seems designed to ensure Lebanon’s stability.

Lebanon PM: It was wrong to accuse Syria of assassinating Rafiq al-Hariri

Sa’ad al-Hariri signals further rapprochement with Syria, saying it was a mistake to blame Damascus for his father’s 2005 murder

Lebanon ‘s prime minister, Sa’ad al-Hariri, has said it was a “mistake” to accuse Syria of the assassination of his father, Rafiq al-Hariri.

Hariri’s comments mark part of the ongoing reconciliation between the two countries following Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon after the “Cedar Revolution ” protests that were triggered by the 2005 killing.

“At a certain point we made a mistake in accusing Syria of assassinating the martyred prime minster,” Hariri told al-Sharq al-Awsat , the London-based Saudi daily. “That was a political accusation and that political accusation has now come to an end.” The UN tribunal investigating the affair would look “only at the evidence”, he added.

Syria, which was widely blamed for the bombing that killed Hariri and 22 others, has always denied involvement but the issue remains highly sensitive in Lebanon.

One Sided Comments: A SC reader writes:

I’ve been subscribed to your blog for several years now and I always enjoy receiving it. It’s a wonderful way to keep abreast with what’s happening in Syria, my country of residence for the past seven years now. However, I couldn’t help feeling the comments you chose to publish in response to the Sept. 3 NY Times article were terribly one-sided. Mix with practicing Muslims in Syria, and you will find the poor and the rich, the illiterate and the educated, the frustrated and the content. The only common element is that all of them, in one way or another, find a religious worldview helps them to make sense of the world and of their place in it. It may be that there are more liberal ways of casting that worldview, more in line with modern society. It may be there is room for reform within religious legal interpretation. Only by allowing free debate will all options get a free airing and the best ones rise to the surface. And if there are people who believe secularism is the only way to go, let them argue their stance too. But what really bothers me is the elitist attitude that secularism must be forcibly imposed on the masses for their own good, because they’re too dumb to know any better. There’s frighteningly little room for democracy in such a stance.

Jordan and Syria call for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab lands DPA

Leaders of both states say that Israel must return to pre-1967 borders in order to end Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Jordanian King Abdullah II and Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday stressed the need for Israel to pull out from all Arab territories it occupied in the 1967 war, if peace with the Palestinians is to be achieved.

Abdullah made a whirlwind visit to Damascus to brief the Syrian leader on the outcome of his talks in Washington last week with United States President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a royal court statement said.

The monarch had attended the six-way meeting on the eve of direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians being relaunched Thursday.

Abdullah and Assad “emphasized that resolving the Palestinian- Israeli conflict on the basis of the two-state vision requires the regaining of all Arab rights in accordance with … the Arab peace initiative,” the statement said.

The Arab peace initiative offered Israel recognition by all Arab states if it pulled out from all Arab territories it occupied in the 1967 Six-Day Warr, including East Jerusalem.

Lieberman: This generation will not see Middle East peace – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Was dining in a popular Turkish restaurant in Aleppo yesterday that is frequented by Turks. The TV was tuned to a Turkish news channel. When a report and rally by Erdogan and his wife started (some local campaigning or something), every one in the restaurant, including the waiters, stopped whatever they’re doing and started following enthusiastically for 30 minutes or so, followed by positive and cheerful discussions. The guy is very popular internally and regionally.

New 2010 World Bank figures for doing business in Syria have been posted. In almost every category Syria has lost ground. In the ease of doing business category, it fell five places to 143 from 138. In ease-of-enforcing-contracts it fell only one from 176 to 175.

Cellular News: Syrian Operators to Pay $500 Million for License Conversions

2010-09-06

Syria’s two incumbent mobile networks, Syriatel and MTN-Syria will be asked to pay SYP 25 billion (US$500 million) to convert their existing Built-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreements into conventional licenses, Click here for more.

اتفاق روسي – اسرائيلي للتعاون العسكري يعطي “دفعاً جديداً” لعلاقات البلدين
من اليمين رئيس الوزراء الروسي فلاديمير بوتين ووزير الدفاع الاسرائيلي ايهود باراك في اجتماعهما بسوتشي على البحر الاسود. (أ ب)
وقعت روسيا واسرائيل أمس اتفاق إطار للتعاون العسكري قال وزير الدفاع الروسي أناتولي سيرديوكوف إنه يعطي دفعاً جديداً للعلاقات بين الجانبين ويؤدي الى زيادة صفقات شراء الأسلحة والتكنولوجيا الإسرائيلية.

Independent: Taboo-breaking Syrian soap causes Ramadan stir
2010-09-07

A Syrian soap opera that tackles such taboos as homosexuality, corruption and extra-marital sex in the predominantly conservative Muslim country is proving hugely popular during Ramadan. The TV drama “Ma Malakat Aymanukum,” which takes its name from …

Planned Quran-burning could endanger troops, Petraeus warns
CNN Monday, September 06

(CNN) — The U.S. commander in Afghanistan on Monday criticized a Florida church’s plan to burn copies of the Quran on September 11, warning the demonstration “could cause significant problems” for American troops overseas.

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan,” Gen. David Petraeus said in a statement issued Monday….

The Park51 money trail

POLITICO’s Ken Vogel and Giovanni Russonello dig into the money trail of the Park51 Islamic community center, and the campaign against it:

IDF document: “policy principle: separating Gaza from West Bank”
Promised Land blog, September 5th, 2010 | Author: noam

….The recent IDF slideshow is the first time an Israeli official document publicly declares that the current policy objective is to create two separate political entities in the Palestinian territories.

Nirit Ben-Ari, spokeswoman for Gisha, an Israeli NGO dealing with the freedom of movement, export and import to and from the Palestinian territories, said that “while in Washington a Palestinian state is being negotiated and people are already discussing ‘a train line between Gaza and Ramallah‘, in reality Israel is working to separate Gaza from the West bank even further than the separation already caused by the split in the Palestinian leadership.

“This policy is aimed against civilian population and against people who have nothing to do with Israel’s security concerns. It hurts family ties, and harms any future possibility to develop commerce, education and economical life in the Palestinian society. Those policies should raise concerns regarding the intentions of the Israeli government in Gaza.”….

Comments (3)


1. norman said:

The fall out ,

LEBANON: Supporters stunned as Hariri says Syria didn’t kill his dad
September 7, 2010 | 7:56 am
Praise, skepticism, betrayal, and mere confusion. The list of reactions is long in Arab media commentaries and on blogs and Web forums to Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri retracting his accusation against Syria in the 2005 assassination of his father in a recent interview.

Whatever the intentions of Hariri’s words, they’ve triggered a storm of feelings and heated debate. Reactions differ greatly, but if there is one thing that many can agree on, it’s that Hariri’s sudden switch marks a major turning point in the Lebanese political climate — for good or for bad.

Jamil Mroue, publisher of the Lebanese independent newspaper Daily Star, called Hariri’s statements “a milestone” in an opinion editorial on Tuesday titled ” Hariri has shown his leadership.”

Hariri, who for years blamed Syria for his father’s death, dropped a bombshell on Monday when he told the Saudi-owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper that it was a mistake to accuse Syria in the giant truck bomb that killed ex-Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri along with 21 others near the St George Hotel on the Beirut waterfront on Feb. 14, 2005, claiming that the charge was politically motivated.

“This was a political accusation, and this political accusation has finished,” Hariri said in the interview while emphasizing that the determination of his father’s killers lies in the hands of the Netherlands-based Special Tribunal for Lebanon, or STL, set up to probe the crime.

Hariri went on to stress that Syria and Lebanon had deep ties, echoing the recent intensified reconciliation efforts between the two nations. Over the last year, Hariri has made no less than five visits to his neighboring former arch-foe to improve ties. Most recently, he took up Bashar Assad on his invitation to a Ramadan suhour, a predawn supper, with the Syrian leader in Damascus on Aug. 29.

Lebanese blogger “Mustapha” suggested in a post on his Beirutspring blog that Hariri’s full-out apology to Syria will likely not go down well with many of Hariri’s supporters from his mainly Sunni Muslim Future movement who will feel cheated by their leader.

“There will definitely be a sense of betrayal with many of the Future Movement rank-and-files who spent the last 5 years of their lives burning bridges with Syria and Syrians and wasting energy on convincing people that the Syrian regime is pure evil,” he wrote in a post.

So what could have pushed Hariri to say what he did?

“Mustapha” reflected on a couple of what he thought could be reasons, including domestic and regional political pressure and issues related to the controversy-riddled international tribunal which is believed to be issuing indictments in his father’s murder before the end of this year.

“Could Mr. Hariri have sold-out justice for his father to political expediency (or Saudi pressure)?,” asked the blogger. “Does Mr. Hariri know something about the upcoming STL (Special Tribunal for Lebanon) indictment? Wouldn’t that mean that the Tribunal is not as air-tight as Mr. Hariri and his allies keep insisting?”

Tension has risen in Lebanon since Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Iran- and Syria-backed Shiite militant group Hezbollah, said in July that he expected the tribunal would indict Hezbollah members. Hezbollah has repeatedly denied any involvement in the Hariri murder and Nasrallah dismissed allegations, denouncing the tribunal as an “Israeli project” in a series of fiery speeches.

In an August press conference he hosted via video link, Nasrallah accused Israel of plotting and carrying out Hariri’s assassination, basing his claim on confessions from ex-Israeli spies and alleged Israeli surveillance video.

Another Lebanese blogger, Oussama Hayek, who describes himself as a “Lebanese Libertarian Atheist,” expressed a dose of skepticism over Hariri’s apology to Syria, writing in a blog post that Hariri’s choice of words shows he has given in to domestic political pressures over the tribunal.

“Hariri is playing into the hands of those (Hizbollah) who are attempting to discredit the entire investigation,” he wrote.

Another scenario could be that Hariri might feel he needs Syria in the background to prevent renewed political strife between Sunni and Shiites, suggested the blogger. Fears of a Sunni-Shiite schism have been mounting in recent times, especially when members of Hezbollah and supporters of the Syria-backed conservative Sunni movement Ahbash clashed in a deadly confrontation between the two political allies in the streets of Beirut a couple of weeks ago.

Mroue, meanwhile, emphasized the importance of Hariri reconciling with Syria for the future of the Lebanese democratization process as well as for his own stature as prime minister.

“This dramatic burying of the hatchet with Damascus brings into sharp focus his role as leader of the government. Saad Hariri is extricating himself from heavy political shackles, and he has created the opportunity to undertake the construction challenges that have been holding back the maturation of Lebanon’s democracy,” he wrote.

Commenting on Hariri’s statements, Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt said that Hariri is convinced of his ties with the Syrian president and the political relationship with Damascus, according to local media reports.

“This is his conviction and it is better than letting anyone convince him about it,” Jumblatt told the Lebanese Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, walks with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri after a meeting in Damascus last year. Credit: Reuters

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September 7th, 2010, 12:13 pm

 

2. Averroes said:

And who exactly manufactured those false witnesses? Wasn’t it the Hariri pact itself?

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September 8th, 2010, 6:28 pm

 

3. why-discuss said:

Jamil Sayyed reveals what went on under the table during the Hariri investigation and confront Saad Hariri violently about the false witnesses

l’Orient Le jour 13 Septembre 2010

Le général Sayyed a tenu une conférence de presse de près de deux heures au cours de laquelle il est revenu sur ce qu’il a qualifié d’« irrégularités » de l’enquête internationale et sur l’importance du dossier des faux témoins. Le verbe haut et les accusations nombreuses, Jamil Sayyed a rappelé que ce n’est pas lui qui a choisi cette désignation, mais les enquêteurs qui les ont d’abord considérés comme de vrais témoins et « le mensonge est plus grave parfois que le crime », d’autant que les premiers rapports des commissions d’enquête, qui ont bouleversé la situation interne au Liban, étaient basés sur ces mensonges.
Jamil Sayyed a dévoilé une série d’éléments importants dans le déroulement des faits. Il a ainsi précisé que le second président de la commission d’enquête, Serge Brammertz, avait souhaité ne plus poursuivre sa mission à la fin de 2007, en raison des pressions et parce que, comme le dit le général Sayyed, il l’a lui-

même harcelé, lui faisant assumer la responsabilité morale de sa détention.
L’officier ajoute que Daniel Bellemare a été désigné pour le remplacer et qu’il est venu au Liban à la fin de 2007. Il a rencontré alors les représentants des autorités politiques, mais pas les juges. Le juge Brammertz convoque alors l’avocat de Jamil Sayyed, Akram Azoury et lui propose de le présenter à Bellemare, « pour alléger sa conscience ». Le 16 décembre 2007, ajoute le général, la rencontre a lieu et Brammertz a déclaré : « J’ai fait de mon mieux pour que les généraux retrouvent la liberté, mais ma mission est d’aider la justice libanaise, pas de la réformer. Je n’ai pas eu le courage nécessaire pour les faire libérer. Peut-être que mon successeur l’aura. »
À ce stade, Jamil Sayyed est revenu sur ce qu’il avait déjà révélé au sujet du procureur Saïd Mirza, qui aurait déclaré à Serge Brammertz : « Si je libérais les généraux, Saad Hariri me tuerait. » Il poursuit ensuite son récit, précisant que Daniel Bellemare a pris quelques semaines de congé avant de prendre officiellement ses fonctions le 18 janvier 2008. Au cours d’une rencontre avec Saïd Mirza, le juge canadien lui aurait demandé de corriger certaines irrégularités, car elles pourraient rejaillir sur la crédibilité du Tribunal international. Parmi ces irrégularités, il y en avait deux très importantes : le dossier des faux témoins et celui des arrestations politiques. Saïd Mirza a, selon le général Sayyed, rejeté devant Daniel Bellemare la responsabilité sur le nouveau juge d’instruction Sakr Sakr, son prédécesseur Élias Eid ayant été déssaisi du dossier par le juge Ralph Riachi, sous prétexte qu’il recevait des coupons d’essence de la part de la Sûreté générale. Au passage, Jamil Sayyed a fait valoir que Saïd Mirza touchait aussi des coupons d’essence, presque mille litres par mois, « une vraie station », a-t-il ajouté.
Ainsi, selon l’ancien directeur de la Sûreté générale, Saïd Mirza a demandé au juge Sakr du temps pour lire le dossier, alors qu’en réalité, a-t-il précisé, il était parti trois semaines en vacances à Vienne avec sa famille.
« Le 7 mars 2008, Bellemare relance Mirza, qui lui affirme que Sakr travaille sérieusement et veut élargir le champ de l’enquête. Comment ? En convoquant Ahmad Merhi, qui devient en quelques jours le chef de la prison de Roumié, avec en prime une ligne directe avec le colonel Wissam Hassan et son adjoint, le commandant Khaled Hammoud. Comme je refuse de me rendre menotté à une confrontation avec Merhi, on croit pouvoir m’accuser. Mais comme les autres, ce témoignage ne tient pas la route et sent la manipulation. Saad Hariri a bradé le sang de son père pendant quatre ans », ajoute Jamil Sayyed.
S’adressant ensuite directement à Saad Hariri, le général Sayyed a accusé l’équipe du Premier ministre d’être derrière le dossier des faux témoins, et assuré que le TSL le savait. Il lui a aussi déclaré qu’il avait perdu son droit sur le sang de son père, parce qu’il a couvert le mensonge et la falsification. Il a également commenté la remarque qu’aurait faite Saad Hariri : « Que veut-on ? Que je brade le sang de mon père ? ».
L’officier a répondu : « Vous l’avez fait pendant quatre ans, en plaçant le pays dans une orbite destructrice. Vous l’avez bradé pour le compte du Nouveau Moyen-Orient de George Bush… » Il s’est aussitôt engagé solennellement,
« au cas où mes droits ne sont pas reconnus à me faire justice par mes propres moyens »
contre Saad Hariri. Jamil Sayyed a rappelé le « deal » que lui avait proposé un enquêteur allemand venu chez lui avant son arrestation : « Dites au président Assad de donner une victime, ou alors faites-le vous-même sinon, ce sera vous la victime… » L’ancien directeur de la Sûreté générale a encore ajouté : « Si le plan du Nouveau Moyen-Orient avait marché, Saad Hariri ne serait-il pas aujourd’hui en train de danser avec les Nouveaux maîtres de Damas ? »
Selon le général Sayyed, les propos de Saad Hariri au quotidien al-Chark el-Awsat ne sont pas complets. « Il ne suffit pas de présenter des excuses aux autorités syriennes. Il faut aussi le faire auprès des Libanais. S’excuser auprès des grands est obligatoire, mais le faire auprès des petits, c’est de la noblesse. Ne soyez pas petits comme ceux qui vous entourent et qui cherchent à vous diminuer… »
Jamil Sayyed a ajouté que les accusations contre la Syrie n’étaient pas politiques. « Il s’agissait de diffamation. Elles n’ont pas seulement fait du tort aux relations libano-syriennes, mais au Liban, à la région et aux sunnites qui ont été mobilisés contre la Syrie. Si au lieu de le punir, la Syrie a préféré accueillir à bras ouverts le Premier ministre et même le colonel Hassan, cela ne signifie pas que le dossier est clos. Au contraire. D’autant qu’après notre libération le 29 avril 2009, les accusations ont commencé à cibler le Hezbollah. Comment ceux qui ont aidé les faux témoins peuvent-ils prétendre constituer une référence dans les accusations visant le Hezbollah ? » s’est demandé l’officier.
Toujours selon ses propos, le 10 mai 2009, le secrétaire général du Hezbollah le reçoit et lui confie que quelques jours auparavant, Saad Hariri lui avait affirmé, au cours d’un tête-à-tête, que les auteurs de l’assassinat de son père seraient des éléments du Hezbollah, infiltrés par les SR syriens. « Hariri avait même proposé de défendre la Résistance. J’ai alors déclaré à Hassan Nasrallah que cette situation ressemblait au marchandage proposé par les Allemands : présentez une victime, sinon ce sera vous. J’ai d’ailleurs contacté mon avocat en France pour qu’il informe le procureur Bellemare de ce développement. Me Korkmaz a effectivement contacté l’adjoint du procureur, Bernard Coté, qui a depuis démissionné. Malgré tout, le 24 mai 2009, l’article a paru dans le Der Spiegel. Plus tard, j’ai rencontré l’auteur de cet article, Éric Follat, qui m’a affirmé avoir reçu les documents d’une dame travaillant dans le TSL… »
Le général Sayyed affirme ensuite avoir invité le procureur Bellemare, « jusqu’à présent honnête, mais sensible à la politique », à démissionner du TSL, ainsi que le président du tribunal, Antonio Cassese. « En tout cas, le TSL doit cesser toute activité en attendant de régler le dossier des faux témoins », a-t-il martelé.
Jamil Sayyed a pressé Saad Hariri de réagir rapidement au sujet des faux témoins et de ne pas laisser les commissions rogatoires syriennes dormir dans les tiroirs du juge Ghassan Oueidate, tout comme il a estimé que Daniel Bellemare pourrait démissionner. Selon lui, ce sont ceux qui ont fabriqué les faux témoins et induit tout le monde en erreur pendant quatre ans qui ont mis en doute la crédibilité du TSL et « ce n’est pas une accusation politique, mais directe ».
L’ancien directeur de la Sûreté générale a encore attaqué la branche des renseignements des FSI « qui n’a commencé à arrêter des espions israéliens qu’à partir du 11 mai 2009, après s’être assurée que le climat régional avait changé et pour assurer ses arrières, alors que son dispositif d’interception des communications était en place depuis 2007 ».
Jamil Sayyed a enfin appelé les citoyens à se révolter « contre ceux qui les appauvrissent sciemment et cherchent à augmenter l’endettement du Liban, pour faire passer le complot visant à l’implantation des Palestiniens, après avoir suscité une discorde interne ».

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September 12th, 2010, 9:19 pm

 

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