Andrew Exum and Nicholas Noe Debate Hizbullah’s Summer War

Andrew Exum and Nicholas Noe have spent considerable time researching Hizbullah and studying the summer war of 2006. They differ on some important points about its abilities, use of intelligence, etc. I provide Exum's most important conclusions and link to Noe's 6 page critique, published at and publish a response by Exum.

Andrew Exum, "Hizballah at War: A Military Assessment," has recently been published by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. It asks,"How did Hizballah's tactics differ from those the IDF has faced in the past? And what can U.S. military planners and policymakers learn from the conflict?" and can be read here.

Here are some of Exum's conclusions:

The most significant aspects of Hizballah’s organization are the high degree of autonomy given to junior leaders and the lack of any significant logistical train.

The July War will forever be the war of the antitank missile. Antitank missiles—bought from Russia by Syria with Iranian money—were used by Hizballah fighters against all types of targets. Hizballah used them against tanks, personnel, houses, shelters, and any vehicles Israel used in its attack. The AT-3 Sagger was used in this way and remained the most commonly used antitank missile. Among the new entrants onto the battlefield, however, was the AT-14 Kornet-E, which Hizballah used to great effect on IDF tanks and vehicles. Also new to the battlefield, of course, was the C-802 anti-shipping missile, which Hizballah used to kill several Israeli sailors and damage one Israeli ship off the coast of Lebanon.

Hizballah deserves to be taken seriously as a fighting force independent of any outside sponsor. Whether the decision to kidnap the two Israeli soldiers on July 12 originated in either Beirut or Tehran is still unclear, but most observers of Hizballah believe the most likely scenario is that although Iran (and Syria) were informed of the operation, all major decisions concerning both the kidnapping and the operations that followed originated in the Dahye. Hizballah trained on, maintained, and used all of its weapons systems in a skilled and disciplined manner.

As far as training is concerned, some IDF officers maintain that Hizballah is completely trained by Iran with regard to both its weapons skills and its tactics. This is not, however, entirely the case. To be sure, Hizballah receives a great deal of training and support from Iran, especially with regard to the newer and more complicated weapons systems, such as the medium-range rockets and antitank missiles. Nevertheless, the fighters of Hizballah have infinitely more combat experience and acquired tactical knowhow than their Iranian sponsors, leading one independent observer to wryly note that Hizballah trains Iran, not the other way around.

Following the kidnapping, however, Hizballah was caught off guard by the ferocity and ruthlessness of the Israeli counterattack.

But if Israel succeeded in surprising Hizballah by its strategic response to the attack, it did not succeed in surprising Hizballah tactically when the fight moved to the south. As one Israeli general admitted, Hizballah had good tactical intelligence: it knew the IDF’s commanders, the likely routes of advance through Lebanon, and, most important, the IDF’s tactics.

Hizballah’s tenacity in the villages was, to this observer, the biggest surprise of the war. As has been mentioned already, the vast majority of the fighters who defended villages such as Ayta ash Shab, Bint Jbeil, and Maroun al-Ras were not, in fact, regular Hizballah fighters and in some cases were not even members of Hizballah. But they were men, in the words of one Lebanese observer, who were “defending their country in the most tangible sense—their shops, their homes, even their trees.”

All the same, the performance of the village units was exceptional. Their job—to slow and to bleed the IDF as much as possible—was carried out with both determination and skill. Hizballah dictated the rules of how the war was to be fought. Or as one observer put it, “This was a very good lesson in asymmetric warfare. This was not Israel imposing its battle on Hizballah but Hizballah imposing its battle on Israel.”

There was no question of [Hizb] units retreating or moving forward to support another unit because the Israeli Air Force had successfully isolated the villages and fortifications from which they were fighting.

The question of who, exactly, trained these village fighters is one of the enduring mysteries of the war. It is unlikely that any of them received training in Iran—or even by the Iranians in Lebanon. More likely is that they were former militia—or perhaps even former Hizballah—fighters who carried with them knowledge and experience from prior conflicts that Hizballah was able to use in the summer war.

The Anti-Tank battle:

Eleven IDF tanks were hit by Hizballah antitank missiles, while eight crewmen and four other soldiers were killed. The casualties made up over a tenth of all IDF casualties in the July War.

Missile War:

Hizballah’s rocket attacks against Israel in the July War were at once a tactical success and a strategic failure.  Hizballah’s rockets did not have their desired effect of breaking the will of the people of northern Israel and instead—as is often the case with aerial bombardments—stiffened the resolve of the population under fire. Although Hizballah enjoyed great success launching its short-range rockets into Israel, its medium-range rockets were almost entirely destroyed by the IAF.

The early air assault on the second day of the war, for example, “knocked out fifty-nine permanent launchers of the intermediate Fajr missiles and Zelzal missiles in thirtyfour minutes.” Because the katyusha attacks really have only a psychological effect, the fact that Hizballah was not able to launch many of its longer-range weapons toward targets deep in Israel’s interior should be cause for concern in both the Dahye and Tehran, given that so much time and energy was expended acquiring them and training Hizballah in their use.

In the end, the best way to view Hizballah’s performance in the July War is by comparing it to the performance of other Arab armies that have fought against the IDF since 1948 and noting where Hizballah’s performance differs. Three differences stand out with Hizballah: its ability to maneuver tactically against the IDF, the autonomy given to its small units and the initiative taken by the small-unit leaders, and the skill Hizballah displayed with its weapons systems.

Hizballah’s display on the battlefield should worry U.S. policymakers and military planners as well. Enemies of the United States will likely seek to emulate Hizballah’s perceived successes in southern Lebanon, and the lessons learned by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan may or may not apply to such a fight.

Andrew Exum is a Soref fellow in The Washington Institute’s Military and Security Studies Program. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the American University of Beirut, he served in the U.S. Army from 2000 until 2004.

Nicholas Noe, has written a 6-page Critique of: Andrew Exum's “Hizbollah at War: A Military Assessment.” Nicholas Noe is the founder of, a Beirut-based translation service covering the Arabic and Persian media. His forthcoming book, Voice of Hizbullah: The Statements of Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, will be published by Verso in February 2007. 

Response from Andrew Exum to Nicholas Noe provided to Syria Comment January 2, 2007.

Anything written about this past summer’s war between the IDF and Hizbollah is bound to make some people unhappy. One of the things I noticed in my first visit back to Lebanon and Israel since the war is how high emotions are running and how much attitudes have hardened. In studying the war from an exclusively military perspective, though – working hard to steer clear of political and moral judgments – I felt sure that I could write an analysis that wouldn’t offend anyone. Foolish me.

Nicholas Noe’s critique of my piece has some good criticisms, most of which get lost amidst the vitriol and emotion of his argument. He is right to highlight that I was not able to speak to any Hizbollah ground commanders. I tried to, repeatedly filling out interview requests with the organization’s public affairs section, but for some reason they weren’t anxious to speak with a former U.S. military officer about their tactics. Nicholas also highlights the fact that I did not mention the reports of Hizbollah’s ability to jam/intercept IDF communications. Nicholas is right – I should have, though these reports were not corroborated by anyone I spoke to in the IDF. (And it’s worth noting here that the IDF officers with whom I spoke were all fairly eager to speak about their short-comings and failures in the summer’s war.) Finally, Nicholas highlights the fact that I chose not to identify by name many of the people with whom I spoke. The reason I did this was because I was trying to protect the people who spoke to me, but on further review I should have included at least some sort of generic title (e.g. “senior Israeli defense official”) in the footnotes.

Most of the rest is easy enough to answer. Nicholas notes, for example, that Nabatiyya is a large city in the south of Lebanon – but that I wrote that the only large city in southern Lebanon is Tyre. This is true. But I confined “southern Lebanon” in my paper to the area currently under UNIFIL jurisdiction as this was the area contested in the bulk of the ground fighting. Nicholas also takes me to task for ignoring the report prepared for the Asia Times on the war. This is also true. I had read the report and enjoyed the political analysis. But I had some issues with the paper’s military analysis, so I chose not to reference it in my own work.

The above are just two examples (I am not going to issue a point-by-point response here), but what they have in common is a conscious decision-making process to include or omit certain things. Nicholas contends I carelessly omitted things in specific cases, but I’ve read most of what’s been written in the English language on this last war (and quite a lot of what’s been written in French and Arabic too), so when I left something out, it was usually because I disagreed with it or found it lacking in value.

The biggest substantive problem between Nicholas and me is that Nicholas doesn’t understand what a tactical analysis is. This is highly understandable, and I’m not attempting to insult his intelligence here. Most people without military experience (including some Middle East political experts) are unable to distinguish between tactics and strategy, and although Nicholas at one point mentions that I am a recent graduate school product (true), it’s important to note that my formal study of the Middle East began after a military career in which I led combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan. I don’t claim to be the world’s leading expert on Hizbollah, but, on the mechanics of infantry combat, I know more than the average AUB graduate.

To explain briefly: if you decide to attack a house, and you decide to attack it by going in the back door as opposed to the front, that’s a tactical decision. These decisions are made by small unit leaders. The decision to go to war in Iraq, the decision to go to war in Iraq with a small invasion force, the decision to disband the Iraqi Army – these are strategic decisions. These decisions are made by generals and politicians.

By the same token, this paper is concerned with Hizbollah’s tactics – how their small unit leaders performed, how their anti-tank missile teams performed, etc. Anyone reading this paper expecting a political analysis or strategic advice to the National Security Council on what to do about Hizbollah would leave it like Nicholas: angry and disappointed. 

 Finally, a word on civility. I realize that a former U.S. Army officer writing an analysis from Washington, DC (in the employment of The Washington Institute no less!) is – as far as Beirut-based Middle East specialists are concerned – a bit like waving a red flag at a bull. I understand that people with a bit of expertise in something (as Nicholas has with Hizbollah) can be a bit territorial about that expertise. And I understand that frustration and anger about U.S. Middle East policy is high – I’ve lived, after all, in Beirut and Cairo for the past few years. But there is no reason why we can’t debate most subjects with something approaching respect and civility. Nicholas’s response to my piece reminds me of everything I don’t like about 90% of the blogs on the region: all vitriol, marked by an antipathy toward admitting the other guy might have something worth saying. That said, I welcome any and all comments on the paper.  

[End of Debate]

Here is a Russian analysis of the war's results which is interesting: War in Lebanon won by Syria and Iran, and lost by the U.S.

Walid Jumblatt has raised the level of attack against Hizbullah. The heated exchange between the Druze and Hizbullah leaders mirrors the anxiety over what Jumblatt calls Hizbullah's attempt to carry out a "coup" to gain more power within the Lebanese government. Jumblatt did well in the last parliamentary elections because he formed an alliance with Hizbullah, which supported pro-Jumblatt candidates in the Shuff. When new elections are carried out, Jumblatt's supporters stand to suffer a number of defeats and his coalition will be smaller. Here are some excerpts from the Jumblatt – HIzbullah exchange.

Hizbullah flays Jumblatt as a fickle friend

By Hani M. Bathish
Special to The Daily Star
Saturday, December 30, 2006

BEIRUT: Hizbullah accused leading March 14 Forces member  Walid Jumblatt on Friday of discarding allies when it suits him and embracing new ones on a whim, adding that the MP now has a "new master" in the form of the United States….

In his interview with Al-Arabiyya, Jumblatt accused Hizbullah and its leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, of being behind "some, if not all" of the assassinations in Lebanon, accusing them of obtaining weapons from Israel in exchange for the release of Western hostages in what was known as the "Iran-Contra" affair.

Referring to earlier statements made by Jumblatt that he would rather be a trash collector in New York than a political leader in Lebanon, Hassan said that "if Jumblatt's imagination convinces him he would rather be a 'trash collector' in New York, he is free to do so, but to link [Hizbullah] with Israel … I do not know how he can do that.

Jumblatt said there is no possibility to work with Hizbullah as it represents the "culture of death," stressing that there will be no resolving matters with the Syrian regime either.

Jumblatt on Monday called Syrian President Bashar Assad the "Damascus tyrant."

"We tell them that this boy (Assad), who is controlling people's necks in Damascus and killing free people in Lebanon, there will inevitably be a Nawwaf from Beirut, Dahiyeh, the Chouf or the Bekaa, he might also be from Damascus or Aleppo," he said during the funeral of Salman Siour, Jumblat's personal security officer.

He was referring to Nawaf Ghazali, a Syrian [Druse] who assassinated ex-Syrian President Adib Shishakli in Brazil in 1964.

"If the tribunal is hindered, we will all be a Nawwaf," he said, in reference to the Special International Tribunal for Lebanon to try suspects in the murder of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

"No matter how long it takes, one of us will take revenge for the martyrs and the liberals, starting from (his slain father Kamal Jumblatt to (Industry Minister) Pierre Gemayel," he added.

Al-Akhbar editor explains why Jumblatt has accused Hizbullah of participating in the assassinations: (story translated by

“The visit by Hezbollah’s delegation to Saudi Arabia aroused the anger ‘of the remaining neo conservatives’ in Riyadh and Beirut which resulted first in the infamous Junblatt (the media spokesman for the American-Arab moderation campaign) interview on the Al-Arabiya channel with which he wanted to move the confrontation to another level by giving an extra dose to the issue of the international tribunal by accusing Hezbollah of being involved in the assassinations. Junblatt’s live interview on a network funded by Saudi Arabia, and run by Bandar Bin Sultan’s group and his allies in the Jordanian intelligence services and the CIA, which came a few days after he called for the assassination of Bashar Al-Assad, is linked to Saudi Arabia’s attitude towards what is going on which has not been explained so far except in the context of the raging battles on the Arab scene with Junblatt being a direct member of the axis that supposes that getting rid of Syria and its allies in Lebanon is a prerequisite for guaranteeing the stability of the regime in Lebanon as well as in the other countries…”

Comments (31)

norman said:

No matter what Jumblat says,The Israeli army and Israel’s leaders seem to understand that they lost the summer war ,and that is why they are launshing one investigation after another , I think Lebanon is moving toward a confrontation between Hizballa and it’s allies and the US and it’s allies and that will take place before the end of Lahood term.

January 6th, 2007, 3:57 am


Ghassan said:

I agree with Norman. There will be a confrontation by the end of this Summer! I think that Israel recognizes that it did not win the war and wants to re-install its deterrance edge. Hizballah is eager for a rematch to show the world that its “victory” of last summer war can be repeated.

The issue is how the war will be ignited and far it will go? Syria will be involved? Golan Heights front will be a battle front? What about Tehran? Are the warships in the Arabian Gulf just for a show or will be involved in hitting Iran? A lot of questions and I think the next 4 months will reveal the answers to most of them!

January 6th, 2007, 6:28 am


Ford Prefect said:

I agree with Norman and Ghassan: confrontation is inevitable and all parties have a win-or-die bet on this latest escalation. It will be a crash landing – let’s see who has the best survival techniques, if any.

January 6th, 2007, 10:10 am


idaf said:

It seems to me that Jumblat is loosing it! After blatantly calling for the assassination of Asad (and actually proudly saying that “we will do it”!) and after accusing Hizbullah of carrying out previous assassinations in Lebanon, he is now calling Hizballah followers “Magian”!

For those not familiar with the term you would find historical info here. In Arabic and Islamic context, this is a very serious insult as Magus used to worship fire in Persia and fought with Muslims in early Islamic history. Basically, Jumblat is accusing Hizbullah followers of “Kufr” (being non-Muslims). This is even more extreme than the fanatical Wahabi classification of Shiites (Khawarij, Rawafidh, Safawiin.. etc.). It is remarkable how a leader of a small minority sect in Lebanon is accusing the majority of Lebanese people of being “Kaafirs”. Osama Bin Laden would really be proud of Jumblat.

I think that most Lebanese have stopped taking Jumblat seriously since a while now as he is getting more hysterical by the day. A Lebanese Druze friend of mine (who historically followed the Jumblats) has started recently distancing himself from Jumblat (a serious indication of popularity crisis in the Lebanese “sectarian zaiims” system). In my opinion Jumblat’s political survival (as well as many in the 14 February coalition) now depends on deepening the sectarian and religious tensions (and probably conflicts) in Lebanon. Conspiracy theorists in the Arab world are classifying Saddam’s execution (with all its controversy) as a step designed by the US administration to deepen sectarian conflicts between Shiites and Sunnis in the region. This will help damage the increasing cross-sect, cross-country and cross religion popularity that Hizballah (and consequently Syria and Iran) has gained in the region since Israel’s war last summer. The recent sectarian assault by several February 14th zaiims (who are under considerable influence of the neo-cons) is another evidence for these theorists. We will have to see where all this insanity is going.

PS. the link to Nicholas Noe’s well reasoned critique highlighted by Josh is broken. Here’s the correct link.

January 6th, 2007, 10:38 am


idaf said:

UN Security Council to discuss naming the countries not cooperating with Brammertz on Tuesday

Five council members suggest naming countries not cooperating with Hariri probe

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 6 (KUNA) — Five Security Council members late Friday proposed that the council write a letter to Serge Brammertz, the UN Chief investigator of the former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri’s assassination, urging him to disclose the names of the ten countries he said last December were not cooperating with his panel.

Russia, China, Qatar, Indonesia and South Africa made the proposal during a council private meeting, but their US, French and other council colleagues rejected the idea, diplomats said.

Indonesia and South Africa, along with Italy, Belgium and Panama, joined the council earlier this week as new non permanent members for a two-year term.

The proposal will be discussed again next Tuesday, diplomats said.

Council president Vitaly Churkin of Russia refused to comment to reporters on the proposal, or even to confirm it. Other council members, however, confirmed it. In his report to the council last December, Brammertz said he was satisfied with Syria’s “timely and efficient” cooperation in the probe, but complained that ten countries whose cooperation he had sought provided “late or incomplete” responses. He did not disclose their names.

He stressed at that time that this lack of responsiveness has impeded the work of his panel on several fronts, given the crucial nature of the information sought and the limited time frame in which the panel aims to complete its investigation.

Asked by reporters at that time why he did not disclose the names of the ten countries, Brammertz said primarily because of confidentiality and said he would allow them some time to respond. If they don’t, he warned, he would go public with their names.

There was speculation at that time that among those then countries are France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.(end) sj.

January 6th, 2007, 10:53 am


Ford Prefect said:

Idaf, excellent analysis. Jumblatt did not loose it, he never had it in the first place.

January 6th, 2007, 1:22 pm


ivanka said:

Idaf, Saudi Arabia seems to be among the countries that did not cooperate. Some people are speaking of a Saudi hand in the crime, for financial reasons. But nobody knows. I think Iran is another country that didn’t cooperate. Certainly France is one. Brammertz must have asked to meet Sadeeq and was refused that by Emperor Chirac d’Arabie.

January 6th, 2007, 1:29 pm


ivanka said:

bout the election law, the good thing is that if an opponent runs as an independant and has a real lot of money he might be the first person to ever do real opposition effectively inside Syria. The law is clearly not the best election law in the world (to put it mildly) but it leaves an interesting opening to the opposition. Hey maybe in a few years there can be MB independants like in Egypt.

January 6th, 2007, 1:32 pm


Ford Prefect said:

“Oh what a circus! Oh what a show!
Argentina has gone to town
Over the death of an actress called Eva Peron
We’ve all gone crazy
Mourning all day and mourning all night
Falling over ourselves to get all
Of the misery right.” Tim Rice, Evita.

It is not the end results of the Hariri investigation that matters to King George, Emperor Chirac d’Arabie (Ivanka, I love this term, thanks!), and many other Western and “moderate” Arab powers. It is the process and the resulting events of the investigation itself that were designed to succeed:
– Destabilize Syria so it is no longer asking for the Golan Heights;
– Eliminate HB and the Lebanese resistance;
– Install three friendly governments in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq;
– Isolate Iran into submission;and finally
– Produce a rearranged, fun-sized Middle East that is just busy enough trying to figure out who is an Arab, who is a Sunni, Shi’a, Maronite, or a Druze.

Hariri, unfortunately, had to pay the highest price while things somehow did not work out as intended. Welcome to the aftermath of a plan that went deadly wrong.

January 6th, 2007, 2:08 pm


Ash-Shakkak said:

Andrew, I’m surprised you took the bait. And I’m surprised that Nick, a smart, well-informed and busy guy, took the time to write the critique in the first place… particularly since he didn’t seem to have much to say.

The WINEP paper wasn’t the definitive history of Hizballah’s tactics, and I don’t think you advertised it as such. It, along with Blanford’s reporting for Jane’s and future studies, will prove to be a useful contribution to that history.

So what’s all the fuss about?

January 6th, 2007, 2:59 pm


t_desco said:

“There was speculation at that time that among those then countries are France, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.”

Interesting, particularly if my idea is correct that the cooperation request is connected to the “international dimension of the communications analysis” (Brammertz III, §42).

Again, the involvement of an extremist group would be a plausible explanation for this “international dimension”. Or perhaps it has something to do with the Al-Madina bank case?

BTW, I was able to “refute” a key element of my own analysis of the fourth Brammertz report. At the time I wrote:

“53. … To add to the complexity of this painstaking analytical work, some of the electronic data received by the Commission is written in code, some is encrypted and some had already been deleted.” (Brammertz IV)

It seems unlikely that the Syrians would have handed over their security files in encrypted (or deleted…) form, so this looks like the communications of an extremist group.”
December 14th, 2006

However, the previous UN reports do mention a case of deleted data: the military intelligence archives which had been erased.

“Likewise, the Commission’s earlier suggestion to restore military intelligence archives for its review remains an ongoing line of investigative inquiry.” (Brammertz I, §37)

“The archives have been erased, but measures are being undertaken in order to restore the deleted data for further review.” (Mehlis II, §50)

January 6th, 2007, 3:04 pm


Ehsani2 said:

During the previous thread, Ford Perfect asked:

Can someone please explain to me this wordly obssession with finding out who killed Mr. Hariri that got the West and the UN so wound up? Who was he after all to demand such world tribunal? Did he invent the flying toaster and I don’t know it?

Ugarit was of course correct to say that he was a rich man with friends in the West. That’s the main reason the West “cares”.

Here, Ivanka tells us that Saudi Arabia may have a hand in the crime for financial reasons.

Idaf’s analysis of Jumblatt’s Magian term was informative. When I heard the term at the time, my wife and I debated the meaning of the term. Although I committed to Idaf long ago to refrain from making wild accusations about who killed or did not kill Harriri till the investigation is made public. I would like to, however, take a stab at answering Ford Prefect’s question above.

There are two major reasons why the world has become obsessed with this murder:

A little background first:

Hariri had all the power and wealth to rule Lebanon unopposed. Time and again, he realized that he could never escape the fact that he will always have to answer to Damascus and that the two countries could only have one boss. The first glimmer of change arrived with the passing of Hafez Assad. The powerful and iconic leader was hard to replace. Harriri must have felt that his influence may grow over time now that the younger and more inexperienced Bashar is in power. The second defining moment arrived when the U.S. decided to invade Iraq. The neocons were the kings of D.C. Baathists were their prime targets. The American army was now right next door. Harriri must have thought that it was time to make his move. If a trigger was needed, it came with the Lahhoud extension. The infamous Bashar-Harriri meeting in Damascus followed soon (later became a main piece of the investigation). Following a visit to his friend Chirac, the 1559 resolution, which was already being cooked, was to soon become reality.

Syria’s leadership was well aware of Harriri’s plan all along. Behind the camera smiles and the constant visits, Damascus was fully aware that Harriri had grown too powerful and too confident in his abilities and global contacts. If I had to guess, Bashar-Maher-Bushra and Shawkat deliberated at length about what to do next. In the end, there was only one possible solution. It was to be risky, audacious and even spectacular. Harriri presented a risk to the strategic long-term interests of Syria. A careful risk/reward analysis must have taken place and the decision was ultimately made to eliminate the man. Did the leadership anticipate the international outcry? Absolutely. Did it anticipate that the Security Council would intervene and that an international tribunal would be formed? I doubt it. In any case, the leadership had many cards to play. It held the key to a peace deal with Israel. It controlled Hezbollah. It could help in Iraq. In the final analysis, it perhaps became convinced that it could resort to anyone of the above to stop even an international tribunal from seeing the light of day.

In the meantime, America’s invasion of Iraq was falling apart. The White House needed a scapegoat to blame. Damascus was an easy target. To the neocons and the Administration, Damascus was implicitly and explicitly working to undermine its interests next door. Chirac had his obvious personal agenda. The Lebanese that always dreamt of seeing the Syrians out jumped on the bandwagon. Saudi Arabia was stunned to see Hariri taken out. In effect, other than Iran, Syria suddenly found itself with no friends to hide behind. For the record, I continue to believe that Bashar’s decision to undermine America’s invasion of Iraq became the lightening rod that would be later used against him. In sum, the world became obsessed with the Hariri murder because the world saw it as the only vehicle to get Syria out of Lebanon once and for all. This includes the like of Jumblatt who threw the dice and went for broke hoping that this is it for the powerful leadership next door. Many other Lebanese officials felt the same. America wanted to stop HA and put a halt to the ever-increasing power of Iran on Israel border.

The other reason why the world is obsessed with finding who killed Hariri is because it wants it to be used as deterrence for future political assassinations. Historically, every political force that resisted Syrian domination of Lebanon did not live a long life. Were this tribunal to go ahead and end up securing convictions, future would-be assassins would think twice before they would contemplate committing or ordering such acts.

Ford Perfect,

The U.S. failed in post-war Iraq. It cannot possibly afford to lose Lebanon. If America cannot win in a country of 10,400 sq km, with almost half the population supporting it, what chance does it have in the rest of the Middle East?

For the reasons outlined above, we should be surprised if the world did not become obsessed with this assassination and not the other way around. Many powerful players saw their interests converge following this act. Bashar found himself standing in front of a speeding train coming at him. Time will tell if he can find a way out of this dangerous predicament. Thus far, he has worked tirelessly to find that one rabbit in his hat. The HA war was one. The peace offer to Israel followed soon. Improving ties with Iraq were next. The ISG and the Baker report provided a massive lift. The cumulative effects of the above thus far have been less than spectacular.

The Syrian leadership faces a monumental task as it enters the final phase of this investigation. The objective is to stop the tribunal from starting at any costs. Anything and everything is on the table to help it achieve this goal.

January 6th, 2007, 3:25 pm


Alex said:

FORD PERFECT, I totaly agree with the the points you listed. No one cared to follow up on Arafat’s death, or to take the assassination attempt of the previous pope to the security council.

THe excessive interest int he assassination of Hariri is one more example of selective application of “justice” for political purposes. If anyone has any doubt, just try to remember Mehlis.


Close … but this is just one possibility. There are serious other possibilities including, as was mentioned earlier here, a Saudi involvement … I heard something about a Hariri disagreement with the sons of King Fahd about the money he was managing+investing for he king and decided to keep when the king was very sick…

Sounds semi interesting.

And, even if it sounds like classic conspiracy theory .. you know which country has the best experience with political assasinations in the middle East?

January 6th, 2007, 5:15 pm


Joshua said:

Jumblatt’s reference to the Shiites as Magian is not only an accusation that they are kufr, but just as importantly, an accusation that they are Persian. It suggests that they have deep and nefarious cultish reasons to take orders from Iran and are merely an extension of that distant power.

Junblatt knows all about the damage such accusations can make. The Druze have frequently been accused of being crypto-Persians and part of the “Shu`ubi” conspiracy within Islam to corrupt the religion in order to get revenge for the Arab conquest of the Persian empire. What is more, Druze beliefs in the transmigration of souls and the like have often been interpreted as “Eastern” roots of their religion. The same has been said of the Alawites.

For Jumblatt, who lives in a glass house, to throw stones at the Shiites is a bit rich.

January 6th, 2007, 5:25 pm


Ford Prefect said:

As always, you have provided excellent and informative analysis. While I fully concur, I would like to add the following in compliment to your essay regarding the holistic context to the Hariri murder:

1. A New World Order according Washington neocons post 9/11: Radically alter the Middle East to ensure US hegemony and Israel’s security. This doctrine was planned in the early 90’s and can be found in the writings of members of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC). 9/11 transformed this doctrine into a major US foreign policy. In the crosshair: Iraq, Syria, Iran, HB, Hamas, and several other smaller surrogates that are in the way.

2. Saudi Arabia: Certain right-wing leaning faction of the royal family with close ties to Bush family underwrote the policy of eliminating US/Israel foes. Why? Iran is the biggest threat to Saudi Arabia – certainly more than Israel and therefore, Saudi Arabia would benefit from an absolute US hegemony in the area. Bob Woodward of the Washington Post described how the Saudi Price Bandar was involved in the early planning of the Iraqi invasion. Why not eliminate two threats at the same time, Iraq and Iran? The idea certainly made perfect sense at the time. Further, and according to new emerging Saudi ambitions to lead the Middle East post Saddam/Iran era, Hariri was the candidate of choice to lead both Lebanon and Syria (this is a less documented fact, but Hariri was certainly ready to buy Syria). After all, there are two Syrias: a powerful and influential Hafez Syria, and a weakened, immature, and vulnerable Bashar Syria.

3. Iran: A cold war is raging between two Muslim superpowers in the Middle East for dominance: Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran will never forget the never-ending attempts to topple its revolution by Sunni Islam – specifically Saddam and his financiers in the Arabian Gulf, Egypt, and Jordan. The time for Iran has come to flex its muscles and project its influence. The days of Sunni dominance of Shi’aa are long gone.

4. Israel’s Likud: Fed and nurtured by many leading neocons, a “Clean Break” approach was undertaken: First, drop the land-for-peace negotiations and, second, destabilize/rollback of the government in Syria to transform the regional balance of power in the Middle East post Saddam’s removal.

Combining the above with Ehsani’s excellent analysis produces a highly volatile cocktail of heterogeneous components merging towards a dream-like, peaceful, and non-Israel threatening Middle East. Or is it? Following the Second Law of thermodynamics “”In any irreversible process the total entropy of all bodies concerned is increased,” totally unpredictable results are to be predicted! God Bless Syria!

January 6th, 2007, 5:31 pm


Ehsani2 said:

Ford Perfect,

Thank you. Your added color is impressive and I fully concur with the regional background that you painted.


Saudi “could have” killed him? They did this undetected under the nose of the powerful Syrian oversight of every facet of Lebanese security?

Is it a possibility? Sure.

It is also a possibility that Norway may have done it. This Saudi accusation is rather new. Back then; I recall it was Israel as the prime target. Are we now to believe that Saudi is on top of the list? Jihadists are also a possibility. T-Desco has done more researching and reporting on this than most. He may well believe that his theory is highly plausible.

I offer my own theory because it makes most sense (at least to me). Harriri was a long-term danger to Syrian interests. Something had to be done. Every action by Damascus since then has been consistent with my theory.

If it was Israel, Saudi, Jihadists or Norway that committed this murder, surely Syria would stand to benefit from a speedy international tribunal. Were I in Bashar’s shoes, I would challenge the U.S. and the Lebanese politicians to a worldwide Televised trial where I can expose their lies and present evidence that would prove my country’s innocence.

Damascus had every reason to believe that Harriri had to be stopped. In my opinion, they rolled the dice after carefully weighing all the options. If they succeed at avoiding prosecution (at any costs), they would end victors in this spectacular chess game. They could still pull it off. The world will hold its breath to see how it all unfolds.

January 6th, 2007, 5:54 pm


Alex said:

Actually Joshua, I am always surprised at how much of a risk taker Jumblat turned out to be. He is supposed to live and let live, but instead he is risking the safety of his Druze people before his own personal safety. Actually, I think he knows that personally no one will need to kill him (he is no Hariri in relevance) and no one will dare kill him and make him another martyr. But judging from the comments I read on champress, there was a lot of hate developing towards the druze in general … I don’t know how wise it is to promise the Syrian president to be murdered one day at the hand of a Druze hero.

Maybe Walid should have participated in these trips to India. … he does not give me the impression he has much wisdom, prudence, maturity or balance.

January 6th, 2007, 6:12 pm


t_desco said:


unfortunately your narrative is full of contradictions, but first a minor correction:

– the Bashar-Hariri meeting preceded the Lahoud extension, of course


– “A careful risk/reward analysis must have taken place”

– “(Did the leadership) anticipate that the Security Council would intervene and that an international tribunal would be formed? I doubt it.”

– “The neocons were the kings of D.C. Baathists were their prime targets. The American army was now right next door.”

– “The White House needed a scapegoat to blame. Damascus was an easy target.”

– “In effect, other than Iran, Syria suddenly found itself with no friends to hide behind.”

So a “careful risk/reward analysis” took place, but it did not “anticipate that the Security Council would intervene”, although the Baathists were “prime targets” of the D.C. neocons, the US army was (and still is) “next door”, the “White House needed a scapegoat” and Damascus was “an easy target”… 😀

You never explain what “Harriri’s plan” was or why it was so terrible that, in your view, “there was only one possible solution” (how melodramatic), i.e., to kill him. So, according to you, did he plan to invade Syria…? 😀 If not, then it is relatively easy too imagine many alternative and better “solutions”.

You also don’t address the question why Syria agreed so quickly to withdraw its troops from Lebanon, while the alleged motive for the assassination was… to prevent the implementation of resolution 1559.

You believe that Bashar al-Asad was “part of the plot”, so you can certainly explain why he talked so openly to Seymour Hersh, just minutes before Hariri was assassinated.
Please enlighten us… 😀

January 6th, 2007, 6:29 pm


Ehsani2 said:


I loved the smiling faces.

– “A careful risk/reward analysis must have taken place”. This was another way of saying that a decision like this must have been deliberated at length. I don’t think it was a hasty and impulsive decision. I do stand by my list of factors that you described as “contradictions”. Indeed, Harriri anticipated that his life was in danger but he never thought that anyone would dare pull the trigger precisely for the reasons that I listed. Of course, there were reasons to doubt that Damascus would order such an act. Were it not for the so-called contradictions, do you think that the world would be debating this issue for this long? The genius of the move was precisely in the fact that it was not obvious that Damascus would actually dare do this given my list of “contradictions”.

– Now, let me expand on what I meant by the Harriri plan. No, it was not to invade Syria. But, it was to reverse and undermine a policy crafted by the late Hafez over a 30-year period. This policy evolved to become Syria’s cornerstone and the main pillar of the country’s foreign and regional strategic goals. Many politicians and past Presidents tried to free Lebanon from Damascus’s control. Not one succeeded. Harriri saw himself as the white knight that will deliver what many before him had failed to do. Bashar not only had to preserve what his father so meticulously built but he also needed to prove that he is as tough and determined as his father was. Were Damascus to succeed in eliminating such a powerful symbol, would anyone dare stand up to it ever again? The signal would have been heard loud and clear inside Syria as well. Any thoughts that the new young leader is soft and vulnerable were dealt a blow in the process.

– Why did Syria agree to withdraw? Because they were smart. The world was against them. The Americans were looking for an excuse. Damascus saw the writing on the wall and decided to leave rather than enter a confrontation that it cannot defend. After all, it knew that it could still have a meaningful influence on the ground even after they left. The recent events confirm this and more.

None of us will ever know the truth. I am confident that those of us who believe that Syria is not responsible for this act will hold on to their convictions no matter what the UN report produces.

I do not expect everyone to follow my logic. Indeed, I think that it is very hard for most Syrians to do so given the barrage of attacks against their country and its leadership. Discussions of this subject inevitably bring out tense emotions.

January 6th, 2007, 7:57 pm


ausamaa said:

This STRANGE Syria.

He was an agreable figure who has responded to Syria’s requests favourably for years.

He has agreed -against his convictions- to extend the term of President Lahoud to keep his bridges open to Damascus. He could have said No and ran to Safer heavens in Saudi or Paris, but he said Yes and stayed in Lebanon.

He gave his vote of approval to Karami’s new government after the extension and did not opt for a public confrontation with Syria.

Syria feels the heat from the presence of US forces next door in Iraq and knows it is on the US hit list.

Syria knows that 1559 is aimed primarily at eroding its power in Lebanon.

Syria feels the opposition to its presence in Lebanon growing in Lebanon, in Syria, and world wide.

So, what dose Syria do? It goes and assasinats Rafiq Al Harriri. For what? We do not really know.

Some people still insist that Syria had indeed assaisnated Rafiq Al Harriri………..!!!!!


Two years later, and no evidence is yet presented to prove that Syria had a hand in the murder.


Some people still insist that Syria had indeed assasinated Rafiq Al Harriri……

Yeh, and the earth IS still flat… for some.

January 6th, 2007, 7:59 pm


ausamaa said:


But you missed one point regarding Syria’s withdrawl from Lebanon. I think that this quick withdrawl was a very smart move. Actually I think the withdrawl had unpleasantly surprised US policy makers. Because who OTHER than Syria had the power to disarm Hizbullah and the Palestinian Camps which is the most important component of 1559. Syria realised this and pulled out quickley leaving the US/Israeli planners staring at each other. I bet some over there, espicially in Israel, cried “Oh Shi..” when they saw the Syrian trucks pulling out. They were right…, Israel fell into it in July 2006.

January 6th, 2007, 8:16 pm


ugarit said:


Your analysis was quite good but it’s still hard to figure out why Hariri were a threat to Syria! I do have an issue with the following sentence, however.

“…The other reason why the world is obsessed with finding who killed Hariri is because it wants it to be used as deterrence for future political assassinations..”

That’s a bit naive. The West wants deterrence for its friends and not others. Sadly, this is human nature. Notice how the US’ killings of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis is hardly touched upon by the West and/or the UN? The killing of one rich man is more important to them than what’s happening in Iraq or Palestine! The “caring” for Harriri’s death is clearly a tactical move and nothing more.

January 6th, 2007, 9:48 pm


Alex said:

That’s right Ehsani, VERY naive of you 🙂

But I will support you (for the first time?) in your hypothesis, provided you accept that it is only one valid hypothesis … I hope you would stop ridiculing the other possibilities … For example, Saudi Arabia’s influence and Role in Lebanon was not a Norway type… I am not saying I believe in the Saudi scenario, but I believe everything is possible .. the Americans, the Israelis, the Saudis and the Syrians are all capable of doing it.

You have given the most plausible reasoning behind the Syrian option.

Here are some other possibilities:

The Saudis: Getting rid of the Syrians from Lebanon and delivering a devastating blow to the rule of the Syrian Alawite regime … in effect, getting very close to their plan of controlling both Lebanon and Syria by installing very friendly (or more than friendly) leaders in those two countries .. Hariri Jr. and Khaddam.

The Neocons: Before hitting Iran, they needed to hit Syria. Before hitting Syria, they needed to get rid of Hizbollah … the plan could have been to get Syria to disarm Hizbollah then withdraw .. then Mehlis (the impartial judge) will find some way to implicate Syria in a day or two… WMD style.

Israel: Again … Syria and Hizbollah in one stone.

Or how about this: a combination of some of the above … like something that some ambitious and powerful Saudi and American personalities designed

Impossible? only the Syrians are dirty enough to do it?

January 6th, 2007, 10:05 pm


Ford Prefect said:

We are all speculating and I am genuinely impressed with all everyone’s analysis so far – as Alex has masterfully said, everybody could have done and why not, after all, such a murder has handsome perceived payout for its perpetrator. However, one thing that is nagging me still, is the process of the Hariri investigation, and not the results. It seems to me no one is interested in reaching a conclusion before some goals are met, such as: the fall of the Syrian regime, the disarming of HA, the election of a new Lebanese president puppet, the humiliation of the Anglo-Americans war in Iraq, the Sunni hegemony in Lebanon, the rise of Iran and Shi3a etc. I have compiled a laundry list of potential objectives that need to be achieved by any party BEFORE indictments are handed out. So it is the process and not the end results. Do you guys see it the way I do?

January 6th, 2007, 10:47 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

I rather thought that today’s technology makes even goatherd a remarkable warrior, as the Stinger proved in Afghanistan.

January 6th, 2007, 11:09 pm


Alex said:


Those close to the investigation seem to be comfortable that Brammertz is not playing games. I think as part of his agreement with the Syrians he assured them he will look at all the logical possibilities. And as you know, the other countries are not cooperating with him fully.

But of course everything is possible… “the process” was useful on a tactical level, keeping the Syrians busy, convincing the Europeans (the French) to join the American policy of boycotting Syria.

Remember the Hindawi affair of the eighties? … supposedly Hafez Assad woke up one day and he felt crazy enough to ask a Syrian agent (mr. Hindawi) to trick his pregnant Irish girl friend by sticking a bomb in her luggage … she was traveling to Israel with El-Al airlines with its multiple levels of security checkup.

So the Europeans decided to believe that Hafez is stupid enough, reckless enough, and criminal enough to attempt down a civilian El-Al airline… something that no one dreams of doing.

But that was good enough fr Mrs. Thatcher and the rest of Europe to join the Reagan administration into boycotting Syria for years.

Since the same messed up mideast policy of the Reagan administration found its way in a much more dangerous form in this Bush administration, I would not hesitate to look at the Hariri assassination from that perspective … They got Hariri’s friend, Mr. Chirac, to switch to their side.

If you think the Hariri thing was unique … read and learn! … after the incident was used to destroy Syria’s reputation for years, Mr. Chirac eventually admitted that it is quite possible that Israeli intelligence did it to implicate Syria.

January 6th, 2007, 11:31 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Yup, you got it right, Alex: Use the whodunit process to achieve political gains – results notwithstanding. I believe that for the Hariri murder, so far, the results have been unfavorable to the perpetrator: If it was Syria: colossal disaster so far. Israel: Although Syria is out of Lebanon, but Lebanon sure still taste as bad as it ever was. US: one huge blunder after another – a Middle East map that is worst than they got started. Iran/HA: not a single Lebanese gain so far, except an fast eroding HA heroism across the irrelevant Arab masses. KSA: Syria is out, but far still from projecting Sunni hegemony on Lebanon; Syria’s linkage to Iran is still it was, if not stronger. I am hoping that Brammertz is looking for the dog that did not bark clue!

Finally Alex, thanks for the brilliant analogy to the Hindawi affair. I forgot all about it and it does relate nicely. You research and data mining efforts are amazing!

T_Desco, I hope you are reading this. In a previous post, you asked someone to check on Article 34 of Hariri investigation report:

34. The upper right central incisor found at the crime scene in February 2005 and belonging to the unidentified male shows a distinguishing mark related to the lingual surface shape of the crown, which has the form of a spade. This feature is rarely seen among people from Lebanon.

Here is an email answer i received from my dear friend and highly intelligent dentist, for whatever it is worth:

“It refers to a cheap type of crowns used on the front upper teeth ….. since the Lebanese are very rich !!!! and pro good looks, the investigator concluded that Lebanese don’t use that type…. it is better to take section # 34 out it does not make sense and it is AYB”

January 7th, 2007, 12:34 am


Alex said:


Glad you liked the Hindawi affair analogy. I just remembered that at the time it was the same type of arguments … How could Hafez do that, it is not his type! … Oh but it was Mohammad El-Khouly who planned it, the powerful chief of Airforce intelligence.

And if you think last year’s negative publicity Syria got was bad, you should try to find from some library (not available online) the archives of British tabloids that month … “Syrian murderers out of Britain” was the typical first page headline.

And, I liked your dentist’s notes … but I hope Brammertz can do better than that!

January 7th, 2007, 5:56 am


sam said:

The bottom line is who benefits more, for the whole assassination, and to the events that took place after?


January 7th, 2007, 6:26 am


sam said:

P.S. I’m an arab nationalist first and foremost,and love all arab brothers and sisters, but there is know way any arab country had the brains to pull off the hit. It had to be the Mossad.

January 7th, 2007, 6:29 am


norman said:

This might help clear the Hareri affair

07 January 2007
Those who disregarded King Abdullah’s wise advice to Syrian President Bashar Assad in June should not be surprised to hear alarm bells are ringing in Israel.

Assad and his top aides have repeatedly stated, in recent public comments, that Syria was ready to enter unconditional negotiations with Israel with a view to settling their dispute over the Golan Heights and close the chapter of conflict between them.

The Israeli political establishment is worried. Israeli leaders do not want to reopen negotiation with Syria that was halted and abandoned in the late 1990s on the flimsy pretext that Damascus failed to condemn a militant attack against Israelis. The Israelis have no intention of ever giving up the occupied Golan Heights, the source of about 70 per cent of water for the Jewish state.

Therefore, stonewalling all Syrian attempts to relaunch negotiations is a feature of Israeli policy. The given justifications for rejecting talks are absurd, when seen from an international perspective of negotiations.

Israel wants Assad to expel Palestinian groups based in Syria, cut off Syrian support for Lebanon’s Hizbollah and sever relations with Iran as preconditions for negotiations.

There is no doubt that Assad wants to get rid of the Lebanon-linked pressure applied on him and reinstate his country as a blemishless member of the international community. He is anticipating more chaos in the Middle East as a result of the failures of Israeli-dictated US foreign policy in the region, and is apprehensive that Syria will be one of the scapegoats.

However, it makes little sense for him to meet the Israeli preconditions, let alone for Israel to make those demands, since the Jewish state is not ready to even acknowledge that the objective of the negotiations would be the return of the Golan Heights to Syria.

Logic and reason dictate that the Israeli and Syrian demands should be discussed and negotiated as part of a broad peace agreement between the two.

Israel wants to bury the fact that Hafez Assad, the present president’s father and predecessor as president, who was one of the toughest hardliners in the Arab world, had launched peace talks with Israel and reached a point where an agreement was seen in the horizon. Assad is now following up on those lines, but Israel is creating preconditions that it knows he would not be able to meet.

Taking its cue from Israel, the Bush administration is refusing to accept Syrian overtures for political dialogue even though the path of dialogue is recommended by the Iraqi Study Group.

Despite the refusal, Assad has volunteered to help the US contain the Iraq crisis. He told visiting Republican Senator Arlen Specter in late December that he was willing to host a conference where all the factions of Iraq could seek a consensus on the country’s future.

However, that is not the US wants. It demands that Syria assume responsibility for preventing alleged cross-border infiltration of “foreign” fighters into Iraq and nothing beyond that in the Iraq context. This stand contrasts the reality that Damascus could not be expected to make things easier for the US in Iraq in return for nothing. Syria could and would play a key role in checking the worsening Iraq crisis, but it needs to be reassured that it will be rewarded with meaningful negotiations with Israel over the Golan Heights.

The signal that Syria is receiving, however, is that it will be the next target of “regime change” if the US succeeds in pacifying and controlling Iraq. How could Assad be expected to contribute to his own demise?

It has been revealed that the Bush administration is supporting Syrian dissidents against the Assad regime and is planning to influence the outcome of the next elections in Syria by funding Assad’s rivals.

To that should be added emerging indications that senior Syrian figures were trapped as key suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on the basis of doctored evidence. (According to a senior officer of the French intelligence agency DGSE — Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure — Hariri was killed in a car bombing arranged by Israel’s Mossad in cooperation with other regional sides. The DGSE officer says that French investigations found evidence that Mossad and others had played a key role in the assassination. The reason: Israel and the US wanted to blame Syria for the assassination of the popular Lebanese leader in order to force the popular Lebanese revolt that saw the withdrawal of Syrian forces).

Definitely Washington’s plans pre-empt any Syrian effort to convince the US to open a political dialogue encompassing the whole gamut of issues of concern to both sides, including Assad’s quest to regain the Golan Heights through a peace deal with Israel.

Yet again, the Bush administration is on an illusionary path. Any hope for peace in the Middle East rests with addressing the fundamental roots of the conflict, including the Israeli-Palestinian, Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese fronts. A collective approach may or may not be possible, but Washington should be ready to make important decisions and firm up a mindset that should seek to ensure fairness and justice for all. No piecemeal approach will work.

The only solution for Assad is to dissociate Syria from sinister designs of Shiite domination of the region, play a moderating role vis-à-vis Hamas and other militant Palestinian leaders in Damascus and forget the aspiration of hegemony on Lebanon and Jordan under the guise of irredentist Greater Arab Syria.

By Musa Keilani

© Jordan Times 2007

Article originally published by Jordan Times 07-Jan-07

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