Brammertz V – Comments and Contextualization (by t_desco)

Analysis of the Brammertz V Report: the on-going UN investigation into the murder of Rafiq al-Hariri, former Prime Minister of Lebanon
By t_desco

March 18, 2007, for Syria Comment

The new Brammertz report ("Brammertz V") merits a detailed analysis. I will also try to put it in the context of the previous reports.

My earlier posts on this blog (all on the same topic) can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.

(All quotations from the new report will appear in italics. Quotes from older reports are referenced by using the name of the investigator and number of is report.)

"c) Aerial delivery theory

19. … Preliminary technical findings indicate that this theory is unlikely."

(Brammertz V, §19)

As expected. The Aerial delivery theory never sounded very plausible, but it is nevertheless important that it was included in the investigation. §55 of the previous report stresses that the "Commission believes its role is to investigate all possible hypotheses that arise from the investigation and analysis of the Hariri assassination" (Brammertz IV, §55). This is a notable difference to the way Detlev Mehlis conducted his investigation. For example, would Mehlis ever have considered writing the following paragraph? –

"59. … Another hypothesis under consideration is that apparently obvious motives were used by the perpetrators as a convenient cover, with the real intent being to propel other individuals into the frontline of accusation." (Brammertz IV, §59)

This may refer to the possibility of Syria being framed (though there are other possible interpretations) and this is clearly one of the many hypotheses that have to be considered by the investigation.

The difference between Brammertz and Mehlis is best illustrated by this nice contradiction between their reports:

Mehlis I: “175. As noted above, in the course of their investigation, the Lebanese interviewees included Mr. Abu Adass’s friends and associates, former neighbors, acquaintances from the mosque, colleagues from former jobs, and classmates. A number of these individuals were re-interviewed by UNIIIC … ; most reported that they shared with their interrogators their view that Mr. Abu Adass was a loner and introvert who did not have the intelligence to be capable of committing such a crime.”

Brammertz III: “45. Following extensive investigative steps and analysis of electronic data, documents, artefacts and other items, the emerging profile of Ahmed Abu Adass and his activities is becoming clearer. His profile is distinct in that he seemingly had more academic and intellectual interests and less technical orientation than that associated with members of terrorist groups engaged in the operational aspects of terrorist activities, at least in Lebanon.”

(my emphasis)

The conclusion is very similar, but the reasons given for it are diametrically opposed: in one case he is not intelligent enough and in the second case he is too intelligent. Needless to say that Brammertz is much more credible (and not just in this case). Mehlis also did either not know or omit that the mosque frequented by Adass and where Mehlis interviewed some of his "acquaintances" was attended by "individuals associated with extremist groups" and that "Adass was acquainted" with them (Brammertz V, §42; see below).

"f) Geographic origin of the alleged bomber

24. … The Commission can now also add that the man had significant exposure to lead pollution in an urban environment up to the age of about 12, and that such exposure was low during the last ten years of his life, … ."

(Brammertz V, §24)

Of course, not just the lead pollution but also the source of the polluting lead may have changed in the past ten years, leading to a different isotope composition in the same place today and making identification difficult.

"25. In order to advance this line of inquiry, the Commission has collected a total of 112 samples from 28 locations in Syria and Lebanon. Over the coming weeks, it will collect samples in three other countries in the region, and further countries are identified for another series of sampling missions."

(Brammertz V, §25)

It is a little bit strange that they took samples from Lebanon, having already established that he "did not spend his youth" there, but perhaps this is to determine where he "was likely situated" in the last two to three months before his death.

In the previous report, Brammertz mentioned having received additional (non-forensic) information about him, but this information does not even seem to have been detailed enough to limit the sampling missions to one country:

“The Commission has also received other information concerning geographic origin which it is unable to disclose at this time.” (Brammertz IV, §31)

The same seems to be true for the distinguishing dental mark:

“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.” (Brammertz IV, §34)

Brammertz deems it necessary to stress the limitations of this methodology:

"26. As stated in the previous report, the Commission is mindful that results should be carefully interpreted and the limitations clearly understood. The Commission will treat future results as forensic information to be used primarily for lead purposes in the investigation."

(Brammertz V, §26)

At least isotopes have the advantage that they do not lie (like witnesses)…

Further signs of progress:

"31. Investigations are on-going into the acquisition and storage of the Mitsubishi van, and its preparation with explosives. The Commission has received a body of new information relating to this topic, and over 500 pages of data are being prioritized for translation and analysis. The Commission is developing recent leads concerning the van, investigating the history of the vehicle from the most recent time it was known to be in Lebanon, and working backwards in time from that point."

(Brammertz V, §31)

This is in line with the previous report:

"41. …The Commission has received new information specifying details of the preparation of the van and establishment of the route of the van as it was brought to the St Georges hotel area prior to the attack." (Brammertz IV, §41)

"a) Communications

34. The Commission’s analysis of communications traffic continues in order to support and validate different points arising from the investigations. Much work has been done to support the interviews conducted, in order that respective communications contact with other persons of interest to the case can be discussed with witnesses. Patterns of communications traffic, including frequencies and timings of calls, and linkages and clear associations to others, are all developed and elicit investigation leads."

(Brammertz V, §34)

One should note that several breakthroughs seem to have happened in that area. The first was mentioned in the third report:

"64. For example, from the perspective of mobile telephone communications traffic alone, one individual using multiple numbers has been preliminarily linked in a broad geographic context and within a specific common temporal period to a number of the attacks. Four other people have been linked to this person in some of those attacks." (Brammertz III, 64)

The follow-up in the fourth report:

"79. … One individual using multiple numbers has been preliminarily linked to a number of attacks, and the Commission has conducted a number of interviews related to this issue." (Brammertz IV, §79)

A similar breakthrough seems to have happened in regard to the Hariri case itself. It was first mentioned in the fourth report:

"43. The Commission has conducted seven interviews in connection with the alleged bombing team and their use of six telephones to communicate on the day of the attack and in the days leading up to it. … Analysis of the use of other associated SIM cards is also on-going.

44. The location of the telephones when used, and the purposes for which some of the linking numbers were used have revealed the high degree of security-aware behavior exhibited by individuals under investigation. Some persons used multiple mobile cellular telephones during a short period of time or registered telephones using aliases. …

45. During the reporting period, communication traffic analysis has continued in support of the other investigative projects. This work is comprised of interview preparation for key persons …" (Brammertz IV, §43-45)

In order to determine that a person is using several mobile phones under aliases, one has to identify that person. Interviews in connection with the alleged bombing team are also most likely conducted with persons either belonging to that team or at least knowing some of its members. It is also interesting that more SIM cards could be associated with the six telephones used in the attack, although those phones were only used to communicate with each other.

"39. One working hypothesis is that the bomb team had to ensure that Hariri was indeed dead after the explosion in order for the video claim of responsibility to be delivered and to have resonance with its intended audience. It is possible that the team, and those commissioning the crime, could not afford to deliver a claim of responsibility to the global media if Hariri had survived the attack."

(Brammertz V, §39)

Assuming that Syria was behind the attack, would its failure make the need for a scapegoat less urgent? Obviously not.

"b) Ahmad Abu Adass

41. In this reporting period, the investigation has developed its understanding of how Ahmad Abu Adass was identified and chosen to be the person to make the video claim of responsibility, who involved him in this activity and where and when this occurred. A working hypothesis is that he was identified because of his personality and other specific characteristics. It is possible that his association and relationship with one or more individuals whom he met at his place of worship led him to depart his home on 16 January 2005, for reasons that are currently unknown.

42. The Commission is aware that Ahmad Abu Adass was acquainted with individuals associated with extremist groups, at least because they attended the same place of worship which he frequented regularly, and where he occasionally conducted prayers. The Commission has also conducted extensive analysis of communications traffic records associated with Ahmad Abu Adass, including analysis of the telephone communication at his home and place of work and on lines belonging to his alleged associates."

(Brammertz V, §41-42)

The Fitzgerald report identifies the place of worship in question as the Al-Huri mosque:

"41. Enquiries carried out by the Mission established that approximately three years ago Ahmad Abu Adas changed from being a carefree teenager to becoming a religious fundamentalist. Approximately one month prior to going missing Ahmad Abu Adas informed his family that he had met a new friend at the Al-Huri mosque, where he sometimes led the prayers." (Fitzgerald report, §41)

It would be very interesting to learn if the alleged associates of Adass are also "associated with extremist groups".

"43. A working hypothesis is that Ahmad Abu Adass was either coerced or duped into making the video-taped claim of responsibility. The claim he read out on tape was made on behalf of a group, and Ahmad Abu Adass himself did not state he would be the one who would carry out the attack. In relation to the tape’s production, it is of note that relatives and persons who knew him before his disappearance have stated that his appearance on the video tape was physically different from that before 16 January 2005. To some, he appeared even thinner than previously; his beard had markedly grown, indicating that he may have made the tape towards the end of the approximately four week period between his disappearance and 14 February 2005. His clothing was also different from his usual style in that he had headwear and clothing that his close friends and family had not seen him wearing before."

(Brammertz V, §43)

I wonder if the wording is exact here. It does not seem to make sense that Adass was "duped" into making the video. What would that mean? That he stood behind the claim, but that the claim was not real? A more reasonable version would be that he was duped and lured to be in that place and then coerced into making the video.

Al-Akhbar had an interesting article some time ago analyzing his body language in the video as showing signs that could be interpreted as fear and apathy, which would be in line with the idea that he was coerced to do it.

"44. It is of interest to the investigation that a note was included with the video on 14 February 2005 which stated that the bomber was indeed Ahmad Abu Adass. From its forensic findings, the Commission believes this to be highly unlikely. One working hypothesis is that the video and the accompanying note could have been designed to deceive. Another working hypothesis is that while an extremist group may have been involved in part in committing the crime as outlined in the tape and note, this group was actually manipulated by others for another objective not related to its own organizational aspirations."

(Brammertz V, §44)

As I noted earlier, there are two unusual aspects about the "martyrdom video" of Ahmed Abu Adass:

1. It was released very quickly after the attack. In comparison, the video of Mohammad Sidique Khan, to name just one example, was published about two months after the London tube bombings.

2. Adass is fully identified, not in the video itself but in the accompanying note. This would probably make sense in a real "martyrdom video", but we now know for sure that the suicide bomber was somebody else.

Brammertz writes that it "could have been designed to deceive", but are there any other examples of fake "martyrdom videos"? In any case it is very unusual.

As we have seen, the current report reveals that Adass was indeed acquainted with individuals associated with extremist groups who also frequented Al-Huri mosque.

The first Mehlis report quoted information allegedly linking Adass to the "Ahmed Miqati and Ismaíl Al-Khatib network" via a computer shop where he once worked and to Jund al-Sham via Ain al-Hilweh and visits to Abu Obeida, but it was highly uncertain how reliable this information was.

Why choose Adass for the video? If the extremist group was either fake or manipulated, then these links to other extremist groups may have made him a suitable candidate.

On the other hand, if the extremist group was real, then they were probably not aware that the Al-Ahbash had already taken notice of Adass and they thought that he was still completely unknown, perhaps in contrast to the real suicide bomber.

Still, from the perspective of an extremist group, there was absolutely no need to put out a video which clearly revealed the identity of one of its members. For example, al-Zarqawi himself showed his face only in his last videos; before that he always appeared disguised.

If the group was real, it is interesting to ask "what happened to him afterwards" (Brammertz IV, §46) as Adass obviously was not the suicide bomber. An extremist group would have little reason to kill one of their own, unlike an intelligence agency dealing with members of a manipulated group, but in the second case it remains a mystery why no DNA evidence of Adass was found at the crime scene, as it could easily have been planted by the intelligence agency either in the Mitsubishi van itself or by tampering with the crime scene after the attack.

As you can see from the following quote by then Interior Minister Suleiman Franjieh, the concept of DNA analysis was not unknown to the Lebanese authorities:

"Franjieh, however, said he could not confirm the homicide attack theory and was awaiting DNA results from those killed."

Also interesting is the question why the suicide bomber did not take the place of Adass in the "martyrdom video" (the question is valid both for the case of a fake and a real extremist group):

1. As stated above, one possibility is that in comparison to Abu Adass he was too well known.

2. Another possibility (also considered by the famous witness Mohammed Zuhair Siddiq; Mehlis I, §108) is that he did not know that the attack was directed against Hariri and that he believed to be attacking somebody else.

Siddiq claims that he was an Iraqi and that he thought that the target was Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, but this would have created certain logistical problems for the perpetrators as they could in no way be sure to be able to carry out the attack while Allawi was still in town (cf. Brammertz V, §50, which speaks of a " “window” of opportunity to deliver the attack on Hariri rather than one specific day").

3. A third possibility that has to be considered is that he did not speak Arabic well enough.

This is what Ghassan Ben Jeddou said about the first caller to Al-Jazeera:

“In the first telephone call, a man whom Mr. Ben Jeddou described as speaking poor Arabic in an African, Afghan or Pakistani accent, claimed that Al-Nasra wal Jihad was responsible for Mr. Hariri’s execution by a suicide bomb.” (Mehlis I, §78)

"45. Thus, the Commission continues to investigate the various possibilities concerning the group that executed the crime. The Commission has received information in relation to individuals who operated in Lebanon and beyond who may have been involved in the production of the Ahmad Abu Adass tape, and also may have participated in the attack on Rafik Hariri in more than one context. In connection with this information, the Commission has undertaken a number of missions outside Lebanon, conducted 23 interviews to date, researched over two hundred gigabytes of data from numerous computers, USB devices, CD-ROMs, mobile telephones and SIM cards, and has analyzed large volumes of communications traffic."

(Brammertz V, §45)

The previous report already mentioned this large amount of electronic data, saying that some of it is written in code:

(45.) “Ahmad Abu Adass and associated individuals
50. (In this regard, the Commission has) collected substantial quantities of computer and electronic information and documentation … .

51. In support of this work, the Commission has researched over 200 gigabytes of electronic data, … .

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, §45-53)

I had argued at the time that the fact that “some of the electronic data … is written in code” may indicate that these are the communications of an extremist group. It is well known that internet savvy extremists communicate in code in order to avoid NSA surveillance and detection.

Interestingly, Khaled Taha showed suspicious behavior that could be interpreted in such a way: “Further investigation revealed that three of Mr. Taha’s e-mail addresses went through Damascus and the fourth went through Lebanon itself while purporting to be in Turkey.” (Mehlis I, §174)

Having said that, I later discovered that the previous UN reports did 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)

As quoted above, Brammertz says that “some of the electronic data received by the Commission is written in code, some is encrypted and some had already been deleted.”

So it could also be data from the restored military intelligence archives, but there are some hints that the "over two hundred gigabytes of data from numerous computers, USB devices, CD-ROMs, mobile telephones and SIM cards" come from a different source (e.g., military intelligence archives usually do not contain video cameras; cf. Brammertz V, §47; see below).

One possibility (and, in fact, the only potential source that is publicly known at the present time): the alleged terrorist cell possibly linked to Adass' friend Khaled Taha and arrested in January 2006.

"46. A working hypothesis is that a small number of individuals belonging to a larger group may have come together to undertake the filming of the claim of responsibility, acquire the Mitsubishi van and have it prepared with explosives. They may also have participated in the acquisition of an individual who was to detonate the bomb, and may also have assisted in delivering him and the bomb to the scene of the crime."

(Brammertz V, §46)

If "group" is used here in a more general sense, it could refer to an intelligence agency (with very interesting consequences), but one would usually expect the term "organization" in that case. (Note that §96 also cites information regarding "groups" among the four formal RFAs submitted to the Syrian Arab Republic). On the other hand, "a small number of individuals belonging to a larger group" seems to make little sense in the case of an extremist group.

The wording for the recruitment of the suicide bomber is also a little bit peculiar: "acquisition". Perhaps it is just meant to be a neutral expression because the precise circumstances of the recruitment remain unknown?

While whoever made the tape had complete control over the circumstances of its production and it is hence conceivable that Adass was coerced into doing it, the same cannot be said of the suicide bomber.

It seems likely to me that the bomber acted voluntarily. While possible, it would be extremely risky to force somebody to do it and to let him drive around freely with several tons of evidence which he could simply hand over to the authorities. I also doubt that a person under duress would be in a state of mind to act with “a high degree of time precision” (Brammertz IV, §23). One cannot, however, exclude the possibility that he was duped (just as Brammertz hypothesizes in the case of Adass).

The extremist group may have acted on its own, but, obviously, collaboration, infiltration and/or manipulation are other logical possibilities. Any group can be infiltrated and it would probably also be possible for intelligence agencies to create fake groups with the sole aim of manipulating the unsuspecting members (cf. Brammertz V, §44, quoted above).

"47. The Commission has a number of investigative leads to follow up, further interviews to conduct, and further communications traffic analysis and forensic collection missions to perform. It also awaits the final forensic analysis of various artifacts that are possibly associated with this working hypothesis, including video cameras and related equipment, cassette tapes, computer hardware and other items. …"

(Brammertz V, §47)

Does this mean that they have found the video camera that was used to film the Adass tape? That would be truly remarkable. And it is difficult to see any other explanation.

Interestingly, some of the reports that appeared on occasion of the arrest of the alleged terrorist cell in early 2006 explicitly mentioned that the group was involved in filming the Adass video, but one should stress that these reports were never officially confirmed.

"c) Individuals with prior knowledge of the attack

48. The Commission believes that beyond those directly involved in the crime and those who decided it should take place, certain other individuals may have had prior knowledge of the attack. …

49. The Commission is developing a hypothesis whereby the final phase of the operation to assassinate Hariri took shape by early February 2005, at which point all necessary components for the operation were assembled. These include the van, acquired and prepared with explosives and ready for use; the bomber, prepared, briefed and ready to be deployed; the minimum necessary information acquired, and surveillance and reconnaissance conducted, to be able to undertake the operation; the bomb team undiscovered and able to execute the operation; the video-taped message of Ahmad Abu Adass completed and ready to be delivered upon the success of the operation; and most importantly, the intent still present in the minds of those who ordered the crime to go ahead with the operation."

(Brammertz V, §48-49)

Note the "still" in the last sentence. I will come back to that later. If the attack was the work of a relatively small group of extremists, the number of people knowing about it in advance should be very small. If, in contrast, a greater number of people had advance knowledge, a different explanation would be required, e.g. the involvement of an intelligence agency, etc.

"50. A working hypothesis is that the bomb team was working within a “window” of opportunity to deliver the attack on Hariri rather than one specific day, given the significance of the target and the time which would have been spent in overall preparation of the attack. That preparation time was most likely measured in weeks rather than days."

(Brammertz V, §50)

Keep this in mind, as it will lead to the only clear contradiction in the text.

More signs of significant progress:

"51. The activities of some potentially relevant individuals were noticeably altered during this period, as the bombing team began what became the final activities prior to the attack. The Commission is investigating such issues, and is finding that attitudes, behavioral patterns and comments made by certain persons in the period before the killing could have relevance."

(Brammertz V, §51)

From all the paragraphs quoted above it seems likely that an extremist group was indeed involved in the attack, though it may not have acted on its own.

At the same time, the "motive to assassinate Hariri" discussed in §52-63 seems to point to Syrian and/or Lebanese opponents of Hariri rather than to an extremist group. This is all the more notable as the previous report had explicitly mentioned such a possibility:

"59. The Commission continues to work on numerous alternative hypotheses in examining the motives to kill Rafik Hariri. Included among these are the following: that Hariri was the victim of an extremist group which assassinated him because of his links to other states in the region and in the west; …" (Brammertz IV, §59)

"3. Motive to assassinate Hariri

53. The following issues shaped Hariri’s environment in this period: the inception of UN Security Council Resolution 1559 (2004) and the political implications of its implementation; the extension of the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud; the personal and political dynamics which existed between Hariri and other political parties and leaders in Lebanon, Syria and other countries; preparation and maneuvering ahead of the parliamentary elections due to be held in May 2005, as well as other business matters in which he was involved. All of these factors came together and were handled by Hariri, sometimes proactively, and sometimes in reaction to events around him. The Commission believes it is likely that a combination of these factors may have created the environment in which the motive and intent to kill him arose."

(Brammertz V, §53)

So Brammertz did not say, as some misleading headlines had suggested, that the extension of the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud was the reason for the attack on Hariri.

"54. Whereas the Commission had previously adopted a broad focus in the investigation of possible motive, the current reporting period saw these significantly narrowed down to the group of inquiries linked to Hariri’s political activities. …

57. In the last months of Hariri’s life, he was very focused on the forthcoming 2005 elections. …

59. It is of some note that Hariri was killed on the day that Parliament was scheduled to debate the electoral law to be applied in the forthcoming elections. Another working hypothesis for the Commission is that those who decided upon the assassination saw it as beneficial to kill him before he formally began his election campaign, especially given the perception in the media at the time that he was likely to win."

(Brammertz V, §54, 57, 59)

Note the slight contradiction to §50 which states that "the bomb team was working within a “window” of opportunity to deliver the attack on Hariri rather than one specific day", e.g. the day that "Parliament was scheduled to debate the electoral law".

It is unclear to me why such an extremist group should have been particularly concerned about Hariri winning the 2005 elections. They would probably have been opposed to him for more general reasons like his relation to Saudi Arabia (cf. Brammertz IV, §59).

"62. The Commission is developing a working hypothesis that in the period immediately prior to his death, Hariri and others in the national and international political arena were taking steps to defuse the tensions that had arisen between him and others on the political stage. These initiatives apparently included the development of diplomatic and political dialogue between Syrian and Lebanese individuals and Hariri. This dialogue had previously been managed through other Syrian and Lebanese channels, which had apparently fuelled misperceptions and aggravated the already tense political environment."

(Brammertz V, §62)

You can read about this in Nicholas Blandford's book, "Killing Mr Lebanon". If I remember correctly, at least three initiatives of rapprochement were underway at the time when Hariri was killed. All were initiated by Hariri and directed at the Syrian president, one via Moallem and one via Nasrallah (and a third which I don't remember at the moment…).

"63. A working hypothesis is that the initial decision to kill Hariri was taken before the later attempts at rapprochement got underway and most likely before early January 2005. This leads to a possible situation in the last weeks before his murder in which two tracks, not necessarily linked, were running in parallel. On one track, Hariri was engaged in rapprochement initiatives and on the other, preparations for his assassination were underway."

(Brammertz V, §63)

As As'ad AbuKhalil noted, this paragraph "all but names the Syrian regime as the party that killed Hariri", but one should stress that less harsh readings are equally possible (I also disagree with his remarks regarding Brammertz' professionalism; so far it is beyond reproach. He should take into account that Brammertz is coming from an institution, the International Criminal Court, that is, by its own logic, engaged in widening the relative autonomy of the juridical field (in Bourdieu's terminology)).

In light of this paragraph we can see a possible explanation for the "still" in §49, "and most importantly, the intent still present in the minds of those who ordered the crime to go ahead with the operation" – still present because unaffected by the rapprochement initiatives started by Hariri?

However, there are some problems with this interpretation implicating "the Syrian regime" in the crime. If the Syrian regime planned the attack, could it not have stopped it at a moment's notice? Moallem would certainly not have hesitated to inform his president of the rapprochement efforts by Hariri.

As I had argued earlier, (and also in this thread) it seems highly unlikely that Bashar al-Asad was involved in the plot or that he had any clue that an attempt was underway to kill Hariri.

If we can trust Robert Fisk on this, as I think we can, the Syrian president spent the minutes immediately before the attack with Seymour Hersh, engaging in a detailed discussion of all the problems that Hariri was causing him and his family (including a conflict over the cell-phone business in Damascus which I have not seen mentioned anywhere else, including Blandford's otherwise very detailed book). Obviously he was hoping that Hersh would be able to use the information in a future article, implying that he was expecting Hariri to be alive and well when said article would have been published. He obviously had absolutely no clue that Hariri was about to be killed, otherwise he would certainly have glossed over the issue or avoided it altogether.

Perhaps this was the tragic irony of the situation that all the rapprochement initiatives and messages aimed at preventing an attack, including the warning delivered by Richard Armitage, were directed at Bashar al-Asad, but he was unable to prevent the attack from happening because he was not the one plotting it.

Having said that, the new report does a good job in detailing A (the perpetrators, possibly an extremist group) and B (the motive of those who allegedly commissioned the crime, possibly Syrian and/or Lebanese opponents of Hariri), but (so far) it fails to link A and B in a plausible way. Any judgement about Brammertz professionalism will ultimately depend on how effectively and convincingly he manages to solve this problem.

Comments (30)

Gibran said:

So we can conclude from this:
“the Syrian president spent the minutes immediately before the attack with Seymour Hersh, engaging in a detailed discussion of all the problems that Hariri was causing him and his family (including a conflict over the cell-phone business in Damascus which I have not seen mentioned anywhere else, including Blandford’s otherwise very detailed book)”
that Bashar was actually busy just minutes before the assassination in creating an alibi. Very normal criminal behaviour.

March 19th, 2007, 5:21 pm


Alex said:

This explains why Dr. Imad Moustapha attacked president Bush in his article last week… the Syrians concluded that there is simply no hope to have any progress with this administration.

I wonder what that means for the Arab summit and for the meeting in April with Ms. Rice and the other foreign ministers.

Assad expects little progress in peace talks in next two years
By The Associated Press

Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview published Monday that he does not expect movement on the peace process in the next two years, calling the United States the main obstacle to a Middle East peace.

Assad’s remarks dampen hopes that a summit of Arab leaders set for March 28-29 in the Saudi capital can build momentum for reviving the peace process between Israel and Arab nations.

The summit is expected to relaunch a Saudi peace plan adopted by the Arab League in 2002. At the same time, Arab countries are pushing Washington to deal with a new Palestinian Authority unity government that includes the Hamas movement.

In an interview with the Saudi newspaper Al-Jazira, Assad said “the main obstacle, in my opinion, regarding the peace process, is the … American administration’s rejection of the peace process.”

“There’s an American administration without a vision, and the U.S. administration, unfortunately, is central to all peace processes in the region,” he said, according to the paper.

Assad said that international envoys have shuttled between Syria and Israel, carrying each country’s point of view regarding peace to the other. But he said nothing concrete has happened on the ground especially since “the current Israeli government is the weakest in Israel’s history.”

“They [envoys] openly said, quoting [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert, that the decision is in Washington,” said Assad, according to the newspaper.

Assad said he hasn’t lost hope that peace would prevail, but he said prospects for that in the next two years do not look rosy.

“The issue of peace in at least the next two years doesn’t call for optimism unless there are unexpected changes,” said Assad, warning that delay in resolving the conflict would increase tensions and tensions will increase extremism.

March 19th, 2007, 5:28 pm


Ford Prefect said:

So what do you call a “democracy lovers” when he/she pronounces a “guilty” verdict based on their own biases while simultaneously calling out for an independent investigation? Inept hypocrite.

t-desco, brilliant analysis and thanks for the insights. I have some answers to your questions later on today.

March 19th, 2007, 5:38 pm


Gibran said:

O’ sorry, I forgot we have a PERFECT proud carrier of an ACLU card around here. Should we call Bashar’s behaviour, then, with none other than S. Hersch moments before the assassination an innocent coincidence? Yes of course. Sorry, once again what is it? O’yes PREfect. And who said foolishhness doesn’t come with different spellings?

March 19th, 2007, 6:44 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


just out of interest, what do you do in life? because you are one methodical and patient man. two traits i lack. guess thats why i am not an investigator or a forensic scientist 😉

March 19th, 2007, 7:12 pm


ugarit said:

Sadly I’m becoming more convinced that many Lebanese are not fit to run their own country.

March 19th, 2007, 7:15 pm


3antar said:

t_desco does syria comment for a living it appears. 7atet dabo u dab el forum.
i dont know where you find the time and effort to sit and do this. sometimes i get the impression few others around here are the same.

March 19th, 2007, 7:17 pm


3antar said:

you know what they say, too many chefs. i said it before and i’ll say it again. killon zu3ama, bless ’em.

March 19th, 2007, 7:19 pm


ugarit said:

Syria should tightly seal the border with Lebanon and throw away the keys.

March 19th, 2007, 7:36 pm


ausamaa said:

I think Bashar Al Assad made that statement before our hopefull brothers come down hard at the summit asking Syria for concessions to the Bush Administration as usual on the premise that the US Administration is “trying” to promot a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

And again, also to hint to the American side that they should not expect any serious coperation NOW while the current Administration is in office. It will come later. Or it will (or may) come now if the current Administration shows “serious” intent to cooperate with Syria now.

I really hope no one appologise to the halfmen at the summit. After all, they started the whole thing by talking about Adventurs and Adventurists. Why should the winner, and the correct apologize to the looser who was proven incorrect? Anyway, la twassi harees!

March 19th, 2007, 8:27 pm


Alex said:

IC, T-DESCO is German, not Mediterranean like us.


Thanks for your patient work.


There will be no apology.

They did stop their attacks in Asharq al-Awsat, and another Saudi paper interviewed president Assad (good signs). But i feel the Syrians and Saudis are still bound to clash big time… unless if the two leaders manage to come up with enough personal skills to reverse the bitter rivalry between them. Bashar will need to balance his message to the older Saudi king in a way that shows respect but also demands respect.

March 19th, 2007, 8:40 pm


EHSANI2 said:


I think that your summary is a fine description of what is left for this commission to prove. Will they be able to link A and B. Having said this, I am still not convinced that the world would agree with your following statement:

“As I had argued earlier, (and also in this thread) it seems highly unlikely that Bashar al-Asad was involved in the plot or that he had any clue that an attempt was underway to kill Hariri.

If we can trust Robert Fisk on this,I think we can, the Syrian president spent the minutes immediately before the attack with Seymour Hersh, engaging in a detailed discussion of all the problems that Hariri was causing him and his family.”

Do you think that the timing of this interview is enough to exclude a person’s involvement?

Do you think that one can still entertain scenarios where the “political” decision to eliminate the man had already been taken and that the group in charge of the “practical” aspects of the operation can execute the order after the go ahead has already been communicated. The first Mehlis report had talked about both Maher and Asef. Is it conceivable that the President can still meet with Hirsh while the people in charge of the operation are entrusted with choosing the best time and place?


I think that Bashar made a huge shift in his tone during the interview with the Saudi paper. The relationship with the King was described as “family-type” before it is official. The difference between half-men and today’s description of the Saudi King is remarkable

March 19th, 2007, 8:43 pm


Alex said:

La France a-t-elle voulu qu’Israël attaque la Syrie ?

Pendant la guerre au Liban de l’été 2006, la France a incité Israël à renverser le régime de Damas, révèle le quotidien israélien Maariv, couramment classé à droite. Une idée qui ne déplaisait pas aux Américains, mais qui n’était pas à l’ordre du jour pour les Israéliens.

Connue pour ses positions proarabes, la France est considérée comme l’un des pays occidentaux et européens les plus critiques envers Israël. Pourtant, il apparaît qu’aux premiers jours de la deuxième guerre du Liban Israël s’est vu soumettre par la France une proposition sans précédent : l’invasion de la Syrie par Tsahal et le renversement du régime de Bachar El-Assad en échange d’un soutien plein et entier de la France à l’effort de guerre israélien.

A l’origine de cette proposition soumise au ministère des Affaires étrangères de Jérusalem, rien moins que le président français Jacques Chirac, dont la haine tenace envers la famille Assad et l’influence de la Syrie au Liban est connue.

Selon le scénario proposé par la France, Tsahal aurait limité ses opérations militaires aux seules infrastructures du Hezbollah et se serait abstenue de toute attaque contre Beyrouth, une capitale comptant de nombreux ressortissants français. En contrepartie, Israël aurait alors concentré son effort de guerre sur la Syrie en arguant du fait que Damas est le principal responsable de l’instabilité régnant tout le long de la frontière israélo-libanaise. Toujours selon ce scénario français, l’invasion israélienne devait bénéficier du soutien inconditionnel et résolu de la France, tant au Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies qu’au Conseil des Affaires étrangères de l’Union européenne.

Bien entendu, ce soutien n’aurait pas fait l’objet de déclarations publiques, mais se serait surtout concrétisé par une marge de manœuvre objective octroyée aux Israéliens dans leur effort de guerre en Méditerranée et donc par un appui tacite.

Contactés par Maariv, les responsables israéliens du ministère des Affaires étrangères rappellent que la proposition de Chirac reposait sur son opposition notoirement hostile au régime de Bachar El-Assad, une opposition nourrie entre autres par l’implication probable de la Syrie dans l’assassinat de l’ancien Premier ministre libanais Rafic Hariri, lequel avait noué avec le président Chirac d’excellents rapports personnels et professionnels. Les officiels israéliens soulignent en outre que cette proposition du président français rend d’autant plus crédibles a posteriori les déclarations du Premier ministre israélien Ehoud Olmert selon lesquelles Israël n’entendait frapper que les cibles du Hezbollah au Liban et ne voulait en aucun cas s’engager dans un conflit armé avec la Syrie. “En clair, les Français nous disaient : ‘Pourquoi s’en prendre au Liban ? Prenez-vous-en plutôt à la Syrie, la source de tous vos maux.’ Bref, ce que la France voulait, c’était qu’Israël fasse le sale boulot à sa place. Pour être honnêtes, les Etats-Unis n’auraient eux non plus pas vu d’un mauvais œil une invasion de la Syrie par Israël.”

Selon une autre source israélienne, “Chirac n’a pas tout de suite compris que nos intérêts ne coïncidaient pas avec ceux de la France et qu’il n’était pas question pour nous d’attaquer la Syrie. Une fois que Chirac s’est rendu compte qu’Israël cherchait un moyen d’arrêter la guerre, et non de l’étendre, les Français ont renoncé à leur proposition et en sont revenus à leur ligne anti-israélienne traditionnelle.”

Le fil des événements de juillet 2006 tend à corroborer les déclarations des officiels israéliens. Aux premiers jours de l’enlèvement des soldats Ehoud Goldwasser et Eldad Regev, la riposte militaire massive d’Israël bénéficia du soutien immédiat des Etats-Unis, de la Grande-Bretagne et d’autres pays occidentaux, mais pas de la France, qui, malgré son opposition à la Syrie, a très vite contesté, non pas le droit d’Israël à riposter, mais celui de s’en prendre de façon “disproportionnée” au Liban, un pays que la France considère comme sa chasse gardée.

En définitive, bien qu’abordée au cabinet des Affaires étrangères, la proposition de Jacques Chirac n’a jamais fait l’objet d’une discussion au Conseil des ministres, tout simplement parce qu’un renversement du régime syrien ne figure pas sur l’agenda des Israéliens.
Uri Jablonka

March 19th, 2007, 8:47 pm


ausamaa said:

It seems they are working on such an appology, and trying to see how bad the clash well be. That is why Amer Mousa is touring the area and V.P. Al Shar’e is gone to Libya, Sudan and Yemen.

But, if any appology is needed? what would get you? Show you are wrong! And you have been proven correct. And speaking from personal experience, I have been apologizing to my wife since we got married. Even when I was not NOT wrong! Did it achieve anything? NO sir!!

March 19th, 2007, 8:49 pm


Alex said:

: )

Ausamaa … apology is a very efficient tool of conflict resolution, if used properly.

It has to be “I am genuinely sorry if my words were a disappointment .. but”

March 19th, 2007, 9:05 pm


ausamaa said:

“….but,…You have asked for it”

March 19th, 2007, 9:56 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Thanks for such a meticulous analysis of the Brammertz V report. I have a feeling that this report and his findings are making some people nervous – especially to the south of Lebanon. Let’s hope Brammertz keeps the same vigor and objectivity in his future work. Some observations:

• Brammertz § 24: The presence of lead pollution can be attributed to living in an urban setting during the first 12 years of Adass’ life; whereas the low exposure during the last 10 years of his life might indicate a rural life. This is an alternate explanation to what you referred to as related to changes to source of the pollution in the SAME PLACE. Lead pollution in Afghanistan’s Bora Bora Mountains, for example, is considerably lower than that in Beirut’s suburbs.

• Brammertz § 25. Very strange, indeed, that they will be collecting (mainly water) samples to measure lead pollution in “THREE other counties in the region, and further countries are identified for another series of sampling missions.” It would be very interesting to know what countries these are (especially what he means by “in the region”).

• Brammertz § 44 is a very telling paragraph in the report. Indicating that the video “… could have been designed to deceive..” and your subsequent analyses are very intriguing aspects of this report.

• Brammerts § 46. You put your fingers on a very, very important point. The use of the word “group” is loaded word. “Group” is an often-used term in clandestine operations. Brammertz is ringing a bell here, and so are you. It is brilliant of you to catch that word (have you considered a career with the OA?). I agree that it makes little sense in the case of an extremist group.

• Regarding Nick Blandoford’s reference to the three initiatives of rapprochement that were underway, you are correct: the first one was via Nassrallah (when he met nightly with the late Hariri and had meetings of the minds); the second was through Walid Muallem. Blandford indicated that the Muallem move was considered by many observers as a “conciliatory gesture that would lead to a Syrian troop withdrawal to the Bekaa”.

The third one that you did not remember is the infamous 9 January luncheon meeting between Hariri and Rustom Ghazali in Koreitem. This meeting was also regarded by observers (according to Blandford) as a Syrian fence-mending exercise with Hariri. The account of that meeting and what resulted afterward are very int3eresting artifacts. But that is beyond the scope of this topic.

Thanks again for a superb and captivating analysis. I know people who know people, you too Brutus? 😉

March 19th, 2007, 10:09 pm


Ford Prefect said:

3antar and Ausamaa, you guys rock!

March 19th, 2007, 10:17 pm


Alex said:

Late King Hussein eventually apologized to Hafez as he admitted that he tried to get him assassinated throught he Ikhwan attempt in 1980.

Hafez accepted that apology and they did business together (with difficulty though)

In marriage it is not that easy : )

March 19th, 2007, 10:22 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

T Desco said
“in the second case it remains a mystery why no DNA evidence of Adass was found at the crime scene, as it could easily have been planted by the intelligence agency either in the Mitsubishi van itself or by tampering with the crime scene after the attack.”
the question is (did you really think that they aticipated UN investigation)when they planned the murder.

March 19th, 2007, 11:01 pm


Fares said:

Josh, my favorite American Baath Agent, why don’t you write about the demolishing of old Damascus and the uprising of the people there.

March 19th, 2007, 11:30 pm


EHSANI2 said:

By William Harris
(Editor’s Note: Mr. Harris teaches in the political studies department at
the University of Otago, New Zealand.)

Almost unnoticed by the global media, a crucial turning point has arrived in
the U.N investigation into the murder of former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik
Hariri, in February 2005. It is also a turning point for the credibility of the
international community.
A report by the chief of the investigation, Belgian Serge Brammertz,
presented to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on March 15, establishes that
the specific motives for the assassination were strictly political. They
involved reactions to U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which demanded
Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon; Hariri’s opposition to the Syrian-driven
extension of the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud; and Hariri’s bid to
end pro-Syrian domination of the Lebanese regime in the May 2005 Lebanese
parliamentary elections.
After many months of painstaking assembly and analysis of physical, interview
and communications evidence, Mr. Brammertz has essentially confirmed the
findings of his predecessor, Detlev Mehlis: The Syrian/Lebanese security
apparatus that commanded Beirut up to 2005 — whose overlords are Presidents
Bashar Assad of Syria and Emile Lahoud of Lebanon — is the prime and only
suspect for the Hariri murder. His report emphasizes the elaborate character of
the murder conspiracy, effectively dismissing the “aerial delivery hypothesis”
for the bombing, and brushing aside the Islamic fundamentalist and science
fiction scenarios floated by the Syrian regime and its apologists.
The next step should be to establish the special mixed international/Lebanese
tribunal envisaged in U.N. Security Council resolution 1664 of March 2006, to
prosecute Hariri’s murderers and their instigators. All Security Council
members approved the draft protocol, detailing the tribunal’s authority, after
protracted negotiation between Lebanese and U.N. legal experts. But Syria’s
allies, led by President Lahoud and Hezbollah, have prevented Lebanon’s
parliament from voting on the protocol, and campaigned to destroy the
government of Prime Minister Fuad Siniora.
Syria and Hezbollah wish to neuter the tribunal protocol. Why? They object to
heads of organizations being held responsible for actions of their
subordinates, and to international prosecutions for involvement in other
murders and bombings in Lebanon since October 2004, if these incidents link
with the Hariri case. Since the U.N. inquiry has detected interconnections
between the Hariri assassination and murders and attempted murders of other
prominent Lebanese personalities, the tribunal, under the draft protocol, could
pursue trails of evidence from a variety of incidents up the chain of command
of a state or organization.
After five unanimous Security Council resolutions on the U.N. murder inquiry
and the proposed special tribunal, the credibility of international justice is
at stake in the Hariri case. Yet the investigation unfortunately also coincides
with an irrepressible itch for Western politicians to “engage” Baathist Syria.
Most reprehensible was the trip to Damascus on March 14 of EU High
Representative Javier Solana, amid European hints of “flexibility” regarding
the tribunal. Mr. Solana broke a two-year EU moratorium on such visits. The
newspaper al-Thawra, a mouthpiece of the Syrian regime, triumphantly crowed
that Mr. Solana’s mission proved that Syrian policies were “correct and do not
need to be changed . . . others should make the required change.”
The West should be standing behind Lebanese Prime Minister Siniora and
safeguarding international justice — represented by the Hariri tribunal
protocol — from assault and battery by Syria and its cronies. To his credit,
President George W. Bush has been stalwart on this issue. But there are
dangerous diplomatic riptides.
The tribunal protocol is currently subject to horse-trading among Lebanese
factions and Middle Eastern regimes. The Iranians are on the line with the
Saudis to establish a “compromise” that would enable the Syrian leadership to
sail through the murder affair, saving the central cog of the
Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alignment. The Saudis apparently prefer Mr. Siniora’s
government to settle with the Hezbollah-led opposition before the Arab summit
in Riyadh on March 28-29, and therefore to submit the tribunal to a Lebanese
political committee for “minor adjustments.” Syria and Hezbollah will do their
best to ensure that the tribunal protocol never re-emerges from such a
It would be a terrible precedent to bend the terms of international justice
to suit the comfort and convenience of Middle Eastern autocracies and
theocracies. It is also presumptuous of the Lebanese to suppose that their
domestic factional arrangements should in any way bind the core business of the
international community. If murder suspects and their friends prevent Lebanon
from endorsing the existing U.N. approved draft protocol of the Hariri
tribunal, the matter must return to the Security Council for creation of a
purely international alternative under Chapter VII of the U.N. charter. Chapter
VII would authorize draconian sanctions, including military action, in the
event of defiance of the special tribunal.

March 20th, 2007, 1:38 am


norman said:

Published: 20/03/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)

‘Syrian way’ of seeing Mideast succeeds
By Sami Moubayed, Special to Gulf News

Seventy-one years ago the words “they are half-men” echoed throughout the Syrian parliament. At the time, opposition leader Jamil Mardam Bey was trying to pass a treaty in parliament which he had just signed with the French government of prime minister Leon Blum. His opponents staged a massive demonstration at the gates of parliament, demanding that the chamber not ratify the proposed Franco-Syrian Treaty.

Veiled, wailing women whose shrieks ripped through the walls of parliament filled the streets as Mardam Bey was delivering his address. The deputies – emotionally-charged by this demonstration – voted against him. He angrily shouted, “You are half-men!” They roared in objection. They fired back at him. They tried to ostracise him. But Mardam Bey survived, got his way, passed the treaty and became prime minister of Syria.

Many years later, President Bashar Al Assad was similarly angered by Arab voices speaking out against Hezbollah’s performance in the summer war of 2006. As far as Bashar was concerned, this was Syria’s war. At his wits’ end, he also described his opponents as “half-men”. They too roared in objection. They fired back at him. They tried to isolate him politically. But Bashar, like Mardam Bey, got his way – and survived. The Saudis took it personally. However, the Syrians said what they wanted to say – and got away with it. German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had cancelled a trip to Damascus minutes after Bashar’s speech, now showered Syria with praise, saying that its cooperation was necessary to resolve the numerous problems of the Middle East.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi also telephoned Bashar last week, similarly underlining the centrality of Syria’s role in the region. The Saudis have invited Bashar to attend the upcoming Arab summit in Riyadh scheduled for March 28. The Syrians have accepted. The Americans – finally acknowledging that no solution to Iraq can be achieved without the help of Syria – met with the Syrians for the first time since 2005 at the March 10 conference held in Baghdad.

Finally, the Brammertz report came out last week praising Syria’s cooperation with the UN commission in the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister Rafik Al Hariri.

These are good days for Syria. The storm has by no means passed, yet it is quickly receding from the Damascus political skyline.

One of the latest tangible outcomes of Syria’s restored standing in the international community is the visit of EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Damascus, ironically on March 14 – the very date that the Lebanese opposition staged demonstrations demanding Syria’s exodus from Lebanon in 2005. French President Jacques Chirac attending the European summit showed no objection to Solana’s visit to Syria. Solana came to re-engage the Syrians, offering in return economic and political incentives from the EU, the most notable being the revival and possible signing of the long-frozen partnership agreement with Syria. His visit came just four days after the Baghdad Conference – clearly after the US decided to talk to Syria.

Europe did not want to be left out of the solutions to the Middle East. It was because of the US, among other things, that it severed its ties with Damascus. And today, precisely because of the US – that it decided to talk to Syria.

The reasons for each engagement are different. The US wants the Syrians for Iraq. The Europeans want them for Lebanon.

All of this happened without the Syrians having to fundamentally change their positions. Syria is still committed to supporting Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Syria is still opposed to the Fouad Siniora cabinet in Beirut, the Americans in Iraq, and are still – clearly – very close to the Iranians. Syria does not veto the tribunal, but objects to it being politicised by the international community – particularly the Beirut government (and its US and EU backers), to incriminate Syria. It continues to uphold its position on this issue.

What can be deduced from all of the above?

Syria, when defending her vital interests, has (and will continue to) uphold the most Syrian of traditions: resourcefulness and tenacity. Her positions might not be immediately well-received – or even understood – but Syria’s interlocutors will always eventually understand the common sense behind Syria’s positions. Determination and the passage of time have always validated the “Syrian way” of seeing the Middle East. This is what both Mardam Bey and Bashar knew very well. The earlier the international community acknowledges this fact, the easier it will be to stabilise this tumultuous region.

Sami Moubayed is the managing editor of Forward Magazine in Damascus.

Email this

March 20th, 2007, 2:23 am


norman said:

There is no need for an apology , They are half men at the most.

March 20th, 2007, 2:34 am


3antar said:

was forwarded this today.
based on = entu faslu , u ne7ne mnelbes.

the words outrageous, and absurd come to mind.

so this is what it’s really about. highlights:

ثالثاً: تأمين تدفق النفط بشكل تام و كامل للغرب دون أي قيود.

و ستكون هذه الدولة الكرديّة الممتدة من ديار بكر في تركيا إلى تبريز في إيران أكبر حليف للغرب في المنطقة ما بين اليابان و بلغاريا.

(this is my favourite =>
دولة سوريا الكبرى: بعد تقسيم العراق إلى ثلاثة أقسام: كردي في الشمال, شيعي في الجنوب و سني في الوسط, سيضطر الجزء السني إلى الالتحاق بسوريا، و ذلك لأنه سيصبح دولة لا مقومات لها بين مطرقة الدولة الكردية الكبرى إلى شماله، و سندان الدولة الشيعية إلى جنوبه إذا لم ينضم إلى سوريا. و سيتم إجبار سوريا عن التخلي عن جزء صغير منها لضمّه إلى لبنان لتشكيل “دولة لبنان الكبير” على البحر المتوسط لإعادة إحياء دولة فينيقيا

, لكنّها في جميع الأحوال و الظروف حافظت على عاملين اثنين أساسيين اعتبرتهما كثوابت في جميع هذه الإستراتيجيات, و خطّا أحمر يمس الأمن القومي الأمريكي:
العامل الأول هو: حماية أمن إسرائيل و دعمها بأي ثمن.
العامل الثاني هو: تأمين النفط و المصالح الإستراتيجية الأمريكية الأخ

as the article states, such plan (whether it does materialize, or not) surely cracks a smile on few faces, motivates, while infuriates others. then again, why not, everyone has a price, and as we’ve seen, people will switch sides, and positions at a whim when the time is right.
Just thought i’d share the goodness.

March 20th, 2007, 11:32 am


Ford Prefect said:

There original article is here:

March 20th, 2007, 12:19 pm


3antar said:

cheers FP

March 20th, 2007, 12:37 pm


t_desco said:

Thanks for all the comments and the kind words!


I do think that it is a very strong argument; no definite proof, but I am not sure how such a proof would look like…

For example, the scenario you are proposing (the Syrian president having knowledge of the operation while others were in charge of it, if I understand you correctly) does not address the problem, notably that in this case it would still have been completely unreasonable for him to talk to Hersh in the way he did.


that is exactly why I quoted Franjieh, to show that even the Lebanese authorities were talking about DNA analysis, one day after the attack, well before any UN investigation.

Ford Prefect,

thanks for explaining the third rapprochement initiative which had escaped my memory.

Regarding the lead pollution, I just wanted to highlight the technical problems which arise when this is being used to determine the geographic origin of the suicide bomber.

For example, many countries have phased out leaded gasoline (e.g. Saudi Arabia), probably the main source of lead pollution a decade ago (unless the person grew up in the vicinity of a battery recycling plant or a similar industrial facility).

BTW, this interesting map shows the concentration of lead in gasoline in 1995, more or less the time when the exposure to lead pollution diminished significantly.

March 20th, 2007, 10:37 pm


Ford Prefect said:

Again, thanks for your insights. Regarding lead pollution, your point is well taken. However, I am referring to lead pollution coming from urban water supplies rather than gasoline-based lead emissions. It is a well-documented fact that some urban areas (now banned in the US) have used water pipes, fittings, solder, and the service connections of plumbing systems containing lead that contaminates the drinking water. At the extreme, there is empirical evidence linking such lead exposures to cases of lead poisoning, lead-induced infant deformities, cancers, and other medical conditions. I believe that is what Brammertz is referring to: urban vs. non-Urban water supplies that are evidenced by where the person might have resided. This is just a thought based on my reading of the report and your excellent analysis.


March 20th, 2007, 11:08 pm


Levant Watch - BULLETIN No. 181 at World Council For The Cedars Revolution said:

[…] AL Hayat Syria’s Declining Role Hassan Haydar Khalilzad: Syria Invites More Talks SyriaCommment Kurds Commemorate the “Intifadah” of 12 March 2004 Column One: As Syria prepares for war Eldar The Syrian secret Sharon did not reveal to Olmert Al Awsat Syria’s Critical Timing Bar’el The Syrian-Arab rift Bashar Assad is trying to mend fences with the rest of the Arab League, but as long as Syria remains linked to Iran and the Lebanese opposition, he will only have limited success Al Hayat Syrian Panic over Resolving the Shebaa Issue and the Progress in Brammertz’s Investigation Syria “More Accomodating” to Terrorists State Dept Adviser: 90% of Suicide Bombers Cross Syrian Border Syria Comment “Farid Ghadry, Syria’s Chalabi: From Washington to Damascus,” by Salim Abraham Presidential Hopeful Slams Bush for Stance on Syria Al Hayat The Iranian Advice and The Syrian Request in Lebanon Walid Choucair – Will any escalation further complicate the Lebanese crisis and lead to more external rows over Lebanon? Perhaps more international decisions will be taken in this regard, added to the existing list of decisions that would force Syria to take additional steps in its relations with the international community? Report: Syria rejected Israeli offers for secret talks Syria’s ‘engagers’ can’t ignore Brammertz By Michael Young Assad Says ‘No Cloud’ Over Syria, Saudi Ties Brammertz V – Comments and Contextualization (by t_desco) Report: Assad sees no progress in peace process in next 2 years In interview with Saudi newspaper, Syrian President calls U.S. main obstacle to Middle East peace Sharon’s Syrian secret Farkash, the former head of MI, says Sharon knew about Syrian-Israeli contacts. […]

March 29th, 2007, 12:30 pm


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