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Sunday, March 27, 2005

The UN Report on the Fact-Finding Mission to Lebanon

The United Nations has released its fact-finding mission report on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The UN team that conducted this inquiry was headed by Ireland's deputy police commissioner, Peter FitzGerald.

In one of the most vivid parts of the report, testimony given to the UN investigative team describes a meeting in Damascus at which Assad ordered Rafik Harriri to support amending Lebanon's constitution in order to extend by three additional years the presidential mandate of Emile Lahoud. According to that testimony, Assad told Harriri that "Lahoud should be viewed as his personal representative" in Lebanon and that "opposing him is tantamount to opposing Assad himself". Assad then allegedly warned that he "would rather break Lebanon over the heads of" Hariri and Druze political leader Walid Jumblatt "than see his word in Lebanon broken."

Furthermore the UN team also charged that in the aftermath of the assassination, Syrian-controlled Lebanese authorities tampered with evidence and showed a "distinct lack of commitment" to conducting an objective and credible investigation into Hariri's assassination. The UN team stopped short of directly accusing Syria and its agents in Lebanon for the murder of ex-Prime Minister Harriri although the report charges that Syria "bears primary responsibility for the political tension that preceded" the assassination. Click HERE to download a copy of the repot in PDF form.

6 Comments:

Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

For once, UN is right!

March 27, 2005

 
Anonymous Nadir said...

Awesome piece Jawad. Thank you! "For us it would be like political suicide," said Bashar Al Assad. It makes sense, but who would believe a dictator. Do you think Lebanon will sink back into civil war?

March 27, 2005

 
Blogger Jawad said...

I think that a full-fledged civil war, the likes of what took place there in the 1970s, is highly unlikely although some elements in and outside of Lebanon are working overtime to send that country back into destruction (i.e., recent bombings). It is highly unlikely because the current generation of Lebanese is born amid the destruction of the previous civil war. They know that they could not possibly live through that again.

Lebanon has been by far the most unfortunate country of all in recent history. At one point, six foreign armies (U.S., France, Italy, Syria, Israel, PLO) were fighting within the country, not to forget the strong meddling of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Libya. These foreign armies and intelligence services turned that country into a destructive battlefield. Then, some went home without ever being held accountable for the misery and destruction they had brought to that country. Syria on the other hand stayed and Iran continued to send over $200 million a year to Hizbullah.

The situation there now is as complex as it used to be. Hizbullah is a major military and political force there. Their armed militia (some 25,000 troops) is the best equipped and trained in the country. They recently unveiled their new unmanned drone (a capability the Lebanese army does not have). So, Hizbullah is much stronger politically and militarily in Lebanon than Sin Fein and the IRA were in Northern Ireland. The only way out of confrontation with Hizbullah is to start treating them as a legitimate political force and negotiate a process towards the decommissioning of the militia and the creation of a united defense for Lebanon. Remember that in Northern Ireland, the decommissioning of IRA weapons was fiercely resisted and required a long process of give-and-take and political guarantees from the British government. The same logic must be pursued with Hizbullah.

It appears now that Harriri’s death has united the Sunnis, Christians, and Druze. Not sure how deep this alliance is but like I said before the leaders of those groups know that civil war is to be avoided at all costs.

March 29, 2005

 
Anonymous Nadir said...

Intriguing stuff, thank you Jawad!

These foreign armies and intelligence services turned that country into a destructive battlefield.

I don’t know much about geopolitics but it’s fascinating, so allow me to jump in and correct me when appropriate. The armies are not there any more (except for Syria), but I guess many intelligence services (snake charmers) are still there in force. In fact, I was surprised to see the huge crowds taking the streets of Lebanon on TV, not that I don’t have faith in the ‘Arab street’ (if such thing ever existed) but because -as an Arab– I grew up associating big crowds with cheering leaders, not voicing a stand on political issues.

The only way out of confrontation with Hizbullah is to start treating them as a legitimate political force and negotiate a process towards the decommissioning of the militia and the creation of a united defense for Lebanon.

I don’t think anyone can ignore the elephant in the room, but it’s matter of timing. Who can recognize a terrorist organization as a legitimate political party in the middle of the war on terror. I’m aware it’s been done in the past, but the definition of terrorism have changed since then.

Not sure how deep this alliance is but like I said before the leaders of those groups know that civil war is to be avoided at all costs.

Can the same conclusion apply to Palestinians?

Peace!

March 29, 2005

 
Blogger Jawad said...

Absolutely! Beirut in particular has been somewhat of a Disneyland for intelligence services from all around the world. Lebanon became the place where they went to fight and outsmart each other, unfortunately without regard for the destruction that their activities brought upon the Lebanese people.

My opinion on your second point is that the English said the same thing about the IRA not long ago. The post 9/11 environment is, however, different as you very well point out. In fact it is 9/11 that brought the IRA to finally announce that they were putting their arms 'beyond use', thus, finally making the decommissioning process a reality.

The administration has already sent some signals that it may deal with the prospect of Hizbullah legitimizing itself as a political body. This came after Secretary Rice failed to get the Europeans to declare Hizbullah a terrorist org and after the latter turned hundreds of thousands of protesters into the streets of Lebanon. It was a reality check for many.

Regarding your question about Palestine, it is interesting you asked. Yesterday, Hamas made an announcement that they intend to join the political process alongside Fatah. So, to answer your question, the approach I discussed regarding Hizbullah is not just applicable to Palestine, it is actually already happening.

March 29, 2005

 
Blogger Irina Tsukerman said...

Nevertheless, the leadership responsible for civilian deaths must be held accountable in order for real reconciliation to take place.

March 31, 2005

 

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