Mehlis Report accusing Syria

UN-appointed German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis handed his report on the Hariri killing over to Kofi Annan, the Security Council’s 15 members, and the government of Lebanon today.
AFP was one of the first to see the newly-released text. It reported:

    “There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former prime minister Rafiq Hariri could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services,” the report said…
    Citing “converging evidence” pointing at both Syrian and Lebanese involvement in what it described as a “terrorist act,” the report said: “The likely motive of the assassination was political.”
    Syria, Lebanon’s long-time power broker, and its political allies in Lebanon had been widely accused of having had a hand in the killing, which plunged the nation into turmoil. Damascus has strenuously denied the allegations.
    It [that is, the report] pointed out that Syrian military intelligence was well known to have had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at least until the withdrawal of Syrian forces in line with UN Security Council resolution 1559.
    “Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge,” the report said.
    “It is the commission’s conclusion that, after having interviewed witnesses and suspects in the Syrian Arab Republic and establishing that many leads point directly towards Syrian security officials as being involved with the assassination, it is incumbent upon Syria to clarify a considerable part of the unresolved questions,” it added.
    “While the Syrian authorities, after initial hesitation, have cooperated to a limited degree… several interviewees tried to mislead the investigation,” it said.
    It noted that a letter addressed to the Mehlis panel by Syrian Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shara “proved to contain false information.”
    The Mehlis report stressed the need for full Syrian cooperation if the investigation is to be completed…

France and the US are expected to introduce a draft resolution to respond to this report, early next week. By then, too, Terje Larsen should be presenting his report to the Security Council on the (separate) issue of whether Syria has complied with the portion of UNSC resolution 1559 that called for the disarmament of non-government forces in Lebanon (i.e. Hizbullah and the Palestinian militias in the camps in south Lebanon.)
Earlier today, Josh Landis was predicting an ugly standoff between Washington and Damascus:

    Washington wants a public and total Syrian climb down. In essence, it wants Syria to renounce its core ideology of Arabism. It wants Syria to concede that its regional policies and anti-American stand are wrong. In a sense it wants a public apology and mea culpa from Bashar. It wants him to take Syria on a 180 degree about-face, ideologically and strategically.
    The Syrian government will probably refuse to do this. The Syrian opposition says the government will refuse because the government is too weak. Others claim the government is strong enough to weather sanctions. Still others suggest it is because the President’s and regime’s legitimacy is founded on Arab nationalist principles, thus it cannot abandon them without facing internal collapse. And there are other explanations. Perhaps the Syrian leaders really believe in their principles? Perhaps it is the Arab desire not to lose face and be publicly humiliated? Everyone has their pet theory, but most agree that it comes down to a clash of ideologies. Most insist things will have to get worse before they get better.

I agree with his basic assessment. John Bolton seems to be running quite a high proportion of the Bush administration’s policy towards Syria. He’s a tough nut, and has given clear signals to, e.g., Sharon’s government that it should not respond even to very conciliatory peace overtures from Damascus. From Bashar’s side, he is not a tough nut. But he’s boxed in by his own relatively weak position inside Syrian politics, and is in no position to “pull a Qadhafi” and start dancing to Washington’s tune.
Then, of course, there’s the uncomfortable prospect that any serious weakening of Bashar would open up more space in Syria not for the (relatively small in number, and disorganized) elements of the pro-liberalizing opposition, but for the militant Sunni-Islamist opposition, instead. Yes, Bashar “uses” this prospect quite frequently, to try to ward off too much pressure coming at him from washington or Paris. But yes, he is also, to a large extent a prisoner of it.
Since the Hariri killing, Bashar’s lost the “strategic defense” he used to have against his local Sunni-Islamists by virtue of his close political relationship with Saudi Arabia. Now, that relationship is considerably weakened. I think that makes the Sunni-Islamist threat that much greater to him.
Interesting days. Let’s hope and pray that Syria can avoid any breakdown into civil war. (When I was there last November, the one thing all the Syrians we talked to– liberal-opposition people and regime people– united on was that they sought if at all possible to avoid the fate of Iraq.)

11 thoughts on “Mehlis Report accusing Syria”

  1. My initial impression of the snippets of the report is that Syrian intelligence was running a vast crime syndicate in Lebanon with its Lebanese counterparts with the knowledge of some but not all of Bashar’s inner circle. I’ll have to look at some analyses tomorrow.
    It reminds me of the assassination of General Dalla Chiesa in Italy back in the 1980s in which Giulio Andreotti was accused of complicity with the mafia in the general’s death. But that murder was to prevent Dalla Chiesa from investigating the Sicilian mob. In this case, Syrian intelligence was the mob. But what role did Hariri play? Did he have a crime syndicate of his own?

  2. This is very distressing. Mehlis knows that the US is trying to construct a casus belli from nothing as it did with Iraq. Yet he bends over backwards to contribute to that casus belli. It seem clear to me that he was only appointed to milk the whole affair for the maximum possibilities of aggression against Syria.
    Mehlis’ top line is so conditional and so qualified that it would not stand up for five minutes in any other circumstances. What will not do in a criminal court or a newspaper report is taken to be fine when used in a rush to colonisation and war.
    Perhaps, now that I have written that down, it is not so surprising. Hasn’t it always been so?

  3. Nur, it wasn’t exactly (or mainly) a criminal syndicate they were running… it was monopoly control over several key aspects of the “above-ground” Lebanese economy– operations at the Lebanon port, etc. Most of the Syrian political elite, the whole Lebanese political elite, and much of the business elites in both countries were all running this system together, for 14 years post-Taef. (And yes, that most definitely included Mr. Uber-businessman Rafiq Hariri.) But then, there was a falling-out amongst them, in which “division of the spoils” was certainly one issue.
    This system of monopoly control over key nodes of the economy being part of the political “booty” of being in power is part of many colonial-era systems, both in the colonies and in their respective “metropoles”… For example, the monopolies that the French, the Ottomans, and others would distribute over basic commodities: it was a very familiar system to Lebanese… However, the ones running it there in recent years were ways too greedy, and so they failed to deliver the services they were supposed to be delivering. When I was in Beirut last fall, the electricity cuts were crippling, because the monopoly-run electricity company had become such a den of fraudsters. (I wonder if it’s gotten better since a Hizbullah minister took responsibility for it?)
    The main problems– for the citizens in both Lebanon and Syria– were always those of having accountable governance.
    None of which for a moment excuses the Bush administration’s amazingly hypocritical, last-minute conversion to the cause pf “good governance” in these and other countries around the world.
    It’s a pretty amazing spectacle sitting here in the US watching that campaign being drummed up against Bashar al-Asad while (a) Tom De Lay got indicted on the very same day, and (b) The big speculation is how long before Karl Rove gets indicted in the Plame case, too?

  4. Dominic, just because Mehlis issues a report with a result you don’t like he’s branded a Bush mouthpiece?
    People have always been talking about turning to the United Nations as a fair way to resolve disputes, as opposed to letting the US government and its ulterior motives run amok in the disputes. So here IS the United Nations trying to resolve the Hariri crisis impartially. Yet the UN NOW gets dismissed because its conclusion suggests a substantial complaint againt the Syrian Baathists.

  5. It’s just kind of odd seeing the UN go full-bore on Syria, given the countless UN resolutions ignored by Israel and Bush’s illegal takedown of Iraq and rampant prisoner abuse. I wonder if Annan’s pockets are being lined.
    Certainly nothing wrong in ending the Syrian exploitation of Lebanon and sending its troops home, but given the US hand in the kidnapping and sequestering of Hugo Chavez, this is the bonfire of the hypocracies! And it’s not like the US ever murdered a head of state or anything (hic).
    I’m all for cleanup, some transparancy and change in Syria, but what’s isolation going to accomplish? Sure there should be a penalty for lying and coverup but there should also be plenty of space for course-correction. [Anyone think there is no official racketeering and corruption in Egypt, for example?]

  6. “This system of monopoly control over key nodes of the economy being part of ‎‎the political”
    Helen, The problem the west still looking to the Arab courtiers as separate and ‎‎individuals identities as per The Sykes-Picot ‎Agreement after WWI what you need ‎from us we are one nation leave us alone if ‎you still paly with us then this not can set ‎down the problems you created long time ‎ago.‎
    Your arguments it’s baseless due to you are dealing with us unbalanced and looking ‎to us as a slave to follow your orders, stope this way God sack, why should Syria ‎withdraw from Lebanon? What ever corruptions killing ‎for one person whatever who ‎are, how many political figures killed around the world, did you care? why this one, ‎can you tell us what about Israel occupying Palestinian Land killing controlling all the ‎‎life of the Arabs their, there are 99 UN resolutions asking Israel to with draw from ‎‎the Arab land, moreover 100 UN resolutions blocked US.‎
    Can you tell us were the wrong doing in the world politics? And who are doing this? ‎
    The reality is Helen, some Israeli officials and the Israeli Ha’arts news papers ‎‎signalling before the UN report that Syrian government should be changed, to me that ‎‎the US administration polices cooked in Tel Aviv and Bush follow the orders its ‎‎simple as that to make Israel controls ME this the project that Israel founded here in ‎‎ME.‎

  7. Inkan, you write. I write. We know that you put your strongest case first. Look at the first sentence of the Mehlis report above. It’s rubbish. I’ve already said that in my first post.
    I didn’t mention Bush and I’m not “people”. For your information I’m happy with the UN as a world forum but I don’t want national sovereignty being over-ridden, thanks very much and especially not in this atmosphere of bullying. Which does not only involve the USA, by the way. There seems to be French connivance here, and maybe German.
    I don’t want the UN down here investigating the Brett Kebble (rich, fat, charming businessman involved in politics) murder in Johannesburg, either, please. There’s no suggestion of it, I’m happy to say. So why pick on the rich fat charming Lebanese businessman’s murder? What next? The War of Jenkin’s Ear all over again?

  8. I have to agree with Dominic. Look at this paragraph…
    It is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution 1559. The former senior security officials of Lebanon were their appointees. Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge.
    1. “It is a well known fact” does not make anything true. Nothing on Earth is true because it is a “well known fact.”
    2. By this logic, the FBI was behind every killing in America, since it is “difficult to envisage such a complex assassination plot” as JFK’s to go one without them.
    Who is Mehlis? Does anyone have any reason to trust or distrust him?
    I wish I knew.
    It is like el-Baradei before the war.
    He never said anything that was more than “not likely” which always left room that it was possible that Saddam had a nuclear program.

  9. Dominic,
    I have long suspected that the reason Lebanon/Syria happened was that it wasn’t just part of the plan, but that the French wanted it, too.
    Whether or not they were complicit in any particular detail isn’t as relevant to me as understanding why Lebanon became such a focus for the “we need a victory” neo-cons.
    Helen also mentions Libya, which suggests to me she hasn’t reading Foreign Affairs. Libya was trying to get out from under the Lockerbie sanctions for years by playing the good guy, since the late 1990s.
    Bush and friends leveraged this desire.
    Ever wonder how come we didn’t see many pictures of his arsenal and programs? I’m not trying to say nothing existed.

  10. Inkan1969
    “United Nations as a fair way to resolve disputes,”
    Its nice some one still have faith in UN override by US, do you remember Iraq crises, its same UN you talking about full of accusation from Colin Powel to Britt’s documents and more over the Veto their hold on tope of the heads who trying to chill down all the case.
    complaint againt the Syrian Baathists
    I don’t if you are Syrian or not but for your information this ideology rewarded by The Sorbonne University/Paris, and the founder he is Michael Aflaq he is a Christian, I am not Baathists supporter or lover but to me why you asking and hating this a party? There are a lot of political parties around the word may have same bad ideology like Syrian Baathists, so why this one can you tell us more?

  11. I agree, Narins, but it is as well to keep things as simple as possible. For me this means bearing in mind that Imperialism is a condition (of monopoly finance capitalism) which does not secifically attach itself to one bourgeois state to the exclusion of the others. They do compete but they also act in concert.
    The thing here is basically to say loud and clear: “Hands off Syria!”
    The absurdity of going to war and killing hundreds of thousands, on the pretext of making a remedy for the murder of one man, should be apparent to most people.

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