Press TV Reports
Recent remarks by Seyed Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah, on possible involvement of several Hezbollah members in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005 have drawn reactions and posed questions.
When Hariri lost his life in a massive explosion, the Bush administration immediately recalled the US ambassador to Damascus. The swift reaction meant the White House was implicitly pointing the finger at Syria while no probe had been conducted yet and not one had been officially accused.
The tactic continued in the following years and Syria was regarded as the prime suspect in later assassinations. The March 14 Alliance backed by the Western governments as well as certain Arab states spared no effort to put maximum pressure on Syria through that strategy. The withdrawal of the Syrian military in the wake of the assassination paved the way for the alliance to easily press ahead with its propaganda campaign against Damascus and go one step further to implicate Syria’s allies in Lebanon and the whole region as well.
The first investigative report on Hariri’s slaying began with a meeting between Hariri and the Syrian president. Syrian authorities would ask why the report should begin with the name of their president? And did that mean the inquiry had been politicized? Moreover, four senior Lebanese military and security officials were apprehended without charge shortly after, and were released three years and eight months later without any explanation.
Now Nasrallah and Michel Aoun, the Lebanese Christian majority leader, say the court looking into Hariri’s assassination has politicized the issue.
The Hezbollah chief says he has been told by Lebanese Premier Saad Hariri that the court will soon accuse several ‘rogue’ members of Hezbollah in his father’s assassination.
Sources close to the Lebanese prime minister say he has brought up a number of possible scenarios with Nasrallah, including the possibility of a missile attack on Rafiq Hariri’s convoy, which singles out Israel as the prime suspect. Leader of the Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblat, from the very outset, repeatedly referred to possible Israeli involvement in the assassination although he was with the March 14 Alliance at the time.
The court investigating Hariri’s case is an international court which naturally wouldn’t offer information to real entities before it is officially published. Then how on earth Saad Hariri knows that charges against several Hezbollah members are likely to be announced next fall? Either the judge studying the case, or someone in his office, must have given him the information. Another possible scenario is that the Lebanese premier might have found out for himself during his trips to the United States and France. Whatever the means, the end is the same: gaining access to a court verdict without legal permission.
Saad Harir’s comments to Nasrallah indicate the court proceedings are not confidential. And worse, Israeli Army chief Gabi Ashkenazi had even announced before Saad Hariri that the court would announce its ruling in September. This comes as the investigation is not over yet, and some Hezbollah members are to be subpoenaed as witnesses after the holy month of Ramadan. That’s why Nasrallah says the court verdict has already been issued, but its announcement has been delayed due to political considerations.
When Judge Detlev Mehlis was appointed chief UN investigator into Hriri’s assassination, his assistant Gerhard Lehmann asked top Lebanese officer Sayyed Jamil to convey a verbal message to the Syrian president regarding the responsibility of certain rogue Syrian officers in Hariri’s slaying. In other words, Jamil had to sacrifice several people or he himself would be arrested.
Jamil refused to accept the deal, and was taken into custody three months later on Mehlis’s orders. He remained behind bars for nearly four years. Mehlis’s probe was based on the premise that Syria and four senior Lebanese officers were behind Hriri’s assassination. However, the inquiry produced no result. Now, they are trying to make out that Hezbollah is responsible for the current probe.
Even the assumption that ‘rogue’ Hezbollah members were involved in Hriri’s assassination has significant implications. That would lead the US and other Western governments to accuse the resistance movement of terrorism and, hence, to try to strip Hezbollah of its ‘self-defense’ epithet against Israel. Nonetheless, resistance against occupiers is a legitimate practice in all international charters. Moreover, Hezbollah has turned into a role model for freedom-seeking movements.
Unofficial reports suggest charges brought against several Hezbollah members were triggered by the fact that they were talking on their cell phones when Hriri was slain. Three Israeli spies have recently been arrested in Lebanon’s mobile telephone network. They not only provided Tel Aviv with cell phone conversations, but also made up conversations. Fake conversations are not considered valid evidence in any court.
There is yet another scenario. Some are of the conviction that the talk of possible Hezbollah involvement in Hriri’s assassination before the court hands down its ruling later this year could generate a lot of debate in the Lebanese society by then. This, they argue, will turn the saga into an ordinary issue, which, in turn, could prevent domestic problems.