Friday, October 21, 2005
Mehlis report summarized
The commission’s work was made difficult by “recent bombings, assassinations, and assassination attempts have been carried out with impunity as well as by “deliberate rumors and prophetic media analyses” that have deterred potential witnesses from contacting UNIIIC. For the first time, we see a link between these bombings, witness intimidation and the 14 February explosion. “The 14 February explosion needs to be assessed clearly against the sequence of explosions which preceded and followed it, since there could be links between some, if not all, of them.”
For that, Mehlis does not name many of his witnesses.
In the political context of the murder, Bashar Assad and Emile Lahoud are featured prominently as haters of Hariri. And so is a prominent Lebanese figure called Mr X. Though this came as no surprise, it was disturbing to read transcripts of phone calls and conversations where their plotting to discredit Hariri and turn the people against him was hinted on as possible motivation for a later decision to murder him. These transcripts and other testimonies confirm the pervasiveness of Syrian interference in Lebanon.
The UN Commission’s investigation has confirmed what many in Lebanon have long asserted, that senior Syrian intelligence officials had a powerful day-to-day and overall strategic influence on the governance of Lebanon. The apparent growing conflict between Mr. Hariri and senior Syrian officials, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, was a central aspect of the information provided to the Commission through interviews and documents.Mehlis was careful. He presented the evidence as is, and only made conclusions where he felt it was beyond reasonable doubt. So while the role of the massacre’s planners and executers was laid out in shocking and suspenseful clarity, he did not link their actions directly to their political masters (albeit through context, which could prove intent). This is partly due to the Syrian regime's unwillingness to co-operate substantively. Mehlis mentions a Syrian attempt to mislead the investigation by lying in a letter by the foreign minister and by scripting the responses of some of the Syrian witnesses they let Mehlis interview. In any case, the report does not exactly clear Lahoud and Assad, and that is important.
Syria was not the only country that did not co-operate. In fact, “no member state relayed usable information to the investigation”. In other words, despite all their talk and excitement about punishing the culprits and Syria, the United States, France and Britain did not provide usable intelligence, but only "expertise."
The Lebanese judicial and security authorities who have assisted Mehlis are painted positively in this report, much to the surprise of many. This leads us to think that if given independence and proper technical and logistical assistance and training, a Lebanese investigation could carry forward the investigation-- a Mehlis recommendation.
The blast was most likely the result of a suicide bombing, though the identity of the bomber could not be ascertained considering the amount of tampering that went on at the scene (the Lebanese security services perhaps intentional mishandling of the investigation prior to Mehlis’s arrival is fully described).
A witness, one of the few named, Mohammad Siddiq, claims that Abu Adass, the star of a video in which he claimed responsibility for the killing on behalf of an unknown Islamist organization, was kidnapped and taken to Syria where he was killed by Syrian military intelligence. His body was placed in the white Mitsubishi van that carried the explosives. The Mitsubishi was stolen in Japan, somehow made it to Syria, where it was fitted with 1000 Kg of high explosives.
The evidence from the phone trail I think is the strongest. It links all of the suspects in a web of conspiracy that also included President Lahoud, who, according to phone records, received a call from one suspect minutes before the blast. In addition to the security officials who are now in Lebanese custody, a few Ahbash officials were named as major co-conspirators with strong connections to the presidential guard and the president himself. The Ahbash is a pro-Syrian radical islamist organization with an important following in the country. PFLP-GC is also named. And of course, the Syrian military intelligence.
Read the report in full here. Conclusions here. One final note. The report reveals how much money and effort was put into monitoring Hariri and planning for his murder. The job of Lahoud’s security agencies became to assassinate a Lebanese official. This alone is grounds for treason.
Here are some excerpts from the report. I have published conclusions and other excerpts elsewhere on this blog. These are details that stuck out to me.
A meeting in Damascus between Mr. Hariri and President Assad on 26 August 2004
appeared to bring the conflict to a head...
Bashar to Hariri (Saad testifying): President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit.
In the meeting with Mr. Al-Moallem, Mr. Hariri complained that he believed that President Assad was being deliberately misinformed about the actions of Mr. Hariri by the Syrian security services and Mr. Sharaa about the actions of Mr. Hariri.
Hariri: “But Lebanon will never be ruled from Syria. This will no longer happen.”
During this discussion, Mr. Al-Moallem told Mr. Hariri that “we and the [security] services here have put you into a corner.” He continued, “Please do not take things lightly.”
One witness of Syrian origin but resident in Lebanon, who claims to have worked for the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon, has stated that approximately two weeks after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559, Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil Al-Sayyedsenior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. (from a draft copy.. the final version does not name them)
Mr. Saddik stated that the decision to assassinate Mr. Hariri had been taken in Syria, followed by clandestine meetings in Lebanon between senior Lebanese and Syrian officers, who had been designated to plan and pave the way for the execution of the assault. These meetings started in July 2004 and lasted until December 2004. The seven senior Syrian officials and four senior Lebanese officials were alleged to have been involved in the plot.
Accroding to a witness, ISF personnel were ordered to keep Mr. Rafik Hariri under surveillance (witness statement) at the end of January and beginning of February 2005
The investigations shows that eight telephone numbers and 10 mobile telephones were used to organize surveillance on Mr. Hariri and to carry out the assassination. The lines were put into circulation on 4 January 2005 in the northern part of Lebanon, between Terbol and Menyeh. The lines were used on individual days to observe Mr. Hariri’s habits, mostly in the area of Beirut city.
In a report dated 17 February 2005, from General Sayyed to Judge Mezher, General Sayyed concluded that the videotape was authentic and “Ahmad Abu Addas, who appears on the tape, was . . . clearly a definite participant in the assassination.” The only basis provided for this conclusion was the statement
that “[t]he way in which he delivers the statement and shows himself without any covering over his face is the manner adopted by suicide bombers in similar cases. The fact that he did not conceal his face while making the statement indicates that he must have been personally responsible for setting off the explosion.”
On Tuesday morning, 15 February 2005, [General Security head Jamil al-Sayed] got a phone call from a journalist from Al-Jazeera who told him nobody had yet picked-up the Abu Adass videotape
There is no evidence that Abu Adass Mr. Abu Adass belonged to the group al nasra wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham as claimed in the Al-Jazeera videotape, nor even that such a group has ever existed or does exist now. There are no indications (other than the videotape) that he drove a truck containing the bomb that killed Hariri. The evidence does show that it is likely that Mr. Abu Adass left his home on 16 January 2005 and was taken, voluntarily or not, to Syria, where he has since disappeared.
On the instructions of the first investigating judge of the Military Court, and with the approval of the General Director of Internal Security Forces, the cars from the Hariri motorcade were taken to the Helou barracks..
The measures taken [to preserve the crime scene] were below the required level and contrary to the obvious fundamental basis upon which crimes as serious as this one or even less serious crimes are investigated...
few hours after the explosion took place, around 2300 hrs, major evidence was
removed from the crime scene...
A bulldozer was introduced into the crime scene on the day of the explosion, 14 February 2005, in the evening for no justifiable reason. As soon as the Minister of Interior and Municipalities got knowledge of it, he gave orders to retrieve it and preserve the crime scene as it was. (This would be Franjieh)
On 15 February….Mr. General Al-Hajj (head of ISF) replied that two teams were working on clearing the road which would be reopened at 1000 hrs. In response to a direct question, GeneralMr. Al-Hajj stated that the orders came from Mustapha Hamdan, the Commander of the Presidential Guard
In a meeting with UNIIIC on 1 June 2005, General Rifi stated that the person who gave the order to get a bulldozer or bulldozers to the crime scene to fill the hole caused by the explosion etc. was General Mustapha Hamdan, who at the time of the incident was the Commander of President Lahoud’s security detail and therefore by Lebanese law had nothing to do with issues related to crime scene investigation
the most likely scenario for the activation of the IED is a suicide bomber.
It was indicated that President Assad would not be available for any interview.
The Commission has concluded that the Government of Syria’s lack of substantive cooperation with the Commission has impeded the investigation and made it difficult to follow leads established by the evidence collected from a variety of sources.
Update: A useless debate is raging about the two different versions of the Mehlis report: one with the names of the Syrian officials, one without. Ramzi has a good summary and an equally good explanation.
2. Did he say they provided help (like angry arab said), or useful clues?
3. What's the big deal about this? why not focus on the fact that the Syrian regime did NOT co-operate. If they were innocent like they claim, then they should have come forward.
Btw, the buzz is that Mr. X is Berri.
As for Berri being Mr X, who is saying it?
And Kais - the Mr. X = Berri is apparently the word on the street ... in the same way the word on the street was that HA was strongly involved. I'm not discounting that Berri might be X, but jumping to such conclusions will not be productive. There are many others that can fit into X as well.
I am note paying any cent to this state until they reform the security agencies.
Yes, the assertion was made in Le Figaro. Don't have access to their archives but I remember it vividly.
+ Don't underestimate the Angry Arab. He might be a crackpot but he is good at deconstructing the myths, and what he says makes sense.
I am not one of those who want to undermine Mehlis but his work was sloppy. First, mentionning the name of Hamdane in Le Figaro was contrary to the elementary rule of investigation secrecy, then the Elias Murr name appearing and then magically disappearing from the banking list. And now, a rookie's mistake (the track modification on Microsoft Word)
+ why did he censor (...) the discussion between X and Ghazale ?
Why the Boutros Harb name ?
+ why is Kandil still free if he knew about the assassination ?
+ the report's position on Siddiq is dubious
+ he used the words "evidence" and "likely" in the same sentence.
So, the bottom line is that Mehlis's sloppy work is giving ammunition to his opponents
Having said that, I didn't understand why Ghazali threw Harb's name. Harb, and correct me if I'm wrong, was not exactly a friend of Hariri's, but he wasn't on good terms with the Syrians either. It is also not clear what role he could have played in a "new government". The omissions hold the clue.
I spent some time searching the archives for evidence of a labor strike, but nothing immediately following that date. The major event that happened on July 20 2004 was the assassination of the Hizbullah figure in the suburb, which was followed by a speech by Nasrallah that talked about "agents" abounding in Lebanon. This also happened right after the municipal elections that Hariri lost. Lahoud was bragging and gloating, and accusing Hariri of having no authority on the street. I don't know about you, but I have always thought that Nasrallah's agents speech was aimed at Hariri.
Why the Boutros Harb name ? "
For Boutors Harb, the answer is evident, it's because the guy's name was uttered during the conversation. This doesn't mean anything. They could have named the pope as well, and Mehlis would have written the pope's name down.
For M. X, we're going to have a new game in the next few months.
Even though we all know that our security chiefs answered to their Syrian masters, this report does not provide any hard evidence to point to the Syrian regime. Mehlis bases his allegations on a Syrian witness resident in Lebanon who says he was at a meeting where the assassination was decided by committee and another who said he saw Audas with them. Not a smoking gun even by Mehlis admission.
Before any of my detractors get carried away,I am not defending the Assad Dynasty. Its criminal history is well known. I am only trying to make the point that in order to avoid another disaster like Iraq there has to be hard evidence. Lies like WMD, aluminium tubes, and Niger yellowcake will only work again on people who suffer from amnesia.
Mehlis knows that his report will be used to put in place a sanctions regime on Syria and its people. (He joked a few weeks ago that he now knows how Blix felt).
Kais,I do not think that the two versions released were a mistake. These are not amateurs.
The real question is whether the Mehlis report is enough for a UN sanctions regime or one by the West.
If sanctions are imposed and the West goes after Assad as it did Saddam ,then we can forget about the Truth , the identity of Mr.X.,Lebanon and Syria.
I am wondering if it is possible for me to have multiple citizenship in the new sectarian and ethnic states that are ordained for our people. I qualify for at least three or four in the new utopias if they allow half- breeds.
OK some Marxist/Syrian “Mukhabarât” thugs might have contributed to the killing of one of their former protégés… and, after all, so what?
Rafiq Hariri was a notorious Saudi-sponsored fraudster and embezzler who had stolen billions from the Lebanese government’s coffers with the complicity of resident Syrian Gen. Ghazi Canaan who skimmed his infamous “khamseen” percent commission for the big boys back in Damascus and Qardâha.
Faux “sheikh” Hariri was most likely killed in a settling of accounts between rival Syrian mafia gangs: that type of crime happens every now and then in Palermo and in the south side of Chicago without eliciting the appointment of a German special prosecutor or impromptu meetings of the UN’s Security Council!
Contrary to the tall tales peddled on Fox News, Future TV, Al-Nahar-al-Wahhabist and other Saudi and/or Hebrew controlled media outlets, “sheikh Rafiq” was no “disinterested defender of freedom”
Actually, throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Saddam’s Iraq and the French government were the only members of the international community who stood squarely on the side of Lebanon’s sovereignty while the country was being ripped/raped by Syria and Saudi Arabia: in those days, the White House courageously looked the other way while Syrian generals tortured at will from Beirut to Zahleh and “sheikh” Rafiq handed no-bid government contracts to his family’s construction firms and organized Oriental orgies cum crystal waterpipes and deluxe Lebanese sex slaves for his Saudi masters.
Whenever you don't agree with something you say it is a cliche, which makes YOU a cliche. You are the quintessential cliche of the anti-Arab anti-Muslim Lebanese fanatic.
The whole US foreign policy is based on cliches, cliches you don't see because you are blinded by hatred.
So clean up your own backyard before you criticize Issam's valid points.
And, it's double irony to have you use labels like anti-Arab and anti-Muslim, then call ME cliched!!
He started by saying that the report was anti-climactic (not climatic, Issam, that's a different word). Why was it anti-climactic? Because it didn't include, in Issam's view, enough hard evidence. Regardless whether one agrees with this or not, the fact is that there is, beside this interim report, 16,000 pages of documentation and 450 interviews. So, at the very least, Issam's position is rather premature.
But like I said, Issam's concern isn't really Syria. It's the US (of course...). And that's where the cliches abound, and where the unfounded assumptions and misreadings pop up. Let's list them.
He starts by saying, that we should not get carried away lest we find ourselves facing "another disaster like Iraq." Now, what does that mean (which was my question!)? Does it mean that Issam thinks that based on the report, the US is going to launch an invasion of Syria?! What is that based on? Nothing. That doesn't stop Issam from cranking out those cliches. "Lies," he tells us, shouldn't be used as pretexts for such an invasion (which exists only in his faulty assumption!). Now, all of a sudden, the report is thrown out, and what was earlier "inconclusive" quickly becomes potential "lies" and pretexts to attack Syria! (Tishreen called, they want their editorial back). Mind you, all this is in his brilliant little head!
"Mehlis knows that his report will be used to put in place a sanctions regime on Syria and its people." Issam apparently not only lives inside Mehlis' head, but also inside the Security Council! First of all, what does it even mean to say that Mehlis "knows..."!? What an inconsequential, utterly irrelevant statement. Let's assume he does. Does that mean he should not do his job!? This is the Syrian mentality, whereby their own crime becomes secondary, and the "conspiracy" against them takes center stage!
But all that assumes of course the course of the Security Council. First Issam warned of invasion, now it's sanctions (or is it sanctions preparing the way for invasion, to make the cliche more familiar?). The likelihood of the first SC meeting is to issue an ultimatum to Syria that it should cooperate fully with the investigation, hand over people, suspects, facilitate interviews (abroad), etc. Should it not, then, it stands in contempt, and something must be done. But all this is brushed aside by Issam, and instead this is all about the "imperialist" US and the lying Bush administration!!
Then issam asks "the real question," of whether the interim report is enough for sanctions! Perhaps that's a question you ask BEFORE you list the course of action that you laid out in anticipation and the "lies" and the entire scenario that exists only in your head that you decided to share as intelligent comment! Had you asked that question BEFOREHAND, and thought about it for a second, perhaps your answer would've changed! But, here's my point again, anti-Us cliches are far more attractive, and the impulse simply took over.
I don't know whether it will be deemed enough, and I'm not drawing fanciful scenarios like our genius Issam here. But, and Josh Landis laid out the same line, I think that the ultimatum scenario I laid out is reasonable. Again, I remind Issam of the 16,000 remaining pages of data that he has not seen (nor have I), that lay behind this shorter interim report. The "real question" isn't whether sanctions are warranted based on the interim report. The question is whether the UN will have a choice but to punish the Syrian regime if they continue to obstruct the investigation and continue stonewalling.
But all these are details, for Issam has already jumped to the next level. "If sanctions are imposed and the West goes after Assad as it did Saddam, then we can forget about the Truth , the identity of Mr.X.,Lebanon and Syria."
What does that even MEAN!? (Again, my initial question!) What do you mean "forget the Truth"!? What do you mean "as it did Saddam"?! Do you really find this current situation with Assad identical to the one with Saddam!? "The West" went after Saddam?! As I recall, France didn't. Yet, this time around, France is the prime driver in the UNSCR 1559 and 1595!! Details, details... pffft....
But let's say Syria doesn't do what it's asked to do and continues to obstruct the investigation and justice. And let's say the UNSC does take action. How is that "forgetting the truth"!? It's inextricable! You see, Issam despite telling us of his position of the Assad regime, he actually has more problems with the US. Therefore, the culpability of the Assad regime quickly takes a back seat (and the anti-climactic becomes non-existent!), and the focus turns to what he makes out to be unjust action, not by the US, but by the UN, which he reduces to a tool of the US "consipracy" (based on "lies") against Bashar! "It's no longer about the Truth" (because Issam has sidelined it!).
Then, to complete the cliche by adding the cherry on top, Issam attempts a funny exit (and fails) by "reminding" us of that sinister US plan for the ME (by now, Syrian culpability is not even a matter of discussion anymore!). What that sinister plan is, of course, is the US dividing and weakening the Arab nation by "creating" sectarian enclaves!! Yes... how NOT cliche!!! I mean, you CANNOT get more cliche than this! It escaped Issam that the US was and continues to be INSISTENT on the unity of Iraq as well as the unity of Lebanon. If it was indeed seeking to establish sectarian statelets, as Issam incredibly stupid cliche has it, then one would expect it to push for that outcome! That it hasn't makes no difference whatsoever to Issam. Again, details, details... pfffft... don't bother his great intellect with details.
So once again, I ask, what the hell is your point besides cliches?
Forget about this Tony Badran dumbass.
He keeps talking about cliches while he literally swallowed the whole book of cliches (I guess he's one of those idiots who think the US invaded Iraq to foster democracy)
If he doesn't realize that the US policy is imperialistic and that Bush is a liar, it means that he is braindead and there is no point arguing with him. Even Brzezinski said this was imperialism for God's sake !
The moron writes : "US was and continues to be INSISTENT on the unity of Iraq"
Boy, is he a blind dummy. Did he just read the Iraqi constitution ?
This fellow is a walking living cliche. The quintessential Christian Lebanese dumbo who thinks he is superior to Arabs, is impressed by Israel and Western powers and thinks they are into charity work.
Martin Kramer is always looking for this kind of useful idiots. As another blogger told me recently, Toni Badran is like the Antoine Lahd of the blogosphere.
I must say that I find your infantile rants amusing.
However,Your comments demand a response.
Mehlis has had considerable experience with the US and the pressures that it uses to get a pretext for military action or sanctions. That is why he commented before his report that he knows how Blix felt.
The Syrian regime is now on trial and there is no dispute about its record. The Mehlis report and its investigations should continue and the guilty parties prosecuted in a court of law in due course.
To keep things in perspective, it needs to be stated that it is now law in the US to assassinate, kidnap, torture, keep "ghost" prisoners and carry out extrajudicial killings by US secret services. Israel also has the same laws which it uses with impunity against a defenceless population and their leaders. Israel has just admitted that it killed Ghassan Kanafani in 1973. One of many assassinated with impunity.
Tony,The US is not a benign imperial power. There is little to show in the ME for all its talk about freedom and democracy.
The US needs to be held to the same standard that it uses to judge others. This is not to mean that the Syrian regime is to be excused. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Any punishment of Syria , however legitimate, will be viewed by the majority of Arabs as repeat of Iraq unless the US and the UN hold Israel to the same standard. As long as Israel can assassinate arab leaders at will the US will never have any credibility in their eyes.
Iraq is a disaster by everyone's estimation, except Israel's and the White house, Maybe you have forgotten the more than 20 lies that were told as pretext to invade Iraq .You can find them at http://www.aljazeera.com/cgi-bin/review/article_full_story.asp?service_id=9592 if you are interested
It is imperative that allegations in the Mehlis report are well documented and guilt proven in a court of law and that the US will not pre-empt that process to put the screws to Syria.
Can we have faith in the UN? To date the UN under kofi Wallenburg opps Annan has not had a history of impartiality in the ME and we can expect that it will be the venue to punish the Syrians. We can also expect that the new US ambassador Bolton, an AEI member and neocon, to fix the facts as he did in the lead up to the Iraq war.http://www.antiwar.com/mcgovern/?articleid=5934
The Neo-cons which I know are dear to your heart ,Tony, have had a very detailed policy for restructuring the ME for many years.It is essentially an Israel first policy.
First they advised Netanyahu in "A Clean Break: A Strategy for Securing the Realm" to abandon the peace process and pursue an aggressive strategy . In the Perle-Feith-Wurmser strategy, Israel’s enemy remains Syria, but "the road to Damascus runs through Baghdad". Their plan, which urged Israel to re-establish “the principle of pre-emption,” has now been imposed by Perle, Feith, Wurmser & Co. on the United States. Second , in 1997 they set up a think tank based in DC called the Project for the New American Century, which seeks to establish a global American Empire to bend the will of all nations. This group which includes people that are part of the American administration:Cheney, Perle , Wolfowitz , Khalilzad,Rumsfeld and Jeb Bush.
In 2002, they formed The Committee for the Liberation of Iraq whose purpose was to "educate" the American people about the need for war in Iraq.
Politicians do not always reveal their plans. If you look at what is happening on the ground in Iraq, there is no doubt that the US is out to redraw the borders of the ME. Two years ago, The New York Times published an editorial by Leslie Gelb who presided over the Council of Foreign Affairs, a think tank that brings together the CIA and the secretary of state. Gelb's plan simply suggests replacing Iraq with three mini-states,
Dividing Iraq and Syria has been an old Israeli dream. In 1982, Oded Yinon, an official from the Israeli Foreign Affairs office, wrote: "To dissolve Iraq is even more important for us than dissolving Syria." He published a paper in Hebrew that is called The Zionist plan for the ME http://www.theunjustmedia.com/the%20zionist_plan_for_the_middle_east.htm . It is translated into english by Israel Shahak.
Seymour Hersh, the famous reporter who broke the Abu Graib story has an informative article on Israel's activities in Kurdistan at http://lists.econ.utah.edu/pipermail/rad-green/2004-June/014733.html
If you need a right wing perspective look at Patrick Buchanan's Whose war at http://www.amconmag.com/03_24_03/cover.html where he argues that the neo- cons are seeking to engage America in a series of wars that are not in its interest.
For those interested in learning about Tony's mentors see " On the Road to Damascus? Neocons target Syria by Tom Barry at http://www.globalpolicy.org/empire/intervention/2004/0308damascus.htm
The one thing that is in common between the Neo-cons according to Max Boot is a passionate attachment to Israel. It is a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” "He also claims that the National Security Strategy of President Bush “sounds as if it could have come straight out from the pages of Commentary magazine, the neocon bible.” (For the uninitiated, Commentary, the bible in which Boot seeks divine guidance, is the monthly of the American Jewish Committee.)"
More recently, it was revealed that Bush told Blair that invading Iraq to oust Saddam Hussein was only a first step in the battle against WMD proliferation in several countries. He said he wants to "go beyond Iraq … mentioning in particular Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan," notes of a telephone conversation, between the two leaders on January 30 2003, said.
The notes were taken by Matthew Rycroft, then the private secretary to the British Premier, who sent the two-page letter to Simon McDonald, who was then private secretary to Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary.
So ,my neocon friend, be honest with us and spare us your double standards and your passionate attachment to Israel.
Finally ,I want to ask that we please respect our host and be civil with each other in the future.
PS Landis has an excellent post today that argues that Syria is being set up.