Monday, December 12, 2005

Mehlis & Tweini!

The Second Report by Detlev Mehlis is out and it is damning enough in its insistence that its erstwhile conclusions and lines of enquiry are correct and that they have been corroborated by new evidence and testimonies (item 46: “…the Commission has not found any significant evidence that alters the conclusion of probable cause which is set out in the previous report concerning the involvement of top-ranked Syrian and Lebanese officials”. The operation is simply too complex and Lebanon too controlled by its security apparatuses acting in cahoots with their Syrian counterparts to allow for that, as item 47 explains).

[Or as Conan Doyle has put it: “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth!" In this case, of course, what remains is too already too probable.]

The failure to name names, however, might give some room for many people to claim that Mehlis has no case, or that some deal has been worked out. This, however, constitutes a definite misreading of the Report.

It is obvious that Mehlis has plenty of corroborating evidence hundreds of thousands of telephone records, and tens of thousands of documents to analyze. Still, all preliminary analysis, he insists, bolsters his earlier conclusions.

Still, Mehlis argues that the investigation cannot go any further without the Syrian regime’s full cooperation. Indeed, the next phase will be focused on technical matters (the explosives, the Mitsubishi truck, the phone records, recovering some deleted security files, etc.), and on investigating Syrian officials, and examining existing records and, more importantly, the circumstances surrounding the reported burning of many of these records (26).

The assassination, Mehlis insists, took place within the context of increasing tensions between Hariri and Assad (Item 56: “As noted in the previous report, UNIIIC’s investigation confirmed that, during the period prior to the assassination, there was growing tension between Mr. Hariri and senior Syrian officials, including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad”).

The tensions, the reports hints, were focused on Hariri’s unwillingness to adhere to what was referred to as the Damascus Protocol between Hariri and Syria’s top officials. This Protocol sets out “what the latter was allowed to do or not to do with relation to Syria.” The report then quotes a grilling of Hariri administered by Ghazale in accordance with the said Protocol (57).

Nineteen suspects have been identified so far, both Lebanese and Syrian.

More witnesses are now referred to, but not directly quoted in order to protect their identity and avoids a repeat of what took place with Hussam Taher Hussam, whose family members seem to have been threatened (item 30).

The new witnesses include a new “credible” witness (Item 32-34) who seems to have presented a coherent and “reliable” story implicating the Lebanese officers already in custody, as well as high-ranked Syrian officers” (34). More importantly, the new testimony “cross-corroborates other independent information gathered by the Commission” (32).

The only high-ranking Syrian officials mentioned by name in this report are those of Rustom Ghazale and Bashar al-Assad. As such, for any person to suggest that the failure to name Assef and Maher in this report points to the existence of some kind of a deal is idiotic, it is clear here, that he President himself is a suspect.

The investigation into the Al-Madina Bank and the involvement of over 120 Syrian and Lebanese officials in this scandal as well as Hariri’s growing willingness to push further with the investigation into this matter should he resume office again, seem to have encourage many people to take part in the assassination plot against him.

The assassination of Jubran Tweini at this stage, and immediately in the aftermath of threats issued by Syria’s President on Russian TV, will serve as the backdrop against which the UN Security Council will decide on its next move against the regime.

The case against the Syrian regime is still pretty circumstantial, but it is nonetheless overwhelming. Finding heard facts will require the cooperation of the Syrian authorities, something that will never take place. Not only that, but the Syrian regime and its henchmen in Lebanon will continue to try to undermine that country’s stability and to take revenge against their opponents their, such as Jubran Tweini, the impact of whose assassination is comparable to that of al-Hariri, because, in many ways, he was the best representative out there for the new leadership emerging in Lebanon.

For these reasons, therefore, the Security Council will have to base its decision on the available evidence to date. It is clear enough, and there is nothing to be gained by any delay at this stage than to give more opportunities for this regime to cause more mayhem, that is, to make the Syrian President own predictions come true regarding instability in the region.

But to make the case even more strongly, let’s take a look at the emerging picture:

The investigation into the Al Madina Bank scandal
The investigation with regard to the proliferating mass graves
The investigation into the assassination of Samir Kassir
The investigation into the assassination of George Hawi
The investigation into the assassinations of Jubran Tweini
The investigation into the attempted assassination of May Chidiac

Isn’t this enough to make us all realize that this regime has become nonviable? It is corrupt, murderous, untrustworthy, incapable of honoring any commitment, vindictive, and is seeking actively to destabilize Lebanon. Moreover, it has played a key role in supporting the insurgency in Iraq, and in supporting radical Palestinian groups.

And the more that it remains in power the more time it will have to destroy the civil society in the country making sure that no real secular alternative to its reign can emerge. Time is on its side, not ours.