By Abir Bassam

International Tribune: A non-closed chapter

August 20, 2020 - 0:16

Fifteen years, the Lebanese people have been waiting for fifteen years for the alleged justice that should be brought by the International Tribune. The tribune was commissioned to investigate the assassination of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

But, after the long waiting for the indefinite results, the indictment list on the 18th of August was clearly a "U" turn back to the starting point. The declaration was internationally needed as a damned sword on the necks of Syria and Hezbollah.

However, it is difficult to trust the results of the international investigations because it was doubted from the start by judges and investigators who were directly involved in it.  

According to an article published by the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar, the president of the International Tribune, Sir David Baragwanath, forced the vice president of the tribune Robert Roth to resign because his wife was working with an editor to unspecified Israeli newsletter. And Mrs. Roth was accused of tampering with the evidence.

Former UN investigator Bo Astrom announced another accusation of deliberately dropping crucial evidence. In a recorded interview, he said many facts involved the inquiry was totally ignored by the investigators, especially the facts related to the Wissam al-Hassan assassination in 2012. Al-Hassan was the only person who had information about the road or roads Hariri parade was supposed to take.

In addition, the tribune announcement was politically manipulated. Judge David Ray revealed on the 18th of August, as he was reciting the verdict that most of the evidence depended on telephone communication data.  Telephones were used to orchestrate the assassinator(s). However, the investigations could not link the numbers to its users.

Furthermore, the persons who were charged with the assassination were all Shiites.  As if Hezbollah was foolishly pointing the fingers towards him. In fact, the accusations were pointed to freedom fighters, who were preparing exploding charges that allegedly targeted the Israelis in South Lebanon.
The final investigation revealed that three of the accused persons were discharged. Hezbollah and Syria are the main parties that benefited from the assassination of Hariri; however, there are no proofs to support the accusations. Hence, the carefully planned assassination was declared as an act of political vendetta. And it took the stupid tribune fifteen years to announce these results.

It is important to dissect the political gain, especially the one that was achieved by Syria and Hezbollah from the assassination! Before the assassination, Hezbollah was leading fruitful talks with Hariri, relations with the late prime minister were about to become at its best since 1991. Total coordination in the next elections was about to be reached.

Secondly, Hezbollah, before the 14th of February 2005, did not aim to be part of the Lebanese political maze.

Meanwhile, the Syrians, with their presence in Lebanon, protected his back. The Hezbollah was indeed presented in the Lebanese Parliament, but it was not among its plans to be part of Lebanon's corrupt governments since the Taif Agreement in 1989. Hezbollah's main focus was on protecting the South, liberating the Shebaa and Kafer-Shoba farms, and liberating the Lebanese war prisoners in the Israeli dungeons. Three aims were not to be granted to Lebanon on a silver plate, and the Israeli knew that if it were accomplished, they would distort his image as the ultimate power in the region.

On the other hand, the Syrians were perfectly aware of the winds of international political changes accompanied by electing George Bush junior.

The Syrians were alerted by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell about the consequences of their continuous support for the resistance against Israel in Lebanon.
They urged the Syrians to disarm Hezbollah military wing. Nonetheless, the Syrians refused American demands. Resolution 1559 appeared on the horizon, and the Syrians refused to leave Lebanon unless the Lebanese government asked them. It seemed that the situation was still water running deep. When Hariri was assassinated, it was the huge eruption that made it possible for the Americans to fulfill at least one part of their demands: the Syrian Army withdrew from Lebanon.

The Syrian departure resulted in non-humanitarian results. Syrian workers were attacked in the streets, more than 100 were killed, and no official investigations were seriously held. Until today no indictments were directed to anyone. This, for sure, created sentiments of fear and hatred among the Syrians towards the Lebanese. Even Syrian businesspeople were kidnapped in several areas of Lebanon. The same was about to happen in Syria; however, the Syrian police arrested several attackers, and restrictive rules were issued in 2005 to control such irregularities. It was the Israeli war in 2006 that could bring back the Syrians and the Lebanese sentiments of pride.

The Americans thought they had created a deep ditch of hate among the brothers; nonetheless, it was in vain.

It is important to study the atmosphere that prevailed after 2005, on the political and social level, to understand who benefited from the assassination. The ridiculous legal pleading of Judge David Ray was totally dependent on the testimonies given by the same people and parties that have benefited from Hariri's assassination, which paved the way for a golden era for all the parties who became fully in control.

Walid Jumblatt became the defender of Hariri. He took the family and the country under his "wings." Fouad Siniora was nominated to be the next prime minister after the resignation of Omar Karami. The main beneficiary was Samir Geagea, the murderer of Lebanese politicians, and the executor of massacres in Lebanon was given a full pardon.

The previous group worked closely with the Americans to disarm Hezbollah during the 2006 war and later in 2007 during the attempt to control Hezbollah's communication sector, which provided protection for the secret telephone lines among the freedom fighters and with their commandants.

There was a far greater conspiracy to displace the Shiites in South Lebanon if Israel had won the war in 2006. This was the end means of the assassination of an important man as much as Hariri was. The International Tribune has failed to read in politics these facts, as much as it was able to read the other version.

When Marwan Hamadeh's attempt of assassination took place in 2005, Syria, without a certified investigation, was directly accused. In a paradox, the same technique of detonation was used in the attempt to kill Hamadeh was used to kill Harir; and before that was executed in Damascus in 1981. The French blamed the Syrians for the killing of their ambassador in Beirut and revenged it by blasting 500 kg of TNT in al-Azbakia neighborhood using almost the same technique. However, in Syria, it was a time bomb, while in other two it was remotely activated.

Bernard Emie, the French ambassador, was the first to go around giving consultation and provoking the different parties after the attempt to end Hamadeh's life. Judge Ray called it a Syrian warning.

However, it can be easily called as the first attempt to threaten the Syrians. In case they failed to comply with the American demands in disarming Hezbollah.
It seems that we need to wait another month before the date of the sentence on the 21st of September. Nothing is special about the date. Salim Ayyash is going to be sentenced after declaring the innocence of the three other suspects. The next month, Ayyash, a simple man, will be accused of plotting, preparing, and killing a state's man for personal vengeance. And that is why the Lebanese taxpayers paid 800 million American dollars so that an American cliche verdict is achieved.

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