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Prime Minister Najib Mikati, fearful of an international backlash if his new government totally rejected the work of the STL, was at odds for weeks with Nasrallah over the best approach to take toward the tribunal, with Nasrallah demanding a cut off in funding for the court, as well as total non-cooperation with its investigation. For the time being at least, Nasrallah appears to have acceded to the necessity of appearing to cooperate with the STL — at least until the government can gain a vote of confidence in the parliament and the policy statement approved.
STL chief prosecutor Daniel Bellemare made it clear that these four indictments were only the beginning. Sources told Lebanon’s Daily Star that the indictments contained arrest warrants for other, non-Lebanese suspects. It is widely believed that members of Syrian intelligence, as well as Palestinian terrorists, will also be named in the indictments, although it appears to be less likely that high-ranking members of the government of Bashar Assad will face trial. It is also thought that any indictment of Syrian nationals has been put on hold due to the unrest in that country.
The very first report on the assassination submitted by German judge Detlev Mehlis back in 2006 indicated that the list of suspects would be a long one. Mehlis’ report concluded, “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.”
At the top of the list was President Assad’s brother-in-law Asef Shawkat, head of Syrian military intelligence at the time of the report, now chief of staff to the president. In 2005, Shawkat was chief of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, and it is believed to be an impossibility that such a massive plot could be carried out without his direct knowledge. Other suspects include the notorious Ahmad Jabril, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC), and the current Lebanese intelligence chief Colonel Wissam al-Hasan who was Hariri’s chief of security at the time of the assassination. It is unlikely that Hasan will be indicted due to political considerations and his close relationship with Rafiq Hariri’s son Saad.
There were at least eight major conspirators, according to evidence unearthed by a lone, dedicated Lebanese army captain, who, without the aid of sophisticated computers (he used Excel spreadsheets), ferreted out the phone networks used by Hezbollah to track Hariri and carry out the assassination. It was a spectacular feat of detective work considering that the United Nations tasked a British computer company to go through every telephone call made in Lebanon for a year previous to the assassination in order to detect patterns in the calls that would point to the perpetrators.
Captain Wissam Eid supplied the STL with his evidence a full year before the tribunal’s sophisticated analysis came up with the same answer: at least four networks operating in Lebanon, all connected to Hezbollah, were ultimately responsible for Hariri’s death.
The UN investigators were astonished at Eid’s work and actually considered him a suspect for a time. But he was able to satisfy the investigators that he had, indeed, cracked the case.
Captain Eid was murdered by a car bomb on January 25, 2008. For him, and the dozens of other anti-Syrian Lebanese who have been killed or wounded since Hariri’s death, there will be no justice, despite the STL being tasked with solving those murders as well. Journalists, members of parliament, cabinet ministers, army officers like Captain Eid, and civic leaders have all been victims of Syrian-Hezbollah atrocities. Given the politicized nature of the STL in Lebanon, it is unlikely that any of those murders will ever be solved.
The same can probably be said of the Hariri slaying. With the Syrian-Hezbollah noose tightening around Lebanon, and the slipshod methods of Bellemare (staffers say he appears more interested in the trappings of the office than in getting to the bottom of the Hariri assassination), the prospects for any trials resulting from the indictments handed down are bleak.
Even Saad Hariri, former prime minister until the Hezbollah bloodless coup earlier this year, seems resigned to never getting justice for his father’s killing. He has already absolved Syria of any role in the assassination, despite insisting for years that President Assad was behind his father’s death.
And despite his claim that he wants to see the work of the STL go forward, his heart does not appear to be in the effort. In the end, with the prospect of sectarian strife as a result of the indictments still looming large, even the younger Hariri realizes that the precarious nature of Lebanese society demands that certain truths not be uttered lest they set off a chain of events that would be catastrophic for the peace and stability of Lebanon. The memories of Lebanon’s vicious and bloody civil war in the 1980s is too fresh in the minds of today’s political leaders to allow such a tragedy to start up again.
Hezbollah and their masters in Damascus and Tehran fully realize this and are getting away with murder. They are able to do so because they have the guns and have demonstrated a willingness to use them in order to achieve their goals. And the STL, the international community, and the opposition in Lebanon all seem powerless to change that stark reality.
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