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Dr Musa A Keilani: Fears run high
November 17, 2010
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As expected Lebanon’s Hizbollah is raising tensions ahead of the expected release of the findings of a UN-panel into the 2005 assassination of the country’s ex-premier, Rafiq Hariri. Hizbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah has warned that his group will not accept any indictment against of any of its members in the Hariri assassination.

“Whoever thinks the resistance could possibly accept any accusation against any of its jihadists or leaders is mistaken — no matter the pressures and threats,” Nasrallah said on Thursday.

“Whoever thinks that we will allow the arrest or detention of any of our jihadists is mistaken,” he said, describing his political rivals as “in a hurry to see an indictment” in the five-year-old case.

“The hand that attempts to reach (our members) will be cut off,” he added.

The warning and threat should not be taken lightly, since Hizbollah sees the issue as a make-or-break point for its implicit veto power in Lebanese affairs and effectively its future as political movement.

While it remains unclear whether the UN-backed Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL), the fear that Hizbollah members could be indicted in the Hariri murder stems from a series of interviews it had with activists of the group.

The political bloc led by the late Hariri and the political bloc led by Hizbollah were bitter rivals at the time of the former prime minister’s assassination in February 2005. There are enough reasons to see Hizbollah as having an interest in eliminating him.

At the same time, the sophistication of the remote-controlled bombing that killed Hariri and more than 20 others in a large convoy indicated that a government-backed network was behind it.

Syria became the first suspect and it was forced to withdraw its military from Lebanon under strong international pressure. However, there was never conclusive evidence that the Syrian government was involved in the Hariri murder.

The US-led West did not waste any time to come up with the allegation that Syria had engineered the assassination, and there was a focused effort to divert attention from facts that pointed the accusing finger elsewhere.

We in this part of the world are known for our strong belief in conspiracy theories and always blamed Israel for whatever happens among our midst.

However, there are some irrefutable factors in the Hariri murder. First of all, Hariri’s security arrangements included an automatic jamming of mobile phones within a one-kilometre radius wherever he was. This was to prevent remote-controlled bombs being exploded by the use of a mobile phone.

This jamming was deactivated at the time of the explosion at Beirut’s corniche, meaning that there was inside involvement in the assassination.

It is known that the automatic jamming system contained Israeli-supplied software and components and it would have taken Israeli software to override the system and deactivate the jamming.

It is difficult to imagine that Syria, or Hizbollah for that matter, could have obtained the Israeli-made overriding software.

“Reports” appearing on Israel-run websites after the Hariri killing argued that the former prime minister was moving towards a “deal” with Israel at Syria’s expense and this was the motive for the killing.

It was an absurd suggestion. Hariri’s main supporters, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab countries would have never approved of the purported deal and Hariri would have known that more than anything else. As such, Hariri would have never even thought of indulging himself with Israel. He stood to lose everything as an Arab-backed Lebanese politician if he entertained making a clandestine deal with Israel and to retain everything and gain more if he stood his ground and rejected Israeli overtures.

Suggestions that pro-Syrian military officers in Lebanon engineered the bombing have been exposed by the STL’s decision to release all suspects citing lack of evidence after three years of detention.

And Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of the assassinated prime minister, has said the allegations that Syria was behind his father’s assassination were political motivated.

Despite the Hizbollah warnings and threats, Saad Hariri has maintained that he was committed to co-operating with the STL.

Nasrallah has charged that the STL was handing over information about Lebanon and Hizbollah to Israel and said that was why his party is boycotting the inquiry.

Again, this could be seen as yet another conspiracy theory. However, let us not forget that many of the UN officials who were involved in inspection of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction during the 1990s were found to have passed on information on Iraq to Israel.

It is also clear now that Israel has sources within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) not only for information on Iran’s nuclear work but also to plant misleading information that is conveniently “leaked” to the media as facts gained through IAEA investigations.

A classic example was the sudden emergence of a suggestion in mid-2009 that IAEA inspectors believed that Iran was close to developing a nuclear weapon in one year’s time. An internal IAEA investigation was conducted and it was found that the contention was baseless. However, the finding never got as much media coverage as the original allegation had secured.

On the ground today in Lebanon, fears are high that a possible STL indictment of Hizbollah could send the country into a new spiral of violence. Immediate measures have to be taken to prevent a possible Hizbollah takeover of key areas of the country that could lead to armed confrontation between Hizbollah fighters and state security forces and the result would be indirect Israeli and Iranian intervention in the country.

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