Heightened Tensions after Hariri Indictment Announced – by Stephen Lendman
A previous article addressed Lebanon’s turmoil, accessed through the following link:
It discussed Israel’s history of terrorizing Lebanon through decades of belligerent interventions as early as 1954, as well as thousands of terrorist acts against a nonviolent state whose misfortune is being Israel’s neighbor. It also discussed false accusations against Hezbollah, a legitimate part of Lebanon’s government, not a terrorist organization as Israel and America claim.
Targeted Killings, An Israeli Speciality
Not covered was Israel’s history of targeted assassinations, way predating its founding during the Mandatory Palestine period when Jewish terror groups targeted Jews, Brits and Arabs. Involved were paramilitary Hagana members, Irgun headed by future prime minister Menachem Begin, and Lehi (also called the Stern Gang) led by another future prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, rogue killers before entering politics.
In November 1944, Lehi assassinated Lord Moyne, Britain’s Middle East minister of state, near his home in Cairo. In September 1948, it also killed UN mediator Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem, five months after Israel was established. Yitzhak Shamir personally approved of shooting him to death.
In July 1946, Irgun bombed the King David Hotel, massacring 92 Brits, Arabs and Jews, wounding 58 others, an operation future prime minister David Ben-Gurion approved as head of the Jewish Agency at the time.
Before and after May 1948, many thousands of targeted killings occurred or were attempted, most little remembered today except to relatives and their descendants.
Little wonder Israel’s history is so bloodstained, involving individual and mass killings, including on April 9, 1948 (during Israel’s “war of independence”) when Irgun, Lehi and complicit terrorists slaughtered well over 120 Palestinian men, women and children in the bloody Deir Yassin village massacre. On April 14, The New York Times reported 254 killed.
Post-1948, Palestinian supporters were targeted regionally and in Europe. Waves of successful and attempted assassinations occurred, notably against high-profile figures. They never stopped, including the murder of Hamas member Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, killed last February in Dubai after two earlier failed attempts. Abu-Dhabi’s the National reported he was poisoned, drugged, and suffocated after previously surviving a failed shooting. Found dead in a Dubai hotel on January 20, 2010, police accused Mossad of murder.
Earlier incidents included Palestinians Abdel Wael Zwaiter, shot 11 times by Israeli agents in Rome after returning home from dinner. It was the first of dozens of retaliatory assassinations against persons suspected of involvement in the Munich summer Olympic killings of Israeli athletes, coaches and officials, allegedly by Black September members, a resistance, not terrorist organization.
On June 14, 1980, Yahia El Meshad, then head of Iraq’s nuclear program, was found bludgeoned to death in his Paris hotel room. No one was arrested, but French authorities named Israeli intelligence.
On August 20, 1983, Mamoun Meraish was shot and killed while driving in Athens. Israeli agents were blamed.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Mossad was implicated in numerous Beirut and other car bombings, one of its specialities.
On September 25, 1997, two Mossad agents with forged Canadian passports attacked Hamas leader Khaled Meshal in Jordan, spraying him with an unknown poison. He survived and recovered to explain.
In January 2002, a car bomb killed former Lebanese cabinet minister Elie Hobeika and three bodyguards. In 1982, he was involved in the infamous Sabra and Shatilla camp massacres. Days before his assassination, he expressed willingness to implicate then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon’s direct role. Clearly, Mossad killed him to prevent it.
In May 2002, Mossad murdered Mohammed Jihad Jibril, son of Ahmed Jibril, founder and head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP).
In August 2003, Mossad assassinated Ali Hassan Saheh, Hezbollah’s top security officer. Prime Minister Sharon ordered Meir Dagan, its head until January 1, 2011, to conduct assassinations abroad. No persuasion was needed for why Mossad exists in the first place, a de facto Murder, Inc. within or outside Israel, making Mafia families seem almost saintly by comparison.
From 2002 – 2006, it was responsible for numerous car bombings, killing Hezbollah, Hamas, and other officials regionally.
On February 12, 2008, a car bomb killed Hezbollah member Imad Hugniyeh in Damascus. Mossad again was responsible.
On August 1, 2008, it killed Muhammad Suleiman, a Syrian army officer close to President Bashar al-Assad, shot by snipers offshore near his vacation villa.
Rafik Hariri’s Assassination
On February 14, 2005, compelling visual and audio evidence revealed real time intercepted Israel aerial surveillance footage of routes former Prime Minister Hariri used on the day his motorcade was attacked. Clearly, Israel was involved.
At the time, New York Times writer Hassan Fattah headlined, “Beirut Car Bomb Kills Ex-Premier; Stability at Risk,” saying:
“An enormous car bomb blasted (Hariri’s) motorcade, (killing) him and 11 others in the most serious blow to (Lebanon’s) stability….in more than a decade. (He) was pronounced dead on arrival at the American University Hospital in Beirut.”
Washington blamed Syria. Al-Assad denied responsibility. Hezbollah was later falsely named. It was a typical Mossad assassination though no one at the time knew for sure. The blast ripped a 30 foot crater in the street, injuring over 100 besides those killed.
An International Court of Justice (ICC) Special Tribunal (STL) investigated Hariri’s killing. On January 17, its sealed indictment was released, Canadian prosecutor Daniel Bellemare saying the next day that the confidential document was important for the people of Lebanon, the international community, and “for those who believe in international justice.”
Clearly, none is planned because of enormous Washington/Israeli pressure to blame Hezbollah and perhaps Iran for a typical Mossad operation. Belgian Judge Daniel Fransen got the indictment to determine if credible evidence warrants trial. Reportedly, without corroboration, one person named is Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for giving instructions to kill Hariri, though like Hezbollah and Syria, the Islamic Republic had nothing to gain from his assassination.
The Netherland’s-based court registrar, Herman von Hebel, said material given Fransen contains “thousands of pages” of documents and DVDs, adding that it will take at least six to 10 weeks to review them before proceeding further, including a possible trial.
On January 17, an Obama released statement said:
“I welcome the announcement by the Office of the Prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon today that he has filed an indictment relating to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others. This action represents an important step toward ending the era of impunity for murder in Lebanon, and achieving justice for the Lebanese people.”
Israel wasn’t implicated. Names omitted, Obama suggested others, notably Hezbollah, perhaps Iran or Syria, not Mossad for one of its signature operations, besides kidnappings, shootings, poisonings, and other ways of committing murder, including strong evidence it assassinated Yasser Arafat. In November 2004, he died in a Paris hospital after succumbing to an undiagnosed illness, believed caused by a slow-acting, hard to detect poison.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, a US tool, urged Lebanon to form a new government as soon as possible. Explaining his support for the tribunal, he told an Abu Dhabi news conference that it’s “important not to pre-judge the outcome of the investigation, and no one should politicize (its) work….”
In fact, Washington and Israel politicized it from the start to point fingers away from where they belong.
On January 18, Reuters headlined, “Tensions high in Beirut after Hariri indictment,” saying:
“Lebanese security forces deployed in central Beirut on Tuesday and several schools closed in response to tentions surrounding a draft indictment over the 2005 (Hariri) killing….”
Hezbollah no doubt will be named. Its leaders deny involvement, accusing the tribunal of being an “Israeli tool.” Al-Manar television said America was behind the released draft to sabotage efforts to resolve Lebanon’s crisis after Hezbollah pulled out of the government, causing it to dissolve. It accused Washington of “pushing the indictment ahead to light the fuse to blow up the bridges for a solution,” adding that “Americans control the indictment in form and content.”
Joint US/Israeli Interests
For geopolitical reasons, Washington and Israel provoke tensions, strife, and violence, at times erupting in war, including in 2006 against Lebanon, 2008-09 Cast Lead against Gaza, and whatever may be planned ahead, perhaps against Hezbollah and/or Hamas.
On January 16, Hezbollah leader Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah said “We will not allow our reputation and our honor to be touched.” A US embassy spokesman said America “does not interfere in Lebanon’s internal political matters.” In fact, Washington meddles globally, notably with Israel.
Not Syria forced to withdraw its forces from Lebanon, substantially reducing though not ending its influence there. Not Hezbollah either with nothing to gain but plenty to lose if, in fact, proved responsible, or unjustifiably convicted for killing Hariri.
After its May 2000 Lebanon withdrawal, two primary Israeli goals were forcing Syria out and weakening or destroying Hezbollah. After Hariri’s assassination, Middle East expert Sam Hamod said:
‘We must do as they do in other criminal cases, look at who had the most to gain from (Hariri’s killing). The Lebanese (including Hezbollah) had a lot to lose, as did the Syrians. No matter where else you look, no one else had anything to gain except Israel and the US. America quickly pointed the finger at Syria, as did Israel, which was tantamount to convicting themselves because they are the only two countries that would gain by creating unrest in Lebanon.”
UK journalist Patrick Seale, writing in the London Guardian, agreed, saying:
“If Syria killed (Hariri), it must be judged an act of political suicide. (Assassinating him would) destroy its reputation and hand its enemies a weapon with which to deliver the blow that could finally destabilize the Damascus regime….The murder is more likely to be the work of one of its many enemies.”
The same reasoning applies to Hezbollah, a close Syrian and Iranian ally. After Damascus was absolved, Hezbollah remained a convenient target, no matter the lack of evidence or motive for acting self-destructively. Israel and Washington want its political influence weakened and military effectiveness destroyed. In 2006, IDF forces tried and failed.
A Final Comment
Whether or not future conflict is planned, current strategy is neutralizing Hezbollah by indictment for Hariri’s killing, a transparent plan fooling no one in Lebanon. As of now, it’s destabilized in limbo under caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri, ahead of attempts to form a new government.
On January 21, Lebanon’s Daily Star reported that:
“After two days of intensive talks with Lebanese leaders and rival factions, including Hezbollah leader Sayyad Hassan Nasrallah, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, (they) left Beirut at dawn Thursday, saying they were suspending the mediation attempts.”
The previous day, Saudi Arabia also pulled out, warning that Lebanon could be partitioned. On January 20, Davutoglu said Lebanese parties weren’t close to an agreement, adding that he’s willing to help forge a new approach to avoid unrest. Everything so far is in flux, leaving Lebanon stabilized without resolution.
In his January 21 Daily Start op-ed headlined, “What Hezbollah might face once the trial begins,” University of Otago, New Zealand Professor William Harris said:
“We know….almost certainly (persons) aligned with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran” will be named, but unclear whether Syrian or Iranian figures will be indicted.
Individuals, not nations or political groups will be named. Nonetheless, believes Harris, “the consequences for (Hezbollah) longer term may be catastrophic.” If its members are convicted, “it is difficult to see how the party could thereafter take part in Lebanese official business as if nothing had happened….”
It would also raise suspicions for its involvement in other political killings. “Any organization or regime tarred with this brush will be politically finished in any meaningful sense.”
Not everyone shares that view, perhaps including long-time Beirut-based journalist Robert Fisk in his January 18 article headlined, “Names of Hariri killing suspects handed to judge,” saying:
Manipulated false evidence corrupted the tribunal process. A “score of (arrested) Lebanese mobile phone company officials proves Israel tampered with phone records on the day of (Hariri’s) murder, (and) that four ‘false witnesses’ who perjured themselves to the UN should be arrested themselves.”
Their “evidence” got four Lebanese security generals falsely imprisoned without trial, “the UN, with much embarrassment, forced to release them.” Saad Hariri was involved. A lot of people are talking nonsense, said Fisk, “not least US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, (insisting) that the UN tribunal be ‘respected,’ even though most Lebanese are running a mile from it.”
Though “Nasrallah is obviously worried,” so are “a number of ‘false witnesses’ ” whose testimonies are being used to indict Hezbollah and perhaps others. As for the UN, says Fisk, it “looks like a jackass.” Whoever knows who killed Hariri, an “awful lot of Lebanese are breathless….not to find out.” It’ll be weeks before names are known, but already clear Israel will be absolved despite credible whitewashed evidence.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.