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 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.

11 thoughts on “Mehlis & Tweini!

  1. Agreed the current regime is a not viable, but ….It’s interesting that people are not touching the topic about the timing of Tweini’s assassination. If Syria had done it, are they that stupid to do it a day before the official release of Mehlis’s second report? I don’t think so.If they played a role in Hariri’s assassination and then witnessed the world’s reaction, it’s unlikely they would repeat the same mistake twice.

  2. Stupidity is not a defense as they say. This regime has shown that it is stupid enough. Nonetheless, the issue relates more to the kind of operational considerations involved in such acts. In these cases, the people on the ground who are plotting the actual bombings are usually not in daily communication with their superiors. Rather, they are given a to-do list and left to plot each act on their own, and carry it out when the opportunity presents itself. The timing of Tweini’s assassination was based on the fact that he had just returned from Paris after many weeks in hiding. The political context was not something that the perpetrators are paid to give a damn about.

  3. I wonder why you consider it a foregone conclusion Syria has killed Tueni?Isn’t it possible somebody else did it?

  4. Well, if you look at Tweini’s assassination as an individual incident, then you might have a point. But the truth is Tweini’s murder came as part of a series of successful and unsuccessful assassination attempts, all taking place within the context of growing tension between the Hariri camp and Syria’s rulers. Add to this the findings of the Mehlis investigation and the uncooperative attitude of the Syrian regime, and the duplicity of the Syrian regime in this becomes all too difficult to deny.

  5. I find it takes a full stretch of the imagination to blame everything on the Syrian regime.Why would they do something like this at a time when there is growing scepticism about the Mehlis inquiry? Until Twaini’s assassination, they had been in a good position compared to any given moment since February 14th.What I do not get is why intelligent bloggers cannot fathom the possibility that when the shit hits the fan in Lebanon different species of mice come out to play. It has happened countless times before and Lebanon today provides an excellent opportunity for all sorts of mischief and score settling.Something does not give, Ammar. It takes a lot of bending to turn this into a coherent narrative about an evil empire.

  6. One problem that has always plagued our analysis of the current situation is our insistence on attempting to fit the Syrian regime and its behavior into some kind of a rational mold. This is not in itself wrong, but the rationality involved here seems premised more on a certain internal logic that is unique to the decision-making circles in the Syrian regime, in other words to Bashar & Co. The problem with this lot is that they seem to suffer from what I usually refer to as the Versailles Syndrome, that is, a certain cut-off from the very day reality that you and I are used to. They are as we say in Arabic, Shabbihah, or phantomizers. This term, as you now, applies to those children of state officials who drive their Mercedes Phantoms around violating all traffic codes and endangering both their lives and the lives of the hapless bystanders. Our leaders are but phantomizers who think that defying the international community and continuing to up the ante is the best strategy for getting out of the mess they themselves had created by upping the ante. I have had several discussions with some of Syria’s top officials and advisors, including Assef Chawkat, and, as far as I am concerned at least, they fit this mold. You have to think as they think in order to understand what is taking place and logic of it, from their perspective. Once you adopt their logic, there is nothing stupid about doing away with Hariri or Tueni, it all makes sense. President Bashar himself makes things crystal clear in his interview with the Russian TV. Sanctions against Syria will lead to the destabilization of the region. And just to drive this point home, we are going to create some trouble, and we are going to rock the boat and continue to rock the boar until you get the point, or the region is indeed destabilized. The phatomizers think, and perhaps they are right in this, that they can survive instability and deal with it much more effectively than the international community can. So, betting on it is worth it. This very logic drove them to directly oppose the US invasion of Iraq, at a time when rational analysis would have suggested the suicidal nature of this venture. It also drove them to extend for Lahhoud, despite knowing that the US and France have plans to go to the Security Council in this eventuality.Faced will all this, why do we insist on giving these people the benefit of the doubt? They are counting on it, of course, but they don’t deserve it. We have seen similar patterns of though in Saddam’s behavior too, so there is really nothing about his situation. But we will continue to remain incredulous until the very end, won’t we Suha? Too bad.

  7. Ammar:I respectfully disagree. In the last ten months the Syrian regime has shown nothing but rational thought.However, don’t you think an apponent of Syria may exploit Syria’s alleged irrationality by assassinating Tweini?

  8. You make a very good point, Ammar, and I agree that the regime can act according to its own internal rationality. In fact, it makes perfect sense in the Hariri assassination. But that is not the point I was trying to make.First off, let me clarify that I am Lebanese. According to my experience as a Lebanese, this black and white view does not work. So let me rephrase what I had said earlier: at the moment, Lebanon is ripe territory for all sorts of violence. Whereas the Hariri explosion was typically “Shabbih” in its callousness, many of the ensuing explosions were neighborhood friendly and designed to inflict minimal damage.Tell me: why wouldn’t, for example, Lebanese politicians, party members, or others try to make the situation worse for Syria? Because they behaved so honorably during the last 30 years? Or perhaps because “the new Lebanon” has been completely purged off its criminal elements?You will have to forgive my skepticim, but I am not buying into an easy and slick narrative. It adopts a logic complementary to that of the Syrian regime.

  9. I have heard similar arguments to the one made by Ugarit following the assassination of Hariri, but now we have two UN reports clearly implicating the Syrian regime and on the highest level of duplicity in this matter. But, I have to admit that Suha does make a valid point as well, the removal of Hariri could have set the ground for all different sorts of things to take place. And, of course, we do have to bear in mind that high level Lebanese officials were involved in the Hariri assassination as well. So, the willingness to play such games exists among the Lebanese as well. But, does that mean that Lebanon cannot stand on its own without Syrian hegemony? I don’t believe so, of course. But I do believe that we do need new leaders and leadership styles to emerge on the scene in both Lebanon and Syria. So, I do concede the point that we should not be too hasty in blaming the Syrian regime here. But I also stress the necessity of not letting it off the hook so easily either, simply because this development might appear too stupid. Had it not been stupid, the Syrian regime would not have been in this desperate position to begin with.

  10. It is clearly more probable that elements of Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services assassinated Hariri, than assassinating Tweini. I wasn’t impressed with Mehlis’ first report, since it appeared that it was based on the logic that since Syria occupied Lebanon it could not happen without their knowledge and approval. That’s like saying that since the US occupies Iraq all the killings by the so called insurgents can’t happen without assistance by the US. I’ll have to read the second to see if it’s more convincing.If I were an apponent of the Syrian regime I would exploit Syria’s alleged “irrationality” and “stupidity”. BTW, I don’t mean that I am a supporter of this regime.

  11. “IN ORDER to facilitate the action of the liberation forces, to reduce the capabilities of the Syrian regime to organise and direct its military actions, to keep losses and destruction to a minimum, and to bring about the desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention.” For that, Damascus must be “made to appear as the sponsor of plots, sabotage and violence directed against neighbouring governments”. — 1957!!!

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