April 1, 2005
HARIRI ASSASSINATION: UN REPORT 'EXPOSED' LIES
** Lebanese dailies say UN report opens way for Lebanese security reforms.
** Report an "indication that the international community...intends to prosecute Damascus."
** Outlets commend UN involvement, but Arab papers fear Western "interference."
UN report exposes 'Lebanese authorities' negligence'-- Lebanese papers commented on the intriguing...legitimization of discussion of the security sector's "accountability in society" following release of the UN report on the assassination of former PM Hariri. The moderate Daily Star hailed the recently released report as a "reminder that professional, effective security organizations go hand-in-hand with democracy." Pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal noted that while "no one expected" the report to find out "the whole truth," it "exposed the fact that the Lebanese authorities do not want the Lebanese to know who killed Hariri." Moderate An-Nahar blasted Syrian and Lebanese security intelligence services, saying the UN report documented "hidden scandalous faults" and that "the truth about the assassination cannot be reached as long as the heads of the Lebanese security services remain in their posts." However, pro-Syrian papers questioned the need for "another international investigation," accusing Kofi Annan of bowing to "pressure...from the U.S." so that "evidence could be collected to indict" Syria and the loyalists.
'The needle of suspicion' points towards Damascus-- Austria's independent Der Standard claimed that the UN report "states indirectly that the Syrian government is responsible" for Hariri's death while the UAE's expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times emphatically added "it is the Syrians who benefit from this mindless violence." Syria's government-owned Al-Ba'th countered that the report's "wrong conclusions about the causes of political tension in Lebanon are part of organized pressures on both Syria and Lebanon." The paper derided the report and dismissed the idea of a Syrian role in the assassination, saying "Syria established a sound and favorable" climate in Lebanon, while it was Resolution 1559 that "created a dangerous environment and caused the division within the Lebanese people and political tensions before the crime took place." A German daily noted that "whether Damascus is fingered or not, the report will play an influential role in the balance of power" between the forces acting in Lebanon.
Lebanon needs 'urgent political support'-- Writers saw a need for UN involvement but warned against Western "interference." Saudi Arabia's moderate Okaz observed: "The UN must have a more effective role than only condemning the assassination" but must do so "without allowing powerful countries to target the region for divisive influences." Another Saudi paper contended "Lebanon's crisis cannot be solved by external resolutions" and that "if the international committee is neutral" it will not "jeopardize the relations between Lebanon and Syria." Germany's centrist Der Tagesspiegel said that while "the international community can only support...not direct" nation building, it would help if the "UN and the West were to keep up the pressure on Syria."
Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, email@example.com
EDITORS: Patricio Asfura-Heim
EDITOR'S NOTE: Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment. Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion. Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet. This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government. This analysis was based on 53 reports from 13 countries over March 22 - 29, 2005. Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.
FRANCE: "Damascus Retains Ability To Do Harm”
Right-of-center Le Figaro commented (3/24): “Forced to leave its private hunting ground, Syria retains the ability to do harm.... The Syrians do not need to be physically present in Lebanon. They can count on the pro-Syrian Lebanese within the political class and the Lebanese army.... For the time being Hizballah has resisted the proponents of Lebanon’s destabilization. But how long will it be able to oppose its Syrian and Iranian backers? After this second attack against the Christian opposition, chances for reprisal exist, especially if General Aoun returns to Beirut.... Since Hariri’s assassination, Lebanon’s old demons have returned. In a country where religious identification is stronger than national unity, the French and American promoters of resolution 1559 may have proved to be incautious. As one expert put it, ‘we may be playing with fire here.’”
"A Belated Discovery"
Pierre Beylau opined in right-of-center weekly Le Point (3/24): “One day, lo and behold, Chirac discovered that the Syrian army was occupying Lebanon.... Until recently everyone seemed to accept Lebanon’s Syrian occupation, for fear of a war.... Only last year did France begin to open its eyes.... Eager to normalize relations with Washington, France began to lead in UN resolution 1559.... Lebanon thus became the privileged grounds for reconciliation between the French and the Americans. But only to a point. Because Paris, contrary to Washington, believes it is dangerous to exclude Hizballah from Lebanon’s political arena. And most importantly, France has no desire to get involved in Syria’s internal affairs. In other words, it does not want to get involved in encouraging a change of regime in Damascus. These are two yellow lines which delineate the difference between France and Washington’s positions on the Lebanese question.”
"A Well-Planned Bombing"
Dominique Bromberger said on government-run France Inter radio (3/24): “The next few days will be decisive in the confrontation between the pro-Syrian movement and the Lebanese opposition.... The Syrians would be delighted if it were proven that without their presence to impose law and order, the Lebanese are incapable of living in peace.... Besides the coming elections, another factor that will play an important role is the report that Kofi Annan has requested on the assassination of Hariri. Depending on whether Damascus is fingered or not, the report will play an influential role in the balance of power. Lebanon’s affairs are being followed very carefully in the Arab world. A victory of democracy here would have considerable impact in other nations in the region.”
GERMANY: "Explosive Easter Eggs"
Clemens Wergin opined in centrist Der Tagesspiegel (3/29): "The Easter festivities could have been more jolly for the Lebanese Christians. Given that three bombs went off against Christians in only one week, it is clear that there is a strategy behind it. The strategy is to create tensions. The explosive Easter eggs are meant as a reminder for the world and the Lebanese, telling them about the risks a Syrian pullout poses. There are people who try to restart the civil war, which had once brought the Lebanese society to the verge of self-destruction. Sure, it is not certain that the Syrian troops withdrawal will automatically lead to a better future, but the thorough consultations of the recent days showed that the different groups in Lebanon have learnt their lesson from the civil war and do not desire to be pushed into another military confrontation. The country now faces a difficult process of nation building, which the international community can only support, but not direct. It would help a lot if the UN and the West were to keep up their pressure on Syria and closely watch the pro-Syrian forces in Lebanon's administration and government, because the greatest fear of the hidden masterminds behind these bomb attacks is to be pulled into the light."
"In A Vacuum"
Matthias Arning noted in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (3/29): "The bomb attacks in recent days made clear that the Syrian troops will leave behind a political vacuum. To fill this power gap, Hariri's assassination must be investigated. Otherwise the successor of this popular former government leader cannot expect to find many supporters. The UN is urging for an independent investigation, but Beirut hesitated to accept this condition for further talks with the opposition. The recent attacks have not yet destroyed the hope for a better future, but they undermine this desire because they spread insecurity. The opposition holds Syrian intelligence agents responsible for the violence. They are systematically undermining the Lebanese society. That is one reason why the withdrawal of Syrian troops does not suffice."
"Signs What For?"
Erik-Michael Bader argued in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (3/24): "The latest bomb attacks in Lebanon do not fit the picture of spring that will help freedom, democracy and probably even the rule of law blossom in the region, at least not at first sight. It seems that the traditional pattern - to counter the questioning of established power structures with terrorist attacks, is resurrecting again. But the interpretation should not be that pessimistic. Sometimes violent activities in this region are also indicators that certain circles are getting nervous, and that is why this is also in a paradoxical way a good sign. If we want to speculate about the authors of the most recent attacks in Lebanon and make a cost-benefit analysis, we would have a wide range of possibilities. And then we should also keep in mind that a crime is also committed to direct suspicions to the most likely author or to force a leadership to pursue a certain political course."
"Cracks In The Opposition Block"
Alfred Hacckensberger concluded in leftist Die Tageszeitung (3/24): "For the majority of Lebanese the most recent bomb attacks do not come as a surprise. Following the experience of the long civil war, the people would be surprised if all conflicts were settled peacefully, for on the side of the government but also on the side of the opposition, there are former military leaders who still have blood on their hands from the times of the civil war.... Many opposition politicians assume that the bomb plotters can be found among the members of the Lebanese or Syrian intelligence services, which want to intimidate the people. Among the Shiite organizations Amal and Hizballah, suspicions are pointing to Israel and the United States. The situation in Lebanon is extremely unstable, since the uniform block of the opposition is showing the first cracks. Some want to take part in the new government, while this is out of the question for others. The anti-Syrian coalition will hold until the parliamentary elections in May, but then the issue is the re-distribution of power. About 200 clans and families determine the political and economic life of Lebanon and every party will try to make the best of it. Then the conflicts will multiply."
"Freedom Fairy Tale"
Frank Jansen noted in centrist Der Tagesspiegel (3/22): "The Arab League summit in Algiers today falls into a time of transformation that is fascinating.... The question is how the Arab League will react to the manifold signs of a new beginning? But the meeting in Algeria that is governed by corrupt military officials will hardly inspire the participants for more democracy. Much would be achieved if the participants did not strengthen Syria towards Lebanon.... The success of the democracy movement in Lebanon is making supporters of the regime in Damascus nervous.... Syria is on the defensive and the Arab League should not signal the opposite at its summit in Algiers. But if it did this, not only the danger of a civil war would increase. We could also expect that Lebanon would take longer to find an understanding of a democratic perspective. Even if the Syrian troops withdrew and free elections took place in May, Lebanon would only have reached a waystation on a long way. The strict separation of state offices…is cementing the rule of clans and the Islamic Hezbollah.... It is also surprising that not even the young demonstrators in Beirut, who call for freedom in Lebanon, question the illiberal structures and have confidence in politicians who should be discredited in view of their biographies.... As long as Lebanon's post-war generation does not produce a new political class, democracy in the country remains undone. It also depends on progress in other Arab countries when it can become more mature. An indication could be the results of the summit in Algiers."
ITALY: "Jordanian Turnaround”
Elite, classical liberal Il Foglio posted (3/24): “Without mincing words, and undiplomatically, Jordanian King Abdallah accused Syrian leader Bashar al Assad of planning a bloody phase in Palestine, with the goal of alleviating tension in Lebanon and breaking his international isolation.... The accusation, which concerns Tehran as well, was direct and serious, and the Jordanian King made the statement in Washington on a day when he was scheduled to attend the Arab League Summit, but cancelled in order to attend a meeting of leading American Hebrew and pro-Israeli organizations.... King Abdallah promised an initiative to counteract the development of anti-Semitism in the Arab world. It’s a resounding initiative. No Arab leader had ever made a public commitment to fight anti-Semitism. It’s a choice that breaks with sixty years of anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic Arab tradition. With this historic step, King Abdallah has outlined a new and original plan.”
"Beirut, The Specter Of Civil War Returns"
Giuseppe Zaccaria wrote in centrist, influential La Stampa (3/24): “Lebanon is currently a country with no memory, where each side is contributing to the havoc, allowing terrorism to become ever more aggressive and widespread.... The Arab League summit ended with many words, but with no concrete decision. The world and Lebanon itself seem to be watching the unfolding events with resignation, as if they already knew the coming scenes of the script.... Twenty years later, foreign troops seem destined to clash again on Lebanese territory in order to influence the fate of other countries. Future attacks will no longer take place at night, but will be carried out in crowded places.”
RUSSIA: "Lebanon Pushed To Civil War"
Aleksandr Samokhotkin stated in reformist Vremya Novostey (3/28): “The current confrontation is not due to confessional strife as during the 1975-1990 civil war. The split is over the Syrian military presence. Still, terrorist acts are dangerous, as most Christians support the opposition and are anti-Syrian. Therefore, demonstrations by opponents and advocates of Syrian presence may resume.”
"Assad’s Regime May Fall"
Nargiz Asadova held in business-oriented Kommersant (3/28): “Observers believe that some forces in Damascus seek to thwart the Syrian troop withdrawal President Bashar Assad had to order under international pressure. Experts say Assad’s regime may not survive. Many people around the young Syrian leader view the withdrawal from Lebanon as a sign of unpardonable weakness.... The West is predicting an early power crisis in Syria.”
“A Specter Of Civil War”
Andrey Pravov said in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (3/24): “Terrorists have had it their way, instilling fear in every Lebanese home.... What’s going on in Lebanon is worldwide concern. As is always the case with the Americans these years, they were the first to come forward to try to rectify the situation, of course. Washington sent Deputy Secretary of State David Satterfield to that country.... Clearly, a split may throw Lebanon years back, as the specter of civil war stalks the land, causing panic terror among the population.”
AUSTRIA: "Syrian Miscalculation"
Gudrun Harrer commented in independent Der Standard (3/29): "In the literal sense, the UN report on the assassination of Lebanese ex-Prime Minister Rafik Hariri states indirectly that the Syrian government is responsible, even if Hariri was not killed by the Syrians but by those who wanted Syria out of Lebanon and killed the former Prime Minister themselves, knowing that his death would most harm the Syrian government. From a legal point of view, this is hazardous. However, it can also be interpreted differently. Through its intervention into the Lebanese constitution in 2004, the prolongation of pro-Syrian Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's term by three years, a move that, incidentally, was also approved by Hariri and his followers in Parliament, the Syrian government drove more than one nail into its own coffin. This was a miscalculation for which Syria now has to bear the consequences."
NETHERLANDS: "Syrian Fingerprint"
Influential liberal De Volkskrant editorialized (3/29): “For the third time in one week, there was another explosion in Beirut last Saturday.... All three attacks targeted the Christian part of East Beirut where opposition against Syria is strongest. There is reason to believe that the suspects should be found in the pro-Syrian corner and that they are trying to sow fear and confusion enticing an armed reaction and so frustrating further steps toward a sovereign and democratic Lebanon.... Under the current circumstances it is of greatest importance that the international community keep maximum pressure on the Assad regime and its Lebanese supporters. This is mainly a task for the United Nations, which, mainly because of the remarkable cooperation between the U.S. and France, was able to play an effective role and managed to conduct an international investigation into the murder of Lebanese Hariri. But also the European Union should make a contribution.... Damascus would like to continue special trade relations with the EU, this offers a perfect opportunity for the EU to exert some influence on the Syrian behavior in Lebanon in which one of the demands should be: for Syria to stop military support to Hezbollah.”
SAUDI ARABIA: "Loyalty Must Be For Lebanon, The Home"
Conservative Al-Madina said (3/29): "Describing the current situation in Lebanon as crisis is not meaningful. The new alliances are not based on fundamentals as much as on present and personal interests. Some Lebanese parties are trying to take advantage of the assassination of Al-Hariri to implement their agenda. At the same time, other colonization forces consider the assassination another 9/11 and started to implement their agenda in the Middle East and started form Lebanon this time.... This means that danger is coming from two sides, internally and externally. Lebanon is facing something more dangerous than a civil war. Therefore, Lebanese must be loyal to Lebanon and its sovereignty rather than being loyal to Hariri, Hezb Allah, or Syria."
"Containing The Lebanese Crisis"
Conservative Al-Nadwah noted (3/29): "The announcement made by the Lebanese President that he is thinking of dismissing security officials is an important step towards solving the Lebanese crisis.... It is also a quick response to advice from the UN fact-finding report. However, this dismissal was also on the demands list of the opposition. The first demand was the resignation of the Lebanese government, which has already happened. This means that the Lebanese leaders are working on solving the crisis. Another positive step had been taken by the Lebanese government to calm the crisis, sending an envoy to New York to follow up with negotiations about the international investigation. The envoy carried a clear message that this investigation is also a government demand not only an opposition demand. The government is keen to know who is responsible to bring him to justice."
"Defusing The Crisis Of Lebanon"
Jeddah’s moderate Al-Bilad editorialized (3/28): "Lebanon is targeted by foreign powers. This is clear and well known. Those foreign powers, especially the United States, are attempting to drag Lebanon into a dark tunnel of instability under the name of protecting democracy and freedom.... It is not very difficult for any observer to sense the role of Israel in the suspicious American behavior in Lebanon and the region generally."
"Lebanon: Where to?"
Moderate Okaz commented (3/28): "The recent bombing that occurred in Beirut was not a surprise to those who have been watching the escalations in Lebanon.... The Lebanese issue has entered a dangerous tunnel, where everyone is both a victim and guilty. The tunnel is similar to the one Lebanon entered on its way to civil war.... Lebanese people are taking a risk by emphasizing disagreements among themselves, which open the door for foreign forces to interfere. Now, the Lebanese must more than any other time, have self-control."
"Lebanon: Either Unity Or The Flood"
Jeddah’s conservative Al-Madina editorialized (3/27): "The most important fact indicated by the UN fact-finding report is that Lebanon is in urgent need of political support from the region to avoid negative political consequences of the assassination of Al-Hariri.... The current situation in Lebanon is similar to the situation at the time of the civil war.... Unless Lebanese and Arab countries show unity and support, Lebanon’s stability remains in danger."
"The Report And Neglect"
Riyadh’s conservative Al-Riyadh remarked (3/27): "Lebanon’s crisis cannot be solved by external resolutions even if they are compulsory. The UNSC and the UN promised to create an international system that maintains the interests of nations.... If Syria is accused, it can defend itself by presenting facts. The Lebanese people must realized that their relations with Syria must not be designed in Washington neither Paris.... If the international committee is neutral, it should not judge and jeopardize the relations between Lebanon and Syria.... However, the assassination must not conceal the real perpetrator and open the door to those who enjoy accusing people. If so, eventually, the loser is Lebanon."
"What Comes After The Report?"
Moderate Okaz observed (3/27): "We cannot doubt the neutrality of the result of the UN fact-finding report.... The UN must have a more effective role than only condemning the assassination. The UN must work on calming the situation without allowing powerful countries to target the region for divisive influences. This is the only way for the UN to prove its neutrality."
Moderate Okaz editorialized (3/26): "The region is facing much fears and tension. The UN fact-finding report about the Hariri’s assassination indicates dangerous possibilities. The stumble in the creation of the Iraqi government disturbs hopes for peaceful harmony between different Iraqi sects and parties.... All this is happening while the region and its countries are under tremendous pressure to reform the political map. The theory of coincidence is not acceptable. We need a wise position to regain the unity of this nation. The post summit summit is an urgent need. Those who care for this nation must meet together before it is too late."
"Assassination Of Hariri And International Investigation"
Conservative Al-Nadwa published (3/26): "The UN report criticized Syria and considered it responsible for the tension in Lebanon. At the same time, the report blamed Lebanese security forces for not providing sufficient security for Al-Hariri. However, Syria must not be accused directly of assassinating Al-Hariri. What is needed is to identify the criminal.... However, until the criminal is disclosed, all parties must show corporation with the international team to find out the doer before the evidences fade a way."
"Lebanon Under International Protection Forces"
Conservative Al-Riyadh judged (3/22): "The UNSC plans to send an international force to Lebanon. These forces mainly from Turkey and other Eastern European countries, its aim, as the draft resolution states, is to protect Lebanon and to train its army.... It is true that UN peacekeeping forces were able to stop clashes between Israel and Egypt, and Syria and Israel. But we wonder whether there is a need for such forces between Israelis and Palestinians to protect the weaker power from the injustice of the stronger one?.... The practice of authorizing the UNSC to send troops under its apparent authority to achieve the goals of the U.S. and Israel behind the scan is a difficult process."
LEBANON: "A Transitory Co-existence Government For Postponed Elections”
Nicolas Nassif wrote in moderate, anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/29): "The head of the Syrian team in the military Syrian-Lebanese committee supervising the comprehensive withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon, informed his Lebanese counterpart during a meeting on March 26, that the Syrian leadership has decided to end its withdrawal within 20 days. This means that the comprehensive Syrian withdrawal will end by mid next week.... It is believed that President Asad has decided to end the Syrian presence in Lebanon as soon as possible to remove pretexts used by the Security Council to exert pressure on Syrian. On another level, the Lebanese authorities are trying to remove similar pretexts used by the Security Council against Lebanon agreeing to international probe into Hariri’s murder. Lebanon has sent an envoy to the U.N. to inform the U.N. of Lebanon’s position and try to reach three targets. Lebanon wants the international probe committee to be based in Beirut and not in any other country; Lebanon also wants neutral members in the international committee in the sense that Lebanon does not want American and French investigators in the committee; finally, Lebanon wants the mission of the international investigation committee to be limited to the investigation itself, and not change into a political task that targets Lebanon and Syria.... As for the impasse over forming a Lebanese Government, it appears that the new government will be a national agreement, not unity, government which will be only responsible for following up on the mission of the investigation committee, and postponing the parliamentary elections for a short time.”
"Farewell To Arms"
Bechara Charbel commented in independent Al-Balad (3/29): "If Hizballah does not believe that it will have to transform one of these days into a normal political party...then all the contacts and meetings with its leadership are a waste of time.... No one hoped that Hizballah would become an issue that would create differences among the Lebanese, however, the new political reality and Hizballah’s inability to contain the changes placed it into the category of the loyalists.... The best service anyone can give Hizballah is to inform it frankly that it has to put a timetable for giving up its arms to the Government. Hizballah should no longer believe that it would be able to continue to keep its weapons.”
"People Ask And Explosions Answer"
Rafiq Khoury wrote in centrist Al-Anwar (3/27): “Mistakes in reading the strategic changes in the region led the Lebanese authorities to committing sins.... These sins will in turn lead towards internationalizing everything in Lebanon.... The question is why is it that nothing happens in Lebanon except under international pressure. Why did we have to wait for UNSCR 1559, to start Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon? Do we need the stick of the international community in order to hold free parliamentary elections?... The catastrophe is that people ask and explosions answer.”
"Towards The International Report"
Joseph Samaha wrote in Arab nationalist As-Safir (3/26): “The report can be divided into three parts: political, security, and practical parts. On the political part, Peter Fitzgerald was really decisive: he held Damascus responsible for the atmosphere that preceded the assassination of former PM Hariri.... On the security level, he was less decisive. He indicated the chaos, the unprofessional investigation, non-respect for the scene of the crime.... As for the practical part, the report posed more questions than it gave answers.... This report which was issued during a difficult crisis in Lebanon...only increased the difficulties in this crisis.... It has become harder now to form a national unity government.... This means that Prime Minister-designate Karami is on his way to resignation.”
"From The Assassination To The UN Report"
Rafiq Khoury penned this editorial in centrist Al-Anwar (3/26): “Churchill used to say that truth is very valuable; for this reason we have to surround it by lies. Apparently, the Lebanese authorities are practicing by instinct what Churchill concluded. However, unlike Churchill, the Lebanese authorities are not trying to protect the truth with their lies, but hide it.... Nothing suggests that the Lebanese authorities have learned any lesson, either from Hariri’s assassination or from the report.... Perhaps Peter Fitzgerald is lucky. So far, all those who criticized his report only said that he is on the opposition’s side. They did not yet classify him as an enemy of Lebanon and Syria.... In any case, no one expected Fitzgerald to find out the whole truth about Hariri’s assassination, but he certainly exposed a lot of lies and disclosed many events that might eventually lead to the truth.”
"Fitzgerald’s Facts Oust The Statue Of The Security State"
Fares Khashan commented in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (3/26): “Whoever reads the UN report carefully will find out that there is enough evidence...to prove that the Lebanese security agencies were involved in hiding evidence and planting fake ones.... Perhaps the biggest scandal...revolves around the car that the Lebanese security agencies say is responsible for the explosion.... Fitzgerald’s report exposed the fact that the Lebanese authorities do not want the Lebanese to know who killed Hariri.... But, despite all these efforts, Lebanon will not be the same following Fitzgerald’s report.”
"The UN Report's Hailstorm Of Truth Requires Initiative and Imagination."
The English-language moderate Daily Star opined (3/26): "Like a hailstorm, a moment of truth has just showered the Lebanese and Syrian governments. This storm is the UN report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. As with all moments of truth, radical decisions must be made: The report has rendered futile the antics of Beirut and Damascus, there is no more space to buy time or to fudge issues. The credibility of Lebanon and Syria are at stake as never before."
"International Community Backs Full Probe Into Al-Hariri's Slaying."
Majdoline Hattum wrote in the moderate English-language Daily Star (3/26): "The international community came out in support of an international probe into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, a day after a UN report determined that Lebanese authorities had failed in their investigation. The United States, Britain, and the European Union all welcomed the report, putting their combined weight behind a resolution backing the formation of a more comprehensive investigative international committee. The UN report pointed the finger at Syria and Lebanon for their neglect in preventing Al-Hariri's assassination and called for an international investigation to discover who killed him."
"Former Minister Says UN Report Paves Way."
The moderate English-language Daily Star carried an UN attributed report that said (3/26): "Former Justice Minister Bahij Tabbara said that the UN fact-finding mission's report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri has paved the way for the formation of an international investigation committee, as well as an international tribunal to hold responsible those accountable for the crime."
"Damascus' Allies Are On The Defensive."
Walid Chucair wrote in the moderate English-language Daily Star (3/26): "Damascus' allies in the Lebanese regime have taken a defensive position, both before and after the release of the UN investigation team report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri. Circles close to President Emile Lahhud said that three or four days before the report's release, the president started to show willingness to accept an international investigation committee, after the regime had been adamantly against any such possibility.... Both international and local parties will also continue to hold Syria politically accountable for the tension that preceded the assassination and will focus increased attention on Syria's responsibility through the next phase as well. This latest development raises several questions as to how Syria plans to handle the next phase. Will it resort to negotiations over some kind of settlement, a move that would reduce the damages it has incurred since the extension of Lahhud's term? Or will it maintain and intensify its aggressive policy against the opposition through its Lebanese allies, which would pave the way for more international interference in Lebanon?"
"UN Report On Al-Hariri's Murder May Open The Way For Lebanese, Arab Security Sector Reforms"
Rami Khuri commented in the moderate English-language Daily Star (3/26): "One of the potentially most significant consequences of the report submitted Thursday by the UN Fact-Finding Mission to Lebanon inquiring into the causes, circumstances, and consequences of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri are its recommendations calling for accountability and oversight mechanisms for the Lebanese security services. As such, the report and any subsequent efforts to implement its recommendations could break important new ground in forging a more normal balance in the Arab world between the power of security and military organizations and their oversight or control by civilian, judicial, and democratic institutions.... The intriguing new element emerging from Lebanon today and from the UN's report this week is the legitimization of the discussion of the security sector, and its role, impact, and accountability in society. This report is an important reminder that professional, effective security organizations go hand-in-hand with democracy and the rule of law."
"Toward An International Inquiry."
Joseph Samahah wrote in Arab nationalist As Safir (3/26): "Finally, the long-awaited report of the fact-finding mission has been issued. It is the kind of report that allows the opposition to resume its attack and allows the loyalists to protect themselves behind certain parts of the report.... If the Security Council is swift to form an international investigative inquiry, and if its authority is broad, there will be sufficient indicators available to expect a severe escalation in the crisis, with knowledge that there is no room, morally or politically, to reject an international investigation..... This may not bring us closer to the 'truth' that the Lebanese are seeking, but we will necessarily get closer to the 'truth' of the United States' policies toward the region, a policy that combines the hostility of colonial invasion and Israeli expansion."
Sati Nur-al-Din said in Arab nationalist As Safir (3/26): "Searching for the truth directly targets the Syrian presidency and places it into the den of accusation, in an international tribunal whose single and only concern will not merely be to issue a verdict of guilty or innocent in the assassination of Rafiq al-Hariri. Fitzgerald has directed a professional and political preliminary indication that the international community actually intends to prosecute Damascus, in all senses of the word from accusation, prosecution, and defense...including negotiations and settlements that usually take place outside the courtroom."
Sahar Ba'asiri commented in moderate anti-Syrian An-Nahar (3/26): "Once again, on the path to find the truth behind the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri, many other facts are being revealed and exposed. The report of the UN fact-finding mission was issued not to reveal what the Lebanese already know, but to document the hidden scandalous faults of the Syrian-Lebanese security-intelligence interference and to say that the truth about the assassination cannot be reached as long as the heads of the Lebanese security services remain in their posts. This is precisely what the majority of the Lebanese and the opposition had impulsively sensed since the moment of the assassination and thus demanded their resignation or dismissal. However, the matter is now different with the report. The fact-finding mission has arrived at the tangible conclusion that the Lebanese security services demonstrated serious systematic negligence in carrying out their duties and that the investigation suffers from serious faults. Furthermore, beyond the issue of the truth about the assassination, as the report says, is the need to restructure and reform the security services and to retrain them in order to restore their integrity and credibility, and these are two vital matters for the security and stability of a state. This implies separating security from politics and turning the security apparatus into a professional and national apparatus, free from any foreign influence and above sectarianism."
"The Fact-Finding Mission Did Not Quench The Thirst Of Washington In Accusing Damascus"
Muhammad Baqir Shari opined in independent Ad-Diyar (3/26): "The Fact-Finding Mission was delegated by the UN to conduct an international inquiry; why then is there a need for another 'international investigation'? This raises the question: Is the report of the fact-finding mission not sufficient to direct accusations to the certain party against which the United States and Israel 'wish' to direct accusations?.... Therefore, did UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, under the pressure that he usually faces from US and international pressure groups have to establish another investigation through another committee, in the hope that other evidence could be collected to indict the party at which Washington, Tel Aviv, and certain Lebanese opposition figures are pointing the finger of accusation?"
"From The Earthquake Of The Assassination To The Tremor Of The Report"
Rafiq Khuri noted in centrist Al-Anwar (3/26): "Nothing indicates that the fragmented regime has learnt any lessons, neither from the earthquake created by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri domestically and abroad, nor from the tremor of the fact-finding report. The regime confronted the quake with arrogance and the tremor by maneuvering.... Fitzgerald exposed many of the lies surrounding the assassination crime and revealed the facts that led to it. He ignored neither the political nor the security contexts of the assassination. The report is only a door held open to a major decision and the last thing that will benefit the regime is to continue its arrogance or its maneuvering."
"The Epilogue Of Assassinations And The Resurrection Of The Homeland"
Centrist Al-Anwar carried the following commentary (3/26): "For the first time, the Lebanese feel that the facts surrounding the circumstances of an assassination will be revealed. For the first time, the Lebanese feel that an assassination will not remain a mystery. For the first time, the Lebanese feel that the circumstances of a crime will not be concealed nor will the revelation of the facts be obstructed. For the first time in the history of assassinations, the Lebanese feel that the truth will appear. The shameful matter is that the Lebanese authority's negligence has been exposed before the international community and this negligence is disgraceful. The negligence on the level of the investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri is only a small example of many instances of negligence. Regretfully, we did not need to wait for Fitzgerald's report to know that we are living in a republic of negligence."
"Loyalists Refuse To Reveal the Party That Assassinated Premier Al-Hariri."
Faris Khashan commented in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (3/26): "Fitzgerald's report uncovered the truth about the 'loyalists': They do not wish the Lebanese to find out who assassinated former Premier Rafiq al-Hariri. Several hours before the report was announced, there were several Lebanese attempts to keep it discreet and secret, in return for a pledge to subsequently collaborate with the international investigation committee to be dispatched by the Security Council to reveal the truth. However, these attempts failed as a result of the transparent mechanisms, in all sense of the word, that are adopted by the apparatuses of international legitimacy.... Despite the attempts by the loyalists to bury the truth, after Fitzgerald's report it will be impossible for Lebanon to remain the same as it was before the report."
"Planting The Evidence In The Crater Caused By The Explosion Opens The Doors Of Hell Against The Security Regime."
Faris Khashan reported in pro-Hariri Al-Mustaqbal (3/26): "After 20 days of work, the report placed its finger on the bleeding wound of democracy in Lebanon since 1994, when it exposed that the 'systematic negligence' had political objectives by spreading the culture of fear throughout the country in order to gain support by not holding accountable the criminals who harm opposition figures. The report exposed two categories of accessories in the crime who must be prosecuted: The first category is those who concealed evidence from the scene of the crime by moving the motorcade vehicles and not repairing the pipes that allowed water to flow into the crater caused by the explosion, and who were negligent in surveying the scene of the crime. The second category is those who, in the investigation, neglected to attempt to find out how the videotape of Ahmad Abu-Adas arrived at the ESCWA district in Central Beirut and deliberately planted parts of the pick up truck in the crater of the explosion, while at the same time neglecting to track down the pick up truck that appeared in the recordings of the HSBC Bank, and all the details surrounding it."
"The 'Loyalists' Triumphed Technically...And The 'Opposition' Triumphed Politically!"
Tariq Tarchichi commented in independent al-Balad (3/26): "The reality is that the report in its substance, and in light of the reactions to it, demonstrated that the 'loyalists' triumphed from the technical aspect because of their theory that the assassination was executed by detonating explosives above the ground, whereas the 'opposition's' theory leaned toward an explosion from beneath the ground. At the same time, the 'opposition' triumphed politically because the report accuses the Lebanese and Syrian security services of the primary responsibility for the lack of security, protection, law, and order in Lebanon.... The fact-finding mission should have focused on the technical aspect of the crime instead of the political aspect that is discussed in the majority of the report because the political content that is derived from political figures that Fitzgerald visited is debatable. The UN should have distinguished between the technical and political aspects of the report by dispatching a political mediator to handle the political aspect, and a forensic expert to deal with the technical side of the report, but not allowed a forensic expert to link the political situation into the investigation. Now that the report has recommended the formation of an international investigation committee, the Security Council should accurately specify its mission, that it is an investigation into the crime and not a political investigation that is a prelude to political accusations, which could be exploited within the context of the pressures to which the region is being subjected."
SYRIA: "In Correction Of Intentional Mistakes"
Muhammad Khair al-Jammali opined in government-owned Al-Thawra (3/29): "The report of the international fact-finding committee on the assassination of former Lebanese PM Al-Hariri departed from the committee's original task and contained wrong conclusions on the situation that preceded the implementation of this crime. Also, it served as an additional evidence of the magnitude of the plot against Lebanon and, through Lebanon, against the entire region. The report departed from the committee's original task by going beyond the committee's powers. It ignored the questions, which the committee was originally set up to answer. These questions are: Who killed Al-Hariri? How and why he was killed? Who really stands to gain from this heinous crime and its political goals? The report dealt with a subject outside the committee's jurisdiction. It described the political situation that preceded the crime and focused on the tension that prevailed at the time to criticize Syria by holding it responsible for this tension on the pretext that it has forces in Lebanon. The report ignored the fact that Syria had no forces in Beirut at the time. It coincided with a campaign of pressures and false charges against Syria to harm the noble pan-Arab role that Syria played in Lebanon.... The report ignored US-French pressure to intervene in Lebanon's affairs and the inciting role that was played by Lebanese leading figures who collude with outside powers and who seek such intervention under the slogans of trusteeship and mandate.... Al-Hariri assassination was then used politically to increase the tension in Lebanon and deepen the political rift in it to pave the way for a larger international intervention, allegedly to prevent Lebanon from descending into security disorder that would pose additional threat to stability in the region. What reinforces this fact is the plot that is designed to dismantle the region and its national and pan-Arab unity. The aim of this plot is to re-shape the region to achieve two pivotal goals, to secure the vital interests of the neo conservatives in the US Administration and incorporate Israel into the new regional order to place it in the center of this order.... The report's departure from the committee's task and wrong conclusions about the causes of political tension in Lebanon are part of organized pressures on both Syria and Lebanon."
"A Political Report On A Security Mission"
Sa'dallah Barakat opined in government-owned Al-Ba'th (3/27): "The fact-finding committee's report on the crime of the assassination of former Lebanese PM Al-Hariri was announced after a delay of several hours.... The report did not name any party as being responsible for the crime. It only described the security and political circumstances of the assassination and indicated that there was a large difference between the high technology used in the crime and the Lebanese security agencies' capabilities. So, it was only a description of the assassination operation. It cannot be regarded as a legal report.... In its dealing with the causes of the crime, the report infringes on the role of the Lebanese state, which achieved political stability that was the object of appreciation by the world. Even though the report did not hold Syria responsible for anything, it was critical of Syria's role. Syria established a sound and favorable climate to perpetuate security in Lebanon, while Resolution 1559 created a dangerous environment and caused division within the Lebanese people and political tensions before the crime took place. The report was based on statements made by one single Lebanese party, while ignoring the other parties. If there are pro- and anti-government parties in Lebanon as a democratic country, the political tension in the country was fueled by signals from abroad regarding Resolution 1559.... In short, the chairman of the committee rendered the report devoid of objectivity. Also, he departed from the task of the committee, thereby harming its credibility and work."
"In The Heart Of Danger"
Isam Dari took this view in government-owned Tishreen (3/26): "Although the Arab summit did not measure up to the expectations of the Arab peoples, it was positive in the sense that it preserved the Arab principles and prevented the collapse of the Arab order.... Arabs' solidarity with Syria, their rejection of the American threats and warnings to it, and their rejection of the Syria Accountability Act were other achievements and a clear message to the U.S. administration indicating that the Arabs have a unified vision toward Syrian-American relations, which must be governed by constructive dialogue, not pressures and threats."
UAE: "Let Better Sense Prevail In Lebanon"
The expatriate-oriented, English-language Gulf News editorialized (3/28): "It is imperative for the political leadership of all significant groups to encourage calm. The recent bombings in Lebanon send chills down the spine of anyone who knows anything of that country's history over the past 30 years. These understandable fears for the future, though, should be matched by a sense of proportion. It has indeed been tense in Lebanon since the assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. The political atmosphere has become volatile after decades of uneasy calm. The Syrian withdrawal is now well underway, though, and the Lebanese people are coming to terms with the new challenges they face as they try to map out the way forward. There is no doubt that democratic reform is on the national agenda. Now is the time to set down the firm foundations upon which such change can be securely built. It is imperative, therefore, that the political leadership of all significant groups in Lebanon encourage a calm and rational environment. Certainly, there will be groups within and without that do not want stability and common sense to prevail. Every country has its malcontents and enemies, and Lebanon is no different. What is more important, though, is how sensible people respond to provocations such as the bombings. It is instinctive to lash out at those who are perceived to be threatening you and your community. What is distinctive about people, though, is their ability to reflect and to allow logic to dictate to instinct. This, in the case of Lebanon now, demands that people of goodwill recognize that a return to the base days of ethnic and religious conflict will serve no one’s best interests. Certainly, there is a debate to be had about the future of the country, and may that debate be passionate and sincere. To have that discussion, though, demands that the undemocratic and inhuman motives of the bombers be recognized and rejected for the nonsense they are."
The expatriate-oriented, English-language Khaleej Times had this to say (3/28): "Yet another blast rocked Beirut yesterday. This is one of the many explosions to hit the Lebanese capital in the past several days. It goes without saying that these blasts are related to the disturbing political situation Lebanon finds itself in today. Who are the people behind these acts of terror? Who is out to wreck Lebanon's peace and stability? For these extremist acts can't be blamed on the Lebanese people. The people of Lebanon are too much in love with life and all good things it offers to resort to such tactics. They have seen too much bloodshed and violence during the civil war to go back to the madness of that era. The needle of suspicion therefore points towards operatives of the Syrian regime. After all, the Syrians have been saying that if they left Lebanon would plunge back into the chaos and blood-letting of the civil war. It's the Syrians who benefit from this mindless violence. They now have a chance of saying, 'Look, this is what happens when we leave. We warned you, if we leave bombs will return.' Peace-loving people of Lebanon must come together to prove all prophets of doom wrong."
EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC
PHILIPPINES: "From Terrorists To Statesmen"
Beth Day Romulo wrote in the independent conservative Manila Bulletin (3/24): "In the Middle East some of today's most outstanding terrorists are taking a hard look at the advantages of entering the political system and forsaking terrorist acts for statesmanship.... The militant Islamic Hamas has just announced that it will take part in the Palestinian elections scheduled for July 17th.... This change of heart is a major victory for the new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, who has been quietly urging Hamas to enter the mainstream of Palestinian politics. The situation in Lebanon has also taken on a different hue since the assassination of...Rafik Hariri, which triggered public uprisings and the demand of the Lebanese people for Syrian troops to withdraw. At first, Syrian President.... Al Assad indicated they would withdraw...but gave no timetable. Now he is giving a timetable...freeing the Lebanese to form their own government. Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon's militant Hezbolla organization has presented himself as a leader...of the Lebanese people to replace the murdered Harrari. In this position, Hezbollah is no longer calling for the liberation of Jerusalem but for a free government for Lebanon, out from under Syrian control.... Washington has labelled Hezbollah a terrorist organization. But now...the label may no longer apply."
IRAN: "New Wave Of Pressure Against Syria"
Hasan Hashemian commented in pro-Khatami, IRNA-published Iran (3/27): "The publication of the report by the UN Secretary General's envoy on the outcome of the investigation into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri could signal the start of a fresh round of pressure by the West on Syria. There are two pivotal points in this report: the first is that Lebanon's security organs displayed 'intentional' negligence, both in preventing the terrorist actions from taking place and in correct investigation and finding the truths concerning al-Hariri's murder. The second is that this report held Syria responsible for incidents that eventually led to Rafiq al-Hariri's murder. Such a report could, at this juncture, cancel out the positive outcome of Bashar al-Asad's announcement on the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon.... This could spark the Syrian's reactive response and once again return them to their previous weak position and place them in the position of the defendant. Meanwhile, the coincidence of the visit to Beirut by David Sutterfield, one of the new high-ranking officials of the U.S. Department of State, and former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, with the publication of this report, speaks of the fact that the Americans' objectives in Lebanon go beyond the withdrawal of the Syrian troops from that country and that they will continue their game with the Syrian statesmen and their supporters in Lebanon up to the point where the outcome of Lebanon's upcoming parliamentary elections will be in favor of their supported opposition.... Following the current developments and the publication of the report by Kofi Annan's envoy, Syria is once again the target of a strong wave of pressure. This situation could once again return the Syrians to 'zero' status, which means that any kind of action by the United Nations Security Council against them may be possible. One should now wait and see how the Syrians will react. In relation with this, it is being heard that in the coming days, Bashar al-Asad will present a timetable for the full withdrawal of the Syrian forces from Lebanon. This step could slightly ease the pressure. However, it will not be able to solve Syria's problems in Lebanon."
BANGLADESH: "The U.S. Pursuing Israel's Agenda In The Levant?"
The independent, English-language English Daily Star observed (3/28): "The Americans call the members of Hizballah terrorists but grudgingly recognize their virtues: the grassroots popularity, their courage, discipline, patriotism and selfless social service, all rolled up in one. They are the only Arab force to inflict defeat on Israelis. The organization remains virulently anti-American and anti-Israel and its leaders have dismissed the U.S. and UN demand that its fighters lay down their arms. This perhaps negates the possibility of their being the catalyst of incipient changes in Lebanon. But Hizballah is redefining itself, edging away from the militancy and steadily raising its political profile. It already has 11 members in the parliament and the number will, the analysts reckon, increase manifold in the election in May. The subtle change the Hizballah has been undergoing should placate much of the U.S.' concern. But in the meantime there is no matching change in American stance particularly in disarming the Hizbollah, which has by now come of an age after witnessing many ups and downs of its fortune. They can neither be browbeaten or arm-twisted, nor can they be neutralized in Lebanon's politics. That the U.S. is aware of it is adequately reflected in its decision not to pick a fight with Hizballah. The Bush administration favors rather a moderate approach now to Hizballah, which can in turn persuade the group to seek and perhaps find some common ground with the Lebanese opposition despite Syria's tactical retreat in pulling back her troops from Lebanon.... More crucial for Lebanon at the moment is to leave her alone to sort out her problems arising out of Hariri's death. Notwithstanding a U.S.-Israeli game plan, Lebanon's asset to preserve her sovereignty should be an increasingly political Hizballah, of course, with her potent guerrilla forces. The signs are already visible that, Hizballah is already turning more nationalistic and less ideological. Apparently Hizballah's future is in Lebanon and vice versa."
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