The Political Dimensions of the UN Special Tribunal for Lebanon’s Verdict on the Case of Rafiq al-Hariri

On Tuesday 18 August 2020, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon found one single defendant guilty of assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri in February 2005. Lebanese president Michel Aoun called for “accepting the verdict of the court.” Soon after, Saad al-Hariri announced his acceptance of the court’s verdict and called for the pursuit of the perpetrators.

As Judge David Re read out the summary of the verdict, he cited that while Syria and Hezbollah “may have had motives to eliminate” Hariri and some of his political allies, there was “no evidence that the Hezbollah leadership had any involvement in Hariri’s murder and there is no direct evidence of Syrian involvement”. Judge Micheline Braidy, for her part, said the assassination of al-Hariri was executed for political motives and that no evidence was found to implicate Syria and Hezbollah’s leaders in this issue.

Hezbollah’s Secretary General, Hassan Nasrullah, said last Friday that his party would “deal with the verdict of the court as if it did not exist.”

The reality is, that every single international institution, including the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, is strongly influenced or controlled by the US through which she blackmails the parties she wants to subjugate to her agendas, exactly as she did with former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir who relinquished southern Sudan after he had been threatened with prosecution by the International Criminal Court.

Hezbollah’s advance rejection of the Special Tribunal’s ruling, which carried a message hinting at its readiness for a confrontation should it be forced to do so, explains why the Tribunal cleared the leadership of Hezbollah and Syria of involvement in al-Hariri’s assassination, and reveals the extent of America’s manipulation of these international institutions. The verdict of the court is more like an American initiative to establish an understanding with Hezbollah and Iran with the aim of foisting an emergency government with an American agenda akin to the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Iraq, which was a precedent that encouraged America to seek a similar understanding in Lebanon, especially as General Aoun has expressed some flexibility towards a potential peace agreement with the Israel in stating that “peace with Israel depends on solving the outstanding issues first.”

Hence, forming a government free of Hezbollah’s influence is what the US is aiming to achieve at this stage, lest Lebanon should collapse altogether causing an out-of-control political vacuum, which is a highly sensitive issue for the security situation on the northern borders of Israel and on the borders with Syria where America is eager on severing the artery of her economic life from the Lebanese side, and on cutting off Iran’s supplies to Hezbollah via Syria. This is what the former prime minister who was vetoed by Hezbollah, Najib Mikati, is attempting to propagate. He proposed forming a government headed by Saad al-Hariri and said “what is required is forming as soon as possible a new government that includes individuals with confidence; and in my opinion we need an emergency government to rebuild what has been destroyed as soon as possible so that people may return to their homes before winter sets in, to undertake all the required and known reforms quickly and finalise the negotiations with the IMF, thus putting Lebanon on the right track.”

It is clear from the statement of Mikati that what is required for Lebanon is an emergency government to prevent the collapse of the state and returning back to square one, namely a constitutional vacuum and lawlessness; this government should enjoy the confidence of all the stakeholders, which would be the required interpretation of sidestepping the sectarian apportionment, and be controlled by the IMF, thus allowing America to dictate her conditions and place Lebanon on the sound track, which would be suitable for the regional solution with Israel.

Perhaps what corroborates the notion that what is required at this stage is regaining the state and seizing it from the claws of Hezbollah is the statement made by Saad al-Hariri following the verdict of the Special Court for Lebanon. He said “the aim of this terrorist crime was to change the face of Lebanon, its system and its identity; and this is not subject to compromise.” It is also corroborated by the statement of the Saudi foreign ministry calling for punishing Hezbollah and indicating that Saudi “aspires to see Lebanon enjoy peace and security by ending the possession and use of weapons outside the framework of the state, and strengthening the Lebanese state for the benefit of all the Lebanese citizens without exception.” Hence, this message denotes a threat and further pressure since it raises the stakes of demands to the level that undermines Hezbollah’s focus of attention, namely its weapons. It seems that pre-empting the Special Court’s verdict by blowing up Beirut’s harbour was a prelude to sealing off the issue of al-Hariri, opening a new issue, namely the “Beirut Earthquake”, and using it as a sword wielded against Hezbollah now that the issue of al-Hariri has exhausted the reason of its existence and lost its momentum through time and the emergence of an alternative, namely economic pressure, popular protests and the explosion of the harbour.

However, if Hezbollah and Gen. Aoun were thinking of countering the American endeavour with a similar undertaking, the party and its partners would most probably find in Donald Trump’s need for more achievements a lifeline amid the changes introduced to the political game and the rules of engagement whose consequences have started to shift in favour of the opponents of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran.

However, concluding an understanding with America depends on the magnitude of America’s demands from Hezbollah and its partners since the main objective is keeping its weapons, anything else would not constitute an obstacle to concluding an understanding, allowing them to catch their breath, especially as the so-called resistance project has grown rusty, damaged its sectarian and nationalist wells and hit its financial revenues amid an economic bottleneck. The resistance project has also regressed and been eroded in the face of the camp of normalisation and strategic alliance with Israel which got off the blocks at full speed few days ago.

However, nothing of note or concrete will come out of any engagement and/or expectation from either the Americans or the French as is clear from their destructive records especially in Africa and the Middle East. The promised recipes of reform will only bring further shackles by the terms and conditions of the IMF. The current chieftainships and any others generated by the new situation on the basis of the understandings with Western powers will only yield further corruption, fragmentation and enslavement to American designs.

Copyright © LCIR 2020