The UN Security Council is working on the incendiary draft resolution setting up an international tribunal for trying suspects in the massive Beirut bombing that killed the Lebanese politician Rafiq Hariri and 22 others in Feb. 2005 and the perpetrators of a series of political assassinations leading up to that atrocity and its aftermath.
The measure was drafted by Britain and France at the request of the Siniora government in Beirut, after failing to get it past Lebanon’s pro-Syrian opposition for ratification..
Shortly after the deliberations began in New York, the enigmatic Palestinian Fatah al-Islam sparked an offensive on the Lebanese army in Tripoli and the neighboring Nahar al-Barad refugee camp (See HOT POINTS below).
That day too, an explosion rocked Beirut’s Christian Ashrafiya district, killing one woman, followed by a second bomb attack in the predominantly Sunni district of Verdun in West Beirut. The warning was clear: The further the Security Council advances toward a tribunal resolution, the more deeply Lebanon would be steeped in violence, terror and mayhem.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence sources confirm the general assumption that the troubles are orchestrated by Syrian intelligence, which has vast experience in such operations, although the Security Council, which has more or less finished its work, is held back from voting by an unforeseen obstacle.
Serge Brammertz, head of the UN team whose investigation into the Hariri assassination has provided the basis for the resolution, has informed UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon that a special program must be instituted to protect the 150 witnesses which he as prosecutor will call in the first stage of the trial.
This number is testimony to the thoroughness of the team’s work under his leadership and that of his predecessor, Detlev Melis.
At the same time, the world body has no notion how to organize a large witness protection program, much less budget it. The proposal to hand the witnesses around senior UN member nations, the United States, Britain and Germany, was quickly thrown out by Russian and China. They object in principle to a system for protecting witnesses who are willing to testify against the heads of their own governments on charges of murder and terror.
Brammerts, who has not disclosed the prosecution witnesses’ identities to the UN Secretariat, warns Ban that none will testify before the international court unless their conditions are met:
Syria acts as middleman for contacts with al Qaeda
1. There must be a program to protect them and their families.
2. They need Security Council immunity from court suits anywhere in the world.
3. The UN Security Council or Secretariat must cover their expenses and underwrite their salaries – not just for the duration of the trial but for five years after it is over – in other words, guarantee their livelihood.
Syrian president Bashar Assad cannot be sure that the world body will not overcome these obstacles, which means that his close family and top officials may find themselves in the dock accused of murder and terrorism. Therefore, his friends in Tehran did not have to ask him twice to go to work and plunge Lebanon into civil turmoil to keep the world body and its tribunal at bay.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in Tehran reveal that they assured him Hizballah would come to his aid should the pro-Syrian forces he set against the Siniora government run into trouble.
Our military analysts make several points about the battles raging in and around Tripoli between the Palestinian Islamic radicals and the Lebanese army:
One: Syrian military intelligence officers in touch with Damascus are definitely orchestrating the fighting. They gave the game away on May 20 by organizing reinforcements for the radicals after learning that the Lebanese prime minister and army chiefs had ordered the army to storm Fatah al-Islam positions the next day and wipe them out to the last man.
The reinforcements were raised by Palestinian terrorist groups based in Damascus, led by Ahmed Jibril‘s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian-General Command, from other parts of Lebanon and in Syria.
Monday night, several hundred fresh gunmen crossed in from Syria – an impossibility without the logistical resources placed at their disposal by Syrian security. Monday, the sudden appearance of a mixed pro-Syrian Palestinian al Qaeda extra force robbed the Lebanese army of a certain victory.
Whereas in Iraq, Sunni and Shiite insurgent militias maintain direct ties with al Qaeda, in Lebanon the connection works indirectly through Syria and Palestinian organizations.
debkafile first revealed in reports appearing in November, 2006, that Fatah al-Islam is al Qaeda’s arm in the Palestinian movement. It is financed by Syrian military intelligence and its leaders have free rein to operate out of the Syrian capital and parts of northern Lebanon still under Damascus’ thumb.
Shaker Abssi, Fatah al-Islam’s leader is a Syrian. He was also part of the al Qaeda hit-team which assassinated the head of USAID Lawrence J. Foley in Amman in 2002.