Word that the UN's Special Tribunal for Lebanon may indict high Hizballah security officials in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri placed a ticking bomb under the Shiite militia, which its leader Hassan Nasrallah tossed back Thursday, July 27. He said the news had been brought him by Saad Hariri, Lebanese Prime Minister and son of the dead politician's son.
debkafile's military sources report that, among other evidence, the tribunal's attention was drawn to Hizballah when its investigators linked eight of the 20 cell phones found at the scene of the murder to Hizballah's special security and intelligence apparatus and senior commanders.
Nasrallah's threats Thursday revived memories still-fresh in Lebanon and the Middle East of the chaos Hizballah stirred up by its 2006 war on Israel and its violent takeover of West Beirut in 2008 to strengthen the Shiite militia's grip on the Beirut government.
debkafile's military and intelligence sources report that if the STL summons to Hizballah officials is issued in the fall, it could coincide with a tricky situation in Tehran. By then, Iran will have assessed the toll international sanctions have taken on the regime's robustness and its economy and may use its Lebanese proxy to retaliate by igniting another war against Israel or stirring up civilian unrest at home.
This scenario would give Nasrallah the pretext for his men to disobey the tribunal's summons.
The Lebanese Shiite leader said: "The accusation is heading towards members who they (Saad Hariri) tell us now are undisciplined members of Hizballah – two or three. I don't even accept half of a Hizballah member being accused."
He went on to say: "I don't accept decisions from this court unless they are based on solid and real evidence," then turned his fire on the tribunal, this time dragging Israel in to justify his decision to boycott the STL.
"As long as it didn't work on Israeli (involvement) then it's not an honest tribunal," he said.
Our sources add: Word has been going around Washington, Paris and Berlin for some weeks that the eight cell phones implicating Hizballah were part of the case being built up by Daniel Bellemare, Special Prosecutor of the Special Tribunal which the UN Security Council and the Lebanese government established to investigate the assassination of Hariri and 22 other victims in a massive bombing on Feb. 14, 2005 in the Hamra district of Beirut.
Hizballah's ten-day campaign against alleged Israeli spy rings said to have seized control of Lebanon's telephone companies and networks is part of Nasrallah's strategy for discrediting the evidence against his operatives. So is the charge churned out by his propaganda machine an Israeli precision missile caused the mighty explosion which blew up the Rafiq Hariri's armored convoy.
Since Thursday, the Lebanese prime minister has tried to distance himself from a role in the Hizballah leader's charges – to no avail. Saturday, July 24, Hizballah lawmaker Hasan Fadlallah accused Saad Hariri's spokesmen of lying. "…their claims in their confused tales will not do any good in diverting the public's attention from the truth of the matter that Hariri knows very well," said the Hizballah MP.
Later that day, when the Lebanese prime minister spoke to his Mustaqbal movement, he did not rule out the possibility of indictments against Hizballah leaders triggering a conflict against Israel or within the country. "…there are some sides who fear, or hope, the assassination will be the spark that causes a Lebanese war," he said and issued a call for national unity.
Some informed sources calculate that the STL, from its base at Leidschendam-Voorburg town hall near The Hague, is set to issue subpoenas for Hizballah suspects to present themselves in late August or early September. Once the court directives are out, neither the Lebanese government, which established the court jointly with the UN, nor UNIFIL, the operational unit of the Security Council in Lebanon can ignore them.
Indeed it will be incumbent on both to implement the court's orders, a step that the Hizballah leader has already warned would be resisted by force – hence the predictions of a revival of inter-communal violence. Another feared scenario is a Hizballah attack on Israel, which would depend on a green light from Tehran. Aware of the trouble brewing, Saudi King Abdullah announced Sunday, July 25, that after visiting Damascus Thursday, July 29, he would travel to Beirut. The monarch intends to do what he can to cool the high suspense and avert another Lebanese civil war.