In his first speech on the Lebanese crisis, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah said Sunday night, Jan. 16: "The opposition will exercise its own national convictions and will not be intimidated by the world's reaction." He added: "The opposition" had decided unanimously not to name Saad Hariri, the pro-Western prime minister they toppled last week, as next head of government, meaning that the Hizballah-led camp will build its own regime shunning Hariri.
Nasrallah and Hariri will certainly go head to head to decide which rules the country. debkafile's sources note that Hizballah has the advantage of being the most powerful armed force in Lebanon. Added to Hariri's disadvantages is the refusal of his potential outside supporters, whether the US, France, Israel or Saudi Arabia, to intervene on his behalf.
The Hizballah-led government's first step will be to declare illegal the Special Lebanese Tribunal whose prosecutor Daniel Bellemare is due to submit his report to pre-trial judge Daniel Fransen within 48 hours. Nasrallah's pretext will be that his findings and the indictments of his henchmen were composed in Tel Aviv – not at the STL's seat in The Hague.
Ironically, on Sunday, Jan 16, the very day that Robert Ford took up his post as the first US ambassador to Damascus in six years, Syrian President Bashar Assad threw all his weight behind Hizballah's drive to rid Lebanese politics of the Saad Hariri and so derail the Obama administrations policy objectives in Lebanon.
debkafile reports: Assad has now dropped the pose of aloofness from the Lebanese crisis which he has struck since after Hizballah toppled the Hariri government last week. The Syrian ruler has now stepped in with both feet to block any western moves to save the ousted prime minister turned caretaker – as attested to by a clip broadcast Saturday, Jan. 15, by Al-Jadeed TV, a station sponsored by Hizballah and Syrian intelligence.
Hariri was shown in Aug. 2006 meeting with the Special Tribunal's officials investigating the assassination of his father Rafiq Hariri in 2005.
The five-year old video showed Syrian military intelligence defectors present at the meeting. One was identified as Col. Muhammad Zuhair al-Siddiq, whose testimony the STL later dismissed as untrustworthy. (He disappeared after that in one of the Gulf emirates. According to some sources he was abducted by Syrian intelligence, brought back to Syria and put to death.)
Also filmed there were a number of Lebanese intelligence officials, whom Damascus and Hizballah branded "false witnesses," accusing them of distorting facts to incriminate Syria and Hizballah in the crime. One member of this group was identified as Col. Wissman al-Hassan, former chief of Lebanon's intelligence services.
The Al-Jadeed TV announcer informed the audience that the broadcast was the first in a series of video films shot secretly by Syrian military intelligence. They go to prove, he said, that Saad Hariri was present at a conspiracy to pin the blame for his father's murder on Syria and Hizballah. He promised the next airing Sunday would show the ousted Lebanese prime minister charging the Syrian President's brother-in-law Gen. Asif Shawqat with responsibility for the assassination's planning and execution.
debkafile: This clip could be seriously damaging to Hariri. His enemies will claim he lied about having nothing to do with false witnesses. Just the image of him sitting with Siddiq could damage his credibility.
Apart from damaging Hariri, debkafile's intelligence sources report the release of this clip, whose only possible source is Syrian intelligence, shows two things: One is that Assad is now solidly behind the all-out drive of Hassan Nasrallahto remove the pro-Western Hariri from Lebanese politics once and for all; the other is that both are scared stiff of the contents of the report the STL prosecutor Daniel is about to submit to the court. It will be up to Judge Fransen to decide when and in what form to publish it.
In another attempt to tarnish the ousted Lebanese prime minister, Damascus leaked a report accusing Hariri of two-timing Assad by sabotaging the Saud-Syrian formula for resolving the Lebanese crisis. In his first speech on the Lebanese crisis Sunday night, Jan. 17, Hassan Nasrallah pinned the blame on Israel and America. Together they presented Hariri as colluding with both powers to destabilize the country.
The international tribunal, he accused of "conspiring against the Resistance."
Assad hopes to put Hariri finally on the spot by calling together in Damascus Monday, Jan.17, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Edrogan and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh A Thani – purportedly to confer on ways to ease the Lebanese crisis, but in reality, to back up actions by Syria and Hizballah to invalidate the international tribunal and its expected decision to indict Hizballah officials for the Hariri murder.