Countdown in Lebanon

The UN investigation into former prime minister Rafiq Hariri’s 2005 assassination is in its final stages. With Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese group, having already issued warnings over possible indictment, things are rapidly moving towards a decisive phase. This is bound to have serious regional implications.

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Published: Thu 25 Nov 2010, 8:20 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:47 PM

The recent uproar over a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has further upped the ante. So much so that Prime Minister Saad Hariri has strongly criticised the leaked report that implicates his Intelligence Chief, Colonel Wissam Al Hasan, in the assassination of his father, the late Rafiq Hariri. Colonel Hassan is believed to have played an instrumental role in the plot at the behest of Hezbollah. Besides, the chief prosecutor for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, Daniel Bellemare, has also spoken out against the leak for jeopardising the lives of many people prior to the draft indictment.

Hezbollah’s involvement, if proven, will not be an internal matter. Enjoying Iranian backing, Hezbollah is deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel. Washington has taken a particularly strong stand on the issue with President Barack Obama having expressed confidence in the investigative tribunal. Moreover, indicators from Washington ring an ominous bell for reiterating commitment to free Lebanon of terrorism. The US views on who it considers a terrorist entity in Lebanon are well known.

Consider the regional implications. Iran enjoys considerable influence in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and in Palestine. Particularly irksome is its support of Hezbollah that is a major challenger for Israel. The past many months had seen growing tensions between Beirut and Tel Aviv over charges that Hezbollah had been amassing Iranian-provided missiles for use against Israel. Being part of the ruling coalition, Hezbollah has so far been defended by Beirut. However, a damaging UN indictment against Hezbollah may not leave Saad Hariri much choice but to pursue the course of justice. How that will fare for his government is anybody’s guess.

Hezbollah has already stated its apathy for the investigation conducted by the UN. Its chief Hassan Nasrallah had even presented evidence of Israeli involvement in the plot he claimed was hatched in Tel Aviv. This was discounted. An indictment in which Hezbollah members face prosecution may well prove to be the final match to set the keg ablaze.

All this makes for an uneasy situation. Yet justice must be done. It is sincerely hoped that the Special Tribunal is fair in reaching its assessment and the judgment respected by all parties.

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