Friday, October 21, 2005

From blog member Samer al-Batal
Mehlis report: Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials implicated

Our man in Beirut wrote all of the following:

Here are more samples of detailed information. (A strong recommendation: for those who wish to follow developments, read past and present entries in the blog reached through the third link.)

Here is the report itself. (A PDF file.)

That this would present itself as the conclusion of this stage (an extension has been granted) of Mehlis’ investigation is not surprising to the Lebanese or anyone else. In fact, the Americans have already been preparing to respond. The report has it that evidence points to levels of guilt on the part of — amongst others — high-level Syrian and Lebanese civil and military officials in security and military intelligence, amongst them the former Syrian chief of military intelligence in Lebanon, the former head of Lebanese General Security, the former head of the Lebanese Internal Security Force, the former head of the Lebanese Republican Guard, and the former head of Lebanese military intelligence. The possibility of relatives of the Syrian president being involved is still a matter of controversy. However, as expected, Ghaazi Kan’aan, the late Syrian Interior Minister who before his recent death and years back had been the chief of Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon for most of the post-war years does not appear within the circle of suspicion.

The report has been submitted to the members of the Security Council; Lebanon has received a copy (and an unofficial translation in full has already been splashed in one of the Lebanese newspapers), and one should eventually reach Syria. I understand the report delves into political underpinnings in addition to facts, incidents, and the technicalities of the operation, these latter matters deemed by Mehlis to be in need of an extended period of investigation, a mandate for which the UN has granted.

Frankly, it has for some time been more or less clear in which direction the report was leading vis à vis the general identity of the players, but not precisely how far up it would reach. I would say the degree of accusatory tone the findings and report’s presentation would take, their level of directness and of disclosure of names, and the totality and scope of figures involved were yet to be found out. Witness the charged atmosphere in a Mehlis press conference that has just concluded, having centred on the matter of the withholding of names in a section of the report. The extreme sensitivity of these foregoing factors should not be underestimated. There is a strong level of escalation being seen now, and tensions are rapidly intensifying. Right now, it is news in real time over here and beyond.

It should be made clear that the report does not arrive at a level of indictment against Syria, and further investigation and time would be required to produce conclusive results eligible for submission to courts.

Damascus will not accept the report as credible and will attack it as a politicised work lacking in conclusive evidence and intended to serve certain parties and interests. However, as preliminary as these findings are and with more information expected to be put forward by December, the implications of Mehlis’ presently submitted work will be of heavy weight and will serve to catalyse motions that will usher in an as-of-yet uncertain future to this area of the Middle East. If this enables the further realisation of neo-conservative designs in the region, the eventual results may be as devastating for the Levant as Mehlis’ dossier is against Syria.

The fate of the region is being decided within foreign politicians’ chambers. So, what next? America has now gained a useful weapon for its arsenal, and its relations with Syria are at a breaking point. For reasons that may include ideology over practical politics, the US is bolstered enough to prefer outright confrontation and Syria’s public humiliation by ultimatum over the discretion of diplomatic dialogue and deals negotiated from behind the curtains. Overtures by Syria may no longer work. A briefing on the report is expected to be given next Tuesday and discussions concerning measures – sanctions or otherwise – to be taken against Syria will commence during the coming week.

Two resolutions may be put forward on the table in proposal, under chapters VI and VII of the UN charter. America will not be alone in sponsoring this; France is now a supporter of further measures. Europe will participate more strongly, and much momentum has built up. Also, a report is expected next week reporting the status of compliance with UN Resolution 1559.

A final note: Washington isn’t interested in ruling out the option of military aggression.

It isn’t clear what strategy, if any, the US would pursue should it ever exercise this option. There are some who think that the administration might be more interested in replacing a leader rather than toppling a regime and destroying the political grasp of the Syrian Allawites. For one thing is certain: given the nature and situation of Syria, the destruction of the Syrian leadership and government would send the country spiralling into chaos, and would likely be disastrous for Syrians in general, Christians in particular. Though these repercussions would likely mean nothing to this administration, this resultant instability, the thinking goes, would not be welcome by Israel, particularly when it shares its northern border with Syria. Whether this may influence an American decision is left to speculation.

When all is said and done, however, the question put forth to the US by this blog remains: by what constitutional right is it acceptable to launch a military attack on a sovereign nation that fails to pose any threat? Better put to the White House, what business is it of yours, you prats?

Pray for justice, a peaceful resolution to the troubles that may lie ahead, and that we not anytime in the near or distant future witness more conflagrations in the form of new military campaigns and their chaotic aftermaths.

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