by Michael Young
In a speech Tuesday, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah promised to prove next week that
We shouldn't lose track of the fact, however, that Nasrallah's speech, coming on the same day that Lebanese and Israeli units clashed on the southern border, was part of a broader horse-trading process that preceded the Lebanese-Saudi-Syrian summit last week in Beirut, but that was also heightened by it. This horse-trading involves several issues: the future of the Special Tribunal for
There was much speculation that when
It's no secret what Hizbullah wants in the near future. The party insists that the Hariri government end its cooperation with the special tribunal, which it has described as an "Israeli project." For Nasrallah the tribunal threatens to neutralize his party as an Iranian military extension. This is unacceptable to Hizbullah's leader, whose contract with Iran requires that he be prepared to act on Tehran's orders at all times.
What of Saad Hariri and the tribunal? From the moment the prime minister visited
That the tribunal has become so central an object of negotiation, and therefore discredit, is a testament to the utter incompetence of the prosecutor, Daniel Bellemare, in communicating his aims effectively. Bellemare has lost control over perceptions of the tribunal's work. It is no surprise that he seems not even to have replaced his previous spokeswoman, Radhia Achouri, herself an object of criticism before she stepped down last May; and if he has, then it tells us even more that no one knows who that person is.
There are reports that Bellemare recently sent a letter to states involved with the tribunal, indicating that he was working on several leads, that his work had progressed, and, allegedly, that the evidence would speak for itself. However, it seems he did not mention indictments, leading an increasing number of observers to speculate that he might come out with something short of that: the naming of suspects and maybe a request that the Lebanese authorities arrest them. Why Bellemare was unable to issue that letter publicly, or some redacted version of it, is incomprehensible. The prosecutor, like his predecessor, Serge Brammertz, has taken secrecy to a level where it is actively undermining the integrity of his investigation.
That is no small thing in the context of the political tensions in
Bellemare will, understandably, stay clear of Lebanese politics; but nothing prevents him from making a statement clarifying generally what the Lebanese can expect and explaining that his work is backed up by a United Nations consensus, therefore cannot possibly be an Israeli plot. For the prosecutor to restate his bona fides would not mean ensnaring himself in Lebanese micro-affairs. But to remain ostrich-like about what is happening in
With Hizbullah, Hariri and
However, the absence of violence is only tangentially the result of the overinflated summit of last week. Syrian assurances are rarely worth much, and it's entirely plausible that
Michael Young is opinion editor of THE DAILY STAR.
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