People's Weekly Brief: No Closure in Hariri Death

Nineteen months ago — that’s roughly 570 days in the past — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the following public comment.

“… accountability is going to be very important for the international community.” The United Nations Security Council, she said back in October 2005, “… is going to have to be the focal point.”

To what, you ask, was she referring? Well, the United Nations had just issued a report implicating senior Syrian government officials in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

Hariri, along with 22 others, was killed in February 2005 in a massive car bomb attack. The U.N. carried out an investigation into the attack and in October 2005 issued findings strongly suggesting that Syrian and pro-Syrian Lebanese elements orchestrated the killing. Mind you, no one was surprised by the findings.

The Syrian government immediately denounced the findings and claimed no knowledge of the assassination. Pro-Syrian puppets in the Lebanese government likewise denounced the findings and claimed no knowledge of the killings.

President Bush, on the same day Rice made her comments above, stated that the world must “… respond accordingly.” The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. at the time, John Bolton, said that the U.N. investigative report demanded a “… strong follow-up” from the members of the U.N. Security Council. That oughta do it.

Just think, there are actually people out there who say the U.N. is an indecisive, fraud-riddled, toothless organization. For the record, I’m not one of them. I’ve never called the U.N. toothless.

Nineteen months and five more assassinated anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians and dignitaries later, it appears the U.N. is almost ready to put on its big boy pants and do something.

At the end of May this year, after much hand-wringing, the U.N. Security Council voted 10-0 in favor of the creation of an international court or tribunal for the murder of Hariri. Naturally, there were some abstentions, including Russia and China. I haven’t done any research on this issue, so forgive the ignorance, but when was the last time Russia or China actually did something meaningful as a member of the Security Council?

It seems like they’ve got a permanent case of the abstentions, which is a bit like having really bad gas but less painful. Although it still stinks.

Let’s summarize the situation as quickly as possible:

· Former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others assassinated in a big explosion in February 2005…
· Syrian government proclaims its innocence while many people think “…huh, I wonder if the Syrians had anything to do with it?”…
· U.N. carries out investigation over several months, issues a report in October 2005 strongly suggesting the Syrians were involved…
· Oh, did I mention that two other anti-Syrian Lebanese dignitaries were assassinated, both in June 2005, while the U.N. was looking into Hariri’s murder?...
· The U.N.’s October 2005 report results in the U.S. calling on the U.N. Security Council to respond appropriately…
· More claims of innocence from Syrian government and pro-Syrian Lebanese officials…
· Meanwhile, another anti-Syrian Lebanese politician and editor, Gebran Tueni, is assassinated in December 2005…
· “Hey, don’t look at us…” say the Syrians.

· “The Security Council needs to have a strong response,” says the U.S.

· “We’re running low on anti-Syrian Lebanese politicians,” say the Lebanese…
· The pro-Syrian Hezbollah group lets it be known that it has no intention of allowing a U.N. tribunal for the Hariri assassination. It begins a series of disruptive political moves in Beirut designed to bring down the anti-Syrian government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora…
· By the way, while the hand-wringing continues to mount, anti-Syrian Lebanese MP and Industry Minister Pierre Gemayel is assassinated in November 2006…
· “Honestly, I know it looks bad, but we had nothing to do with it… look at our calendar, we were completely booked up all November… we simply didn’t have the time for any assassinations, much less any meddling in Iraq…” said the Syrians. The U.N., meanwhile, continued to threaten to write a really harsh statement condemning the situation. The Iraq Study Group, and Nancy Pelosi, encourage dialogue with Syria.
· At the end of May 2007, the U.N., 19 months after issuing its report, takes action in the Security Council (all right, 10 council members took action) and voted for the Hariri tribunal.
· The 10-0 resolution gave the Lebanese parliament one last opportunity to establish the tribunal itself, rather than have the U.N. take the action. The deadline was June 10.
· Would you like to guess as to whether the Lebanese parliament (now sporting significantly fewer anti-Syrian members than before) came together in a show of unity and voted for the tribunal?
· The correct answer is “No”...
· And finally, just this past week, anti-Syrian Lebanese MP Walid Eido was assassinated in Beirut when a powerful car bomb went off, killing Eido and nine others, including his son.
· “We are just as upset about this as you are…” said the Syrians.

In case you lost count during the above recap, the two-year total is six major political killings. Syria, innocent until proven guilty, has announced that it will refuse to cooperate with the U.N.’s Hariri tribunal.

Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, explained that the U.N. vote to establish the tribunal “…was hasty.” This makes him the only person to ever suggest that the U.N. moved too quickly on anything.

Internally, the tribunal also faces opposition from Hezbollah and from the pro-Syrian opposition including Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

While the U.N.’s decision to create the tribunal was a positive step, the likelihood is that there will be no real closure to the Hariri assassination or to the other political murders that have occurred since his death.

In all honesty, whoever is orchestrating the assassinations will run out of anti-Syrian Lebanese targets before Hariri’s killers are brought to justice. That’s just my opinion.

Before we sign off, a look back at the People's Weekly Brief Twice Yearly Current Events Quiz. The response was excellent, proving that everyone loves a quiz as long as no math is involved. The PWB Research Staff, made up of overly qualified college interns operating out of a windowless off-shore call center, tabulated the results under the watchful eye of public accountants trained to look for signs of shenanigans.

In a stunning outcome, there was not a single perfect test score. A few of the questions actually had more than one correct answer. However, the quiz failed to provide the readers with answers such as “both a) and b)” or “all of the above.” Thus, quiz-takers assumed that for each answer, there was only one correct response. I’m sure psychologists would be able to provide insight into this, but how boring would that be?

Instead, a look at the answer sheet:

Section I – 1c 2a 3d 4b
Section II – 1d 2c 3a 4b
Section III – 1c 2c and d 3a,b,c and d 4b 5a and c
Section IV – 1c 2b 3c 4c 5b
Section V – 1a 2c
Section VI – tiebreaker essay… do you feel more or less safe since 9/11
60 percent of all readers responded by saying they feel more safe since 9/11.

In the interest of homeland security, due to the wording of the quiz answers (specifically the lack of options indicating possible multiple correct answers), the PWB’s Board of Directors has voted to nullify all results in favor of issuing a new quiz at some point in the near future. Rest assured, we will use the services of a professional quiz master to create the next contest.

Click here to view the quiz.

As always, your comments and insight are much appreciated. Send your emails to Stay safe.

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Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.

Mike Baker is the Co-Founder of Diligence LLC, a leading global intelligence, security and risk management firm. Prior to starting Diligence, Mike spent over a decade and half with the CIA as a covert field operations officer. He is a regular contributor in the national and international media on intelligence, security, counterterrorism and political issues. He appears regularly on Fox News, as well as other major media outlets.