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Al Jazeera reports that the United Nation’s Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) has finally lifted confidentiality restrictions on its report on the 2005 assasination of former Lebanese Sunni Prime Minister Rafiq al-Hariri.The tribunal found enough circumstantial evidence to recommend that four members of Hezbollah stand trial for Hariri’s death. Their names are Mustafa Amine Badreddine, Salim Jamil Ayyash, Hussein Hassan Oneissi and Assad Hassan Sabra. Warrants may now be issued for their arrest.
“The level of detail is quite compelling,” said Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs as well as editor at large of Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper. “Everyone has been waiting for this to come out to decide if this is a credible process or a political and bias process. The evidence now shows there is an incredible amount of detail, and this sets the stage for some dynamic and turbulent times ahead.”
Here is why he mentioned the word, turbulent.
When the Hariri and 21 others were killed by a bomb blast in 2005, it triggered The Cedar Revolution- a revolution in which the people of Lebanon took to the streets and demanded that Syria leave their country alone. Not only did Syria had troops in Lebanon at the time, but the a government was also controlled, in large part, by Syrian interests. The people wanted them out, and they got what the wanted in the end.
Shiite militant group Hezbollah, Syria’s ally, was suspected of murdering Hariri. And after the revolution, that suspicion became a known unknown. Naturally, to kill a Prime Minister would be an over-reach, but to accuse Hezbollah out-right would be risking open war with an organisation armed to the teeth.
So little was done.
Since then, Lebanon’s delicate political system (with three groups sharing power, Christians, Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims) has governed with relative success. The government has control of northern Lebanon, while Hezbollah freely runs the South.
Then in 2007, the United Nations created the Tribunal for Lebanon to find out the the truth about Hariri’s death. The known unknown came to the forefront of national politics, and divided the country into two camps: Those who believed the tribunal was a plot against Hezbollah driven by Israel and the United States, and those who wished to see Hariri’s murderers brought to justice. Hezbollah said that it would retaliate if any of its members were implicated in the murder.
In January the STL announced that it was about to release its findings. So Hezbollah toppled the government.
11 Hezbollah (and ally party) ministers resigned, effectively bringing an end to the regime of Saad Hariri, Rafik’s son. In the days that followed, Hariri’s supporters took to the streets in protest. But that didn’t stop Hezbollah from replacing Hariri and putting their in their man in the Prime Minister’s office. Needless to say, the STL report was not released.
Apparently though, the STL believes now is a better time. Perhaps they are correct, Hezbollah’s Syrian allies have their hands full with their own problems. But whether that makes Hezbollah any less dangerous remains to be seen.