Hezbollah and Hariri


Kuwait's Al-Siyassa is reporting an interesting piece of news that could have dramatic consequences for the UN investigation into the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The report is in Arabic, but here are the first two paragraphs:

Senior American and European sources at UN headquarters in New York have revealed to Secretary-General Kofi Annan "highly dangerous and sensitive information that confirms that an important Lebanese political grouping was implicated in the … Hariri assassination."

The sources indicated that this information, confirmed by personal testimonies, has embarrassed the international circles involved in Lebanese affairs and in the repercussions of the Hariri assassination, because the mere implication of this group will provoke great political tumult in Lebanon and will represent a new factor that will dovetail with the clauses in Resolution 1559 that have not yet been implemented.

Security Council Resolution 1559, which was what the international community used to force the Syrians out of Lebanon, also calls for the disarmament of militias in the country, primarily Hezbollah. While the newspaper did not come out and say it, what it clearly was referring to as "the grouping" was Hezbollah. It went on to suggest that the group played a role in Hariri's assassination at the operational level, presumably in preparing and triggering the bomb, on behalf of the Syrians.

Al-Siyassa is notoriously hostile to the Syrian regime, so that any such accusation must be treated with caution. However, I know for a fact that the paper was on the money in a number of reports following the Hariri assassination (while others were unverifiable). I also know that suspicion of Hezbollah involvement has been circulating in the political class here in Beirut since the killing. One very senior politician told me a few weeks after Hariri's death that "I do not discount Hezbollah involvement", and pointed to the fact that Hariri's regular meetings with the party's secretary-general, Hassan Nasrallah, may have been used to lull him into a false sense of security. I also know that other politicians have privately mentioned their concern about Hezbollah's involvement.

What would the party's rationale be? Much the same as the Syrian one–to get rid of a man who threatened to undermine the Syrian order in Lebanon because he was on the verge of winning a major election victory. As a "strong Sunni", Hariri certainly disturbed Damascus, but he was also seen by the Syrians and probably Hezbollah as a supporter, if not more than that, of Resolution 1559.

If the news is true, and for the moment nothing confirms it, it would be the accusation most people dare not mention. As Al-Siyassa makes clear, this could embarrass a lot of people, but more significantly it could lead to significant tension between Lebanese Sunnis and Shiites. Indeed, as elections approach, Hezbollah candidates are on slates either directly sponsored by or allied with the Hariris. The news item may never be confirmed simply because no one wants it to be.