Thursday, February 15, 2007

How the Hariri investigation is impacting on Syria:

Luckily yesterday's massive demonstration in downtown Beirut to mark the second anniversary of Rafik Hariri's assassination passed off without incidence . Yet his killers have still not been brought to justice. The search for the assassins is Syria's growing headache.

The White House called for the establishment of a UN tribunal:

"The United States joins the Lebanese people in demanding the truth behind ... Hariri's murder and calling for the establishment of a special tribunal for Lebanon to bring to justice those who murdered Rafik Hariri and others who stood for Lebanese sovereignty and independence,"

Writing in Lebanon's Al Safir newspaper, Hassan Nassrallah also calls for the truth to be uncovered, but it remains unclear if, in fact, he will agree to the UN Tribunal:

"The truth became a national request and fears arose about the blood of the martyr going for naught. Who of us doesn't want the truth? But how can we reach the truth? The worst anyone can do now is move along a path that would lead to covering up the facts and losing the identity of the killers…In the day of your martyrdom, we assure you that you are present in every heart and mind. We apologize for being absent from commemorating your memory in the Martyr Square last year and this year because our only fault is that we refused to accuse anyone without proof …As for the Lebanese, especially those who love the great man, I say: loyalty to him means pledging that we will work to reach the goal that he was looking for at the level of the country. We all know that Rafik Al-Hariri was defending Lebanon's unity…"

Syria's only other allies could abandon her too. The Hayat newspaper argues that Iran and Russia's domestic agendas might force them to abandon their traditional support for Syria and back the UN Tribunal.

Click here to read the full article.

Growing consensus for a UN Tribunal with potentially very far reaching powers (if given a Chapter 7 mandate) puts Syria squarely in the dock. How worrying will this prove for Syria and what measures will Syria take to avoid a guilty verdict? This is a question which will affect the way Assad plays his cards in Lebanon and the wider region.

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