Across the Bay

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Brammertz Report

The new head of the UN probe into the assassination of Lebanese former PM Hariri, Serge Brammertz, has submitted his first report to the UN Security Council. The report itself can be read here (PDF).

Michael Young comments on the report in his latest op-ed in The Daily Star. Young finds the report to be quite ominous as far as the Syrians are concerned, and that it points to the fact that Brammertz won't be distracted by scapegoats who may be offered to protect the Syrian ruling elite:

The most significant passage summing up Brammertz's current thinking about Hariri's murder came in paragraph 36. The commission stated its belief "that there is a layer of perpetrators between those who initially commissioned the crime and the actual perpetrators on the day of the crime, namely those who enabled the crime to occur." This was an intriguing formulation, intimating at least three layers of involvement: those who carried out the crime itself, those who ordered it, and an intermediate layer of accomplices who oversaw implementation. This entailed far more than, let's say, an Islamist plot, where the assassins would not require that intermediate layer, which mainly offers deniability.

If one acts on the hypothesis that Syria was behind Hariri's elimination, then the passage does two things: it underlines that Brammertz will not be misled by efforts to find scapegoats in the intermediate layer of perpetrators (apparently the middle levels of the intelligence services), to better protect those above who may have masterminded the crime; and it means the Belgian prosecutor is wise as to what took place, and that his silence is considerably more ominous than Syria and its allies would care to admit.

Syrian officials are giddy that the latest report is more discrete, unlike the previous ones by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis.

But Druze leader Walid Jumblatt seems to share (scroll down) Young's reading, and is quite pleased with the report, and finds that it constitutes a clear indictment of the Syrian regime:

Although Brammertz said Syria has been cooperating, Jumblatt said the fact that the report decided there is a link between all explosions that took place before and after the assassination of Hariri was an explicit indictment of the Syrian regime.

"This is very important, as it forms a clear political indictment of the Syrian regime that ruled Lebanon at the time of the assassination," Jumblatt said.

He also said that what the report mentioned about highly professional terrorist work in Hariri's murder was further tacit "condemnation for the Syrian regime".

"This is a work on the level of a state, and Syria had strong hegemony over Lebanon then," Jumblatt said.

"Brammertz is following the work of Mehlis, and if he keeps this pace up the truth will be revealed soon," Jumblatt said, describing the report as "very positive and promising."

Meanwhile, the French reaction was relayed by Foreign Ministry Spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei, who said: "We have received with interest the declaration by Damascus of its willingness to cooperate fully with the Commission, according to the conditions laid out by the Commission," adding, "this proves that the tough stand that the international community has adopted in this matter, from the beginning of the investigation, has brought results." He continued, "We are now waiting for Syria to translate this position into tangible steps by complying quickly with the demands of the Commission, as demanded by international resolutions."

Finally, Feris Khishen's column today on the report may be worth a look.