...Now that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has finally issued its verdict on the assassination of ex-PM Rafik Hariri and his companions, no one can continue to turn a blind eye any longer.
A military official in Hezbollah by the name of Salim Ayyash has been found guilty of killing a Lebanese prime minister, a hard fact that cannot be blown off from today onwards, and any scenario that ignores it has no worth in politics, security, law or the balance of international or Lebanese justice.
However, despite this fact, and without getting into its legal dimensions which I will leave to experts, the verdict that came 15 years after the earthquake that had shaken Lebanon in 2005, allowed, because of its form and content, commentators and pundits of the “axis of resistance” to promote what they now consider facts and build on them. Four are most prominent.
First, the verdict acquitted Syria, or, more accurately, the court was unable, with conclusive legal evidence, to confirm its ties to the crime.
Secondly, the verdict acquitted Hezbollah’s leadership, or, more accurately, the court could not find evidence to prove that the party had been involved beyond reasonable doubt.
Third, based on the acquittal of Syria and the impossibility of Hezbollah having carried out an act of this magnitude and seriousness without the former’s knowledge, the commentators hold Israel responsible for Hariri’s assassination and link the crime to the war that broke out afterward in Syria. Their analysis can ever go as far as to also connect it to the explosion at the Port of Beirut.
Fourth, they considered the only person that the court had convicted of the assassination, Salim Ayyash, a bird flying away from it flock.
Without getting into the court’s precision, objectivity and professionalism, it is worth mentioning that the verdict was based on communication network data gathered by a Lebanese Captain, Wissam Eid, who had been assassinated in one of a series of murders that killed off a select group of Lebanese figures opposed to the Assad regime and Hezbollah, and the investigation did not subsequently add anything new to that data.
Given that the Tribunal is an independent judicial body that includes Lebanese and international judges, and is not a United Nations court and does not have the authority to charge states, bodies or parties, this long-awaited ruling reiterated to skeptics the limits of the international community, represented by the United Nations and its agencies.
This came as a shock to the Lebanese, especially in light of the country’s current situation, magnifying their disappointments that stem from many other issues, some old and some new. The most prominent of these issues are chronic political gridlock, the unprecedented economic and financial collapse and the horrors of the Beirut Port blast and its humanitarian and political repercussions, especially the fall of Hassan Diab’s government and the subsequent hard-line position declared by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, with his rejection of any neutral government that can implement the reforms demanded by the international community.
All of this brings us back to the real problem in Lebanon; the Lebanese state that has existed, in theory, since the country’s independence in 1943, is being eaten away to the advantage of an alternative state that is being built. While so-called demands for reform, ending corruption and improving public administration, it has become glaringly apparent, aim to shift attention away from the source of all of these problems. That is, the fact that the country has been under occupation for six decades.
A quick overview of Lebanon’s modern history, from the 1960s onwards, shows us that throughout the period stretching from the Cairo Agreement in 1969 until the explosion at the port, Lebanese crises were being addressed, or sought to be addressed, through attempts at political reform that enhances political participation and economic reform that eliminates corruption and squander.
The same demands are currently being raised by both the local and external parties. The unequivocal reality of the situation, nonetheless, is that the causes of the actual and real crises were and still are the state’s weakness, or even collapse, in the face of foreign presence on Lebanese land and the roles that have been played by the different parties
At the end of the sixties, it had been manifested in the Palestine Liberation Organization and its domination over factions that benefited from the rifts in the ranks of the Lebanese. At the time, the civil war began with the Two Years War and what had been called the transitory phase of the Arab nationalist and progressive parties’ front, which aimed to reform the regime by curtailing the influence of what had been known as Political Maronitism to ensure greater powers for the premiership, cancel political sectarianism and achieve other objectives.
During the same period, towards the end of President Suleiman Franjieh’s term in 1976 in particular, the constitutional document appeared, another document for reform. After the Israeli invasion and the subsequent Palestinian exit and the entry of Syrian forces in their place, while the Syrian and Israeli troops were still present in the country, the Geneva Conference of 1983 and then the Lausanne Conference of 1984 also called for reforming the political system, as the war had been ongoing.
Later there came the tripartite agreement of 1985 and the Taef Agreement of 1989, which theoretically established the Second Republic through a reform of the political system. After Syria’s exit and the Iranian occupation that took its place through its ally Hezbollah, the Doha Agreement was signed in 2008.
During all these stages, demands for political change and reform or reformulating political participation served as a smokescreen that obscured the reality of the political turmoil and conflicts in Lebanon. The state’s weakness at first, which eventually led to its complete absence due to the various foreign occupiers who have been making the decisions since the 1960s, has allowed for corruption to ravage the country as it does today.
Mismanagement, neglect, chaos and smuggling are rampant. This does not negate the need; indeed, there is an urgent need for reform and good governance. However, we are still being sucked into the same vortex; we are preoccupying ourselves with clothing though the body is dead, with reforms in a country that does not exist. This has pushed some to consider an international management for the Lebanese crisis as the country’s only hope for escaping the abyss.
The Tribunal’s verdict came to affirm that these hopes are a mirage, as it demonstrazed the international indifference to Lebanon’s fate despite all the noise around it today.
It also reiterated the international community’s inability to help or save Lebanon at this stage, which cannot be surmounted with any political reform or settlement. If the ruling were such to avoid straining the country further by referring to the real criminal, because of powerful countries’ apprehensions about a potentially explosive conflict, the decision nonetheless failed to eliminate this specter because it dashed the hopes of a substantial segment of Lebanese society and turned it into a time bomb that could explode at any moment as its sense of marginalization and vulnerability continues to grow.
The most disappointing aspect of the ruling is that it showed that the Western world, which has been relied upon, is today run by craftsmen and technocrats whose decisions are driven by modern technology and computers and lack common sense. This is precisely the logic the international tribunal used to come to its verdict; it claimed the evidence is legally considered circumstantial without considering the political and geostrategic incentives to be conclusive evidence for the decision on this terrorist act...
The West lives in the ambiguous virtual world of miniscreens and focuses its attention on consumption and people’s daily needs. On the other side of the world, “ideologues” have been hijacking the real world for more than two decades.
Western leaders and elites argue on social media and electronic platforms to compensate for not boldly interacting with events to find creative solutions they are capable of. Instead, they waste their capabilities on luxuries and entertainment...