Wednesday, March 15, 2006

TheThird UN report on Hariri: by Brammertz

The Syrian government claimed to be pleased with the most recent Hariri report crafted by the new Belgian investigator Brammertz.

Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UN Faisal Mekdad commended Brammertz's high professionalism. "This report takes the investigation in Hariri's murder into a new level," he said. "We hope it will lead to the truth behind Hariri's death and the series of explosions that followed since the false witnesses have now been exposed," he added.

"Earlier in the investigations, unfortunately, the worst obstacle that faced the probe so far was falsely assuming that Syria was involved in Hariri's murder with no evidence whatsoever," he added.
Al Thawrah, one of Syria's three government papers had this article:

Al-Miqdad...: [Brammertz] report is realistic, largely professional"

According to the government controlled Al Thawrah daily on March 15: "In a telephone conversation Al Thawrah held with him in New York, Assistant Foreign Minister Dr Faysal Al-Miqdad said the first report by Serge Brammertz, chief of the International Investigation Commission, was characterized by realism and a great deal of professionalism. With regard to Syria's cooperation, Al-Miqdad said Syria's commitment to cooperation was made during the visits that the head of the commission made to Syria and the visits that Syrian officials made to Beirut.

He expressed the hope that all these efforts would be tested in the next stage of the investigation. Al-Miqdad said the previous scandalous reports gave the media an opportunity to prejudge things, but the new report did not offer such an opportunity. He said he expected some countries to continue to say what they had been saying about Syria's cooperation, as they focus on the political rather than the technical dimension.

"... The analysts said the report was a slap in the face of the forces that immediately blamed Syria after every crime in Lebanon. They pointed out that the report brought the investigation back into the legal framework..." - Al Thawrah, Syria
Syria is making the most of the fact that the report said Syria was cooperating, no Syrians were named personally as they had been in the Mehlis reports. Also Syria was not directly mentioned as the author of the crime. Because of these three improvements, Syria claimed a qualified victory.

The report makes it perfectly clear, however, that Syria remains the only suspect of the UN commission in its ultimate responsibility for the killing of Hariri and ordering the crime. What is new, however, is that Brammertz seems to be discounting the testimony given by both Hussam Hussam and Saddiq, which provided the most lurid parts of Mehlis' crime narrative. Mehlis persisted to the end in insisting that Hussam Hussam's testimony given to the commission remained valid and believable. Brammertz seems to have questioned Mehlis' wisdom on this.

In short, Damascus can breathe a bit easier for the time being. As al-Nahar reports:
A well-informed Syrian source told An Nahar that Brammertz’ report represented ‘the beginning of a new era, the most important aspect of which is the withdrawal of the pressure sword that’s been pointed at Syria for over a year’.

“Nonetheless, the source indicated that ‘the outcome of the report does not mean that the US pressures will cease. Its importance stems from the fact that it restored Syrian dignity and shed light on its strategic decision to fully cooperate with the International Investigation Commission…’ The report was issued in parallel with an important first visit, paid by the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem to Moscow,… and during which the issue of mutual Russian and Syrian efforts were addressed, in order to soften Hamas’ positions.

“The report also coincided with the end of the second round of Lebanese dialogue sessions that resulted, according to press reports, in a soon to be made visit to Damascus and to the Saudi King Abdullah Ben Abdel Aziz by PM Fouad Al Siniora...”
The American government was less prepared to claim the report as a victory. Here is Ereli on the subject: Khaddam blasts Assad for mismanaging Syria: Daily Star - Lebanon

Daily Press Briefing
Adam Ereli, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
March 15, 2006

* * *
QUESTION: What's the U.S. reaction to the report by Judge Brammertz on the killing of former Lebanon Prime Minister Hariri he presented to the UN yesterday?

MR. ERELI: Yeah, yeah. Well, obviously we support the work of investigator Brammertz. He's continuing the important and valuable work of his predecessor, Mr. Mehlis. The investigation goes on. He's moving forward systematically and fairly to get the facts. We'll look at his report. We'll discuss it in the Security Council next week. Actually, I'll just take that back -- tomorrow. He's briefing the security Council tomorrow, so we look forward to that briefing tomorrow.

Obviously, Syria's record on cooperation with UN investigator is not great and we'll continue to expect Syria to comply with UN Security Council resolutions on the Hariri investigation, not just in words but also in deeds. And we will be applying that benchmark to our evaluation of the situation. We will also be, you know, discussing this looking not just at Resolution 1669 -- I'm sorry, 1664 which set up the Brammertz investigation, but also the broader situation in Lebanon as well and implementation of 1559.

Some bits from the report:
The Introduction

The Commission, however, does not deem it appropriate, at this stage, to disclose further details of its work as this may unnecessarily threaten the security of witnesses, compromise the collection of future evidence and undermine the outcome of the investigation as a whole.

4. Those who commissioned the crime

38.Due to the highly complex nature of the sponsoring, support and execution of terrorist activities, it is critical for the Commission to identify and utilize new forms of intelligence and information to establish links between the crime itself and those who enabled or commissioned it. The Commission is proactively pursuing a number of sources which can yield such data.

39.The Commission has also begun conducting a series of interviews aimed at clarifying the existence of an alleged informal oral agreement referred to in its previous report as the "Damascus Protocol".

40.Regarding other previously identified leads, the Commission has evaluated the relevance of issues surrounding the affairs of the bank Al-Madina and concluded that the issue remains a task for f investigation. The second report also mentioned that a fund operated by the former Director of Surete Generale was being crosschecked with other lines of inquiry' This remains the case today and continues to be a factor for investigative consideration as and when appropriate.

41.Moreover, the Commission has undertaken a comparative telephone analysis cross-referencing numbers allegedly related to the Hariri assassination and the 14 other attacks. This analysis has been completed as a preliminary exercise, and remains a priority task for further consideration. Similarly, the analysis with regard to a pre-paid SIM card user has been completed as a preliminary exercise and remains a priority topic for the investigation.

Evaluation of information provided in response to Commission requests

98. The Syrian Government has, through the SSJC, in particular in the last three months, formally complied with nearly all of the Commission's previous requests for assistance. It has provided responses on a number of specific issues that were raised with the authorities, some of which had been pending since November 2005. For instance, on 22 February 2006, the SSJC informed the Commission that it had examined the archives of the Military Intelligence and reviewed records related to the political situation in Lebanon, as requested by the Commission. A number of reports concerning the security and political situation in Lebanon were handed over to the Commission. These and other documents provided to the Commission are currently being reviewed for their relevance to the investigation.

99. Despite these encouraging steps, it is important to note that the Commission will ultimately judge cooperation of the Syrian authorities on the merits of the information provided and the promptness with which its requests are being accommodated. The Commission is currently in the process of preparing additional requests for assistance related to Syria's presence in Lebanon and specific requests related to the assassination of Mr. Hariri. In order to ensure implementation of such requests, the Commission and Syrian authorities will hold regular working level meetings on cooperation matters.


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