Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lahoud the next Milosovich?

After much ado, the U.N. Security Council approved of the Hariri Tribunal yesterday. Good news for Lebanon, but it might not bring immediate stability for the country. Given that special investigator Brammertz has received an extension of his mandate until June 2008, it’s likely the Tribunal will take another year to commence.

It's apt to be a rocky, unstable year. The initial reaction of Syria doesn't bode well. Its UN ambassador is predicting that this decision will worsen the situation in Lebanon, so expect more bombs and what have you. Not that Syria is behind this of course...

Still, it’s a start of justice in the Middle East and that’s already something. It was interesting to see that Russia and China withheld their votes. Russia is usually quite close to the Syrian regime but somehow it prefers the relationship with the West above being tight with Assad. The same movement can be seen on the Iranian front where Russia is now taking a less hands-off approach.

What’s a bit strange, though, is that Russia has protested against the shipping of arms to Lebanon by the US. Still, this has not affected their position in the Security Council. Good for Lebanon and a warning sign for Iran and Syria that they better shape up.

What’s even more interesting is the position of Qatar. This country is usually quite in line with the U.S., especially that the US are expanding their airbase in Qatar. So what’s up: a close military cooperation with Great Satan and yet they don’t follow the US in the Security Council? It must have something to do with Qatar being a dictatorship itself and the country is not ready to have the UN interfere in what it perceives as Lebanon’s domestic (doh!) affairs.

Justice is still a new concept in the Arab world and that alone is already an excellent reason to be glad that the UN has pushed through with the Hariri Tribunal. It will be the first time a political murder will be brought to trial in Lebanon and possibly in the Middle East, with the obvious exception of the various show trials that were held in the past.

Syrian president Assad has already announced that he will not cooperate with the Tribunal. That doesn’t really matter, actually: a conviction in absentia will harm his reputation in the Arab world and will weaken his position at home, despite his miraculous popularity: more than 97% of the Syrian population has voted for Assad’s reelection this week. Blessed is a country where less than 3% of the population is too sick or old to leave the house…

Prediction: if Assad gets convicted by the Tribunal, the Syrian opposition might try to take advantage of his weakened position which could result in bloody repression by a president who’d do anything to stay in power.

Talk about staying in power. It’s going to be interesting to see how Lahoud will handle himself. Right now, he enjoys presidential immunity, but he has to step down on November 22. After that, he’s fair game for the UN prosecutor. Will he be another Milosovich? That humiliating prospect alone might be a reason for him to try to hang on to the presidential seat, or at least negotiate a form of protection. But it’s doubtful he will escape justice, or at least one can always hope so.


apokraphyte said...

With all due respect, this post is a bit laughable.

"the start of justice in the Middle East" ...?!? ... :)

As to your other points, do you have any idea why Lahoud was chosen so many years ago? A maniacal henchman, he ain't. Go up to ATCL and have a chat with him while he is tanning and you will get an idea of what I am talking about.

As for Qatar, it is simply a gulf power play against the saudis. A kind of 'me, too' for American ears.

"Justice is a new concept" ..!?! ... just funny.

The Americans have already said they will not touch Assad, so that ball is not in play and leaves your analysis a bit flat.

Happy blogging.

Riemer Brouwer said...


Heh, i suppose i am rather naive than ironic:-)

Re Lahoud: i agree with you that he's not a henchman per se, my impression would be that he got in way over his head.

Yet that doesn't relieve him from responsibility. The initial report of Detlev mentioned quite a few specific phone calls to and from the presidential palace right around the time of the murder.

Subsequent reports didn't mention any further details, yet i wouldn't be surprised if the rest of the investigation has resulted in damaging evidence. God bless/curse cell phones;-)

As for justice: well, yeah, i agree that it's sad to talk about justice *in* Lebanon and the Middle East while in fact it has to be imposed by and imported from abroad. It shows the weakness of the Arab world where an independent judiciary is only something you read about in western books.

Am i naive in my wish that perhaps the UN tribunal is a first step to hold people accountable and that maybe, just maybe, you can't get away with murder in this part of the world? Sure. And i wish more people, especially law makers, were as naive as i am.

Re: Americans: i didn't know this. All i heard was the obligatory statement that they're not biased against Assad (uh-huh) and that they will let the chips fall wherever they may.