From the five, Hasan Badreddine was killed in May in a Hezbollah base near Damascus airport. There are no information available about the whereabouts of the other four.
The STL is expected to release its final verdict of the case in February or March 2019. The indictment comes to build a home and international negative atmosphere against Hezbollah while the Lebanese movement in early May parliamentary election together with the allies won the majority of the seats. Furthermore, the military wing of the movement dealt considerable blows to the ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria and honed its military skills on the battlegrounds. The anti-Hezbollah campaign, the analysts maintain, serves the movement’s opponents the US, Israeli regime, and some Arab rulers in the region.
Hariri Assassination and forming the special court
Rafic Hariri, born in 1944, was a Lebanese politician and businessman. He served as Prime Minister from 1992 to 1998. And then from 2000 to his resignation in 2004. Rafic was assassinated in an attack on his motorcade on February 14, 2005, in Beirut.
The assassination ushered in a period of political developments in the country continuing to date. Since the beginning, the Lebanese opponents of the Syrian government and the pro-Western local media accused Damascus and its home allies of being behind the bomb blast. But the opposite sides argued that it was a pre-planned scenario designed by the regional and international opponents of Hezbollah such as Tel Aviv, Washington, and Paris.
Following the incident, the Syrian government troops, who were invited by Beirut to keep the peace during the Lebanese civil war, withdrew from Lebanon. Hariri’s son Saad, Walid Jumblatt, and Samir Geagea, three pro-Western political leaders, openly pointed their fingers at the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as responsible for the assassination. Damascus rejected the accusation, arguing it was part of a Western plot for regime change in Syria.
Following all these developments, a pro-Western new government was formed, backed by Washington, France, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan. So, in the first step, Washington and its ally Tel Aviv made the first achievement out of the incident.
Reacting to the Lebanese developments, the United Nations Security Council launched a special investigation committee to address the bombing.
As the probe started, four senior Lebanese army officers were detained in August 2005. The detention followed a testimony provided by a person named Mohammad Zaheer al-Sadiq who claimed the four were responsible for the coordination with the Syrian military intelligence for the blast. Al-Sadiq also linked Ghazi Kanaan, once the chief of the Syrian military intelligence in Lebanon, to the assassination. The probe declined to find any links between him and the incident, however.
In October of the same year, the United Nations Security Council decided that the Hariri assassination posed a threat to the world peace and security, asking all of the UN countries, including Syria, to work with the special court according to the UN charter’s chapter 7.
Then, the UNSC passed the resolution 1644 on Lebanon. The resolution set up an international court to try the individuals accused of complicity following a Lebanon government call.
In December 2005, Gebran Tueni, a Christian and editor of the Lebanese Al-Nahar daily, was assassinated in a style similar to assassinations that followed Hariri death to provoke Lebanon’s Christian community sentiments against Syria. At the time, Syrian Vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam disappeared and shortly after announced defection and fled to France. From Paris, he called for subversion of President Bashar al-Assad. At the first hearing of Hariri case, he testified that the assassination was carried out following a direct order from the Syrian president.
As the investigation continued, legal mechanisms for a special court were set up. The UNSC on May 30, 2007, passed a resolution to form the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.
Before the STL, the Israeli regime launched a war on Hezbollah in 2006, known as the 33-Day War. The war was a big loss for Tel Aviv which sought to limit increasing Hezbollah power. The Israeli failures even deepened when the court acquitted the four Lebanese and Syrian officers of their charges.
After that, many March 14 Alliance figures, including Saad Hariri, admitted that their judgment against the Syrian government was wrong and offered apologies to Damascus. But it was unlikely for the scenario to end for the key actors Washington and Tel Aviv. In 2011, the STL issued charges against four figures, all Hezbollah members. The initial verdict was confirmed a couple of days ago by the court. So, Syria was replaced by Hezbollah as the key culprit.
The replacement appears to seek an aim: To foil Hezbollah capabilities to respond to the Israeli regime as the Lebanese movement has developed deterrence against possible Israeli aggression. The Israeli incapability to face Hezbollah militarily was proved to the world during the 2006 war. The Israeli leaders hope to use the court rulings to influence the Hezbollah clout in the country and abroad amid its involvement in the anti-terror war in Syria.
Evidence of Israeli involvement in the assassination
The special court to date has not paid attention to the full evidence provided about the assassination. The pictures, images, and news of the incident day suggest that the killing could not be conducted by a simple bomb blast. The electronic systems of the guarding team were the best in the world, designed by an American company and also used to guard the American leaders. The protection systems allow the team to deactivate any electronic devices that could be used to detonate an explosive remotely in a several-meter range. The systems are only ineffective if a missile from atop hits the motorcade. Furthermore, the hole created by the explosion supports the precision missile strike theory.
The similarity could be drawn between the Beirut blast and the blasts caused by the Israeli air raids during 2006 war and also wars against Gaza.
Recovering samples of uranium from the blast site strengthens the theory that the explosives used for the operation were not available to any militant group or a classic army like the Syrian army. Armies with the new technologies only can use the depleted uranium in the bombs. Such bombs were used by the US military in Iraq and the Israeli regime’s military in Gaza.
As mentioned above, the Hariri security team was using a guarding system produced by an American company. This means that only the company or experts familiar with its coding could remotely deactivate it. This was, the experts suggest, possible by an AWACS aircraft. Israeli AWACS planes was reported to have flown over Beirut coastal area in three days in a row, 13, 14, and 15 February, 2005 and were believed to be responsible for the remote deactivation of Hariri security system. The STL asked the US and Israeli air forces to hand over information recorded by their AWACS planes and satellites in the day of the explosion. But they both rejected to do so, ridiculously arguing that their spy satellites and AWACS systems faced technical problems at the time.
Recently, Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper gained documents showing that the prosecution team used the experience of the Israeli experts and American intelligence services to gather anti-Hezbollah data. The Al-Akhbar documents revealed names of three secret-identity experts: Rita Katz, Mathew Levitt, and Robert Bier. Katz is an Israeli national and served in the Israeli army in the past. Levitt is the director of the US Department of Treasury's special office to fight Hezbollah financing sources. He is the main source of the American intelligence’s analyses on the Lebanese group. And Bier is a retired agent of the US intelligence.
Washington and Tel Aviv have been following three major aims in the region: Syrian forces' withdrawal from Lebanon, regime change in Syria, and disarming Hezbollah. The first goal was realized by the Hariri assassination. For the second goal, they fueled the Syrian home conflict. And for the third one, they forced a UNSC resolution, known as Resolution 1701. Blaming Hezbollah in the Hariri case, Washington and Tel Aviv hope, can help pave the way for curbing the movement’s military power.