Gwynne Dyer: Hezbollah officials likely being framed for Rafiq Hariri assassination in Lebanon

Here we go again. The Special Tribunal for Lebanon, a United Nations-backed body investigating the killing of Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005, has accused four people of his murder. They all belong to Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shia movement that Israel and the United States define as terrorist. But they are probably not guilty.

Special tribunals of this sort have no intelligence agents of their own. In practice, they rely heavily on information supplied to them by national intelligence services that they trust. But they are judges and lawyers and other unworldly types, and they don’t seem to understand that there is no such thing as a trustworthy intelligence service.

Immediately after the explosion that killed Rafiq Hariri and 22 other people in Beirut in 2005, western and Israeli intelligence services said that the Syrian government was behind it, and that the Iranians were behind them. Well, of course. The main aim of the U.S. and Israel at that time was to get Syrian troops out of Lebanon, where they had been stationed since shortly after the start of the Lebanese civil war in 1975.

Four Lebanese generals accused of working for Syria were arrested. The non-violent “Cedar Revolution” broke out, demanding an end to Syrian meddling in Lebanese politics and the withdrawal of Syrian troops from the country. And in the end the Syrians left and a pro-western government took power: mission accomplished.

But there was actually no evidence against the four Lebanese generals, and as one of its first acts the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, created in 2009, ordered their release. So who had organized the killing of Hariri, then? Well, accusing the Syrians had worked pretty well for the western intelligence agencies. So maybe they decided to blame Hezbollah now, and see if that worked too.

Hezbollah came into existence in response to the long Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon (1982-2000). It has the support of most of Lebanon’s Shias, who dominate the south. And it gets arms and money not only from Syria but also from Syria’s ally, Iran.

During the last Israeli attack on Lebanon, in 2006, Hezbollah fought the Israeli army to a stand-still in southern Lebanon. But its leadership has always been intelligent and subtle, and the notion that it would let itself become a tool for some ham-fisted Syrian operation to kill the Lebanese prime minister seems simply unbelievable to most Lebanese.

The judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon were persuaded by evidence that western intelligence services pointed them toward, particularly about mobile phone calls allegedly made by Hezbollah officials. So arrest warrants have now been issued for Mustafa Badreddin, Hezbollah’s chief operations officer, and three other Hezbollah officials.

They probably had nothing to do with Hariri’s assassination. It’s more likely that they are being framed by western intelligence agencies because Hezbollah is seen as a serious threat to Israel. If this sounds paranoid, consider the case of the Lockerbie bombing.

The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 killed 270 people, most of them American. At first U.S. intelligence blamed Iran, claiming that it used an Arab terrorist group based in Syria to carry out the operation. So Syria was under pressure too—but then in 1990 Saddam Hussein attacked Kuwait, and Washington needed the Syrians as allies in the war to liberate it. Suddenly the whole Iran-Syria case was abandoned, and the new suspect was Libya.

Libya under Moammar Gadhafi was an enemy of the West, so new evidence was found linking Libyan intelligence agents to the attack. Gadhafi was brought to heel, and one Libyan intelligence officer, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was tried by an international court and sentenced to life in prison. Alas, the new “evidence” was then gradually discredited as key “witnesses” turned out to be incredible.

One man, a Maltese shopkeeper called Tony Gauci whose testimony apparently linked al-Megrahi to the suitcase that contained the bomb, was later found living in Australia on several million dollars that the United States had paid him for his testimony. Another, Ulrich Lumpert, admitted that he had lied to the tribunal about supplying Libya with timers for the bomb. And so on.

In 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission announced that it would refer al-Megrahi’s case to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh (the Libyan was being held in a Scottish prison) because he "may have suffered a miscarriage of justice". To avoid all this coming out into the open in a new trial, al-Megrahi was released in 2009 and sent home on the grounds that he was a dying man who wouldn’t last three months. (He’s still alive.)

If western intelligence agencies played this kind of game over the Lockerbie bombing, what’s to stop them from doing the same over the murder of Hariri? And why would they want to do that? Because Hezbollah and its Christian and Druze allies now dominate the Lebanese government, and are seen as a threat to Israeli and American interests.

The Middle East runs almost entirely on conspiracy theories, most of them ridiculously implausible. But some of them are real.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

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askari abbas

Jul 1, 2011 at 10:45pm

An informative and trustworthy article.

6 15Rating: -9


Jul 2, 2011 at 5:08am

I think John Kennedy said at the time of the Bay of Pigs that the CIA should be scrapped. Looking back over its sordid and incompetent history since then - Castro's still alive too - one wonders if a better use couldn't have been found for the money, like free street parties in every town in the US once a year. Yet they look like money well spent alongside CSIS and the RCMP.

Bill Cameron

Jul 2, 2011 at 6:28am

Somebody or other once said "Writing fiction is much harder than writing history, because fiction has to make sense."


Jul 2, 2011 at 3:05pm

Bit of a dodge...
What proof is he presenting that officials at the UN and the lawyers they hire DON'T have the same ideological determination to promote the foreign policy ends of the intelligence agencies that feed them fake evidence? None...!

I don't think there are many people buying the notion anymore that the UN is some objective body that is somehow duped. If the UN imposed starvation of Iraq in addition to the UN's role in the theft of Iraqi assets under the 'oil for food' programme didn't persuade some, then surely the ham fisted attempt to cover up Israeli crimes with the Goldstone report. We won't even go into the human trafficking out of UN camps, some which have been run by the UN with NO attempted resolution for fifty years or their soldier's penchant for murder and rape in Africa.
Somehow I doubt the UN and the Security Council will ever face international lawyers from the UN prosecuting their own crimes against humanity.

Tim Bus

Jul 3, 2011 at 10:38am

"Here we go again,... judges and lawyers
and other unworldly types,... [ad hominem attack?]
they don’t seem to understand that there is
no such thing as a trustworthy intelligence service."

He knows; he was such an expert.
So where is his evidence of a
'conspiracy' to frame hezbollah?
Just a rambling diversion about Lockerbie.

6 10Rating: -4


Jul 3, 2011 at 10:49am

Gwynne would not want a stain on the impeccable reputation of Hezbollah... LOL

Juan izto

Jul 3, 2011 at 4:01pm

Gwynne Dyer seem to know all the answers. Yet offers no clue as to who killed Hariri. There is one outfit out there that works for their own people, an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Those are the only people who has reliable intelligence in the middle east.

8 9Rating: -1


Jul 4, 2011 at 4:09pm

Funny, this lame a** "reporter" always supports the U.N. Council when it condemns Israel, but just let the UN try to present a legal document against the terrorist and he is quick to condemn. This dude is so biased it makes me want to puke!!!

7 11Rating: -4

Martin Dunphy

Jul 4, 2011 at 10:25pm


Look! In the sky!
It's a bird! It's a plane!
No, it's a commentary!

You have a nice day.

Philip Reid

Jul 16, 2011 at 8:15am

There is plenty of proof of a conspiracy

The arrest of Israeli spies at Lebanon's telecommunication department and their confessions show that Israel had the ability to bug all the individual targets and assassins, also the ability to arranged the “proof” that led investigators to Hezbollah members.

Lebanon has acquired serial photos showing that prior to the car blast Israeli reconnaissance aircraft had taken pictures of Hariri’s convoy from different angles and various distances on February, 14, 2005.

The interrogation of the Israeli spies led to their accomplices who confessed that they had received black suitcases full of explosive materials, arms, and similar tools and then transferred them to pre-determined locations in the Lebanese region of Jabal.