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Monday, November 8, 2010

Will U.N. Indictment of Hezbollah for Hariri Murder Set the Middle East Ablaze?

According to a Wall Street Journal article entitled "U.N. Indictments Near in Lebanon Killing", written by Jay Solomon and Margaret Coker, the U.N. tribunal investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri will soon be indicting various members of Hezbollah, and it is feared that the findings could result in renewed fighting among Lebanese Shiites, Sunnis, Christians and Druze:

"The United Nations-backed court investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is moving to indict between two and six members of the militant group Hezbollah by year-end, according to people briefed on the tribunal's work, stoking fears of renewed sectarian strife in the Middle East country.

The U.S. has scrambled to bolster support for the tribunal and the pro-Western government of Lebanon in the face of threats of violence from Hezbollah if the indictments are handed down.

Among those being looked at in the U.N. probe, according to the people briefed on it, is Mustafa Badreddine, a senior Hezbollah military commander and brother-in-law of Imad Mugniyah, who was among the Federal Bureau of Investigation's most-wanted men before his death nearly three years ago.

Mr. Mugniyah is alleged by U.S. officials to have overseen a string of terrorist attacks against American interests in the 1980s, including the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut that killed 241 servicemen. Mr. Mugniyah, who was killed in a 2008 car bombing in Damascus, Syria, is also believed by U.N. investigators to have played a role, along with his brother-in-law, in the car bombing in downtown Beirut that killed Mr. Hariri and 22 others, according to the people briefed on the probe.

The rising tensions inside Lebanon have significantly undercut the Obama administration's efforts to mend relations with Syria, among the suspects in Mr. Hariri's murder. The U.S. has coveted better ties with Damascus, both to stabilize Lebanon and underpin the broader Arab-Israeli peace process. Washington has also hoped to weaken Syria's military alliance with Iran.

In recent months, however, Syrian officials have called for the ending of the U.N. tribunal. And U.S. officials have publicly charged Damascus with transferring increasingly sophisticated missiles to Hezbollah."

However, renewing sectarian fighting within Lebanon is only one possible scenario. In order to divert the attention of the Arab street from the murder, Hezbollah might well seek to inflame the Israeli-Lebanese border. Thus, it is no accident that Israel is attempting to eliminate any excuse for renewed violence by announcing this weekend its plans for the unilateral evacuation of the northern part of Ghajar village, population 2,200, which is bisected by the Israeli-Lebanese border. See:

Also prepared, however, for any contingency, Israel has now decided that its new "Iron Dome" anti-rocket system will be kept in the center of the country and shipped to the south or the north in accordance with developments. See:

Obama's courting of Damascus by way of John Kerry as his special emissary? Demonstrably bootless, impotent and embarrassing.

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