Brammertz Report is a Bust: Syrians Relieved
The Brammertz 30-page report has come out and it is a dud - at least for those who were hoping to increase the pressure on Syria by having it brought in front of the Security Council for economic sanctions or further resolutions.
A PDF copy of it can be found here. There are a number of news articles on it as well. Here is Forbesand here is Reuters.
Who killed Hariri?
Brammertz said he has two hypotheses: that a small team acting on its own planned and conducted the entire attack itself, or that it took a larger, complex operation, with a large number of people performing smaller, very specific tasks.This is important because Mehlis had accused only the Syrians and their Lebanese underlings. He supplied names of those he believed responsible, including Asef Shawkat, the Syrian President's brother-in-law. This accusation was built on the notion that the operation was so complex that only Syria could have carried it out. Brammertz does not say this was not the case, but neither does he confirm that only Syria should be a suspect, as Mehlis did in his two reports.
Brammertz' predecessor as chief of the investigation, Germany's Detlev Mehlis, had said the killing's complexity suggested the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services played a role in Hariri's assassination. Yet Brammertz shied away from making any such claims.
US policy, which is to keep raising the psychological, political, and economic pressure on Syria, just got a big "Khazouq," (the shaft) as my wife delicately put it. At first she suggested, "There must have been a deal. The report is too good." It was unlike the UN not to try to hurt Syria. When I argued against this interpretation, suggesting that Brammertz just doesn't have much to go on and that once he threw out the testimony of Hussam Hussam and Saddiq, which had so beguiled Mehlis, he discovered there just wasn't much evidence to point to Syria conclusively or to anyone else. "It was just an honest report," I argued. Her reply was: "Well then, maybe Bashar will learn a lesson from this." I asked, "What lesson is that?" She replied, "He needs to be more open and to cooperate with the UN and not lose friends such as France."
That is sound advice. All the same, a year ago Mehlis and France both were certain of Syria's authorship of the crime following Hariri's murder. They were gunning for the regime. It was not surprising that Bashar al-Asad would suspect that the there was little he could do to exonerate Syria and had to suspect the investigation was a set up.
Richard Grenell, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N., said American officials would have no immediate comment because they were still studying the 30-page report. What can they say? They will have to suggest that it is a good report that doesn't exonerate Syria and that Syria must comply with UN resolutions 1559, 1680, and the rest, pronto or else something very bad will happen.
The report is extremely short compared to those of Mehlis, Brammertz' predecessor. It is also very dry reading, unlike Mehlis' reports which read like spy novels and were full of sensational detail, much of which turned out to be supplied by witnesses who were later discredited.
Brammertz has continued in the careful, reserved, and cautious manner that has characterized his investigation from the beginning. He says he has made "considerable progress" in his probe of Hariri's assassination, and said most of his work could be wrapped up in several months, but he has welcomed Lebanon's request that the inquiry be extended for another year. France says it will support this. So has Kofi Annan. "This would provide a much needed sense of continuity and stability, guarantee progressive operations and planning, and offers assurances to staff," the report said.
Brammertz is expected to brief the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday - a day before his commission's mandate expires. "I share the view expressed by Mr. Brammertz and the Lebanese government that the commission should be provided with stability and predictability in its mandate and resources," Annan wrote.
Forbes writes that,
Brammertz' report gave the Security Council a rough outline of his investigation into the bombing that killed Hariri as his convoy moved through downtown Beirut.The report said there was no evidence to suggest that a man named Ahmed Abu Adass, who appeared on a video tape claiming responsibility, was in fact involved.
According to the report, evidence collected so far suggested the bomb that killed Hariri was above ground and fit with earlier theories that it had been packed into a Mitsubishi truck whose demolished carcass was found at the scene.
There has been speculation in Lebanon that there was a possibility of two explosions - one underground and another in a truck - especially after Brammertz's team recently erected a huge tent at the scene of the killing and dug into the ground.
"Evidence collected from within the soil on the inside of the crater, indicates that the IED (improvised explosive device) was most likely located above the ground," the report said.
Addendum (June 11): Here is a comment I was sent from a respected analyst based in the region. He is correct that Syria remains the only suspect according the the various implied Brammertz scenarios. The question that cannot be answered today is whether the investigation has amassed enought evidence to convict Syrians in court. When Brammertz took over from Mehlis, there was not enough evidence.
I agree with much of what you say. Damascus is off the hook for the time being, but I think it is premature for Bashar & Co to pop the champagne corks. I suspect that Brammertz is deliberately avoiding mehlis' reveal-all style to avoid the pitfalls of unreliable witnesses, such as Hussam Hussam etc. Brammertz is building a case to take to court and I suspect that the final revelations will be made before the tribunal, not in the last UNIIIC report. There is nothing to suggest that Brammertz has deviated substantially from the broader direction that Mehlis initiated. The reference to "political motives, personal vendettas, financial circumstances, and extremist ideologies" being possible factors in the assassination still fits in with the motives attributable to the Syrian regime - political motives: Hariri was planning to weaken Syria's hold on Lebanon; personal vendettas: Lahoud, the Syrian regime and its Lebanese allies detested Hariri. It was the whispering campaign of Lahoud and his cronies that exacerbated Bashar's inherent distrust of Hariri; financial circumstances: many powerful Syrians and Lebanese stood to lose financially if RH and his allies rode to triumph in the May 2005 elections, overturning Syria's hold on Lebanon; extremist ideologies: the field is open wide here - Alawite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni exerting a threatening influence over his Syrian co-confessionalists/Shiite distrust of an immensely powerful Sunni who could provide an obstacle to Iran's ambitions to further its influence in the Mideast/Salafi jihadis who hated Hariri and had no connection to Syria at all.
Many people who believe Syria is innocent of blame tend to look at Hariri's murder as an isolated event. But as you know, Hariri's death fitted into a pattern that had been unfolding since the early 1990s when the younger generation of the Syrian regime began asserting itself, and accelerated from 2000 when RH returned to the premiership before climaxing after Lahoud's presidential extension. Hariri's assassination needs to be scrutinised in the context of the other 14 bombings and assassinations before and after his death. While one could argue with greater or lesser degrees of conviction that Hariri's death could have been caused by Mossad/CIA/Al-Qaeda, the theories take on far less credence when analysed within the prevailing political environment before and after the assassination.