After the attack that caused the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and another 22 people, we saw how quickly the Atlantist editorialists and “experts” accused Syria. These analysts used no evidence to launch their accusations against Damascus and, thus, today they accept without any criticism the Melhis report that confirms their initial assumptions. Thus, the western media present the file opened by the German judge as irrefutable evidence of Syria’s responsibility for the attack. However, the analyses of those who criticize the report offer a very different perspective.
After the attack that caused the death of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri and another 22 people, we saw how quickly the Atlantist editorialists and “experts” accused Syria. These analysts used no evidence to launch their accusations against Damascus and, thus, today they accept without any criticism the Melhis report that confirms their initial assumptions. Thus, the western media present the file opened by the German judge as irrefutable evidence of Syria’s responsibility in the attack and deduce that all the attacks carried out since then against Lebanon could be part of a Syrian plot to destabilize the country.
The day after the attack against Rafic Hariri, an editorialist of Le Figaro, Alexander Adler, blamed the hard wing of the Syrian regime (that he then alleged had links with Al Qaeda in Iraq) and described the crime as a warning from those who opposed the reforms in Syria against those close to Bachar El Assad. Following the publication of the Mehlis report, he reaffirmed his analysis about the situation in Damascus. According to Adler, today, the Syrian reformists, seeing their country increasingly isolated, use the Mehlis report against their conservative rivals while the latter could be tempted to organize a coup d’état in Damascus; so, he predicts an internal outbreak in Syria soon.
In an editorial, apparently supported by all the writing staff of the Washington Post, the US newspaper goes even farther by affirming that there are no real divisions within the Syrian government and that Bachar El Assad is directly responsible for the assassination of Rafic Hariri. The newspaper retakes the old arguments used against Iraq, affirming that since the fall of Saddam Hussien, no other regime has supported terrorism as much as Syria. It matters little to the writing staff of the Washington Post that the alleged links between Iraq and the terrorist attacks attributed to Al Qaeda have long been refuted, as they retake this argument to use it against Damascus. The newspaper demands sanctions against Syria and retakes a reference to the Syria Accountability Act, which authorizes Bush to attack Syria.
However, not all analyses are completely based on the Mehlis report to demand sanctions against Syria.
Perhaps doubting the persuasive capacity of the document, Amir Taheri, editorialist and expert of the Benador Associates public relations office, writes his arguments in the Gulf News that avoids the obstacle of the verisimilitude or the unlikelihood of the Syrian responsibility. He does not make any explicit reference of Damascus’ involvement in the assassination but affirms that Syria is responsible for a regional political atmosphere that made the assassination not only possible but also unavoidable. He affirms that as long as Syria does not change its regime, the atmosphere will remain and political crimes will continue. Then, what does the Mehlis report or the death of Rafic Hariri matter? It is the overthrow of Bachar El Assad that really matters.
Former Soviet dissident and former minister of Ariel Sharon, Natan Sharansky, shares this point of view in the Jerusalem Post, where he also supports the overthrow of the Syrian regime without making any direct reference to any links with the assassination of Rafic Hariri, which he barely mentions. He believes that Israel must associate with Washington’s policy of “democratization” of the Middle East (of which it is one of its official ideological inspirers) and must support Washington in everything related to Syria. This article seems to aim at promoting the figure of Sharansky, who could be an option for Washington as the Israeli head of state instead of the sometimes-not-docile Ariel Sharon. Insisting on an apparent insubordination to a policy he supposes is inspired by the United States, he portrays himself as the man who, heading Israel, could maintain completely harmonious relations with the American big brother.
However, once the regime of Bashar EL Assad is overthrown, who will he put in its place? Former CIA analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht, in Die Welt advocates for an alliance with the Muslims Brothers in the Middle East. The author does not cite any country explicitly but it is hard not to think of Syria and Egypt. The expert on the Project for a New American Century promotes this organization as a means to eliminate “Binladinism” in the Arab world.
In the face of this attempt to persuade world public opinion, at least in the West, about the need to impose economic sanctions against Syria, some voices are heard questioning the content of the Mehlis report and highlight the incoherence of the file.
Analyst Linda S. Heard tries to make a critical interpretation of the Mehlis report in the Gulf News. She believes that there are aspects that go against the speeches or the claims of the United States and Great Britain that seem to favor the independent nature of the report. However, she notes that there are more weaknesses than positive points. Thus, the report affirms that Syria always knew the exact place where Rafic Hariri was, what makes the author wonder about the need to use a bomb to kill him instead of a sniper, a much more discreet tactic that leaves fewer traces. Nevertheless, the author’s main argument is related to carrying out an international investigation. If a UN investigation is carried out it would be because it benefits the western powers, so we can not expect any other conclusion than one that allows Washington to achieve its strategic goals.
Let us also point out that, as Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed has noted it in the website Iraqwar.Ru, attorney Detlev Mehlis in the past played a role in the implementation of a US military operation. He had led an investigation about an attack perpetrated against a disco frequented by US soldiers in Germany in 1986. His conclusion allowed Washington to incriminate Libya and to bomb Tripoli.
Meanwhile, other journalists pay attention to the credibility of the witnesses questioned by the Mehlis commission.
The Guardian’s correspondent in Baghdad, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, denounces in Der Spiegel the lack of reliability of the main witness of the Mehlis Commission: Suheir al-Sadik. For the author, he is a crook paid by Rifad El Assad, uncle and rival of Bachar El Assad, to lie to the commission. Basing all the investigation on his testimony and taking it as valid would make the investigation lose all its credibility.
Former Newsweek journalist Robert Parry also writes in his website Consortium News that this witness is only a swindler paid by Syria’s adversaries. He adds that it is strange that the Mehlis Commission did not question anymore the trajectory of the truck that carried the bomb and which was later identified as a vehicle stolen in Japan. Why don’t the investigators ask more about the contradictions among the testimonies that accuse Syria?
As to the Arab editorialists, they do not even comment about the reliability of the report anymore. They consider it a document made to order that intends to justify sanctions or an aggression against Syria.
For Egyptian writer Abdellah Assanaoui, in Arabrenewal, the Mehlis report is only the prelude of a condemnation of Syria and sanctions that aim at a change of regime. It has all been planned with that in mind, from the selection of the witnesses to the information leaking to the press. The editor in chief of Alquds al-Arabi , Abdel Bari Atouan, does not give any credit to the report but finds it instructive in three aspects. By not citing the late Interior Ministry, Ghazi Kanan, it can be inferred that his suicide is not related to the publication of the document. The editorialist believes that the minister was killed as he was preparing to cooperate with the United States. The second aspect is that all communications of Arab leaders are recorded and analyzed. The third aspect is the strategic interest of incriminating the Palestinians for future operations. Anyway, he thinks that Syria wins nothing by giving in to the pressure, as, no matter what it does, it will not change the situation.
This offensive announced against Damascus worries the American left wing. In ZMag, the historians of the US social movement, Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith, are worried about the policy of their country towards Syria. In their opinion, the Bush administration wants to attack Syria or Iran to hide the problems in Iraq and they urge the world to do everything possible to prevent a new violation of international law and US constitutional principles.