Detlev Mehlis

Some Lebanese have excessively praised the image of Detlev Mehlis, they have spoken for hours of his transparent behavior and of the credibility of the investigating commission that he presided over, a commission that they have continued to defend in spite of the sharp criticisms it has had to face. These people have linked their fate to that of the Mehlis report and its hurried conclusions, to which they gave undeserved importance as they multiplied their own attacks against Syria and different Lebanese political forces. However, they are now facing a political dead end, particularly after the events linked to the investigation carried out by that commission. The most recent events even led Mehlis to present his resignation as head of the commission, whose credibility has been seriously questioned and which seems to have aimed only at orchestrating a series of situations to justify an intervention against Syria.

Mehlis traveled from Beirut to Paris after having organized two extensive meetings with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and the Minister of Justice, Charles Rizk – meetings that allowed him to bid farewell to those who helped him in achieving his goal. In that context, and after both meetings took place, German press reports confirmed that Mehlis did not intend to continue with his mission and that he would not travel to Vienna, where the interrogation of Syrian witnesses is supposed to take place. According to German newspaper Jung Welt, German officials forced Mehlis to leave the investigating commission to prevent German interests in the Middle East from being affected. The news daily notes that, in effect, Mehlis presented his resignation to the UN Secretary General. Soon after the news became public, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, implicitly confirmed it when he asked Mehlis to stay or to look for a substitute.

When Mehlis’ departure was confirmed, the Lebanese parts that were beginning to organize the analysis of the investigations and its supposed results, and who launched a challenge against Syria and other Lebanese political forces, see themselves stuck in a dead end that has led them to organize an advanced attack against Syria and some local Lebanese parties.

If Mehlis had announced his decision to resign before the scandal broke, everything would have been done without any difficulties because he would have been substituted and the plans would have been the same. It would have prevented its allies, states and political parties, from facing the situation in which they are today. However, Mehlis’s resignation took place after the UN decided to extend its mission and after the conclusion of an agreement with Syria to interrogate those responsible, which makes his sudden departure even more surprising. The worst is that his resignation is taking place in a context that seems to be the last act of his play.

Drama in four acts

The first blow against Mehlis took place when he presented his report to the United Nations, after the revelation of the true biography of Syrian Zuhir Sedik, upon whose testimony he based his accusations against the Syrian and the Lebanese. Sedik recognized, after his arrest in France, that he was accused of fraud and of having received large sums of money for giving false testimony. That fact forced Mehlis to modify and even to eliminate certain parts of his report that he had already given to the press, which he described as a “technical” error, due to the fact that the report was not revised before it was distributed.

The second blow came from a Syrian prisoner in Turkey who revealed the blackmail of which he was a victim. They promised him that he would be released and that he would received large sums of money if he gave false testimony against Syrian officials, which proved Mehlis’s involvement in the manipulation of intelligence services.

The third blow was the revelation that Mehlis himself was working for US intelligence services, an accusation made by the author of the present article during my participation in the program “The opposite opinion” of Al-Jazeera. In that program, I recalled that Mehlis himself had taken for granted Libya’s responsibility in the attack against the La Belle dancing center. Then, the attorney Mehlis hurried to, 15 minutes after Ronald Reagan’s speech in that respect, retake the accusation of the US president on behalf of the German justice. I also revealed that two research centers subsidized by US intelligence paid Mehlis fees that were not in accordance with his work. For example, he received 80,000 dollars in 2003. It is interesting to know that these centers are linked to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), that defines itself as the “America’s pro-Israel lobby”. The German judge is also a suspect of having relations with several networks of NATO...

The fourth blow is the failure of Mehlis in making Syrian officials yield to his conditions. That failure forced him to accept guarantees from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Russia in regards to the interrogation of Syrian officials in a third country, which did not please the Bush administration, whose plans and interests, of course, have priority.

In sum, Mehlis received a “knock out” a few hours before leaving Lebanon. The main character of the last act was Hussam Taher Hussam. Also known as the “masked witness”, this man was Mehlis’s winning card. Hussam declared that Lebanese officials, including Rafic Hariri’s own son, forced him to give false testimony against Syria during the UN investigation. He added that he had worked for the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services before the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon and that he had been tortured and threatened, which made him give false testimony.

Hussam described the situation as a “game” to debilitate Syria’s position. The son of Rafic Hariri assured him that he was convinced of Syria’s involvement in the assassination of his father but that he needed his testimony to confirm that conviction. Hussam also accused socialist leader Wallid Jumblat and Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamadé of having prepared other false testimonies against Syria.

The “masked witness” revealed that his duty was to accuse Maher Al-Assad, one of the brothers of President Al-Assad, and his brother-in-law Assef Shawkat, director of the intelligence services. He noted that he was mistreated and injected with drugs and added that Interior Minister Hassan Sabaa offered him 3.1 million dollars to declare that he had seen the truck used to assassinate Hariri in a Syrian military encampment.

Mehlis knows that his game is coming to an end and that he has lost all credibility, particularly taking into account that this witness was a key element in most of his accusations against Syria. This also reminds us of the manipulations around the UN investigating commission about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq – maneuvers that were similarly unmasked when the relation between the investigators and the US and Israeli intelligence services was revealed.

What Mehlis’s Resignation Means

The presentation of Mehlis’s resignation is, even if rejected, significant.

In the first place, Syria and its allies in Lebanon reacted appropriately and controlled the situation, both in the political and in the media fields, by adapting themselves to Mehlis’s methods. At the same time, they knew how to take advantage of their knowledge of the main characters, which allowed them to play with Mehlis before confusing him and forcing him to end his mission.

Mehlis’s resignation also proves that there are certain types of war whose dimension and strategy have to be known before waging them. We have to note that Syria knew how to react: while it accepted that its own officials were interrogated by Mehlis, it created another investigating commission of an exclusively judicial nature, not political. In addition, Syria knew how to negotiate guarantees about the conditions of the interrogation of its officials in a third country, associating with Arab and other international actors also upon an exclusively judicial and not political basis. In doing this, it also linked those actors to its own resistance against US pressures.

What happened showed that US pressures are increasingly weakening; first, because of its problems in Iraq and also due to the reaction of other countries, a reaction whose most recent episode has to do with the scandal of CIA prisons in Europe. It proves that a “universal” attacks against US policy is on the making.

How do the United Staters react?

Bolton’s declarations about Mehlis’s resignation are only the expression of a failure and an effort to maintain the same strategy with Mehlis’s substitute. Bolton tried to make us believe that Mehlis’s withdrawal had to do with personal and security reasons. He also praised the German judge as he asked him to remain in his post. However, he urged for the appointment of a substitute and also continued launching threats against Syria, although he did not name it directly, saying that it had not won the war yet.

There is no reason to believe that the United-States’ game is over, neither for the Bush administration nor for its allies in Lebanon. The Empire did not wait for Mehlis’s exit to counterattack. Thus, we heard Jumblat accusing Syrian again and, interesting enough, an old common grave was discovered near a center of the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon. This finding could justify an intervention by the United States, France and the United Nations to reactivate the pressure on Syria through an international investigation. This would also help the re-opening of the topic about the Syrian presence in Lebanon since it beginning under the former regime and until the withdrawal under the current government.