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UN probe sees possible link between Hariri and other attacks in Lebanon

Lebanese and Syrian politicians both had moderated praise for the Brammertz report, with Syria?s Interior Minister commenting that Syria ? is initially satisfied with the report,? and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora remarking on Brammertz?s ?professionalism, independence, and impartiality.? The report, summarizing the latest phase in the ongoing investigation into the assassination of Rafiq Hariri and subsequent bombings in Lebanon , was characterized by its restraint, devoid of direct accusations leveled at Syria. Syria was sated by the report?s assessment of its satisfactory cooperation with the investigation and a lack of accusatory or damning language. At the same time, the anti-Syrian movement in Lebanon could still point to places in the report which maintained the suggestion of Syrian involvement, such as Brammertz dismissal of Islamist Abu Adas? claim of responsibility for the Hariri assassination and the assessment that the Hariri assassination required a high level of operational capacity. Brammertz also alludes to an investigation into the use of both groups and individuals with varying motives to carry out attacks, a point that may be interpreted as Syrian subcontracting of Islamist entities to commit and/or claim responsibility for attacks. The Brammertz report reads like a status report on an ongoing investigation, rather than an assessment of culpability in the bombings, which conforms to its intended scope. Brammertz? moderated language towards Syria and his positive assessment of Syrian cooperation will help promote continuing Syrian cooperation in the next phase of the investigation. However, although the investigation is set to continue at least one year, it is difficult to foresee the successful execution of a tribunal resulting from these years of UN investigations. Brammertz reserved his most direct criticism for Lebanese law enforcement, which was blamed for its inability to effectively conduct investigations into the fourteen bombings following the Hariri assassination, six of which targeted anti-Syrian personalities in Lebanon. In addition to a lack of forensic capabilities, Lebanese law enforcement suffered from a failure to cooperate and coordinate between different law enforcement bodies and an inability to pursue effective investigations into the bombings. The failure of Lebanese law enforcement to control crime scenes, collect forensic evidence, and pursue effective investigations following bombings and assassination attempts sends Syria and its agents in Lebanon the message that they can continue tactics of intimidation and destabilization without fear of effective attribution. At the same time, Syria will continue to point to its satisfactory cooperation with investigators as an indication of both innocence in the crime and an honest interest in preserving Lebanese security. Further comfort to those elements within Syria seeking to continue interference in Lebanon has been provided by the discovery of an alleged ?Mossad? spy ring in Lebanon. The existence of the spy ring and the confessions of captured members were released around the same time as the Brammertz report. More visceral reporting on an alleged campaign of Israeli assassinations and espionage heavily overshadowed the moderated, academic tone of the Brammertz report outlining the initial contours of a campaign of Syrian assassination and intimidation attempts in Lebanon. Lebanese attention was diverted from processing and dealing with the complicated relationship with its Arab neighbor by the simpler, unmitigated enmity focused on its Jewish one. For Syria and pro-Syrian Lebanese, who would attribute recent instability in Lebanon to either Islamist fanatics or the consummate Israeli enemy, a welcome surprise was revealed in the announcement that one of the members of the alleged Israeli spy ring, Hussein Khattab, was the brother of an alleged al-Qaeda recruiter in Lebanon (source). That connection will be used by certain parties in Lebanon to try to ascribe acts of violence to

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