War : Syria : no evidence whatsoever


Richard Moore


Old whine, new bottle 

by William Bowles * Wednesday, 26 October 2005 

The UN ' report ' on the assassination of Rafik Hariri,
the former Lebanese PM, bears all the hallmarks of yet
another set-up, no doubt 'inspired' by US pressure as part
of the build-up to yet another Middle Eastern 'adventure'.

Even less remarkable is the uncritical, indeed blind
acceptance by the Western media of the Report's
conclusions concerning those allegedly behind the

But before we dissect the abysmal failure of the Western
media to accurately report the findings of the UN Report,
let's take a look at its conclusions.

First of all, the Report offers no concrete evidence that
any of the people or institutions it claims were involved
in Hariri's assassination were indeed the culprits.
Instead, its assertions rely largely on three elements:

    The testimony of an unnamed witness, but who is
    undoubtedly Zuheir al-Siddiq, a convicted felon, whose
    testimony lacks any material basis aside from his
    assertions (see below).
    Zuhir Ibn Mohamed Said Saddik, later charged with
    involvement in the assassination and again whose testimony
    lacks any material basis other than self-incrimination,
    which is used by the Report to add credibility to his
    A lot of information on the use of cellphones but which
    reveal nothing about who was behind the assassination,
    merely that a lot of individuals phoned each other an
    awful lot.

To add insult to injury, at every critical juncture, the
report admits that it actually lacks any substantiation
for any of its claims, saying that "the investigation is
not complete" and that "further investigation is needed".
Worse, early on it says that due to massive tampering with
the scene of the explosion, on and after the day, accurate
forensic investigation is all but impossible to carry out.
The report relies largely on hearsay, that is, statements
by people who claim to be have been told by a third party
that such and such happened.

Yet in spite of this the Executive Summary tells us

    Building on the findings of the Commission and Lebanese
    investigations to date and on the basis of the material
    and documentary evidence collected, and the leads pursued
    until now, there is converging evidence pointing at both
    Lebanese and Syrian involvement in this terrorist act. It
    is a well known fact that Syrian Military Intelligence had
    a pervasive presence in Lebanon at the least until the
    withdrawal of the Syrian forces pursuant to resolution

Although the report says it "builds" on the Lebanese
investigations, there is no mention of the fact that the
Lebanese 'investigation' was roundly condemned as a
whitewash and the fact that "Syrian Military Intelligence
had a pervasive presence" in Lebanon, it presents no
actual evidence of its involvement in the assassination
aside from the assertions of Zuheir al-Siddiq, a convicted
felon and swindler and the previously mentioned, Zuhir Ibn
Mohamed Said Saddik. The Mehlis report contains the
following, almost certainly referring to Siddiq's

    One witness of Syrian origin but resident in Lebanon, who
    claims to have worked for the Syrian intelligence services
    in Lebanon, has stated that approximately two weeks after
    the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559, senior
    Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik
    Hariri. He claimed that a senior Lebanese security
    official went several times to Syria to plan the crime,
    meeting once at the Meridian Hotel in Damascus and several
    times at the Presidential Place and the office of a senior
    Syrian security official. The last meeting was held in the
    house of the same senior Syrian security official
    approximately seven to 10 days before the assassination
    and included another senior Lebanese security official.
    The witness had close contact with high ranked Syrian
    officers posted in Lebanon. (p.35)

The UN had this to say about al-Siddiq's testimony, as
reported in Der Spiegel

    [T]he UN Commission which had submitted the Mehlis report
    to the UN Security Council yesterday, is raising serious
    doubts about the reliability and credibility of
    al-Siddiq's declarations, since it was revealed that the
    alleged former officer of the Syrian secret services had
    in reality been convicted more than once for penal
    offences related to money subtraction. [Der Spiegel]
    reports that the UN investigating Commission is well aware
    that it had been lied [to] by Siddiq, who at first had
    affirmed to have left Beirut one month before the assault
    on al-Hariri, but then had to admit at the end of
    September his direct involvement in the implementation of
    the crime. It is quite evident by now that the witness had
    received money for his depositions, considering that his
    siblings reveal to have received a phone-call from him
    from Paris, in late summer, in which Siddiq announced "I
    have become a millionaire". Doubts regarding the
    credibility of the man were further fuelled by the
    revelation that Siddiq had been recommended to Mehlis by
    the long-term Syrian renegate Rifaat al-Assad, an uncle of
    the Syrian President who more than once offered himself as
    "alternative President of Syria" Š Siddiq is supposed to
    have declared that he had put his apartment in Beirut to
    the disposition of the conspirators to kill Hariri, among
    them several Syrian intelligence officials Š But the
    Syrian government, revealed Der Spiegel, had sent weeks
    ago a documentation regarding the man to various Western
    governments, hoping that Detlev Mehlis would not get
    caught in the trap of a notorious imposter. - ' Central
    witness to Mehlis report revealed as a paid swindler ',
    Hamburg, 22 October 2005

The telephone calls

The other key element in the report are the references to
innumerable telephone calls made by a variety of
individuals before and on the day of the assassination,
yet it fails to show any connection between the phone
calls and the actual assassination, it's no more than
innuendo, based in large measure on the video tape that
contains a statement by a Mr. Abu Adass (who has
disappeared) that claims that a Lebanese-based
organization that nobody had ever heard of, al nasra
wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham, was responsible. The reason
why the cellphone calls figure so highly is that Mr.
Adass, amongst other named individuals, made the calls.
But the report itself says

    There is no evidence that Mr. Abu Adass belonged to the
    group al nasra wal-jihad fee bilad Al-Sham as claimed in
    the Al-Jazeera videotape, nor even that such a group has
    ever existed or does exist now. There are no indications
    (other than the videotape) that he drove a truck
    containing the bomb that killed Hariri. The evidence does
    show that it is likely that Mr. Abu Adass left his home on
    16 January 2005 and was taken, voluntarily or not, to
    Syria, where he has since disappeared. (p. 50)

The report doesn't explain why so much of its
investigations focused on the innumerable cellphone calls
other than the fact that the two key witnesses
unsubstantiated claims implicate them, nor does it
establish any link between the bombing, the phone calls
and the Syrian government.

The alleged links, especially between (the unnamed) Siddiq
and the various named individuals bears all the hallmarks
of a classical set-up, with the one key witness, indeed
the only one to actually directly implicate leading
figures in the Lebanese and Syrian governments in the
assassination, a discredited and suspect individual that
the Syrian government itself had, weeks before the release
of Report, "sent Š documentation regarding the man to
various Western governments, hoping that Detlev Mehlis
would not get caught in the trap of a notorious imposter."

The truck In spite of the fact that the report offers no
actual forensic evidence that it was a truck (stolen in
Japan no less) packed with it claims, 1000kgs of TNT, the
report nevertheless asserts that it was used as a suicide
bomb. No trace of the driver of the truck has been found,
nor does it offer any evidence that it was the truck other
than the fact that it was parked outside the hotel,
admitting that because all the relevant evidence was moved
on the day of the bombing, made it impossible to carry out
a thorough forensic examination of the scene.

Based on the testimony of Siddiq and one other, named
witness, Zuhir Ibn Mohamed Said Saddik, who later was
implicated in the assassination (mainly on his own
admission rather than evidence), the report says

    There is probable cause to believe that the decision to
    assassinate former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, could not
    have been taken without the approval of top- ranked Syrian
    security official [sic] and could not have been further
    organized without the collusion of their counterparts in
    the Lebanese security services.

Thus the report's conclusions are based essentially on the
testimony of just two people, who provide no concrete
evidence whatsoever to support their assertions and
furthermore, the fact that the report asserts that
"top-ranked Syrian security official" (should this be
plural?) were involved, it fails to prove that the Syrian
government was involved and in fact doesn't state this.
Yet the Western media have reported as fact, that the
report implicates the Syrian government. What the media
reports don't quote is what the Report has to say on the
impossibility of actually collecting real, hard evidence

    At the outset, the time factor affecting the Commission
    has to be emphasized. UNIIIC was declared operational four
    months after the actual crime, which means that the
    perpetrators and their accomplices have had plenty of time
    to destroy evidence and/or to collude with each other, the
    ability to recall of potential witnesses has been
    diminished, and previous omissions and inadvertent or
    deliberate loss and destruction of evidence could not be
    undone. (p.32)

Not so surprising is the fact that aside from the Der
Spiegel story, not a single Western media outlet has
mentioned the centrality of Siddiq and Saddik to the
report's conclusions, nor has there been any mention of
the UN Commission's own doubts about the report's
conclusions. And in fact the report itself says this of
Saddik's testimony

    At the present stage of investigation, a certain amount of
    information given by Mr. Saddik cannot be confirmed
    through other evidence. (p.37)

Neither does the report question the reliability of
Siddiq's testimony, accepting at face value his assertions
that he had direct contact with Syrian government
officials. All in all, the Report is an extremely
amateurish attempt to frame the Syrian government.

The Media 

The Western media, for its part, has accepted the Report
as fact and as the final word on the subject, even though
the Report itself says several times, that further
investigation is needed and that it is "incomplete" and in
fact the UN has given Mehlis a further two months to
complete it.

Thus we find the BBC and other major media outlets acting
as mouthpieces for the US and UK governments, with story
after story peddling the same Western propaganda line
about the need for sanctions against Syria and even the
need for 'regime change' in Syria.

Typical of media coverage is the following BBC story

    Evidence suggests both Syrian and Lebanese involvement in
    the murder of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri, a United
    Nations investigation has found. ' Hariri investigation:
    Key figures ', 21 October 2005

But using the Report as its only source, it draws largely
on the testimony of the two 'witnesses', Siddiq and
Saddik, with no reference to the suspect nature of
Siddiq's assertions, nor the fact that there is not a
single piece of actual evidence presented in the report
that directly implicates the Syrian government or indeed
anyone at all. Like all the other news reports, the BBC
story makes no attempt to explain why the report lacks any
actual hard evidence. The BBC, along with the rest of the
mainstream media, assumes that the Report has got it

It quotes from the report that "Zuhir Ibn Mohamed Said
Saddik asserts that the decision to kill Mr Hariri was
taken in Syria by senior Lebanese and Syrian officers",
although, like the report, the BBC story states that his
testimony cannot be supported by fact, adding that "but
the fact that he implicates himself gives him added
credibility," though why the fact that he implicated
himself adds credibility to his assertions, is not
explained except that this is what the report states.

The BBC story also uses the testimony of Siddiq who
claimed that Asef Shawkat, head of Syrian military

    Š forced Ahmed Abu Adass, an Islamic militant, to make a
    video claiming responsibility for the bombing that killed
    Mr Hariri - two weeks before the explosion.

Pointedly, the Mehlis Report nowhere uses the term
"Islamic militant" to describe Ahmed Abu Adass, this is
something the BBC bunged in to 'spice up' the story.

Likewise, a report in Canada's Globe and Mail states

    It's suggested in the report that the video "confession"
    may have been personally ordered by General Assef Shawkat,
    the head of Syria's intelligence apparatus and
    brother-in-law to President Bashar Assad. When
    investigators went to interview Mr. Abu Abass's father
    about what happened, he too turned up dead.
    The 60-page report handed down by chief investigator
    Detlev Mehlis is full of similarly damning details, all of
    which point to the conclusion that Mr. Hariri's murder was
    conceived at highest levels of Mr. Assad's regime, with
    significant help from senior Lebanese officials who served
    in a government that was effectively a Syrian client. '
    Abu Adass, the fall guy ', The Globe and Mail, October 22,

Note that it is only a "suggestion" that Shawkat may have
ordered the assassination as there is no proof offered.
Another report in the Christian Science Monito r, with the
loaded title, ' Syria implicated in death of Hariri ',
October 21, 2005, incorrectly states that the Report
alleges that

    The BBC reports that one of the most damning accusations
    made by Mehlis is that Lebanese President Emile Lahood, a
    key ally of Syria, received a phone call from one of the
    key figures in the plot, warning that the assassination
    was about to take place. Mr. Lahood has denied the charge
    and said that parts of the report are an attempt to
    discredit him .

What the Mehlis Report actually says is that Lahood
received a phone call but there is no mention of the
subject of the call

    Abdel-Al has been in frequent contact with Mahmoud
    Abdel-Al, his brother, who is also active in Al-Ahbash.
    Mahmoud Abdel-Al's telephone calls on 14 February are also
    interesting: he made a call minutes before the blast, at
    1247 hrs, to the mobile phone of Lebanese President Emile
    Lahoud and at 1249 hrs had contact with Raymond Azar's
    mobile telephone. (p. 58)

Nor does the BBC story state that the phone call was
warning Lahood of an impending assassination. Instead it

    The Lebanese presidency issued a statement denying that a
    suspect implicated in Hariri's assassination had called
    President Emile Lahoud minutes before the truck bomb
    exploded. UN Hariri probe implicates Syria

Due to the vague nature of the Report, the fact that it is
incomplete and because of its unsubstantiated and
politically loaded implications, it is possible for any
and all conclusions to be drawn from it, which is
precisely what the media and politicians have done and why
it takes the form that it does. There could be no clearer
example of the relationship between propaganda and the
press than the Mehlis Report, serving as it does as a
backdrop to USUK machinations in the region, partially to
draw attention away from the disastrous situation in Iraq
and also to 'soften up' the public for any potential moves
against Syria.

What the report does is create the context for the
inflammatory and threatening statements made by US
secretary of state Condi Rice, US ambassador to the UN
Bolton, Jack Straw, British foreign secretary and the
Israeli government, all of whom have, in no uncertain
terms used the UN Report as a justification for 'regime
change' in Syria.



"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"

Posting archives:

Subscribe to low-traffic list:
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving the included information for
research and educational purposes.