I bet you Serge Brammertz would scoff at Joshua Landis' conclusion that his report was "a bust" because he "doesn't have much to go on to point to Syria conclusively". And my guess is that unlike us cursed "Syria Comment" readers, the Belgian commissioner won’t come anywhere near the blog where that conclusion was made. For the investigator who has no problem keeping the world waiting as he carefully sifts through every piece of the 5 billion or so pieces of evidence he and his predecessor have amassed, will not be bothered by some academic blogger quickly declaring defeat of "US policy" after one quick read of a technical progress report that was certainly not meant to be read as a piece of US foreign policy. Even if that certain academic's wife described the report as "too good" of a "khazouk" (stick or shaft) that has allegedly "impaled" US policy, it will make no difference to the Belgian investigator, who continues his work unaffected by the sighs of relief all "Syrians" have allegedly breathed upon reading the report, as Landis decided.
The relieved "Syrians" still have a lot to worry about, so I pray that they don't buy into the general delusion that there is not much evidence to soon hit them in the face. Brammertz promised conclusions in the fall and he has already started preparing for the international tribunal. This does not suggest the Assad regime's involvement somehow eluded the investigation. Unlike Landis, I find it hard to believe that Brammertz would ask for a year's extension and begin preparing for the tribunal if he didn't already have a solid foundation of evidence. Wouldn't he have given up and called it quits? And why prepare for a tribunal if you didn't have suspects?
Underlying the belief that the investigator doesn't have "enough" to incriminate the Assad regime is the presumption that Brammertz and the UN are out to "hurt Syria", as opposed to solving the murder case and taking it to the next level: the tribunal. Read with the presumption that the Hariri investigation is a conspiracy against "Syria", the report will indeed appear as a failed exercise in nailing the Assad regime. Claims that the UN failed to find evidence are part of the Assad regime's propagandists attempt to obfuscate reality, which is that the regime is out to destroy independent Lebanon. The Hariri investigation is one of many issues the UN Security Council is holding the Assad regime accountable for. Others included the continued interference in Lebanese affairs and Assad's protracted attempts to destabilize the country through its local political proxies and wholly-owned Palestinian militias.
Of course Brammertz never said the Assad regime did not do it, though unlike Mehlis he doesn't point the finger, and for good reasons, one of them is probably to win their "cooperation". After all, his main task is to amass leads and present them to a court investigative judge. But he is still seeking that Syrian "cooperation", and that's not for his health, or the health of the Assad regime. It's for a good reason that is clear to many of us. All signs point towards the Assads. That Brammertz chose to build a stronger foundation for his court case does not translate into failure to indict or exoneration of the Assad regime.
The second Brammertz report is not intended for you and me. It's a frustratingly boring progress report for the UN bureaucrats to get a clue and provide people and resources, and even office space, needed to turn the region's most ambitious investigation into the backbone of the upcoming trial. The Belgian investigator spent a considerable amount of time cleaning house and expanding the scope of the investigation, having inherited a less tidy and police-like operation from the more impulsive Detlev Mehlis. As stated in the report, the focus of Brammertz's work has been the "strengthening its organizational structure and capacity; developing its investigating activities; and adapting its internal procedures to the standards and requirements of a future judicial process, possibly before a tribunal of an international character."
Instead of sharing details, Brammertz goes to length explaining the mechanisms of his investigation, and his working hypothesis. There is nothing new here, except somewhat boring Investigation 101 that could benefit the Lebanese authorities.
The few details Brammertz does share in his report were not surprising, though disturbing to read. The 1,200 kg TNT explosion was "designed so as to ensure that the killing radius of the shock and pressure wave emanating from the magnitude of the blast would kill Rafik Hariri, even if the actual immediate explosion… did not"
Brammertz confirmed what Mehlis had suspected regarding the alleged suicide bomber, who appeared in a video claiming responsibility for the bomb. Ahmad Adass had nothing to do with the bomb, and his remains were not found on the scene of the crime.
The part in the report about the "14 cases" was depressing to read. No link between them and the Hariri investigation has been identified, thanks to the incompetence of the Lebanese agencies that spent more time squabbling and mishandling evidence than sharing information and properly collecting evidence. Brammertz deems the cases important to the Hariri investigation, but unless the Lebanese authorities receive some self-help, expect no progress on that front. All 14 cases have now come to a virtual halt. No charges were filed, no arrests were made.
The report promises complete forensic results and final conclusions in the fall. Judging from his style so far, I am not sure if this means he will name the parties involved!
Much to the disappointment of some of us who want to see Bashar Assad's name on every page, Brammertz couldn't care less about who we think did it. He is building the infrastructure for the upcoming trial. And he will not tell until the time is ripe and until he is certain all witnesses will be safe (he requested a witness protection program). Why should he share conclusions with anyone, including the Lebanese government, before all is saved and documented, and before the trial begins?
Another year of waiting is ahead of us.
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