Hizbullah has (again) issued a statement calling for the release of four former pro-Syrian generals held in detention over their role in the 2005 Hariri assassination. The militia's call to release Assad's former agents coincides with similar calls by pro-Syrian parties and Michel Aoun.
The Hizbullah statement is predictably ridiculous:
اعتبر حزب الله اللبناني اليوم اعتقال الضباط الاربعة الموقوفين في قضية اغتيال رئيس الوزراء الاسبق رفيق الحريري "سياسي وثأري وليس له علاقة بالاصول القانونية". ورأى حزب الله في بيان وزع ان "الخلفية التي تتحدث بها الاكثرية النيابية قبل اعتقال الضباط الاربعة وبعده هي اتهام سياسي ولغة ثأرية وتصفية حسابات سياسية" داعيا اياها الى "تقديم الادلة الاتهامية الى الرأي العام اللبناني والتي على اساسها يستمر اعتقال الضباط ويوجه القضاء عندها اتهاما واضحا يبرر اعتقالهم".
Translation: Hizbullah considers the arrest "political and vengeful and illegal" and a "settling of scores" by March 14.
Is Hizbullah's occupation of downtown Beirut cultural, charitable and legal? Is their possession of tens of thousands of rockets an act sanctioned by law? Does the Lebanese constitution call for the building of a state within a state? Is their act of dragging the country into a war their version of turning the other cheek?
I wonder if Hizbullah would approve of March 14 kidnapping Syrian soldiers, blowing them up to pieces and parading their remains on TV, with Saad Hariri in the background vowing open war and waving his finger at the world.
Anyway, on Wednesday, Hizbullah 's parliamentary bloc issued a statement that went like this:
The bloc, in a statement, said it tackled the "French declaration about the disappearance of Mohammed Zuheir Siddiq … and whether it is linked to extending the arbitrary detention of the four officers." The bloc also "raised several questions about seriousness of the international commitment to reveal the truth in the Hariri assassination," the statement added. (Naharnet)
The Assad regime, and it seems Hizbullah, have always been obsessed with Siddiq, ever since his name was revealed as a witness. This obsession resurfaced after news of his disappearance from his France home and re-appearance in Europe awaiting the formation of the tribunal (this according to al-Seyassah). During the 2006 war, Lahoud found time to write a letter requesting the extradition of Siddiq to Lebanon, which the French judiciary rejected it on grounds Lebanon allowed death penalties.
Why care about Siddiq? The former Syrian intelligence fixer in Lebanon claimed he has the proof that the four general and the Assad regime assassinated Hariri, and has said so publicly. After the controversy over his credibility erupted (and much of that controversy was fanned by the Assad regime) the Lebanese authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.
The UN investigation has moved on since the Siddiq controversy, gathering tens of statements from different witnesses and suspects, and confirming the indisputable link between the Hariri assassination, the Assad regime and the four generals. In other words, and as a reading of any of the UN reports would reveal, Siddiq's testimony is not essential. It is only the Assad regime that wants you to believe that the entire case hinges on this one testimony. And even though they have discredited it, they continue to panic every time this scarecrow witness issues a statement or pulls a stunt in what seems to be his battle against the regime.
It is useful to place the regime's hysterical reaction to Siddiq's disappearance in the context of the regime's behaviour at home. Siddiq, as do others, also names many top Syrian officials, including Assef Shawkat, who became the head of military intelligence 30 minutes after the Hariri assassination, and is one of the prime suspects in the murder, according to Detlev Mehlis. He is also Bashar's brother in law. The "criminal network" that new UN commissioner Daniel Bellmare mentioned in his first report most likely include Shawkat, so tracking any visible links to that person would be a regime priority.
Shawkat, we recently learned from Syrian VP Abdel Halim Khaddam, has been placed under house arrest in Damascus. Khaddam predicted that Shawkat would meet a fate similar to Ghazi Kenaan, who "committed suicide" in 2005, right around the time Siddiq testified to the commission, then headed by Mehlis. Siddiq's former boss, Bahjat Suleiman, was also removed from his post in the same year.
So what inspires Hizbullah to be part of the Assad regime obsession with all this? They probably miss their former facilitators. Or they could be afraid that if those generals ever make it to The Hague, beans will be spilled and the myth of purity they like to propagate will be forever shattered.