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October 22, 2005

It Took the UN to Get the World to Finger Syria for Hariri's Killing
Posted by Suzanne Nossel

With all the uproar about UN investigator Detlev Mehlis' report implicating the highest levels of the Syrian government in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, we should not lose sight of the UN's accomplishment in carrying out the investigation and issuing the findings it did. 

The UN's legions of detractors include those who want the organization split into parts, dismantled, or kept out of global politics. 

But without a broadly mandated UN, how could the Hariri case have moved beyond finger pointing?  The Lebanese government could never have been trusted to investigate.  There's no way the US itself could have interfered.  The Arab League could not have been objective.  The EU would never have waded in.   The International Criminal Court would not have had jurisdiction.  Without the UN, its hard to envision how the investigation, particularly given its depth and breadth, could have been carried out. 

Despite the fracas over what may have been last-minute redactions of names from the report, Mehlis and Kofi Annan also deserve credit for not holding back on explosive and detailed findings.  Many complain that the UN is fundamentally flawed in that, as a membership organization, it cannot risk the ire of even outlaw Member States, but in this case that wasn't true.

It remains to be seen what the Security Council will do with Mehlis' report, but the people of Lebanon already feel some sense of satisfaction that the facts they all suspected have been brought to light by an objective source.

Here's another example of why - if we are ever shortsighted enough to abandon or significantly scale back the UN - we will find ourselves with the impossible task of having to recreate what we destroyed.


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The son of slain former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri called Saturday for an international [Read More]

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» In Defense of the United Nations from Political Animal
IN DEFENSE OF THE UNITED NATIONS....Suzanne Nossel suggests that UN bashers should take a look at its role in investigating the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri:Without a broadly mandated UN, how could the Hariri case have moved... [Read More]


I heard yesterday that the Mehlis report was read, in its entirety, on al-Jazira. (Try to imagine that happenisn on CNN or FOX.) In many parts of the world, mainly outside the US, people still believe that there is such a thing as the international community, and that the UN is its voice, and the chief agent of its efforts to govern itself. Some may find this belief overly idealistic or deluded, but it is a belief that is real and politically powerful nonetheless.

If we want this report to help secure positive results for the region, and the world, is important that we work to protect the integrity and the objectivity of the investigative process, and the international legitimacy of the response. To the extent that the report comes to be seen as merely a tool for the separate pursuits of the national strategic interests of the US and France, and those powerful countries are seen as co-opting the agencies of UN for their own limited purposes, to the same extent the report will be disparaged and forgotten, and any international momentum for a constructive response will be lost.

The goal should be (i) international assistance for the criminal prosecution, under Lebanese law, of the individuals who were involved in the conspiracy to commit murder and (ii) punishment of the Syrian state, by the international community, for any violations of international law it may have committed, with an eye toward permanently reforming Syrian behavior.

Some members of the US government may feel it is in the US interest for Syria to be permanently isolated and neutralized, or destabilized, or in some other way taken off the board as a piece in the strategic game. But in my opinion that would be a grave mistake. Both the US and the people of the region need a stable and effective Syria. We do not need another festering wound in the heart of the Middle East, or another chaotic Iraq-like power vaccuum into which every ambitious warlord, every bounding strongman, every criminal kingpin, every interested regional state, every fanatical Islamist revolutionary, and every envious and opportunistic aspirant for Levantine and Mesopotamian power will leap to claim and fight for his share of the remains.

I have responded to this post at

Just as a hypothetical, suppose the USA had succeeded in killing al Sadr during our occupation, as we announced we would do and at one point announced we had.

How different would that be from this?

How will you respond to the news that Kofi Annan, representing the UN, protected the Assad dictatorship? Will the writers at this site be intellectually honest enough to tell the truth after posting this UN love letter?

More here:

Is the theory that Mehlis himself was sitting redacting on his laptop as he spoke to Annan? Seems implausible.

I don't know exactly what happened, but even if Annan himself was overly cautious, that by no means negates the value of Mehlis' investigations and findings. Conservative bloggers and commenters can fixate all they want on this sideshow, but the real questions are around what happens next in the Security Council on Syria.

Also, on a document as important as this, its hard to imagine a fastidious German prosecutor like Mehlis inadvertently failing to save over his tracked changes. In other words, maybe Mehlis and Annan were being craftier than you give them credit for.


So they intentionally left the edits viewable?

Hmm. Perfectly plausible, yet entirely too clever for a beauracracy....


So they intentionally left the edits viewable?

Hmm. Perfectly plausible, yet entirely too clever for a beauracracy....

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