May 23, 2009
US Fears Hezbollah Will Win Election - Interferes
"The people of Lebanon must be able to choose their own representatives in open and fair elections, without the specter of violence or intimidation, and free of outside interference," Clinton said during an unannounced visit to Beirut.
Clinton calls for 'open and fair' Lebanon elections, CNN, April 23, 2009
"I do not come here to back any particular party or any particular person. I come here to back certain principles," Biden said later with President Michel Suleiman. "We will evaluate the shape of our assistance programs based on the composition of the new government and the policies it advocates."
Biden visits Lebanon, offers support for government, LAT, May 22, 2009
SPIEGEL has learned from sources close to the tribunal and verified by examining internal documents, that the Hariri case is about to take a sensational turn. Intensive investigations in Lebanon are all pointing to a new conclusion: that it was not the Syrians, but instead special forces of the Lebanese Shiite organization Hezbollah ("Party of God") that planned and executed the diabolical attack.
New Evidence Points to Hezbollah in Hariri Murder, SPIEGEL, May 23, 2009
Aside from that:
I personally know a bit or two about the Spiegel publications interior workings and the above leaked Hariri story is quite curious:
Spiegel is the biggest German news-magazine and the Hariri/Hezbollah story is part of next weeks print edition that will not be available for sale until Monday. The German Spiegel website carries some of the Spiegel print stories but only after the print edition published them. It mostly creates its own content. The English part of the Spiegel website carries translated stories from the German website and very few pieces from the print edition. Those usually with a few days timelag.
This is the very first time I see a story from the German print edition pre-published on the (money losing) English Spiegel site while it is not even available on the (profitable) German Spiegel website.
Someone really felt a huge urge to get the Hariri/Hezbollah story out in English very, very fast and pulled some serious string at the Spiegel chief-editor level to get that done. This might well be the same person(s) that leaked the story.
One of the two Spiegel editors-in chief is Mathias Müller von Blumencron. He was Spiegel's Washington and New York correspondent from 1996 to 2000 and still has excellent connections there. After 2000 he edited the Spiegel website, turned it to the right and introduced the English part. Since 2008 he is one of the two editors-in-chief of the whole Spiegel publishing group.
Thanks to Mathias, the Spiegel English website has an exchange agreement with the New York Times website. Expect a 'reprint' of the Hariri story there soon.
Now - who gave Mathias that call?
Posted by b on May 23, 2009 at 03:08 PM | Permalink
what a bunch of baloney
Posted by: annie | May 23, 2009 6:47:23 PM | 1
The question is; who will win the election and what are the consequences (for Lebanon, et al) if it's the opposition that wins?
1) Will Israel look for an opportunity/excuse to attack?
2) Will the U.S. accept the outcome?
3) Will Hizbullah, through the Lebanese government, be able to acquire bigger and better weapons for Lebanon's defense?
Posted by: Lysander | May 23, 2009 7:05:35 PM | 2
Like the Angry Arab says, this is not a wise intervention. Why do they throw away all the experience gained in western elections that foreign interference in an election always has a negative effect on the voters? Lebanon is not different from other countries in that respect.
Just think of the outrage in the US, when Europeans were thought to be interfering in the presidential elections.
Also it's completely misconceived. I don't think the Lebanese would be bothered in the slightest, if it were "discovered" that Hariri had been murdered by Hizbullah. It would be a completely rational thing for Hizbullah to have done, and that's the way Lebanese would think. Be a politician, risk assassination. If it's the Syrians, that would be more of a problem, as that would open the road to Israel or the US attacking Syria. Suggesting that it was Hizbullah closes off the possibility of blaming Syria again. Any Lebanese will only compare such a killing with Israeli and US targetted assassinations.
The US has been talking to the March 14 crowd too much; one can't get a balanced view from them.
So it looks like Hizbullah will be in power after the election.
Posted by: alex_no | May 23, 2009 7:10:25 PM | 3
In a bombshell report published Saturday, the German weekly Der Spiegel says the investigation into the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri is moving toward the conclusion that the Shiite militia Hezbollah was behind the attack.
Based entirely on an unnamed source or sources, the Spiegel report said Lebanese investigators monitoring cellphone usage in the vicinity of the car-bomb explosion that killed Hariri lucked into a breakthrough discovery.
According to the report, the cellphones were used exclusively for phone calls among the alleged assassins except for one instance when one of the suspects used a phone to call his girlfriend.
From that single call, investigators figured out the name of the operative.
Hariri was enormously popular among all Lebanese groups, and if it's true that the United Nations tribunal has concluded that Hezbollah was behind the assassination, it would have a huge effect on the country, where a critical election is being held on June 7.
But the story raises some unanswered questions. In addition to citing only an anonymous source or sources, it alludes to "documents" to bolster its claims,but they are neither described nor shown in the report..
Posted by: annie | May 23, 2009 8:00:31 PM | 4
there's more @ the link..
Posted by: annie | May 23, 2009 8:03:50 PM | 5
Don't forget it is Hariri's son who is advising the US.
Posted by: alex_no | May 23, 2009 8:20:47 PM | 6
Building a murder conspiracy against the most potent up and coming political party in an Arab world overwhelmingly bereft of electoral politics, based on a 'source' that remains unnamed, is rather unseemly for a well-reputed publication like Der Spiegel.
Add to that the fact that serious Lebanon-dedicated commentators have not hinted at any Hezbollah involvement in the deed, makes the Spiegel story sound more like a negative political tactic parading as a news item.
Posted by: annie | May 23, 2009 8:30:57 PM | 7
Seems like Biden should be over there lecturing the Lebanese on how not get all bogged down with the past and instead, be concentrating on looking toward the future. If it's good enough for us.....
Posted by: anna missed | May 23, 2009 10:02:46 PM | 8
It's good to see that democracy promotion is alive and well in Washington [not!]
Oh well, the democracy promoters sent lots of top Bush administration officials to Nicaragua, including Rumsfeld, to make sure the Sandinista candidate, Daniel Ortega, didn't win the election.
He won anyway. And leftist candidates have won most presidencies in Latin America. Maybe Lebanon will be the first domino to fall in the Middle East, in a wave of genuine, new democracies, not beholden to the democracy promoters.
Posted by: JohnH | May 23, 2009 10:14:05 PM | 9
The Neocon-Zionist Conspiracy is in overdrive, but it's their Last Hurrah.
Posted by: Parviz | May 24, 2009 1:52:56 AM | 10
how can this be ? Only 30 years ago, the USA/Israel figured the South Lebanese were a bunch of clueless shepherds.
Posted by: jony_b_cool | May 24, 2009 2:29:08 AM | 11
Late yesterday and hours after the English version of the Hariri story the German one was published too. Very curious ... as said above - this is VERY unusual and goes against the internal SPIEGEL dynamics (and profits) (Print is always first, the German website second, the English website neglectible)
Anyway - Haaretz is rightly very skeptical about it: How will 'revelation' on Hariri impact Lebanon vote?
The report should be treated cautiously for now, as the sources behind it remain unclear, and many of those who could testify to its veracity are dead or missing.
If the report is verified as accurate, questions would still abound over Hezbollah's motivation in eliminating Hariri. The former prime minister accumulated many enemies during his political climb, from business interests who claimed he reneged on debts to Islamic fundamentalists who objected to his secular politics.
The UN investigator will now apparently be forced to either confirm or deny the Der Spiegel report to prevent the international body from being dragged into the Lebanese electoral maelstrom.
Posted by: b | May 24, 2009 3:50:39 AM | 12
Robert Fisk: Biden's real mission is to stop Hizbollah
So the American Vice-President believes in democracy. That's good news. And the President of Lebanon, Michel Sleiman – a man with infinitely more intelligence than Mr Obama's number two – warned him of the number of Israeli "spies" caught in the past few weeks – and asked him to protect Lebanon.
Mr Biden went along with this and talked about "the will of the Lebanese people" (always important if they are voting for pro-American candidates) and talked about "our commitment to mutual principles and values" (which might not last too long if the Hizbollah alliance wins the 7 June national elections).
At the end of the day, it was the same old story. Mr Biden went to talk to Fouad Sinioura, the Prime Minister (who was appointed, not elected). He chatted to the President (who may have to create a "middle block" to prevent Hizbollah winning (oh, terrible thought) and spoke to Nabih Berrih who might be the Hizbollah's greatest ally if the wrong side wins in the true and fair elections which the West promises. And that's that.
In the early afternoon, the Lebanese people were ordered to leave their beautiful coastline as His Honour Mr Biden was taken to the airport and we all went indoors in case someone wanted to blow them up.
Of course, no one blew them up. They weren't worth it. It was just another American attempt to show up how powerful they are and how weak we are and how Mr Obama will show up for democracy. Some hope.
Posted by: b | May 24, 2009 1:42:47 PM | 13
The Hezb provides community and structure (as well as efficient, it is said, defense.)
The Iranian revolution was rad populist, socialist, re-distributive, and has continued unwaveringly along that line. No matter how much ppl bitch about it, that is its recipe for success, and it has worked.
Saddam before and during sanctions had a similar bent...Hamas is in the same tradition, co-opting religion for political support, bit late in the day, all that.
All these movements, successful or burgeoning or struggling, are grass roots, just the type of thing the US Xtians or agnostic Vermonters would love to set up.
Terrorists! All of em!
The main powers, military and corporate, will do anything to smash any form of ‘socialism’ or sharing. Therefore, the break up of Yugoslavia, amongst other things. Gangsters - used to be called robber barons - now big corporations must have a free sway to exploit and indulge in rapine.
It has absolutely nothing to do with religion, culture, mind sets - only with social organization, self determination etc. which the US will not allow, as it is on the end of its rope, and must capitalize on its military might. It must exploit third world ppl and their resources without flinching and in the only way it knows how: breaking up communities, agriculture, smashing socialist gvmts, etc. A peon in India, Iraq, Kosovo, Afghanistan, must live miserably and work hard, very hard, for a pittance, so that big corps and western gvmts can rake it in. Slavery is outsourced and legitimized under the label of globalization and trickle down.
Posted by: Tangerine | May 24, 2009 1:54:22 PM | 14
@Tangerine @14 - spot on
Syria Comment - Spiegel article Probably a Plant
Forget the "probably" ... the SC piece and the comments have various facts that debunk the story.
Now who planted it?
Posted by: b | May 24, 2009 2:10:28 PM | 15
lebanon, dear, here you go again...
watch out this democracy of yours
well said, tangerine
i'd only disagree here: "as well as efficient, it is said, defense"
...didn't a bunch of hezb folks kicked some "super military" terrorist arses few summers ago?
Posted by: rudolf | May 24, 2009 2:14:58 PM | 16
Saddam before and during sanctions had a similar bent
Let's not mix up Saddam with the populists, Tangerine. Saddam was a dictator through and through. He may have taken populist actions to help defend his power, but that was convenience politics.
b@15 Now who planted it?
I can't see that as a real question; it's obvious. Somewhere between Sa'd Hariri and the United States.
By the way, the Angry Arab, who after all has a pretty good knowledge of Lebanese politics, thinks that March 14 will nevertheless win the election, not because of this, but rather Nasrallah's speech at the beginning of May.
Posted by: alex_no | May 24, 2009 2:26:03 PM | 17
I think you make the mistake of projecting the US media standard outwards. The majority of Spiegel is held by its employees. http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-34773828_ITM>Recently the now former editor in chief has been reminded painfully of this. As such the ownership structure of this news magazine is not beholden to the kind of corporate pressure that apparently seem to distort most American media into some Orwellian caricature of journalism. Of course there is editorial bias - there always is - but it will be intrinsic and not systemic.
The choice of what gets promoted to the English site seems to reflect what the Spiegel editors think is of most interest and relevance to an international audience. This news certainly seems to fit the bill - also most of the sourcing for this story will already have been in English making it easier to put this out in both languages simultaneously. I think to read any more into it is a waste of time. Not that this kind of Spiegel astrology doesn't have a long tradition in Germany as well. Kind of amusing to see it repeated on US blogs now.
And BTW there is no rule that something has to be in print first before it goes on the website. Spiegel is a WEEKLY news magazine. The Spiegel.de site would be totally worthless if it only contained one week stale news.
Posted by: quax | May 25, 2009 12:26:48 AM | 18
@quax - I beg to differ. I have quite personal insight on how Spiegel is run and how stories are made (or not made). The rule is print 1, web 2, English web 3. Anything running against that must have been decided at the very top. In this case the whole story was run on the web before it sold in print. Economically it was a bad decision. A teaser on the web on Saturday would have been a fine way to make additional sells of the print edition on Monday. Publishing the whole story on the web on Saturday will sell less print (where the real money is made).
Someone must have intervened to "get the story out" like that.
Posted by: b | May 25, 2009 4:44:32 AM | 19
The English article is indeed complete length. The German one is not. I admit that this is unusual, but the German abbreviated one has exactly the right teaser length that you would expect for it i.e. to serve the purpose of making German readers interested in the matter pick up the new Spiegel print copy today. On the other hand the timing for the English complete article will give Spiegel a nice international resonance drawing traffic to the English site. The fact that this is so close to the Lebanese election only helps Spiegel in that regard.
What doesn't compute for me is your claim that Spiegel follows a simple print first rule. If been reading Spiegel the magazin for about thirty years now, and read their online presence since they started with it. The online content has now a front page halftime of 24 hours. An the site is updated throughout the day. This simply does not gel with a print first mandate.
Posted by: quax | May 25, 2009 1:36:55 PM | 20
It doesnt take a rocket scientist to see this Hezbollah did Hariri meme is about helping sink Hez at the elections....
That helps us understand WHO is behind this play...
Posted by: brian | May 25, 2009 6:29:50 PM | 21
'When Joe Biden came to town yesterday he was accused by Hizbollah of interfering in Lebanese domestic affairs. And I thought, they may be right. '
So the American Vice-President believes in democracy. '
No he doesnt....thats just PR.
Now what difference is there between Joe and Dick? From the point of view of the Lebanese..nothing!
Gore Vidal:'US is a one party system with two right wings'
Posted by: brian | May 25, 2009 6:36:37 PM | 22
french paper "Libération" (whose only deep historical researches could explain why it's still considered "left" ) did something funny with that Spiegel paper..
On May 24th, they titled "Meurtre d’Hariri au Liban: l’enquête pointerait le Hezbollah" (ie they kept the conditional used on source).
Of course the article was widely mocked in the associated comments (except by the usual pro-Israel fanatics lurking around). Nothing special
but 2 days later (today), they republished the thing, but this time they changed the header to an insane :
"le Hezbollah, CERVEAU (ie the Brain) de l'assassinat d'Hariri". No more conditional on the title, Hezbollah just did it, magic !
cherry on the cake, it's now signed by the "Service Etranger" (Foreign Department ;-) , I guess it was supposed to give some credibility to the header...
Posted by: totoro | May 26, 2009 10:04:37 AM | 23