The curse of Hariri
It is striking that Hezbollah avoided accusing Israel for the assassination of one of its senior field commanders, Mustafa Badreddine.
Badreddine was reportedly killed in an explosion near the Damascus airport and Israel, Hezbollah’s perennial enemy, is a likely suspect. It would have been completely natural for Hezbollah to blame Israel for the assassination, whether it actually had evidence or not, but instead the group pointed at “takfirist gangs”.
Badreddine has been directly linked to the Rafik Hariri assassination in February 2005, which changed the political and security situation in Lebanon and altered the face of the entire region. Badreddine was famously one of Hezbollah Secretary- General Hassan Nasrallah’s “untouchables”, a group of senior figures Hezbollah refused to surrender to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon investigating the assassination of the former prime minister.
So why did Hezbollah bypass Israel and Mossad to blame unnamed “takfirist gangs”?
It is clear that Hezbollah is in dire need to justify its role in the Syrian conflict, which has decimated the group’s leadership and cost the lives of hundreds of Lebanese youth who should have been studying at university, not fighting a sectarian war across the border. Most interestingly, in all of Hezbollah’s flowery praise of Badreddine as a “martyr”, there was no mention of what he was doing in Damascus.
Hezbollah could not blame Israel as this would place the group in a tough position — Hezbollah’s supporters would fully expect it to strike back at Tel Aviv following this. At a time when Hezbollah is mired in the Syrian conflict, this is something it simply cannot do.
There are a number of other interesting angles to Badreddine’s assassination, not least that this now, finally, ties up the loose ends related to the Hariri assassination.
So, is this the curse of Hariri, which is resolutely following anybody and everybody who was thought to be involved in this crime or is this the curse of Lebanon, which is suffering at the hands of a militia that is intent on embroiling it in crises and conflicts beyond its borders, all part of serving Iran’s expansionist regional project?
Badreddine was implicated in not only the Hariri assassination. His Hezbollah career is a litany of terrorist plots, including an attempt on the United States and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983. The attack would have been one of the worst terrorist attacks in the Middle East in the 20th century if not for faulty wiring on a massive truck bomb. Ultimately five people died in the attack, which was subsequently traced to Iran.
In the end, the results are clear: A number of senior Syrian and Hezbollah figures have been killed who would have been involved, in one way or another, in the crimes committed by the Syrian regime in Lebanon, including the Hariri assassination.
Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan, who infamously led the Syrian security apparatus in Lebanon and would have been well aware of all ties between the Assad regime and Hezbollah, was shot to death in a Syrian hospital in 2005 under mysterious circumstances
After his death, many others who also would have known the secrets of the relationship between Syrian and Hezbollah died in unexplained circumstances. Hezbollah security chief Imad Mughniyeh was assassinated in Damascus in 2008. Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, adviser for arms procurement and strategic weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad, was assassinated in Syria in 2008. Syrian Deputy Defence Minister Major-General Assef Shawkat was killed in a bomb attack in Damascus in 2012, alongside other senior Syrian officials. Syrian intelligence chief Rustom Ghazaleh, who succeeded Kanaan, was killed under mysterious circumstances in April 2015.
So, is it a coincidence that all these people were reportedly involved in the Hariri assassination and the subsequent international tribunal investigating this and they all died under suspicious circumstances or can it be explained by the fact that such figures, who are embroiled in crimes such as this, will necessarily die under such circumstances?
Ultimately, the end result is the same.