The word over here — as yet unconfirmed — is that the UN tribunal investigating the 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri will indict not only members of Hezbollah for carrying out the killing but also Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei for ordering the hit.
Sources close to the tribunal have allegedly said that “Iranians considered Hariri to be an agent of Saudi Arabia, and felt that killing him would pave the way for a Hezbollah takeover of Lebanon.” Syria isn’t off the hook — both Syrian President Bashar Assad and head of Syrian intelligence Assef Shawkat have allegedly been fingered as well — but the big news is the naming of Khameini.
A few weeks ago, Khameini preemptively declared all the tribunal’s findings, whatever they may turn out to be, “null and void.” At the time, the general assumption was that he was protecting his Hezbollah protégés. If the UN really is going to name him as the mastermind, President Obama will have little choice but to go beyond generic statements of support for Hariri (fils). It will no longer be possible to ignore the fact that Hezbollahis Iran, that Iran occupies south Lebanon, and that Iran directly threatens Israel — and therefore the US — not from a distance but along Israel’s own northern border. The indictment of Khameini, if it materializes, will show Hezbollah’s aggressions, up to and including the assassination of foreign heads of state, to be Iranian aggressions. If Obama backs away from confronting this extremely uncomfortable truth in the face of a UN indictment, it would constitute a grievous, and possibly very dangerous, capitulation.
This all has the potential to escalate fast, although I hasten to add two caveats: 1) the report of a Khameini indictment might not be true; and 2) none of the parties wants a confrontation. This report first appeared on Newsmax (an American news outlet) and was repeated on the Lebanese news website Naharnet and in the Israeli press, but I have not been able to find confirmation. More information should become available later: Lebanese daily Al Nahar is reporting that the tribunal will submit a draft indictment later today.
I’ll let you know.