A U.N. investigative body is expected to ignite tensions in the coming weeks when it releases its report on the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Sources familiar with the investigation tell Newsmax that the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon will accuse Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei of giving the order to murder Hariri, and will lay out evidence showing that the murder was committed by Iran’s Quds force and their allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The order to murder Hariri was transmitted to Imad Mugniyeh, Hezbollah’s military leader, by Quds force chief Qassem Suleymani, sources familiar with the investigation told Newsmax.
Mugniyeh and his brother-in-law, Mustapha Badr al-Dine, put together the hit team that carried out the attack. “The Iranians considered Hariri to be an agent of Saudi Arabia, and felt that killing him would pave the way for a Hezbollah take-over of Lebanon,” the sources said.
Syrian President Bashar al-Aassad, and his brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, the head of Syrian intelligence, also played key roles in the assassination plot, the sources told Newsmax.
As news of the tribunal’s focus on Iran and Hezbollah has leaked out in recent weeks, Hezbollah leaders have threatened to seize key government buildings and launch a new war against Israel.
In a fiery speech on Nov. 11, Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said his fighters would "chop off the hand that dared to accuse or detain members” of the Iranian-backed group.
"We await the day the indictments will be released. We are ready for any Israeli war on Lebanon and will again be victorious . . .Whoever thinks that threatening us with another Israel war will scare us is mistaken. On the contrary, whoever speaks of another war is bearing good news not threatening us."
Nasrallah recently ordered the Hezbollah liaison officer in Tehran to return home, naming him as chief of military operations in south Lebanon and along the border with Israel.
The appointment of Hashim Safi al-Din as the new military commander “is the most ominous sign to date of the seriousness Iran and Hezbollah attach to their plans for an early war with Israel,” according to the Israeli website, Debkafile.
In mid-October, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Lebanon and toured Hezbollah outposts along the Israeli border, where he was welcomed by crowds carrying his portrait and that of Ayatollah Khamenei.
Hezbollah and its allies are trying to convince the Lebanese government to reject the findings of the U.N. tribunal even before they are published.
“The situation is very tense,” Lebanese Christian leader Tony Nissi told Newsmax from Beirut. “We hear government ministers saying that if the price of the truth is civil war, then we don’t want the truth."
Hariri died when a powerful car bomb ripped through his armor-plated limousine as he was driving in a convoy near the St. George Hotel in Beirut. The massive blast killed eight bodyguards traveling with him and 14 innocent bystanders as well.
The murder gave birth to a popular movement known as the Cedars Revolution and huge street protests demanding the withdrawal of Syrian occupation troops from the country.
It also led to the creation of the United Nations Special Tribunal for Lebanon, initially led by a German judge named Detlev Mehlis.
Mehlis issued a blistering report in October 2005 accusing Syria of Hariri’s murder, and revealed a dramatic showdown between President al-Aassad and Hariri in the Syrian president’s offices six months before his murder, during which al-Aassad threatened to “break Lebanon over [his] head.” The tribunal issued arrest warrants for four Lebanese generals it alleged were also involved in the plot.
But after Mehlis resigned, the investigation stalled until February 2008, when a young Lebanese intelligence officer provided stunning new information implicating top officials in the Iranian-backed Hezbollah party of Lebanon.
Just days after Captain Wissam Eid met with the U.N. investigators in Beirut and provided them with a detailed analysis of cell phone records showing Hezbollah’s involvement, he was murdered in a car-bombing similar to the one that killed Hariri.
The cell phone analysis linked phones carried by the hit team to known telephones of Hezbollah leaders. It also showed linkages to the current head of Lebanon’s internal security service, Col. Wissam al-Hassan, who was head of Hariri’s security detail at the time of the murder.
An internal tribunal memorandum, leaked to the Canadian TV network CBC, found that al-Hassan, who was supposed to accompany Hariri on the day of his murder, provided a false alibi to investigators and made several calls that morning to Hussein Khalil, the No. 2 official of Hezbollah.
The cell phone records showed that Khalil then called Wafic Safa, a top Hezbollah security official now accused by the tribunal as a key member of the assassination team.
The French authorities initially discovered the cell phone linkages to Hezbollah when investigating the assassination of Samir Kassir, a Franco-Lebanese journalist who was murdered less than four months after Hariri.
“The man who bought the cell phones used in both murders was a member of Lebanese Hezbollah, but he was directly attached to the Iranian Quds force,” a source familiar with the French investigation told Newsmax.
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