Affairs

Diplomacy

Spies and videotape— Beirut

Preface

There has been no lack of excitement in Lebanon this summer.

Spying

10 August 2010

There has been no lack of excitement in Lebanon this summer. If someone was to set a spy movie in this small Mediterranean country, they would have a hard time beating the real thing. In the past two months, a slew of alleged Israeli spies has been uncovered, the Hariri murder case has been revived, and an escalation of hostilities with Israel avoided.

Reappearing after a long lull, the International Tribunal in The Hague, charged with investigating the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in a massive car bomb in 2005, has announced it would make public indictments in September.

With the Tribunal looming, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah pre-empted any accusations with a series of well-orchestrated television appearances. Nasrallah’s latest stunt, a two-hour press conference that took place last Monday, offered a thorough history of Israeli spying in Lebanon, amply embellished with aerial pictures and footage of alleged spies making confessions. Hezbollah released exclusive images of Israeli reconnaissance planes that had been filming the exact routes used by Rafik Hariri. “Is it just a coincidence that the Israelis were surveilling these areas in such detail before the assassination?” asked Nasrallah, before adding that a presumed Israeli spy was found to be very near the scene of the crime, just one day before.

Though not everyone was convinced by his revelations, Nasrallah timed his appearances to coincide with the spy discovery scandals. Dozens of Lebanese have been accused of spying for Israel this year. Last month, high ranking-employees at the national mobile phone company were said to be working for Israel (mobile phone records are at the heart of the Tribunal’s investigation) and just last week, a former Lebanese General and a confidant to Christian leader General Michel Aoun –Hezbollah’s closest ally in Lebanon – allegedly admitted passing on information to Israel (prompting Aoun to declare that even Jesus Christ had been betrayed by Judas).

Nasrallah has warned that if the Tribunal does not take into account these findings, he will consider it to be politicised. No doubt, this Ramadan will be a bumpy one for Lebanon’s politicians. Come this autumn, with the Tribunal’s declarations and the scheduled visit of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Lebanese should brace themselves for a new wave of surprises, in this complicated saga.

Monocle 24

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