Names deleted from Mehlis Report?

Hm. According to an AP story, the names of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother, his brother-in-law and “other top Syrians” were edited out of the Mehlis report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

BAGHDAD — Hm. According to this story, the names of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother, his brother-in-law and “other top Syrians” were edited out of the Mehlis report on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

At a hastily called news conference, Mehlis told reporters that he stands by the final version and deleted names becausesince they were identified by a witness and had not been corroborated “it could give the wrong impression” of guilt.
“None of these changes were influenced by anyone,” Mehlis said.

Well, let’s not let the AP tell us what’s what. Here’s a (big) “PDF file showing all the markups”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Final_Mehlis_report_markup.pdf. And here’s a “list of the markups”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Mehlis_changes.pdf just to make things easier.
The key passage seems to be this one, on page 29 (strike-throughs are deleted in the final copy, bold-faced is an insertion):

96. One witness of Syrian origin but resident in Lebanon, who claims to have worked for the Syrian intelligence services in Lebanon, has stated that approximately two weeks after the adoption of Security Council resolution 1559, Maher Assad, Assef Shawkat, Hassan Khalil, Bahjat Suleyman and Jamil Al-Sayyedsenior Lebanese and Syrian officials decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri. He claimed that Sayyeda senior Lebanese security official went several times to Syria to plan the crime, meeting once at the Meridian HotelHotel in Damascus and several times at the Presidential Place and the office of Shawkata senior Syrian security official. The last meeting was held in the house of Shawkatthe same senior Syrian security official approximately 7seven to 10 days before the assassination and included Mustapha Hamdananother senior Lebanese security official. The witness had close contact with high ranked Syrian officers posted in Lebanon.

Ho, ho! Now, I’m no expert on Lebanon — or Syria for that matter — but why did Mehlis name names and then take them out? Fortunately, the markup has a time-stamp on all the changes. By examining the schedule of the special representative Detlev Mehlis, we can get an idea as to whether “these changes were influenced by anyone.” And, potentially, by whom.
Coincidentally enough, according a source of mine at the U.N., Mehlis and Secretary-General Kofi Annan met at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. The meeting was 50 minutes long. So that gives us a window of 11:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m. on Oct. 20. When were the names deleted? According to my copy of the Word document, which doesn’t show it in the PDF I created, the names in the section I quoted above were deleted at 11:55 a.m. under the name of “special representative.” In the middle of a meeting with the Secretary-General? and “none” of the changes were influenced by anyone? Annan had no input during that meeting? Really? That’s unusual. A friend of mine suggested the meeting with Annan — and the deletion of the names — was the “please don’t get Syria invaded” meeting.
The two men also met later that day from 3-3:45 p.m. There appear to be no substantive changes during that meeting, and most of the ones immediately prior to it are corrections of typos and the like.
So, what happened in that first meeting? Who else was present? And why take out the names? I’m sure a lot of Lebanese would like to know.
[UPDATE 10/22/05 12:00:59 PM: Mehlis says the names were deleted to protect the “presumption of innocence.” I suppose that’s a valid reason, but indictments are handed down all the time in the United States and other democracies with the people named in it, and that doesn’t seem to harm the presumption of innocence.]
(I made the PDF files using Mac OS X’s built-in function. Not a single character was changed in making these PDFs. “Here’s the original Word document”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/Final_Mehlis_report.doc if people are interested.)

Squids and Whales

It’s Friday in Baghdad, and Iraqis are, by and large, in the mosques hearing the imams call them closer to Allah. Some are being told the new constitution is a grand thing for Iraq, that it will secure their place and the future for their children. Others are being told the exact opposite.

BAGHDAD — It’s Friday in Baghdad, and Iraqis are, by and large, in the mosques hearing the imams call them closer to Allah. Some are being told the new constitution is a grand thing for Iraq, that it will secure their place and the future for their children. Others are being told the exact opposite.
Rory Carroll is safe in the Green Zone and being debriefed. I was heavily involved in the information-gathering part of his release, passing on what we could find to the relevant authorities and working our Sadr City contacts. In the end, however, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior were the guys who got him out without a shot being fired. A security firm I know that requests anonymity was highly complimentary of the local authorities, and were surprised as I am. We’re all pleasantly surprised, in fact. The British and Americans were in supporting roles on this one, so keep that in mind when you see the British Embassy congratulating itself on a job well-done.
Rory’s story will be told, but not now. For the moment, I’m just grateful he’s going home.
The referendum and “Saddam trial”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1120567,00.html are now in abeyance. We’re all waiting to see the results of the audit on the vote count, and whether funny business is going on in Mosul or not. A source within the Electoral Commission says all ballots on the recount seem clean — except for Mosul. But we have no numbers and everyone has clammed up. I know the possibility of vote fraud, which I reported on “here”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/archives/2005/10/curious_numbers.php and “here”:http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1119617,00.html this week, is starting to “get some traction”:http://www.newsday.com/news/local/longisland/politics/ny-wovote194475442oct19,0,5677675.story?coll=ny-lipolitics-print.
There are titanic forces moving beneath the surface all over the place: Iran, Iraq, Syria, France, the United States, Britain. They’re all related and I’m desperately trying to discern what’s happening, but it’s like watching the struggle of giant squids and sperm whales by observing the ripples on the surface. This is the new Great Game and the stakes are very high, indeed. With the publication of the “Mehlis report”:http://www.back-to-iraq.com/Files/mehlisreport.pdf — which I’m reading now — things will start to move very quickly now, I think, and there’s a straight road running from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, with off-ramps to the Palestinian camps of Lebanon to the Syrian border to Jordan. Even, I suspect, to the kidnapping of Rory in some way.
None of these vague generalities will be news to anyone reading this site, as you’re probably also someone who keeps up with the news of the region. And truth be told, I don’t have anything to add right now… I’m just catching my breath from this week.
My mental state is not what it was; I’m irritable and snappish, with less patience than ever before. Panic attacks are becoming more common and sleep less so. And I’ve just been back less than two weeks. So when I’m annoyed with the Iraqi people, or scornful — and this, unfortunately, happens more often than I’d like these days — I try to remember that they’ve been through a lot and have been forced to endure a lot. Perspective, you know. How the Iraqis do it, week after week, for 32 months is beyond me. They don’t take Zoloft much and psychotherapy isn’t a common thing here.
But they do have their mosques, where they take comfort and find solidarity. And today, many of them are hearing radically different views of their future and being told that Allah wants them to fight for one set of tomorrows or another. All the while forces and actors outside their control draw their plans that will change their lives.
Some game.