Afghanistan – The Netherlands: BBC and other international media reported that the Netherlands military mission has ended its operations and is withdrawing. They transferred command of Oruzgan to the US and Australians on Sunday.
Their departure will serve as a validation of the Taliban long term strategy of outlasting the foreigners and a recruitment appeal: the Taliban will be around after the foreigners have left. A Taliban spokesman congratulated the Netherlands today.
The Dutch soldiers, maligned in European NATO circles for lax military discipline, performed extremely well under combat conditions in Afghanistan … far better than many other NATO contingents.
Lebanon-Syria-Saudi Arabia: Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President al Asad visited Lebanon over the weekend and spoke with President Suleiman and Prime Minister Hariri with the purpose of preventing factional and sectarian rivalry from leading to more internal violence.
The operating assumption of the UN tribunal investigating the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005 has been that Syrian intelligence agents were responsible. This hypothesis resulted in the withdrawal of Syrian forces, increased US and French influence in Lebanon for a time, increased strain with Saudi Arabia, and an enormous increase in Iranian influence with Lebanese Hezbollah.
The most recent investigations indicate the Hezbollah agents were the assassins. That hypothesis is the basis for the new Syrian and Saudi overture to the Beirut government. The Hezbollah leader Nasrallah denies that Hezbollah had anything to do with the Hariri murder, has denounced the new tentative findings and threatened violence in the event they become final.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s embrace of the Syrian President and the Saudi King indicates the evidence has persuaded him. Saad is the son of the assassinated prime minister. The Saudis are strong supporters of the Hariris.
The only actor that would benefit from discord in Lebanon among Arabs, whether Sunni or Shiites, is Iran.
Phi Beta Iota: UN Tribunals, with their world-class investigative capabilities, are supposed to help build capacity and verify fact–not make arrests or otherwise play Rambo. In Guatemala a UN Tribunal cleared the President who was “framed” for a political murder; now in Lebanon the UN has cleared a government. The value of the UN as a deviner of truth cannot be over-stated; the greatest threat to the UN’s success in this arena is unethical UN officers who choose to aggrandize their security sections by manipulating and fabricating threat information, thus reducing the number of positions available for investigators. After UN Tribunals should come regional UN decision-support centres that can address all ten high level threats to humanity while enabling “Deliver As One” harmonization not only across all twelve polices for UN programmes, but across all incoming funding sources UN and non-UN. The UN is evolving in a most constructive direction as a finder of fact that helps create a prosperous world at peace.