Lebanon heats up, and Mehlis hits back

All eyes in the Middle East are on Iran, but it may be Lebanon that is closer to war. On Sunday, the former head of Lebanese General Security, Gen. Jamil al-Sayyed, announced that he had been informed by his lawyer that a Damascus court had issued arrest warrants for 33 figures for misleading the international tribunal charged with bringing the killers of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri to justice. One of those individuals was a former chief investigator of the U.N.-led investigation itself, Detlev Mehlis. But in comments to Foreign Policy, Mehlis poured cold water over the truth of Sayyed's claims, and suggested that he has no intention of backing down from his work in Lebanon.

Sayyed has a particular axe to grind in this case: He was imprisoned for over four years on suspicion of being involved in Hariri's killing. And the man partially responsible for putting him behind bars was none other than Mehlis, who asked Lebanese authorities to arrest him along with three other pro-Syrian generals.

"I should mention that I am not aware of any investigation against myself and members of my previous UNIIIC-team anywhere in the world," Mehlis said. "I realize that Mr. Sayyed has brought up the story of an arrest warrant, just as he brought up the story of a French arrest warrant a year ago, and I do not believe a word of what he is saying. "

The Syrian government has so far yet to confirm whether an arrest warrant has been issued. But even if one has, Mehlis left little doubt about the opinion of such a document. "If indeed there is a Syrian arrest warrant, it would be baseless, illegal, and politically motivated, without any practical implications," he said.

As the showdown over the tribunal heats up, Mehlis's work has been fiercely attacked by the court's critics in an attempt to discredit the entire enterprise. As Syria and Hezbollah attempt to use their increased leverage within Lebanon to scuttle the court entirely, there is no doubt that such condemnations will continue. The only real question is whether anyone will speak out against them.



U.S. and Europe at odds over cyberdefense policy?

Next month, NATO is due to release a new "strategic concept" strategy document. But according to EU Observer, the drafting of the document has been held up by a disagreement between the U.S. and Europe over the concept of "active" cyberdefense:

"Active cyberdefence is a very sensitive topic. Many experts have brought it up, that in order to have defence, you need some offence as well. I would be very surprised if Nato at 28 will find consensus to include it," a diplomat from one of the Baltic states said.

Following attacks in 2008 on its "classified military network" the Pentagon established a new cyber-command, making "active cyberdefence" one of its policy pillars, US deputy secretary of defence William J. Lynn said on 15 September in Brussels at an event hosted by the Security and Defence Agenda think-tank.

The US cyber-command goes beyond the passive "Maginot Line" mentality of the past, he explained. Passive defence systems are sufficient to meet 80 percent of attacks. But the other 20 percent need active systems, such as sensors that operate at network speed to detect and block intrusions.

Against this background, Mr Lynn in September called for "collective defence" - the core principle of the alliance - to be applied to computer networks. "The Cold War concepts of shared warning apply in the 21st century to cyber security. Just as our air defences, our missile defences have been linked so too do our cyber defences need to be linked as well," he said.

European allies are keen to protect themselves against Estonia-type cyber strikes (which saw bank and government websites paralysed in 2007). But they are showing little appetite for US-model "pre-emptive cyber-strikes" on hostile countries or organisations.

The argument takes place against the backdrop of suspicion that the United States was behind the "Stuxnet" computer worm, which may have targeted Iran's nuclear infrastructure.