Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Assassinating Salvation

It’s not easy to quantify the sense of shock, desperation, and fear that this most recent ‘hit’ [on Lebanese Army Brigadier General Francois el Hajj] by the Syrian killing machine has rendered on the country.

Indeed, for a country now all too used to the roving bands of assassins striking at its politicians [while other politicians quickly move to exploit their murder], this latest assassination has struck a particular chord. Echoing off the Army’s recent victory against a malicious terrorist cell in Nahr el Bared, and striking at the one institution in which most Lebanese had placed their faith for their salvation. A salvation they had pursued so far as to propose the amendment of the constitution, in order to bring to the nation’s head the man at the head of that [perceived] salvation.

This latest assassination is what it always is: Syria’s use of death, terror, and destruction to try and keep the Lebanese “in line”. Through every opening it receives - the last being France’s overwhelming act of diplomatic buffoonery in Lebanon's Presidential elections throughout November - the Syrian regime is reinforced in its belief that the international community is unwilling to take serious steps against it, leaving it open to kill, maim, and terrorize the Lebanese.

Hajj’s assassination comes at an important juncture and targets a man who sat atop that juncture: Given the [eventual] ascension of Army Commander, Gen. Michel Suleiman, to the Presidency, Hajj was slated to be a serious contender to the post of Army Commander; And as the Chief of Operations for the Lebanese Army, Hajj played a major role in the military campaign against the Syrian-backed terror group Fatah al Islam at Nahr el Bared.

Taken with the continued drive at the reformation and modernization of the Lebanese Army seen over the last year and half, and the attempted transformation of the institution from just a symbol of sovereignty to an effective bulwark and tool for implementing it, the above may hint at the Syrians’ choice for a target.

By murdering Hajj, the Syrians may have been sending a message aimed at making sure that none of that transformation is realized, either on the level of the Army or on the level of the Presidency.

The latter comes as the anti-Syrian parliamentary majority continues to push for the election of Suleiman as a compromise candidate in the face of Syrian and Iranian-inspired blockages [by the likes of Aoun, Hizballah, and Berri], and in avoidance of a prolonged Presidential vacancy.

For the former, it is a reminder by the Syrian regime to the country’s soldiers that any attempts to break from the “brotherly relationship” which holds them to the Syrians will result in scenes like today’s; and that the events of Nahr el Bared are to be buried, once and for all…

…this, as the Syrians "bury" their own top military and intelligence officials who might have known too much.


  1. The Majority cannot elect General Suleiman as President with the 50% +1 option. It still takes a Constitutional amendment to do that and the Constitution is very clear on the 2/3 of all the MP's and the 2/3 majority vote to pass an amendment.

    If the Majority goes for the 50+1, it will probably be for one of their own or for someone who has not seriously been discussed - it can't be for Suleiman, unless part of the "opposition" join them to amend the Constitution first, and that's not likely.

  2. Good point Ace! I'll fix it up, thanks.

  3. Anonymous1:27 AM

    Allah yer7amo...

  4. Anonymous3:43 AM

    Philosophical question:
    If a tree falls in the middle of a forest and no-one is there to hear it fall, did the Syrians cut it down?

    Oh wait, this is Blacksmiths of Lebanon; Of course they did!

  5. Arabic Coffee Pot4:25 AM

    Sorry to tell you this anonymous, but if thats the extent of your "philosophical depth", then maybe you need to read a book or two...

    ...or try reading about events in Lebanon over the past 3, 18, 30 years...

    ...then maybe you won't come out with such remarkzzz as the one you've made here.

  6. Also check out Tony Badran's piece and Michael Young's piece on the assassination and the [not so subtle] messages Syria used it to send.

  7. Anonymous6:46 AM

    How do you identify a Hezbo, or an Aounist?

    Easy, they argue using irrelevant existantial questions, that only a god might have an answer to.

    These people are only relevant because they can shout and destroy if need be, when ordered to do so. They can think by themselves but they can't think for themselves.

    Pretty deep huh?

  8. Anonymous2:39 PM

    Oh dear, how distinctly lacking in humour you guys are. But then again, maybe you can blame the Syrians for that too.

  9. ...actually blaming the Syrians for that (if in fact its true) wouldn't be too far off...

    ...wars, "battles", and assassinations have that effect on you you know.


  10. Anonymous3:16 PM

    Hmm, I may be wrong as I am apparently a few books short of knowing anything about Lebanon (although I hope coffeepot would concede that living through the civil war may actually make up a bit for the libraries of books he has read), but I could have sworn there were a couple of Lebanese, maybe even 3 of them, involvd in those wars, battles and assasinations.

    The fact is that your blaming every ailment and problem in Lebanon on Syria is as silly as any M8 statement calling them our friends and allies. We all know what Syria has been to Lebanon, theif, murderer, occupier etc. But seeing Syrias hand in everything means you are more anti-Syrian than you are pro-Lebanese because you are giving cover to any one of the many other "friends" we have in the world. You may be right that Syria wants a vacuum of power and a destablised country. But you fail in noting that they are most certainly not the only ones.

    Oh, just as a small counter to the "It was Syria wot done it" line; If the Syrians could have personally picked the next head of the Army I doubt they would have found anyone more amenable to them than Hajj.

  11. anon: The Syrians have picked someone and it [obviously] wasn't Hajj.

    As for blaming Syria, please don't try to portray the logic and analysis presented here (and elsewhere) as being cartoonish or knee-jerk reactionism, it only takes away from your own 'credibility'.

    If you have other thoughts then please share and we'll evaluate each argument based on its rationale and its merits.

  12. Anonymous4:30 PM

    Well we will see who gets the job and judge then.

    I did not question either your logic, analysis or opinion. My point is there has been not a single event since the war that you have not portrayed as a Syrian plot and at no point do you even attempt to consider alternative theories - even though there has been no actual evidence of Syrian involvement, or at least no evidence made public, for the majority of them. This strikes me as a personal vendetta rather than a call for freedom.

    If I had any credibility, I would write my own blog :)

  13. Anon:

    Knee bone connected to the shin bone.

    It seems that "friends" or "enemies" within Lebanon depends on the year, day, and hour noted. Beyond that, who funds or assists whom for what political reason is more apparent.

  14. Its not a vendetta anon, its a reading of the events, circumstances, and information.

    And again, please don't be dismissive with statements like "every event since the war", each case has its reasons given.

  15. Arabic Coffee Pot7:06 PM


    Other theories anonymous? What like that genius Aoun's theory that the governemnt is behind the assassinations? Yeah, Saad killed his dad and Amine killed his son...

    ...brilliant!!! Did Nayla kill her husband too by the way? Yes, yes, I see how smart you and Aoun are!! BSJ, please, stop putting up your lies about Syria and write about the Lebanese's penchant for killing their direct family!!

  16. Anonymous7:45 PM

    Im not being dismissive Jade. You have the right to interpret, analyse and put forward your point of view. But when it points the finger at the same people every time, even though the evidence is circumstancial and without looking at any alternatives, well it strikes me as too objective and is pandering to your hate of the Syrians rather than the love of Lebanon. But of course, that is also just an opinion. We could go around in circles so lets not. I was just giving my opinion.

    for one who has read so many books, your debating style leaves a lot to be desired and your sarcasm only goes to prove that it is the lowest form of wit.

  17. Jimmy8:38 PM

    Walid Phares on Hajj:

    General Francois Hajj was born in the Christian town of Rmeish in southern Lebanon. His home village had a history of resistance against Terror forces since the late 1960s. Many of its inhabitants enrolled in the Lebanese Army over the past decades. A number of them were involved in opposition to the Syrian occupation and Hezbollah. Hajj joined the Lebanese army Academy in 1972 and graduated in 1975. He also commanded the Special Forces brigades (Maghawir) before he was promoted to LAF operation chief. According to many sources in Lebanon, he was selected to become the next commander of the Lebanese Army. Hence, the assassination aimed at preventing Francois Hajj from being appointed by the next President, yet to be elected, as the top military man in Lebanon. General Michel Soleiman, who has been nominated by the majority coalition in Parliament for the Presidency was grooming Hajj to become his successor. In addition the slain commander had in past months and years refused to accept Hezbollah’s exclusive areas of control in south Lebanon and in the Bekaa valley. Moreover he was credited for coordinating the Lebanese Army offensive against the Fatah Islam Terror group in Nahr al Bared camp in north Lebanon over the summer. The strike can be understood as a message to the Lebanese Army not to attempt to confront terror groups in the future, including Hezbollah.

  18. anonymous:

    Your opinion is that I'm on a vendetta against the Syrians. I'm not [I've got plenty of Syrian friends whom I genuinely like and respect].

    Do I think the Syrians are the only ones doing harm to my country? No, but I do think that their actions are the ones that need to be dealt with ahead of other issues - and thats simply because they [and their 'associates' in Lebanon] are on the offensive [trying to regain control over Lebanon] and we need to protect ourselves from them.

    Anyway, now we can stop going in circles (if you like). I've simplified my position as much as possible so that I could pass it off in this comment, for more elaboration I could refer you to a few posts.

  19. Check into exactly who was General Hajj's second in command. Someone will be taking over operations right now, and with the government not being recognized by the "opposition" - he might just be able to hold on to that job. I'm guessing that the "opposition" is going to object strongly to the Government appointing a new Head of Operations.

    The #2 guy is now the #1 guy.

  20. Anonymous2:27 AM

    To the one who didn't study our history...

    The principles of the Alawite Regime in Syria:

    No Principle (when the situation requires)
    Create the fire then sell the water
    Defeat is victory
    Always negotiate on the verge of the abyss
    There are no 'burned' cards
    The regime never fights, others fight for it
    Survival is revival

  21. Ace, who is the #2 guy?

  22. I've only seen this posted one place - so I don't have any confirmation on it. It needs to be checked out.

    I hear that General Qassem was the #2 guy in operations and the deputy of General Hajj, and he is the brother of Naiim Qassem who just replaced Nasrallah as head of the Hezbollah military in the last day or so.

    IF (and it's a big IF, until confirmed by more than one source) - this is true, then I would think this is an important development. What do you think the "odds" are that Naiim Qassem's brother is not (at the very least) a Hezbollah sympathizer?

    I have not been able to find an operations list to see what the order of command is.

  23. How did that happen?

  24. Anonymous12:22 PM

    taamir, ein Helwé, Osbat al islam, jund el cham for the latest investigations about Hajj's assassination
    Check ou Bahia pockets and which organization she financed.

    Yesterday Rmeish people were fighting with saad hariri when he came to present his condoleance, accusing him of the assassination.

  25. Arabic Coffee Pot3:42 PM

    Thats because, with all due respect, they don't know what they're talking about.

    Bahia is an idiot, but she's not running a terrorist organization. Both Osbat al Islam and Jund al Cham are run by Syria, funded by Iran, and locally managed by Hizballah.

  26. One point here is perhaps made obvious only by near total ignorance of the situation and politics:

    When people shoot at your leadership, it can be taken as an indication that you were doing the right thing. Or at least, the wrong thing according to the interests of the shooter.

    Having said that, I realize that alone is a darn good reason why no-one should jump to the assumption that "syria done it" - indeed, provoking that assumption could have been the whole idea.

    Ok, I've read too many LeCarre' novels in my life. Still, I doubt it would have hurt Mossad's feelings any to remove an effective military leader and potential effective political leader (perhaps, one day) AND make Syria take the blame.

    Or, someone domestic might have thought him to be a political threat, or saw him as a personal enemy for some reason or another.

    I do know this - it would be SOP for EVERYONE - from Mossad to CIA to CISUS to whatever KGB is now to exploit the hell out of the chaos created by leapinig at a premise and sprawling to a conclusion.

    That's not an insult to those agencies - they'd be derelict in their duties if they didn't!

    Seems to me that Lebanon needs to put some serious energy into developing an effective Intel/counterintelligence outfit of it's own.

  27. True Blue5:58 PM

    If the Israelis knocked off anyone related to the alawite regime, the syrians would go running to the israelis and ask them whats wrong!

    The Syrians were in Lebanon because Israel allowed it, and the alawites are still in power because Israel wants it.

  28. bovski7:40 PM

    I think the army gave a clear answer as to what they would like to be done in Lebanon during Gen. El Hajj's Chruch mass. The army said the politicians should go ahead and elect a conscnesus president WITHOUT preconditions. I would have loved to see stupid Aoun's facial expression when he heard that (he was in the audience) specially that the old senile general Aoun thinks that the army sympathizes with him...
    Dude, those Aounists are worth a million bucks with their "Sunni" conspiracy theories. They should just hear their general before/after Paris to see that there's only a Aounistan conspiracy that aims to destroy Lebanon...

  29. The Syrians were in Lebanon because Israel allowed it, and the alawites are still in power because Israel wants it.


    it will be a wonderful day when the arab world (including the non arabs whose lands arabs occupy) understand that Israel doesnt control it...


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