14 December 2007

The assassination of Brigadier François Al-Hajj

In an article, which otherwise highlighted Bush's double standards - he doesn't seem to understand that he too is meddling in Lebanese politics - "Bush warns Syria not to interfere in Lebanese politics", Reuters speculate who was behind the attack:

"On the other hand, maybe it was forces unwilling to see the army led by an officer seen as friendly to Hezbollah and close to a Christian opposition leader. "

And what forces could that possibly be?

Bush, trying to put us off the scent, said: "Like the many victims before him, General al-Hajj was a supporter of Lebanon's independence and an opponent of Syria's interference in Lebanon's internal affairs", pointing the finger at Syria.

Given that General al-Hajj was a supporter of Lebanon's independence perhaps he was also an opponent of US interference in Lebanon's internal affairs? General Hajj is the man who led the Lebanese army's attack on Fatah-al-Islam in the Nahr al-Bared Palestinian refugee camp and it is quite possible he uncovered evidence linking the CIA or Saudi Intelligence to the affair. The level of intelligence required to carry out such a bombing could also indicate a western backed perpetrator.

As the Globe and Mail put it "al-Hajj was thought to have good relations with Damascus". The Daily Star in Lebanon also pointed out that MP Michel Aoun, leader of the Reform and Change bloc and Hizbollah ally was "a personal friend of Hajj and his nominee to succeed Suleiman as army command". So why would Syria kill him?

But let's face it, who do you think knows more about what's happening in Lebanon? Who is more given to making wild statements without any proof, indeed, where the proof points in the opposite direction? George Bush - who would have difficulty pointing Lebanon out on a map of the world - or the ME press?

According to Al-Ahram "it was unclear that Al-Hajj was associated with either team (pro or anti-Syrians), and the army has never been considered a party in the power struggle. Most Lebanese praise the army as their only non- sectarian national institution. Analysts say Al-Hajj, 55, had good relations with Syria and links with Christian opposition leader Michel Aoun, commander of the army during the Civil War. But then, so would most generals of his generation. Like Suleiman, he was a Maronite Christian.
Al-Hajj would have been among two leading contenders to head the army had Suleiman been appointed president, as agreed by both sides."

Al-Ahram quotes Paul Salem, head of the Carnegie Endowment's Middle East Centre in Beirut:

"The most sensitive post subject to the bargaining is who will be the next head of the army, and he was the most prominent candidate,"

Salem says this does not necessarily indicate that an internal faction might be responsible. "The position of the head of the army is of great concern to the big players in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, the US and Saudi Arabia. Each wants to push the army in a certain direction -- the US wants it to be an army that works with them and the Syrians want it to work under them," he said. Note the elephant in the room. No mention here of one of the principal suspects: Israel. But anyway, they must all be suspects, not just Syria and Iran.

In the same article, Omar Nashabe, a criminology expert and justice editor for the pro-opposition daily Al-Akhbar, pointed out the plausibility of Al Qaeda being behind the attacks: "Despite the army's siege of the Nahr Al-Bared Palestinian camp, outside the northern city of Tripoli, the group's leader managed to flee.
"Al-Hajj was head of operations and when they targeted Nahr Al-Bared they weren't able to capture the head of Fatah Al-Islam, Shaker Al-Abssi," Nashabe said. Salem agreed. "If the Fatah Al-Islam people are still around I imagine Al-Hajj would have been one of the targets," he said.
" However, we know from Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration arranged support for militants including Fatah-al-Islam, that the Saudis were financing Fatah-al-Islam through the Lebanese Hariri, and that many of Fatah-al-Islam's fighters were of Saudi origin.

Hizbollah has also accused the US of "waging a covert war" against them, The accusation followed "reports in the US and British media that the CIA has been authorised to take covert action against the militant Shia group, which receives substantial military backing from Iran, as part of wider strategy by the Bush administration to prevent the spread of Iranian influence in the region." Part of this covert war was an assassination attempt of Nasrullah by Al-Qaeda, according to the Jerusalem Post.

According to Al-Ahram, Nashabe posited another theory. "The martyr François Al-Hajj was in the south coordinating support for the Lebanese resistance [led by Hizbullah]. For that reason the Israelis have tried to kill him in the past," he said, citing military sources close to the late brigadier. He said that attempt had occurred in Rmeish, Al-Hajj's southern hometown. "Finally, he was also in the battlefield when the army was in direct confrontation with the Lebanese Forces in the past," Nashabe said.
The army, under Aoun, and Samir Geagea's right-wing Lebanese Forces fought a bitter "war of elimination" at the tail end of the 1975- 1990 Civil War. Rancour persists between the two Christian leaders. Geagea is now part of the 14 March movement
." The account of the Israelis trying to kill al-Hajj was also mentioned by SANA along with Syrian condemnation: "Israel bombed al-Hajj's car in southern Lebanon in 1976 after he refused to cooperate with Israel and the Israeli-backed Lahd militias and threatened him in July 2006 during its aggression against Lebanon. " Iran condemned the assassination and Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini also stressed that the "enemies of Lebanon, in particular the Zionist regime, enjoy maximum benefit from insecurity in Lebanon."

The question that must be asked is, what exactly is the Minister of the Interior of Lebanon up to and who is he aligned with?

Al-Ahram: "there are no official suspects yet in any of the assassinations that started with former prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri"

How many have there been? This was the ninth fatality. And Lebanese investigators have no clues on any of the murders? Come on now. Since the resignation of Hassan Al Sabaa, "a Sunni Muslim retired officer loyal to the country's anti-Syrian majority coalition", Sport and Youth Minister Ahmad Fattfat was named acting interior minister. Ahmad Fattfat is Sunni and also profoundly pro-American and anti-Syrian, consequently the slightest proof of Syria being behind these assassinations would be spouted all over the world, and reported to the UN Hariri investigation. It wouldn't be the first time. Conversely, if there was the slightest indication of his allies being involved, do you really think he would say anything? I don't.

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