Car Bomb in Beirut: Wissam Al-Hassan

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Another car bomb in Lebanon and another assassination in the long series of assassinations that preceded the assassination of Rafik Hariri. This is a continuation of the previous series but with a new twist. Wissam al-Hassan was far more influential than all the previous victims of March 14 figures who were targeted, and his assassination takes place in a very different context.

There is a cold war in the Middle East: it is a war that is comparable in its dimensions and complications to the Suez of 1950s or to the Afghanistan war in the 1980s. It is comparable to the early phase of the Lebanese civil war. The region is now undergoing a war of proxies. There is little that the Syrian and Lebanese people can do about a war that is raging on their territory and in their names. It is a cold war that pits Syria and its regional and international backers against the Free Syrian Army gangs which enjoy the support of various regional and international powers. Both sides want to fight to the finish: this is what the French foreign ministry meant when it said yesterday that the time has not arrived “yet” for a cease-fire in Syria. It is a regional-international war with stakes. Wissam al-Hassan was a player in that war, playing on behalf of regional-international powers.

Wissam al-Hassan was a Haririst. He started his work for Rafik Hariri as a protocol aide (Hariri paid high premium on protocol because he believed it boosted his sectarian standing in Lebanon), and then became an aide to Hariri, before he assumed a security post. He was not a military man: he rose through the intelligence apparatus because he was a “professional” in a state apparatus that abhorred professionalism. He knew how to get the job done regardless of the methods and he knew how to follow orders. But Wissam al-Hassan was more than that. After Rafik Hariri’s death in 2005, the Hariri family, under the highly incompetent and unqualified Saad, abandoned the caution and shrewdness that characterized Rafik’s tenure in office. Rafik never antagonized and always worked to reconcile with his rivals and enemies (with the exception of the Phalanges and the Lebanese Forces against whom he harbored deep animus), even while plotting in secret against them. Rafik was also cautious about playing the sectarian card; he was a sectarian through and through but knew when to back off out of fear of civil war, not so much out of concern for the people but for concern for the interests of Saudi Arabia that were primary on his mind. Saad Hariri has no such scruples, he enjoys — from exile, mind you — to push things to the brink but then pleads and begs his enemies to back off when they take the offensive: that was the story of 7 May 2008.

After 2005, sectarian polarization under the direction of Saudi intelligence and the subservient Hariri family reached a peak. There was a need for a separate security branch for the family and for the … sect. The Information Branch (or Shuubat al-Maalumat as it is technically known) was boosted and resurrected as a separate and powerful intelligence apparatus that took orders not from the government but from the Hariri family itself, which in turn took its marching orders from the Saudi intelligence apparatus.

The US and European governments, along with Saudi Arabia and its allies in the Gulf, showered the agency with generous funding the likes of which were never enjoyed by the ineffective Lebanese Army. New equipment and gadgets were provided to the apparatus without any control by the government and without any paper work for the budget of the agency. Wissam al-Hassan presided over that branch and with Ashraf Rifi (the director-general of the Internal Security Forces who also sits on the board of Prince Nayif University for Security Studies) constituted a Hariri team that operate outside the Lebanese state but with the logo of the Lebanese state. When Najib Mikati’s government took over, he was pressured by his Maronite and Shia allies (who nominated him) to dismiss Hassan and Rifi but he could not because he was afraid of the reactions of the US, EU, and most importantly Saudi Arabia.

Wissam al-Hassan knew how to husband his resources and how to recruit and how to operate his network around Lebanon. He was also very keen on his image: while he strictly avoided media interviews and appearances, he cultivated ties with many journalists and reporters and correspondents through cash payments. This can explain partly the tears that are being shed about him in the Lebanese press. He was as good at PR as he was at detailed security work. He was the only agency of government that was trusted by the highly politicized Hariri investigation team and later by the Hariri tribunal. He lost his chief aide, Wissam Eid, who was assassinated in 2008, and another high ranking officer who also worked on the Hariri investigation, Samir Shehadeh, survived an assassination attempt and is now residing in Canada.

Hassan cultivated excellent relations with Syrian intelligence over the years: and after the rapprochement between Saad Hariri and the Syrian regime two years ago (when Hariri spent the night at Bashar al-Assad’s residence), Hassan was a contact man and Bashar is said to have requested to meet with him personally — an unusual personal gesture for a man like Bashar. Hassan also kept good relations with Hezbollah and would render covert services on occasions.

To boost his standing nationally, the Information Branch announced a series of highly publicized “uncoverings” of Israeli networks of spies: some thirty-odd operations of this kind. But there are questions about these announcements: did the Information Branch really uncover Israeli spies in Lebanon when it received much of its support from the US itself? One source very close to Hezbollah informed me that another explanation was that it was purely accidental — the branch was keeping surveillance on senior Hezbollah leaders and they stumbled on a group that was also keeping surveillance on Hezbollah leaders; this second group consisted of Israeli spies.

Who knows what really happened but it is clear that the Information Branch played no role whatsoever — very much like the defeated Lebanese Army — in defending or protecting Lebanon during the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006. It stood and watched and probably coordinated with Saudi intelligence to thwart Hezbollah’s plans in Lebanon.

And during the years, Hassan was heavily involved in cooking the books for the Hariri investigation. He reportedly supervised the management of false witnesses and he personally supervised the arrest of the four Lebanese generals, who were released four years later for lack of evidence. It is now certain that their arrest was undertaken by Hassan on behalf of the Hariri family and for purely personal-political reasons. This is also part of the legacy of Hassan.

But Hassan was not killed for any of that. He was a big player in Syria. His branch controlled some militant Islamist groups: there is some evidence that he approved the links with Fatah al-Islam to use them in domestic Lebanese politics but they may have gotten out of hand. Hassan was a big player on behalf of Saudi intelligence in the war in Syria. He never denied that role at all. A well-known journalist who saw him recently told me that he did not deny his involvement in the Syrian conflict but complained that firstly, the reports about his role were exaggerated and secondly, that Western powers were not providing as much support as is needed. And when Asef Shawkat was killed in a bomb, none other than Ashraf Rifi invited the media to watch him as he read al-Fatihah at the tomb of Rafik Hariri. It was personal.

But Hassan may have scored with the arrest of Michel Samaha, a vulgar pro-Syrian regime politician. Not much is known about the case and all that we do know about the case was leaked to the press (local and international) by the office of Hassan himself. The story goes that Samaha (who had no military background even when he was an official of the Phalanges during the war years) undertook a dangerous mission on behalf of Syrian intelligence and in cooperation with Ali Mamlouk (one of the senior heads of an intelligence apparatus in Syria) in order to detonate bombs in Lebanon against enemies of Syria and to instigate sectarian war.

Samaha has not spoken publicly and the information remains under the exclusive control of the Information Branch but it seems that Hassan skillfully did what the FBI does regularly here: he entrapped Samaha through a close friend of his who hatched the plot for Samaha and asked him to obtain Syrian approval (and bombs). To be sure, the Syrian regime is capable of such crimes and worse, but questions remain as to why the Syrian regime would entrust such a highly dangerous operation to a man with no background in security matters. Pro-Syrian regime parties in Lebanon, even Hezbollah, have not come to the defense of Samaha and believe that he is guilty at some level and many accuse him of undertaking the mission on behalf of French intelligence, with which he has worked for years.

Hassan was clearly coordinating help and assistance for the armed Syrian groups and he bragged to journalists about his support for the “Syrian revolution.” There is plenty of cash these days for those who support the "Syrian revolution” and who can provide logistical help. And Hassan and Rifi worked closely (on a daily basis) with Saudi intelligence. It is possible that the Syrian regime wanted to get rid of him. Others think that Israel may have wanted to punish him for his arrest of various Israeli spies (a senior Israeli military intelligence commander committed suicide after the arrest of Israeli spies in Lebanon).

Some may even point to extreme Sunni fanatical groups in Lebanon (even Ashraf Rifi considered the possibility in an interview with al-Safir), or even to al-Qaeda or to a group which wants to destabilize Lebanon and the region. But many in March 14 now accuse Hezbollah because the Hariri tribunal has already named four members of Hezbollah as suspects (we remember that they revealed themselves to Nicholas Blanford — or to someone who knew Blanford, or to someone with whom Blanford co-wrote the article but without being with him). Accusations will only increase and intensify.

But now is the time for PR: the Hariri family may not be skilled politically but they know how to lavishly spend on PR. They will turn Hassan into a hero and will claim that he fought Israel far more intensely than Imad Mughniyeh or Abu Iyad. A Lebanese opportunist journalist, Charles Ayoub (who is known for his long standing ties with Syrian intelligence although he publicly admitted that he received cash payments from Prince Bandar in 2009 to write against General Aoun), has been writing series of articles against Hassan and accusing him of working for the CIA and for Mossad. He has also been accusing him of undertaking a dangerous mission in Lebanon after meeting with David Petraeus in Lebanon. Today, Ayoub’s paper is in mourning. Ayoub wrote, in a front-page article, that he lost his “best friend” and that his attacks on Hassan were merely intended to “revive” the friendship between them. Others (both friends and enemies of Hassan) will offer similar eulogies.

Yet, what is left unsaid is that Saad Hariri — as incompetent and foolish as he is — has been playing with fire. He foolishly decided to play the game of "regime change" which brought about the humiliation of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sitting on his yacht in exile in the Mediterranean, Hariri may have been responsible for instigating a game that ultimately resulted in the death of his key aide.


What's surprising is how long it took to get Hariri. Now that he's gone and toseinns are reportedly rising, it's conclusive proof that the jihadis remain in control of the asylum. They love death. It's the be all and end all. Hopefully the Sunni/Shia clashes will reduce the idiots numbers significantly. The "polemics" need to step up pressure on the lunatics. There goes the beautiful city of Beirut again and again and again in perpetuity and ad nauseum. But this time everyone stays put. Canada should not agree to do any rescue missions once the death squads begin to misbehave again. It must be genetic and should be studied under a microscope at that for whatever mutation is involved. All the tourism lost in the world's prime real estate can be attributed to Islamic raging radical idiots. International teams of psychiatrists have to get on their case and release the report on the UN platform. That org badly needs some relevant work and it means paycheques which is their forte.and main interest in life.

This whole article attempts to justify the murder. And it says NOT ONE WORD about the several dead and 100+ injured who are innocent civilians, going about their day at rush hour.

It is not a sensational article, or a mourning "khedni b7elmak" article like the rest of the Lebanese "media" flood us with. It is a cold minded (yes, that is good sometimes) analysis of Wissam al-Hassan's persona and role on the Lebanese/Middle Eastern scene. I have no doubt that the author has no intention of justifying the assassination, and even less the civilian "collateral damage", whom none of the "mourner media" seem to remember either.

Is targeting a "police station" in the Christian neighbourhood in Damascus - Which remaind safe till today- ON SUNDAY also an attemp to justify the killing innocent Christians going about their day to the church - Just 2 after the explosion in Beirut?

Interesting article. Could you provide more details as to why Harriri held grudges against the Kataeb and LF?

Comparing Hasan to Shawkat is like comparing Jamil as-Sayyid's "wrongful" imprisonment and his anger at this to the hundreds who were jailed when As-Sayyid was in power.

He is just as sectarian as Hariri.

Secular "sectarian" is better than your pathetic Salafi sectarianism, dude. Get over it. Take more propaganda from the House of Saud.

Dud I won't get over it, the shabeeh As'ad denied that he has an ounce of sectarianism because he is non-religious at his blog, even though he has accused many Arab secularists of being sectarian which contradicts his farcical claim and lie, and his Shi'ite and anti-Sunni sectarianism is clearly on display, especially after the Syrian uprising and he has clearly toned down his criticism of Hezbollah, lied numerous times, and applied many double standards because of his sectarian solidarity, hiding behind the Palestinian cause. Secondly, go engage in your ridiculous guilt by association and takhween with Amal, Hezbollah and the Iranian regime who have made takhween of all of the Syrian opposition from the start of the Syrian uprising while they didn't utter a single word against thuwar Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq and the House of Saud's treachery was strongly opposed by many "Salafi sectarians" and that is why there are thousands of them in Saudi dungeons, but according to As'ad and hypocrites like yourself they are all traitors, but I forgot Khaled Mesh'al is a traitor and Chalabi and Ja'fari are "mumani'een".

The genius Abu Umar's attempt at logic argumentation is the true farce of all farces. Where did As'ad ever "utter" (since this is your favorite word) once the claim that you can't be secular and sectarian. If he made the universal claim that all secular people are non-sectarians and then went on to label a known secular arab a sectarian, then he would have contradicted the claim (which you attributed to him, not that I am saying he did) . Can you wrap your sectarian salafi brain around this. I know it's a stretch for a salafi brain that's mulakkan talkeen since its inception, but it is rudimentary logic.

Dear sister (I hope I could call you thus), Abu Umar is hapless in his sectarianism. Facts and logic mean nothing to him. As'ad is sectarian and I am too :) Never mind I was born in Atheist family (the third generation) and for racists both Jewish and anti-Jewish I am a Jew.

Congratulations "Sister" Hezbeleb on your new fan and what facts and logic are you talking about Lidia. Let your buddy As'ad defend himself and I don't need lessons on "mumana'a" from a Jewish non-Arab.

As I have said, I am a Jew for racists. AU sure belongs to them.

Are you unhinged Hezbeleb or did you bother reading what I said?! As'ad claimed for himself at his blog a few months ago, not for others as you are putting words in my mouth, that he doesn't a have a drop of sectarianism because he is secular, even though this is a ridiculous lie and his Shi'ite and anti-Sunni sectarianism is very much evident since the start of the Syrian uprising. The true farce of all farces and mulaqqan talqeen are the extreme partisans of the Lebanese Shi'ites like yourself who have made takhween of all the anti-regime Syrians while they didn't utter a single word against thuwar Nato in Afghanistan and Iraq and you refuse to answer this question because of your sectarian loyalty. Can you sectarian Shi'ites stop your hypocritical takhween? Mulaqqan talqeen, who are you kidding, go run with the stray dogs in Saida like the Qawwas brothers.

unhinged??? No, I am well hinged together. I like when you venture outside of the sentences and ideas that you have received through talkeen, and it shows how mentally deficient you are. That's why you keep repeating the same lies with boring consistency which can only be the product of a salafi brain.
Go read your own statement, most genius of the salafis. You said that As'ad contradicted his claim when you said and I quote

Dud.....As'ad denied that he has an ounce of sectarianism because he is non-religious at his blog, even though he has accused many Arab secularists of being sectarian which contradicts his farcical claim and lie,

Did you read your own statement or was that written by your alter ego? Read after the "even though" part where you claimed that he contradicted himself. And I said to you, unless you can produce a statement stating that all seculars are non-sectarians then he didn't contradict himself. It showed how logically deficient you are.
I mean what was I thinking trying to teach a salafi some logic when they point blank lie and are unashamed about it.. In a way, it's good that salafis are that dumb.

Your putting words in my mouth, As'ad said about HIMSELF(not all secularists as you are implying) that he isn't sectarian because he is secularist at his blog, which is contradicted by his numerous accusations of sectarianism against many Arab secularists and if they can be guilty of sectarianism, why can't he? But it's not surprising that you wouldn't get this point because you yourself are an extreme sectarian and if I am such an ignoramus as you are saying Mulaqqan Talqeen, than host me on Al-Manar and NBN, the ones who didn't dare host a single anti-Bashar figure like the Al-Jazeera hosted hundreds of pro-Bashar figures, to debate your best polemicists like Rafiq Nasrallah and Nasser Qandeel, and we will see who is dumb.

respect the dead? The dead who robbed Lebanon and got rich? Who served every foe of Arab liberty and kissed white men ass. And who was a sectarian just as he was a thief. I respect people who are worth the respect, both alive and dead. I respected George Habash when he was alive and respect him now. I respect Hasan Nasrallah, and Israel Shahak, and every anti-colonialist. And I respect As'ad, even when I disagree with him, because he calls spade a spade.

dearest lidia you and your buddy naz will be in the histoyr books for supporting iran and assad and murder terrorism and stupidity.nas will be captured and hung publically we wiill be there to celebrate the death of satans helper USAUSAUSA lol

I am sure sectarian Abu Umar is happy to have such ally. After all this person also hates Iran and Hezbollah. Of course, bd also shouts USAUSAUSA and laughs as he day dreams about public murder, so he must be a bit out of his mind, but I am sure it is nothing much to Abu Umar.

Why do you have to call Rafik Hariri a sectarian on this sad day? Please respect the dead, specially on such sad occasions. You insult and mock all the Hariri family on daily basis. Take a break today, for Marx's sake.

"Why do you have to call Rafik Hariri a sectarian on this sad day?"

Beacause he is sectarian

Why hide the truth? Rafiq hariri was sectarian. Prove it wrong if your so sure otherwise.

And so were his enemies

I guess its better for Lebanese to switch back to city states democracy
let every taiifa return back to the city were its holds majority and lets them decide how to govern them-selfs but i guess even then that wouldn't be enough

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