Lebanese Services to Syria’s Warring Sides
By: Ibrahim al-Amin
Published Monday, August 13, 2012
It would be difficult to adopt this argument: So what if Michel Samaha transported explosives to use against the Syrian opposition in Lebanon? We’re in a state of war, and what politicians from the March 14 coalition, especially the Future Movement, have been doing is far worse than transporting explosives. They have been participating in the detonation of Syria itself.
Yet Syria’s supporters in Lebanon, or rather the Syrian opposition’s adversaries, have been going further. They have been demanding the immediate storming of the jails to free Samaha from detention. And they have been berating the principal partners in the March 8 coalition, Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement, as well as others, for being incapable of “protecting their own people.”
Underlying this is the fact that this section of the public does not trust the account of the Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces, nor the reputation it has acquired since investigations began into the assassination of Rafik Hariri. They fear that “abandoning” Samaha would mean unleashing the Information Branch in its capacity as the “official strike force” of Syria’s opponents in Lebanon, and giving it a free hand to raid the homes of, arrest or accuse any of Syria’s allies.
If this affair illustrates anything, it is that the political divide in Lebanon has become irreversible, and that reason no longer plays much part in it. The cleverness of the various Lebanese groups, all of whom are engaged in supporting one side or the other in the Syrian conflict, is confined to trying to catch each other out.
The Information Branch thus made sure to be able to show it had caught Samaha red-handed, not just in order to secure his conviction, but also to way-lay any political, media or other voices that might try to contradict its story. Indeed, senior figures in the Information Branch, as well as their political masters, expressed disappointment that Hezbollah, in particular, did not launch a campaign that would have enabled them to leak audio and visual recordings to the media related to Samaha’s case, including of his questioning in custody, which appears also to have been filmed.
The split over the issue is expressed in the top echelons as well as the grassroots. It has also provided those, like Walid Jumblatt, who want to move completely into the anti-Syrian camp, with the kind of card they need. What has now become the “Samaha File” enables him to take a further step toward abandoning the ship of the compromise government headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati.
This takes the political usage of the “Samaha File” beyond the wars being waged openly by rival Lebanese security agencies. It has a bearing on the essence of March 14’s interest in getting rid of this government: not in order to form a different one – which would normally be termed a consensual or neutral government – but to leave the country to be governed by the status quo. What is done in the dark would then be done in broad daylight, and it will no longer matter who catches whom out.
Wissam al-Hassan (head of Information Branch of the Internal Security Forces) is feeling triumphant, and not because he scored a goal against his political enemies – although he still faces a torrent of unanswered questions on the issue. He hastened to get the mission accomplished because he has a genuine stake – not in a superficial sense, nor by way of accusation – in the “victory of the Syrian revolution.” He does not await praise from his bosses in Lebanon, but rather smiles and signs of approval from allied parties outside the country.
As for Michel Samaha, he fell victim to his eagerness to render a service to his Syrian allies, to a less-than-thorough analysis of the realities of the confrontation in Lebanon, and to his belief that such actions are called for. More seriously, Samaha failed to realize that he would fall victim to the powerlessness that dominates the confrontation between Syria’s enemies and allies in Lebanon.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.