What you didn’t know about Lebanon’s Michel Samaha
Leaked reports of the preliminary interrogations with Former Lebanese information minister Michel Samaha and the “confessions” attributed to him seem to have condemned him even before the start of his trial. That is why under the principle of the suspect being innocent until proven guilty, it is necessary to ensure that Samaha gets a fair trial in which he is allowed to defend himself. This requires a defense team that abides by the legal dimension of the case even though it is initially a political one that is linked to the Syrian regime especially the military/security role it had played in Lebanon, the patronizing approach it had adopted with the Lebanese people, both supporters and opponents, and the assumption that Lebanon is an integral part of Syria that does not have the right to exist as an independent entity.
Politically, Samaha has played a variety of roles, the majority of which have stayed shrouded in mystery. On the public level, Samaha was known as a minister, a member of parliament, a general manager, a strategic planner, and a political, partisan, and student activist. He was also known for his passion for the world of security and intelligence in Lebanon and Syria as well as in the rest of the world.
He believed that clandestine work was much more efficient than public one. He was obsessed with secrecy and was cautious in his actions, words, relationships, files, computers, and smart phones. He was also interested in following the news around the clock and paying special attention to hot topics and sensitive files whether in Lebanon or across the world.
The various roles Samaha had played throughout the past years included the following:
1- He was the advisor and confidante of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and one of the closest aides to the Assad family since the time of late President Hafez al-Assad.
2- He lobbied for extending the term of former President Emile Lahoud after Michel Eddé failed to win the elections in 2004 and worked hard to give the former the necessary support to stay in power.
3- Getting Syria out of its isolation and attempting to re-integrate it into the international scene mainly through France and occasionally the United States right after the “Bush-Blair- Chirac- Anan” era came to an end.
4- Making sure Syria returns to Lebanon on the political and security levels after having to withdraw from it militarily in 2005.
5- Promoting the Syrian regime as the first and foremost protector of minorities in the region, the guardian of its own people, and the defense line against Islamist extremists and Kurdish insurgents for the purpose of refuting allegations about the possibility of a revolution similar to those that took place in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya as well as portraying it as a fighter that will never surrender to the “cosmic war” waged against it.
6- Strengthening the regional influence of Hezbollah in Palestine, Iraq, Egypt and other countries near Lebanon through enhancing its security, logistic, and technological abilities, assisting in prisoner swap deals, and helping the paramilitary group tighten its grip on the Lebanese political scene through several actions, the most famous of which was the 2008 takeover of Beirut and which Samaha described as “a great day that represents the return of Beirut’s dignity.”
7- Facilitating the return of Michel Aoun from France to Lebanon on May 7, 2005 and engineering the alliance between Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement in both form and content even at the expense of constitutional institutions in Lebanon, on top of which was the presidency, in addition to planning Aoun’s visits to Syria and marketing them as an astounding success.
8- Planning the establishment of the “minorities’ alliance” through laying the first foundations of the March 8 Alliance with Shiite (armed), Maronite (popular), and Druze components in order to counter the influence of the Muslim-Christian March 14 Alliance that the Lebanese could not develop prior to the assassination of Rafik al-Hariri and the withdrawal of Syrian troops.
9- Hindering the election of a March 14 candidate to the presidency in September 2007 with a 50 percent plus one majority and warning of the possibility of a civil war, thus extending the state of constitutional vacuum until the last minute when Michel Suleiman was chosen as the “consensual” president.
10- Tarnishing the image of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, questioning its integrity, and hindering its work.
11- Tracing the activities of terrorist organizations and extremist groups in Lebanon, Syria, and the world with special emphasis on al-Qaeda and the Salafis.
12- Closely following peace negotiations between Arabs and Israel while focusing on the legitimacy of the Madrid Summit and the “land for peace” principle as well as the alleged “unity of path and destiny” between Syria and Lebanon
Throughout his career, Michel Samaha deserved the title “ambassador-at-large” for Syria in France on almost permanent basis and in Washington on intermittent basis in accordance with the course the interests of both countries would take. He also deserved the title “hajj” to denote his loyalty to Hezbollah and its secretary general whose name he never mentioned without following it with the phrase “may God bless him.”
In addition, he deserved the title of the actual, though not official, “secretary general” of the Lebanese Syrian Supreme Council and the title “intelligence chief” or “head of national security” together with his close friend retired general Jamil al-Sayyed, who also played a major part in Lebanon’s modern history.
Last but not least, he deserved the title “the most famous suspect” for he was considered the fifth of the four officers who were acquitted by the international judiciary in the case of Rafik al-Hariri’s assassination as well as the assassination of several March 14 members.
Those who know Michel Samaha could not believe what was attributed to him through his confessions and the preliminary interrogation, but the man has recently committed a series of “judgment errors” that proved critical and fatal such as:
- Involvement in security work that was ethically, humanely, and patriotically questionable especially as far as loyalties are concerned in a manner that triggered irreversible damages.
- Continuing his support of the Syrian regime regardless of the developments taking place inside Syria and the cost paid by the Syrian people and insisting on this stance even after the Syrian regime demonstrated its willingness to inflict damage wherever possible including in Lebanon itself.
- Accompanying Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to France in June 2008 and joining the Syrian, not the Lebanese, official delegation in a meeting Lebanese President Michel Suleiman held with his Syrian counterpart in a gesture that demonstrated the way he belonged to Syria and the Assad regime more than he did to his homeland Lebanon.