Lebanese ex-minister Michel Samaha, who was jailed over charges of transferring explosives from Syria to Lebanon for the purpose of carrying out assassinations and attacks, was released from prison directly after Future Movement leader Saad Hariri sought to reach a settlement regarding the presidency. His release shows that Lebanon is no longer a country whose people can agree on anything, including electing a president.
The settlement that Hariri sought has surprised many, including his allies, as it stipulated bringing MP Suleiman Franjieh - a major figure in the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition - to the presidency. Franjieh considers himself a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who is at the very least an accomplice in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and other honorable Lebanese figures.
The Military Court of Cassation released a criminal who was convicted via solid video evidence and his own confessions, and who aimed to commit murders for the purpose of sectarian incitement and harming civil peace in certain Lebanese Sunni-populated areas.
Samaha’s confessions, and the video that showed him delivering explosives and money to the person who was supposed to carry out the assassinations and attacks, clearly reveal that Assad and Ali Mamlik, the Syrian security services chief with whom Samaha was dealing either directly or indirectly via his office, were involved in the terrorist scheme.
Tehran did not invest in Hezbollah for 30 years so Lebanon could make its own decisions.Khairallah Khairallah
Samaha’s release confirms that Lebanon is now under the control of Hezbollah and Iran. There is no longer a Lebanese authority independent from Hezbollah. Its parliamentary bloc leader Mohammad Raad said Saad Hariri’s presence “is not desired” in Lebanon. This statement went unnoticed despite its grave threat.
It is even forbidden for Hariri to go as far as accepting Franjieh as president. What is required is to keep the presidential post vacant until Hezbollah decides when to bring someone to occupy it - that is if it really wants the country to have a president one day. Lebanon is now a mere card that Tehran can play whenever it wants. The latter did not invest in Hezbollah for 30 years so Lebanon could make its own decisions.
By releasing Samaha, there is a completely new political phase in Lebanon. Major political powers that agreed on Franjieh as president failed to protect their choice. These powers include the Future Movement, parliament speaker Nabih Berri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt. Hezbollah rejects an agreement that can provide a quorum in parliament and thus facilitate electing a president.
Series of developments
Assassinating Rafiq Hariri was a major episode in the war on Lebanon. The war continued via a wave of assassinations that aimed to subjugate the Lebanese people. There was the contrived war with Israel in the summer of 2006, and the sit-in that Hezbollah later held in downtown Beirut for the purpose of obstructing the country’s economy.
There was the May 2008 events that witnessed battles in Beirut and the mountains. Wissam al-Hassan, head of the Information Branch at the Internal Security Forces, was assassinated two months after Samaha was arrested.
Releasing him is the latest in this series of events, which include Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil argued to have become a mere Hezbollah employee. He was Iran’s voice in the last meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Egypt. Is Lebanon still an Arab country that can freely stand with Saudi Arabia or any other Gulf country, which stood by it in difficult circumstances?
Samaha is merely a useful tool to be used to achieve certain aims. Releasing him represents an invitation to Lebanese Sunnis to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Are the Syrian regime and Iran not the major sponsors of this organization, which facilitates Tehran’s expansionist project that is based on sectarian incitement in all regional countries?
This article was first published by Middle East Online on Jan. 18, 2016.
Khairallah Khairallah is an Arab columnist who was formerly Annahar's foreign editor (1976-1988) and Al-Hayat's managing editor (1988-1998).
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