Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Was Bouthaina involved or framed? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Is it rational for an elegant and intellectual woman such as Bouthaina Shaaban, adviser to President Bashar al-Assad, to be involved in foul crimes? According to media reports, her voice can be heard in telephone recordings alongside former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha, who is believed to be involved in a serious conspiracy. There are also veiled accusations that she may have been involved in assassination plots targeting civilian and religious figures in Lebanon. There are recordings, found in the house of Samaha, that are said to represent a great treasure trove of information. It is also said that Samaha used to record everybody who spoke to him, to the point that he implicated himself, and others, in the case. This is precisely what happened with former U.S. President Richard Nixon , as he introduced the idea of recording everything that happened in the White House, and ultimately these recordings were the rope that he hung himself with, politically speaking. It was these recordings that proved his involvement in the Watergate scandal.

There is no way to contact Bouthaina Shaaban, and mutual friends say that she is now answering their calls. In response to the serious accusations that have been made against her, she has been quoted as saying that this is “a type of political bickering and debate that is acceptable there [in Lebanon], but which does not merit response or comment.”

However she is mistaken. Everything in this crucial case deserves response and comment, whilst merely being accused does not mean that she was involved. We know Bouthaina from her position; she is a media official in the court of the al-Assad’s, both that of late President Hafez al-Assad and now his son, Bashar. Therefore the nature of her duties makes it unlikely that she would be involved in such activities, particularly as the al-Assad regime contains a huge security apparatus capable of carrying out conspiracies and assassinations.

However if it turns out that she was involved in any way, shape or form in the recent al-Assad plot, which invokes very serious charges, the only explanation is that al-Assad deliberately implicated as many of those around him as possible so that they do not even think about fleeing the country or staging a coup against him. This ensures that they are partners in his crimes and they therefore have no choice but to defend the regime until the very end.

Bouthaina was a translator and media official at the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She then moved on to work as a media adviser in the presidential palace. This certainly allowed her to be aware of the minute details of what was happening there, becoming an important witness, specifically to the history of Bashar al-Assad’s crimes. Syria’s repressive regime is very afraid of defections, fearing state secrets may be leaked, not to mention that such defections could also lead to the collapse of the regime. Al-Assad must certainly be suspicious that the majority of civilian officials are waiting for an opportunity to escape and defect, fully aware that the Damascus regime is collapsing and facing a dark future. Therefore, the majority of officials’ relatives are placed under semi-house arrest and monitored by security forces; in other words they are being used as a means to deter defections.

Hamas chief Khaled Mishal was previously residing in Damascus, however he left the country in protest [to the Syrian regime’s dealing with the revolution]. In the wake of his criticism of the Syrian regime a few days ago, security forces raided his office and attacked his relatives, including his son-in-law. Regime forces also looted the Hamas leader’s home and then set it on fire.

There are many people who wish to defect from the al-Assad regime, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so. Those who want to defect understand that they must survive and start a new life. One Arab official interested in the Syrian revolution explained the basis on which to deal with the men and women of the regime. He said whoever defects one day before the collapse of the regime will find our doors open to them, but if they defect one hour after al-Assad’s fall, they will find nobody to greet them.

Al-Assad knows that he is surrounded by opportunists. Senior figures, such as his foreign minister and his media adviser may leave Damascus for good and indeed they face significant temptations to defect, especially as they were not involved in the killings, although nobody can deny that they have been involved in justifying these crimes. Therefore, it is not out of the question for the al-Assad’s regime – which is fearful regarding its internal unity – to implicate its senior officials in dirty operation to prevent them from leaving.

Otherwise what would make a responsible media official a party to a conspiracy to kill people, if there are truly recordings implicating Bouthaina Shaaban in this? Most likely, the regime did not stop at conspiring to kill its opponents in Lebanon, creating division and possible civil war, particularly as it continues to warn that if the Syrian regime collapses, so will Lebanon. Indeed, it would be no surprise if it conspired against its own people as well, such as Michel Samaha, and implicated others like Bouthaina Shaaban!