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Assassination of al Hajj: A Vote for Suleiman - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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It seems that whoever decided to assassinate the head of army operations in Lebanon and the expected candidate to take over as army chief, General Francois al Hajj, had taken this decision as the acceptance of General Michel Suleiman’s nomination to the presidential post in Lebanon became imminent.

The involvement of the Lebanese army in the Lebanese political scene via the presidential post, in this case, and its timing, has caused political upheaval for all Lebanese parties and their affiliates. This involvement has placed [Michel] Aoun in an awkward position and disturbed Hezbollah along with its Syrian and Iranian wings and the majority has used it as an opportunity to counter its opponents in a calm manner.

Following the Israel-Hezbollah war and the Nahr el Bared operations, the Lebanese army has gained confidence and credibility both within and outside of Lebanon. It was evident that the army represented Lebanon in its entirety, with all its various sects; it backed Hezbollah against Israel and confronted terrorism in Nahr el Bared in spite of the sectarian, ideological and political implications of both crises.

It became clear that the wisdom of the Lebanese army had manifested itself in General Michel Suleiman who adopted an impartial position towards all parties in Lebanon. The ambition and confidence of the Lebanese army, later on, was clearly demonstrated in the late General Francois al Hajj who adopted a firm stance as well as a desire to uphold the army’s word and its prestige. The best example [of this] was his desire to re-establish military control over southern Lebanon, as well as his loyalty to General Michel Suleiman. From here, we may begin the attempt to understand the motives behind the assassination of General Francois al Hajj.

With the proposal of General Suleiman as a possible candidate for the presidential post in Lebanon, the chances of General Francois al Hajj becoming army chief increased. This meant that General Suleiman would enter Baabda’s presidential palace with the support of the military; therefore there would have been harmony between the palace and the military barracks instead of the recent harmony between the palace, the militia and the representatives of Syria and Iran.

The assassination of General al Hajj sends the following message to the Lebanese army: Entering the political arena is equivalent to taking one step closer towards death. You and the politicians are one and the same!

The other message is one to His Excellency, the imminent president General Michel Suleiman telling him that he is not far from the reach of those who seek to control Lebanon and impose their dominance upon it. Thus, they have issued their warning for him to beware!

But what is worse than this is that the assassination of General Francois al Hajj, like the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud, may bear a warning that the worst is yet to come, in addition to the elimination of a leading figure that could be agreed upon thus avoiding any surprises in case General Suleiman is himself assassinated. Therefore, it allows all bets to return to normal in that there would be no “wild cards”, such as the nomination of Major General Suleiman to presidency.

This is not a completely hopeless situation or an elaboration upon a conspiracy theory; this is a realistic interpretation of the rationale that manages the crisis in Lebanon; it is a mentality that can only speak the language of death. It is an understanding of this “mafia” mentality that pulls the strings in Beirut and which will continue to do so  as long as it still has not paid the price for everything that is has done so far.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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