Friday 6 April 2012

Why Lebanon’s Samir Geagea is in their gunsight

Samir Geagea

Snipers armed with long-range rifles mounted with optics this week shot at Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea outside his Maarab residence in Lebanon’s Kesrouan district but narrowly missed him.
The French foreign ministry, the U.S. ambassador in Beirut and the UN special coordinator for Lebanon promptly condemned the outrage.
Geagea, who paid high profile visits to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Iraqi Kurdistan during the Arab Spring, and his Lebanese forces are the foremost Christian component of the March 14 Alliance.
Although the alliance won the 2009 parliamentary elections, its leader Saad Hariri formed a national unity government with the pro-Syrian and Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition.
Hariri was toppled and replaced as prime minister by Najib Mikati in a “palace coup” masterminded by Hezbollah and Syria in early 2011. Hariri has been sheltering in Saudi Arabia since.
Today, five Lebanese columnists offer their perspectives on the attempt on Geagea’s life.
Rosanna Boumounsef, in her daily column for Beirut’s an-Nahar, says the attempt “raises many questions associated primarily to the situation in Syria, considering that the Syrian factor remains a determining factor in Lebanese power politics and in the endeavor to exploit an existing balance of power.”
Walid Choucair, in the Saudi-owned pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, expects the search for a political solution in Syria to turn tail and give way to a “crisis management” plan as devised for Lebanon between 1975 and 1989.  The important thing, he writes, is for the attempt on Geagea’s life “not to be the opening shot in a new phase of blood-spattered backup for managing the crisis in Syria.”
Hussam Itani, also writing for al-Hayat, says: “Geagea is the only Christian leader to be fully committed to the 1989 Taef Agreement. That in itself deprives the so-called forces of resistance in Lebanon and Syria from the all-important Christian cover provided them only in part by Michel Aoun.”
Tony Issa, in Beirut’s al-Joumhouria, believes the assassination attempt is “solid proof” the aim of the infamous “Unidentified Gunman” is to “eliminate March 14 altogether by either exiling or killing its key figures.”
Rola Muwaffak, writing for Lebanese al-Liwa’, guards against downplaying the link between the bid on Geagea’s life and the 2013 parliamentary elections. She notes that while Aoun’s popularity is on the wane and Geagea’s is waxing, Hezbollah and company remain bent on winning a legislative majority in next year’s vote at all costs.
Geagea outlined his party’s political agenda last September in a landmark address commemorating martyrs of the Lebanese resistance.
Here are excerpts of his address that help shed light on the state of play in Lebanon all the way through 2013:
  • “By God, tell us: Who killed Bashir Gemayel, Kamal Junblatt, René Moawad and Rafik Hariri? Tell us, who left behind illegitimate weapons and out of bounds and terrorist areas, keeping the Lebanese under relentless strain and the Lebanese State hostage?”
  • “Whoever kills fellow citizens in our homeland, in the region or in the world without mercy or pity is undeserving of either friendship or partnership. The so-called coalition of minorities proposed by some… belittles the Christians’ historic role. It turns them from defenders of humanity’s noble principles to mere sandbags protecting brutal and backward regimes that embrace no values or beliefs except to cling to power at all costs and regardless of all odds.”
  • “I cannot but condemn the current Lebanese government’s stance on happenings in Syria. Such stance does not mirror Lebanon’s liberty, freedom, progress and openness. On the contrary, it sends a black, bleak and ghastly image of Lebanon that is unreal and rebuts most Lebanese’s yearnings and feelings. By taking this position, the current government disowns Lebanon’s identity, cultural heritage and history. It is also putting Lebanon on a direct collision course with the Arab caucus and international community, which is unprecedented for the Lebanese State.”
  • “The existence of Hezbollah weapons does not only burden and threaten ordinary citizens. It also impacts senior officials and politicians, some of whom submitted to arms blackmail and coercive intimidation. This led, at least on one occasion, to a government being toppled and replaced by another. This was again done in the name of the Resistance. It’s tragicomic that instead of the State co-opting Hezbollah’s weapons five years after launching a National Dialogue on the issue, it is today looking for ways to avoid being swamped or seized by Hezbollah.”
  • “The Taef Agreement was supposed to close the Lebanese War chapter -- i.e. stop destructions, killings and assassinations and usher in reconciliation, security and stability. Assassinations persisted and martyrs continued falling because some people insisted on keeping Lebanon’s wound open.”
  • “The Special Tribunal for Lebanon was launched to ostracize serial wanton murders. Except that since day one of the Tribunal being set up, some people started putting spokes in its wheel. They sought to cast doubt, bully, wrangle, dream up quasi-proofs and forage for personal pitfalls or technical loopholes you would find in any institution, administration or court, to pounce on the tribunal and try to blow it away.”