Saturday, 20 October 2012

A Professional and Resolute Opponent

Published Saturday, October 20, 2012
Wissam al-Hassan was a leading name in the Lebanese-regional front active primarily against the Syrian regime, and secondarily against Hezbollah and Iran.

His political role surpassed his tasks as head of a small military unit conducting a significant security operation in Lebanon and beyond.

In regional politics, Hassan’s assassination is a prologue for a new and recurring global cold war, which hides underneath it real wars and bloody chaos in many countries, namely Syria.

Also politically, the assassination of Wissam al-Hassan is at the heart of a battle that is open and out of control. All sides of the battle will do what they believe is right. But it will allow others, from outside both sides of the conflict, to interfere, play on contradictions, deliver messages, or even steer the boat in various directions.

Politically still, Hassan represents the March 14 line in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and the rest of the Arab World. His political-security role represents the side led by the United States and several Arab and regional countries, who want to invest in the current chaos in Arab states in the way that suits them.

Hassan was not a politically unaffiliated officer. His supporters and followers of his political side are right to accuse the other side of the assassination.

But there are technicalities – merely technicalities – that might lead to a different, even an opposite result. While technicalities cannot stop the political finger-pointing, they will keep it as only an accusation, not judgement nor condemnation.

These technicalities are a security and criminal investigation. They must take precedence over anything else, to avoid steering Lebanon into the dark tunnel it entered following the Rafik Hariri assassination. But the political mind of March 14 does not think like this.

Then there is Wissam al-Hassan, the officer. He played a pivotal role at Rafik Hariri’s side, as his longtime confidant and aide on many matters – political and nonpolitical. This job enabled him to be at the forefront following Hariri’s assassination, by remaining close to [Hariri’s son and heir], Saad.

In a few years time, Hassan the officer built a professional security apparatus. He built a [police] unit that is somewhat connected to the state, yet leased its own space outside the state.

With time, Hassan became the primary political security man for March 14. The network he weaved in Lebanon, the region and the world allowed him to know many things and many people high up in the world of international political security.

Many people were able to receive financial and technical support, even administrative and political cover, but they failed in creating a viable political or security product.
For March 14 – and the Future Movement in particular – Hassan delivered the best product. It was the most efficient and presentable. His foes inside the movement were never given anything to grab on to question what he was doing.

On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Hassan was not liked, but he and his comrades in the Information Branch kept gaining respect, day after day. This was earned by Hassan’s creation of a professional framework, which was unprecedented in the history of the Internal Security Forces.

The Information Branch became the number one official or semi-official security force in the country. It displayed a level of efficiency, which won it the respect of similar regional and international organizations and prompted it to play a role outside Lebanon.

In a last talk with him, Hassan complained about being accused of playing a big role in Syria. He did not hide his support and adoption of the regime’s opponents, criticizing the Arabs for not doing anything substantial. He was also obviously distressed about the presence of a certain kind of hard-line Islamists.

He had little trust in his opponents. Even when they commended him, he would laugh saying: this praise is not for me; they are either disparaging others or exaggerating my role to make me a target.

God bless Wissam al-Hassan...

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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