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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Murr, Syria and al-Qaeda

Elias Murr is an unexpected entry on the so called “living martyrs” list. His claim to the title lies in a telephone interview with Marcel Ghanem on LBC, the station that will stop doubting the Hariri investigation now that one of their own has made it to the hit list. Murr basically accused Syrian intelligence of engineering the attempt on his life, a remarkable accusation considering Murr’s former ties with Syria.

According to Murr, the “problem” with Syria’s former de-facto high commissioner in Lebanon Rustom Ghazaleh started when internal security forces busted an al-Qaeda cell in Anjar (former seat of the Syrian military intelligence) in September 2004. (At the time we were told in a dramatic public broadcast by Murr that the captured terrorist cell planned to blow up the Italian embassy in downtown Beirut). Following the arrests, which was ridiculed at the time by As-Safir, an enraged Ghazaleh reportedly phoned the head of the security forces Said Eid at 3:00 am and “a heated argument ensued”, and then the “Syrian intelligence officer uttered incredible and irresponsible words” (meaning he probably insulted his mother, sister, or similar).

Murr, who was interior minister at the time, continues: “I immediately called him [Ghazaleh]… and we all remember what happened after the Anjar incident, the clashes between Syrian workers and Lebanese citizens in Burj Hammoud, Nabaa, North Metn and Sin-el-fil… (?) I called him and did the right thing. I told him that he didn’t have the rank or the authority as a non-Lebanese officer to call a high ranking Lebanese officer and talk to him in that manner… After that Eid, who was on another line listening to the conversation, offered me his condolences and said ’go pack your belongings, it looks like it’s time you went home (meaning leave the ministry).’ ”

After that seemingly courageous phone call to Ghazaleh, Murr received information that his life was in danger. He left the ministry soon after and took up semi-permanent residence outside the country until he became defence minister in the Mikati government and his convoy was targeted in an assassination attempt in the series of attacks that followed Hariri’s assassination.

“But after May Chidiac assassination attempt, I decided that I had had it. We’re all in the same boat,” said Murr, currently in hiding in Zurich.

Murr’s assassination attempt had left many scratching their heads. If Syrians were behind the attacks, why target one of their allies, the son of one of Syria’s staunchest allies, and Lahoud’s son in law? It made little sense at the time, even after Murr said from his hospital bed that the security services were intentionally neglecting information they had about serious threats against him.

Beirut’s media embraced Murr’s latest confession without much examination. The Syrian official news agency SANA, citing official media sources, denied Syrians had threatened Murr over the Anjar arrests. But Mehlis spent some time at the Lebanese defence ministry on Tuesday and reportedly asked for a copy of the LBC programme. An-Nahar said Wednesday that Murr’s testimony would provide strong evidence of how Syrian authorities freely threatened Lebanese officials, possibly validating claims that Rafik Hariri had been similarly threatened when he opposed the Lahoud extension.


Oh, and Lahoud, the father in law and Lebanon’s PRESIDENT (!!!!) jumped to Syria’s defence and reaffirmed the special ties bla bla bla… (vomit)

But what about that al-Qaeda cell? Did anybody bother to ask why would Ghazaleh lose his temper over the arrests? Did he believe those people were, umm, innocent? Or was he protecting them? Questions our media did not bother ask considering that most of these Islamists have been released under an amnesty law passed by parliament in July (the same law that secured the release of Samir Geagea)!

The ten Qaeda suspects (11 actually but one of them, their "leader", died in custody, his relatives claimed torture) were moved from prison to prison for over a year without ever being charged. Why were they not charged when Murr confidentally announced on television last year that they were planning to attack the Italian embassy, the Ukranian embassy and a bunch of Lebanese targets. "The network's role had been to enlist fundamentalists to carry out attacks in Iraq,” he added.

In interviews with the Daily Star, members of this alleged cell confessed to being Salafis with Jihadi inclinations. Some admitted they had fought in Iraq or considered joining the insurgency there.

When Syrian border police asked Yassin what he was doing in Iraq, he simply
replied, "I am a Mujahid."
I am going to ask this again: Was Syria protecting and nurturing those Islamists?

Al-Moustaqbal in one phrase on Wednesday said that Syria ran Islamist “farms” in the country. They cited no sources, presented no evidence.

But if the Islamists were really guilty (like Murr believed), and Syria was protecting them, why were they released?

I am just a blogger. I don’t have access to information like that. I know that Lebanese officials are whining about the incompetence of the security forces and their inability to conduct investigations. But do we have to wait until more people are killed until they decide to share snippets with us?

Unfortunately, most of us only have access to communiques, corporate media and rumors.

You are right the Anjar affair stinks. There is more below the surface than above .

I believe that the Anjar detainees only crime was their invlovement in the Iraqi insurgency . Majdal Anjar has always been a hotbed of Sunni Fundementalism and is adjacent to Ghazeli's headquarters in Anjar.

The riots and the closing of the international highway were only stopped by the personal intervention of Ghazali and the Beqaa Mufti S. Mais early in the morning. Was Ghazali protesting the torture and death of a Sunni co-religionist to cover his ass in Anjar or is there more? Only God knows.

There are many orbits in this model
and involve sinister people and motives. One thing that is sure is that the stakes are very high and the political Mafia will find an accomadation at the people's expense.

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