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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mehlis to name five Syrian officials as suspects (updated)

According to a report in Stern magazine that will be published Thursday, Mehlis will name the head of Syrian military intelligence Asef Shawkat as a suspect in the Hariri assassination. The German investigator will reportedly also name four other Syrian officials as suspects, including Rustom Ghazaleh, the former Syrian military intelligence chief in Lebanon.

Shawkat is Bashar's brother in law. He was appointed on the day of the Hariri assassination and is considered the second most powerful man in Syria, after the late Hafez al-Assad.. (ok, ok, Bashar!)

Meanwhile, French police detained on Sunday witness-turned-suspect Mohammed Zuhair al-Siddiq, after Lebanon's general prosecutor Said Mirza issued a warrant for his arrest.

Fares Khashan in al-Mustaqbal says Siddiq, whom Syria accused of misleading the investigation, used to live in Lebanon and accompanied former Syrian intelligence chief-General branch Bahjat Suleiman during his Lebanon trips. ( FYI, Suleiman was removed from his position in June of this year right after the Baath congress, which saw the purge of many "old guard"... NOTE: this is not to say Bahjat was of the old guard. Tony seems to think that his fall from grace was due to rivalry with Shawkat)

Khashan goes on to say that Bahjat Suleiman, who is also a prolific writer (or an "intellectual") is the author of an article in which he threatened the world with dire consequences if Syria were to pull out of Lebanon:
He spoke of a hellish alliance whereby Palestinian refugees from Jordan and Syria would leave those countries to join the refugees in Lebanon and strike a war alliance with Hizbullah. The south Lebanon front would go up in flames, and the Lebanese would be divided and turn against one another. After that there will be chaos, the return of death, and the entire region will burn...
According to Khashan, Mehlis asked Mirza to arrest Siddiq over a month ago, but Mirza wanted to wait until he was on Lebanese soil because he didn't want to deal with extradition issues. But after Kanaan's "suicide", Mirza asked the French to arrest him.

It is not clear if Suleiman will also be named by Mehlis. Regardless, the naming of Shawkat alone, if the report is accurate, will have Assad call Amanpour to retract his comment about putting "traitors" on trial, unless he plans on joining them.

Addendum: Here is the Al-Seyassah article (published on 19 February, read it here and here) that named Bahjat, Assef and Lebanese Jamil al-Sayyed as the culprits. According to the article, Assef was appointed head of military intelligence 30 minutes after the blast that killed Hariri (do you think Bashar had had the time to hear about the assassination on the news as he claimed in that CNN interview?)

For those of you who read Arabic, note the part in the article about Bassel al-Assad's opposition to Shawkat marrying his sister, Bushra. Bassel (who was supposed to succeed Hafez) "loathed" Shawkat and it was only when the former "died in a car accident" that Shawkat was able to marry Bushra. An unnamed American official told the paper that Shawkat is part of a gang of 12 who are the de-facto rulers of Syria and who are involved in terrorist operations in Iraq and elsewhere.

Comments:
LOL! He won't retract his comment. I hope he will join them. But the most likely scenario will be a "conspiracy theory" by Israel and America to occupy Syria and Lebanon blah blah blah blah
 
Wow! Need to add that towering intellectual Bahjat Suleiman to my reading list ASAP. After I am done reading the collected works of Saddam,that is.
 
Bahjat is not really of the "old guard." He is tied to Bashar, and his biggest role was in facilitating the transition from Hafez to Bashar, backing Bashar at a critical moment.

His recent fall from grace so to speak is unclear, but is likely due to rivalry with Asef Shawkat and the process of narrowing the base even more within the immediate confines of the Asad family (Bashar, Maher, Asef, Asad's mother, and Rami Makhlouf.)

I think he will be named as one of the suspects. The question is whether one of the five named will be Maher, or whether it will be the two officers (jameh and khallouf), Rustom, Bahjat, and Asef, the latter being the highest up (which is already quite high but falls short of naming an Assad). We'll see. All this is speculation.
 
Feris seems to think that Bahjat's removal is tied to the investigation and Siddiq's role. That sounds reasonable and may very well be the case, and it does dovetail with my point about further consolidating all power within the immediate family, and putting all the networks in the hands of Asef. Everything outside the immediate family can be cut off.
 
The funniest part is that right after the Hariri murder, As-Seyassah, which is always to be taken with a grain of salt, actually named three Syrians as the culprits: Asef, Maher, and Bahjat (in conjuntion with as-Sayyed and the rest in Lebanon). The final picture is looking close to the one painted by As-Seyassah!!!
 
Actually I still have that Seyassah article. Why don't I post a link to it as an addendum.
 
Rivalry in the sense of consolidation, whereby everything is in the hands of the family, which means Asef when it comes to intelligence networks.
 
Actually, Maher shot Assef once because Assef criticized uncle Rifaat. What a family.
 
I'll be posting about that later today.
 
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