Amateurs and Pros – Who Killed Wissam el Hassan ?

Michel Samaha was a clumsy sideshow. The real assassination pros pulled off a stunning feat on Friday.

Following Friday’s astonishing Ashrafieh assassination, there was a lot of talk in Lebanon linking the explosion to the aborted plan by Michel Samaha, a Lebanese ex minister and Assad confidant, to initiate a series of explosions in the north of Lebanon to terrorise the population. Assad, the logic went, is bent on creating mayhem in Lebanon to divert attention from what’s happening in Syria.

Yet the more I think about these two sinister plans the more I believe that they have completely different masterminds. This is important because it clarifies a common Lebanese misunderstanding and shines a light on the bigger picture of what is happening in Lebanon and in the region.

Dilettantes versus experts

Think for a moment of what happened with Mr. Samaha. That entire situation now feels like a joke, a foolish and comical undertaking by amateurs. The Syrian president allegedly slips some explosives to his pal, a cowardly soft-spoken Christian ex-minister, who falls like a rat into a trap set up by Lebanon’s intelligence, only to tearfully confess his misdemeanour on record to the entire Lebanese people. Not only that, but the only person in Lebanon who defends him is Jamil el Sayyed, a man so lacking in eloquence that he turned himself and Samaha into complete laughingstocks.

Now compare that to what happened on Friday. A targeted assassination that successfully took out one of Lebanon’s most powerful and secretive men on the same day he came back to Lebanon from abroad. Wissam el Hassan is so secretive that you can hardly find pictures of him online, so powerful that he gets under Hezbollah’s skin, and yet the assassins knew the date he will land in Lebanon, the road he will take, and the time he will take that road. The assassins meticulously, carefully and flawlessly designed a plan to take him out.

It just doesn’t sound right that the same hand was behind these two events.

What this means

There are two ways to interpret the conclusion above: The first is that the entire Samaha episode was a setup and that the Syrian-Iranian axis is as powerful as ever (as demonstrated by Friday’s killing). The other explanation, which I find more plausible, is that Assad has weakened greatly in Lebanon and he now only controls fools like Samaha, Sayyed and Wiam wahhab. The Iranians and their proxies on the other hand are as powerful and precise as ever.

Many Lebanese have a habit of instinctively blaming Assad whenever something bad happens in Lebanon. It is perhaps time to revisit this assumption and do what the Special Tribunal for Lebanon did long ago: Focus on the real source of terror in this country.

→ Respond to this post On Twitter
  • V

    ” I believe that they have completely different masterminds”

    It takes one to know one, which means you probably should not comment on the issue.

  • John

    Shu hal zaka kilo, ah w Israel is not an option?

    Either Syria or Iran, no other option. I like the way you think, Ignorant as fuck.

  • Omar Chatah

    Straight and to the point Mustafa, as always.

  • Doug Pologe (@DougPologe)

    What would have motivated the Iranians to assassinate Wissam el Hassan? Simply because he was opposing the Iranian’s client in Syria, or would there be more involved?

  • Wael

    Syria had nothing to do with it. It’s Hezbollah.

    The Samaha and Aoun’s alleged assassination attempt were setup episodes for this assassination.

    Hezbollah controls the airport which is the only gate to enter Lebanon. This is a message to everyone that the near fall of the Syrian regime will not affect them.

    In 2005, Hariri was assassinated and Syria was pushed out of Lebanon. Hezbollah didn’t waist any time to fill the gap.

    Today, the Syrian regime will fall and Hezbollah is as powerful as ever holding Lebanon. They control the government and their militias controls the ground.

    This is the last chapter. Next is a full fledged war between Iran and Israel.

    • Bob William Knight

      i think not pal hez are finished .the FSA are coming for your leader. remember a righteous man has nothing to hide but a rat hides in a hole .you must be very proud of him .better tell him to make the hole deeper you know big enough for you too. lol lo l lol

  • bahia

    Instead of focusing on the real source of terror they randomly throw bombs all over and display acts of insignificant chaos… the situation is altogether too chaotic which only makes us the Lebanese more insecure than ever…

  • Ghada

    It’s a fucked up place, in a fucked up world!
    God help us all! God help my lebanon!
    Excuse the language! It’s an emotional day!

  • Observer

    Would Hezbollah risk alienating themselves again as they did in 2005 with such an assassination? I don’t think so.

    It was Bashar EL Assad from 2005 all the way through to today. Saad EL Hariri just confirmed that live on Future TV.

    We need calmer tempers.

    • Bob William Knight

      thats why it’s the perfect crime. they know everything that goes on in Lebanon plus they get rid of an enemy what kind of a detective are you?lol

  • hannad

    you need to consider the option that we (you an me and all except of handfull in Lebanon, literally handull) know what was semaha issue (or the assassination of Hassan). what is happening in Lebanon is the work ans et ups of secret services, and you have many layers for the turth, and if you beleive you covered one, there will be few layers below that you are not even aware they exist. people like wissam hassan “might” have had an idea of what was really going on, but no one is even close to that. hence, no facts will ever mean a lot, coz this is only one layer of the reality. what you can do is just make a political analysis and hope it makes sense.

    • Bob William Knight

      wtf r tu talkin about use plain english

  • mhaddir

    i don’t think that there is any big explanation about who killed this man. lebanon has a terrible government because its people want to be independent and divorced from one another but they don’t want to to be bothered with ruling. so instead a powerless, divided, and corrupt government does the job, and who should be surprised that influential people are being assassinated? i dont blame the lebanese government, they are what society has demanded of them. who cares about samaha or iran? people always get killed in power vacuums, as is happening in syria.

    i think what is much scarier than the thought that iran or israel or syria or whoever planned this attack is that the country is so delusional that it doesn’t even realize that when it walks into a wall it isn’t the wall’s fault that its in pain.

  • romeo

    If I understand correctly, Beirut Airport is a nest for pro-Iran operatives. It is not the first time someone uses that entry point and gets killed.

    A small GPS tracking device could have been slipped into his luggage, or a drone (so timely to have those eh!) could have tracked him and directed the assassins

    The posiibilities are endless. We can only speculate. We can blame Israel too. But why? One always starts with the party that has the *most* to lose.

    The Syrian regime is going down the drain. Iran is being squeezed by sanctions and will soon disintegrate into riots, then collapse. Their operatives in Lebanon will run out of benefactors and money, and will have to be re-integrated into civilized society or incarcerated.

    It is a long road, but we will get there.

  • Observer

    It will be very interesting to see what stance Najib Mikati will take tomorrow and the coming days.

    I wonder if this assassination was intended to kill two birds with one stone. Wissam Hassan and forcing Najib Mikati to resign, plunging Lebanon into a new vacuum ahead of the elections.

    If he doesn’t, the Sunnis might get divided.

    • Observer

      It’s a win-win for Syria and Hezbollah.

  • Dania

    Same as with all the other assassinations, they both are in on it and both profit from it.

  • rubber ducky

    let me get this straight. you’re saying that syria, which has assassinated people from kamal jumblatt to bashir gemayel then rene mouawad and the mufti khaled, to name a few, is a bunch of amateurs, while a non state actor like hezbollah are professionals. i would really like to get some of the weed you’re smoking.
    syria did it, like every single assassination before it, including hariri’s. the samaha thing was entrapment of samaha, syria had nothing to do with it, they did not even plan it, the ISF did, and maybe – or maybe not who knows- they walked into it. Syria is being run by russian intellegence now, did you forget the russians might have done it? hassan is directly involved in the conflict in syria, syria has the most to gain from his death. just because you want it to be hezbollah, doesn’t mean it was hezbollah.

    • Bob William Knight

      u could be right but we all know hezbola is guilty as sin

  • Bart

    ‘it’s not the first time somebody uses that entry point (the airport) and got killed – what kind of reasoning is that? first, there IS virtually no other entry point to Lebanon, so EVERYBODY uses it all the time, without getting killed. Second, Hassan has been instru;ental in rolling up an entire extensive Israeli spy network in recent years, and this kind of massive explosion has all the hallmarks of a Mossad/CIA-operation. If the Syrian authorities were even capable of orchestrating this kind of operation, they wouldn’t be in the shit they were in now. I have never seen the slightest shred of conclusive evidence that Syria or HA were behind the series of assassinations starting with Rafiq Hariri, and we all know wn=ho benefited from them – NOT the Syrian regime, but the Saudi, Iraeli and US regimes – and that’s where my money has always been. Note also the similarity of this operation with the one that killed half of the top of Syrian security apparatus in Damascus last august…

    • romeo

      @Bart…since you asked:

      1) Gobran Tueini – September 13 2005 – soon after arriving to Lebanon via airport.

      2) Antoine Ghanem – December 20 2007 – soon after arriving to Lebanon via airport.

      3) Hizbollah invasion of Beirut – 2008, soon after Saniora gov’t tries to remove the Hizbollah-leaning Brigadier General Wafiq Choucair (Airport Security Chief).

      4) And now Wissam El Hassan

      The evidence points to Saudi, CIA and Israel you say?

    • Lebnen

      That comment defies any logic.

    • Bob William Knight

      come on even stupid people agree that israel gets blamed for everything by scuzralla. if you fart it’s a israeli project. plenty of evidence hez did it last time they get caught every time nasralla will be caught out of his hole soon and ill ask him

  • OldHand

    The comment above is a sure sign that there is little hope for Lebanon and the region in general, More than 50% of people cannot handle the truth.

    Yeah right, Israel has been busy killing every enemy of Syria for years now. The Israelis have been known to be very stupid and to do, day in and day out, the bidding of their worst enemies.

    Step # 1: before we get anywhere: we can disagree on many things but still have a useful dscussion or not. But I am sorry plain STUPIDITY has to be called that and thrown OUT.

  • Observer

    Watching LBC live. The protests in Tripoli are a joke. Street thugs seem to be drunk barking out absolute non-sensical rhetoric when asked why and what they are protesting about.

    Martyr square. It took about 10 minutes for March 14 members to disagree publicly on live TV.

    They’ll do anything for their 5 minutes of fame. It’s a joke!

  • ws

    here’s a more logical explanation of Syria’s involvement from the always insightful Michael Young:

    “There had been speculation that Syria took the odd step of enlisting the militarily untested Mr Samaha in a bombing campaign with the aim of provoking sectarian clashes because Hizbollah was reluctant to do so on Syria’s behalf. The rationale was that the party, though close to the Assad regime, had no desire to exacerbate Sunni-Shiite animosities, as this might suck it into a debilitating civil conflict.

    If true, then how does one explain the assassination of Gen Al Hassan? It’s possible that Hizbollah, if it was indeed involved in the crime, had little latitude to refuse a Syrian request to get rid of the general. More likely, it saw an advantage in removing a man who was regarded as a favourite to succeed Gen Rifi, and concluded that sectarian tensions could be contained.”

  • 3antar

    I agree, we must focus on the real source of terror in this country, the sunnis in the north! Starting with the salafi shiitephobic terrorist that writes this blog.

    • burger

      You guys are getting reaaaaalllllllyyy boring and old… It’s time to find a new line.

  • Shiwa7ad

    OK quite frankly, it’s not that Hassan didn’t think his foes couldn’t get him, it’s just that he thought they wouldn’t dare: By the mere fact he went through the airport and went through the airport road, he put himself at the mercy of you know who, and the same goes for everyone who goes through the airport. All talk about security is just a joke if there is no entry point to Lebanon that’s not under the Hezb military and security control. Every single citizen who comes through the airport reaches his home only because the Hezb allows him to. Period

  • rubber ducky

    Shiwa7ad, there’s nothing you, I or anyone in this world including Israel and America, not for lack of trying, can do about Hezbollah.

    • Bob William Knight

      the fsa is coming .they r mad and getting madder nasralla is making mistake after mistake 10 bucks says nas dead in 1 year

  • Lebnen

    You lost me at the end. Syria has proxies in Lebanon & they are very calculating. See the car bomb in Damascus today in a Christian neighborhood. It’s a decoy to say- hey Christians also in Syria are targeted. It’s a load of typical crap. Their tactics are exposed & obvious.

  • rubber ducky

    [Le Figaro]”… Les services de renseignements francais et americains le connaissaient tres bien. Cet ete, son service a ete en pointe dans l’arrestation de l’ancien ministre libanais pro syrien Michel Samaha, accuse de preparer des attentats pour destabiliser le Liban. Une accusation accueillie avec un certain scepticisme par certains membres de la communaute du renseignement en France, notamment.
    ”Samaha etait bien trop malin pour se laisser embarquer en personne dans une telle operation”, affirme un agent, qui privilegie plutot la piste d’une manipulation par le service de Wissam el-Hassan. Ce ne serait pas la premiere fois que celui-ci trempe dans un tel montage: apres l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri, le service des FSI (celui de W. el-Hassan) avait deja fabrique un faux temoin a charge contre Damas, en la personne de Zouheir Ziddiq, avec la collaboration d’autres services dans la region, lesquels se retrouvent aujourd’hui comme par hasard engages dans la lutte pour faire tomber Bachar el-Assad en Syrie.
    Ce matin, les proches de Wissam el-Hassan – notamment dans son entourage professionnel – etaient interroges par les enqueteurs libanais, qui cherchent a savoir qui l’a ‘’vendu’’…..”

  • Bob William Knight

    speak english in a english blog

    • rubber ducky

      it is not an english blog. it is a lebanese blog. and most lebanese speak three languages. this is not addressed to you and the original source of my quote is in french. so take a hike

  • Lebanese Expat

    An Open Letter to His Excellency, President of Lebanon, His Excellency the Prime Minister, all Members of the Lebanese Parliament, all leaders of Lebanese political parties and all Lebanese both in Lebanon and around the world,

    Firstly, I wish to regret the events of the Achrafieh bombing, and God rest the souls of all those killed in the event. This is a tragic event for Lebanon, particularly the families who have lost a father or mother, a son or daughter, a brother or sister.

    I am a Lebanese expatriate, born in Australia, with Lebanese citizenship. My father’s family left Lebanon over a century ago, my mothers, 40 years ago – therefore I have never lived in Lebanon. I have visited Lebanon, which I still consider my home, several times. I love it with all my heart and will never deny it as my home. Each day I work tirelessly to make a living in Australia and keep up with life, and keep my family fed and comfortable. I also work tirelessly to help the image of Lebanese in Australia – as many see us as a barbaric peoples thanks to a minority of the community who the media use to portray Lebanese here as ungrateful Australian citizens.

    I write to you in hurt for a country that I hope one day, me, like many other expatriates around the world, would be suitable enough to return to, make a living, raise a family in a decent and orderly society, and contribute to its development – but in the current climate, the country offers me nothing but a holiday destination, that I can only dream of living in.

    My first question is to all of you, why do the affairs of Syria, Israel and the whole region dominate political life? Rather than discussing the issues of our own country, the government is still discussing interference of Israel and Syria in the government, in political life, in day to day life. But what about the other more pressing issues that never get discussed by government, but would change the lives of Lebanese, such as:

    1. Finding the thousands of missing persons who were taken during the Civil War, and since;

    2. Responding to day-to-day issues such as traffic, public transport, social welfare and the like;

    3. Providing at least the basic infrastructure to help the economy grow, such as high speed and readily available internet, running electricity and clean water to all, a public transport network that connects the countries great cities, a proper sewerage system that does not damage our environment (and the list goes on);

    4. Actually implementing laws such as an electoral law, that does not serve the interests of a party, but rather, the electorate; and one that does not give rise to sectarianism, but rather, builds trust between sects so we don’t feel the need to protect our sects against others;

    5. Supporting our youth so they stop moving out of the country, by creating employment by investing with the private sector on large nation building projects such as mass transit systems, a second international airport, rebuilding Tripoli, and establishing a high speed nation wide internet network.

    Will any of the above ever be considered?

    My second question is, (if I do have the right to vote at the 2013 election from Australia), who do I vote for? As a Maronite, I have two options, the March 8 or March 14 alliance. There seems to be no alternatives. So do I vote for a party allied with another party who still holds weapons in the name of resistance (but nonetheless weapons that have been used in 2008 against Lebanese for political gain); or do I vote for the other bloc who are allied with Islamic extremists who wish to associate themselves with the Syrian crisis? My options are limited. Whilst I respect that each party has a political ideology, there just seems to be no choice for me, a young individual, who would prefer to vote for a party that will actually invest in nation building, invest in its youth, and make Lebanon a viable alternative for living, so maybe then I can consider coming home permanently, sending my children to a great Lebanese school and university, and allowing them to grow up in a tri-lingual word with the potential to use this as an advantage and become wordly people.

    I have such a deep respect for those young people in Lebanon who remain. I love seeing tweets and facebook posts with vision, with talent and with a hope for Lebanon by these young people. My heart breaks when I see tweets and facebook posts by these same people saying they can hear gun-shots, or saying they can’t wait to flee Lebanon. Why should they have these thoughts? Do you want them to join me, and the millions of other Lebanese around the world in becoming expatriates?

    To these young people, I hope you do remain, because you can use your vote to make change. I can’t (well not yet anyway).

    I haven’t lost hope in Lebanon, but as a citizen of our great country, I just ask of our leaders, that they reflect on the below, and try to re-set our leadership’s priorities (just a little bit, just to make our home a better place):

    1. Rather than trying to rid our government of Syrian intervention, or backing the downfall of the Syrian regime, why don’t we focus on building true Lebanese politicians with a national plan for Lebanon that does not make mention of any other country but Lebanon;

    2. As an expat, part of a body of people that bring $12 billion into Lebanon’s economy, I would really appreciate being able to have a say over who represents me in parliament. I would love to vote for the region my family come from – not because I want to keep its sectarian balance, but because this is where my family own property, stay and spend when we are in Lebanon. It is therefore in my interests that I vote for who will best meet my needs in this area.

    3. Can you make me WANT to move to Lebanon? I would really appreciate this. Life in Lebanon is great. I love the fact that I can walk down the street in Achrafieh, Hamra, Saida, Sidon, Tripoli, Batroun, Bcharre, Zgharta, Jezzine etc etc etc, and talk to anyone about anything. I can’t do that in Australia, because people would just think you’re have something wrong with you. But in Lebanon, our openness and love for other people is something I treasure and would love for my children to grow up in this environment.

    4. Have we thought of solving any of our problems diplomatically? Politically? Yes, I know. This will take such a long time. But why don’t we sit down with Israel (as against their very existence as I am) and set out an action plan for peace, the return of the Palestinian people, the demarcation of our border and the withdrawal of their troops from our nation. Yes, there are so many points of contention, and this could take decades, but patience is a virtue and persistence is the key. Or is violence the only answer? Just checking whether the former has been seriously considered? Or Is this too dangerous?

    5. When will there be serious attempts to build national infrastructure? Or will political bickering and disagreement over the smallest of matters mean that these items never get consideration???

    6. Why are party’s so sectarian based? Why can’t the 50-50 Christian/Muslim allocation in parliament be maintained (if necessary), but filled in with members from parties based on liberal, democratic, republic or labour-based parties. Parties with national not international interests? Is this possible? Can we ever have any serious parties with a sectarian mix? PS> I don’t consider March 8 or March 14 to be such, these are groups of parties that are either Pro-Syrian regime, or pro-Free Syrian Army. They are not groups they are Pro-Lebanese Mass Transit System, or Against-discrimination of women. Sectarian tendencies still seem to dominate.

    7. Finally, will I ever be able to move back home? A tear is bought to my eye trying to think this day will ever come.

    Anyway, I hope you’ve had time to read this amid all of the current chaos, but please put our people’s interests first. We have such a beautiful country, but we make it looks barbaric. We have such a beautiful culture, but we make it looks barbaric. We have history as good as the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians, but we don’t give time for anyone to focus on these.

    Please work to make Lebanon a home where we can all re-consider whether we need to live abroad.

    I love Lebanon, I love you all, and I hope you can love us too.

    Best regards,

    Lebanese expatriate.

  • romeo

    @Lebanese Expat,

    The questions you bring up probably summarize what 99% of Lebanese ask themselves every day.

    One can only hope that high quality blogs (like this one) are read by Lebanese everywhere and will trigger some soul-searching, then some action.

    I am an expat like you. I have the same aspirations…and realities.

    But I am also confident that the information revolution has awakened the masses around the Arab world. We can’t hide our dirty secrets under the carpet. The new generation will clean up this mess. We just need to be there for them.

    Finally, Expat….you *are* a genuine Lebanese.

    How do I know?

    You managed to squeeze TWELVE (12!) questions into this post, and disguised them under “two questions”…

    I love you, and other Lebanese too :-)


    Following Saad Hariri”s rants on Twitter during Walid Jumbalt”s interview on Kalam El Nas, I fear the young chap had a bit too much Eid El Adha alcohol with his Saudi brethren.