Across the Bay

Friday, June 03, 2005

Insolent Braveheart

Michael Young penned another eulogy of Samir Qassir in the DS:

Samir had arrogance, justified by superb intelligence. Whenever he wrote something, it hit like a jackhammer. And as he cheekily spat at the security edifice set up by the Syrians and their local friends, one that endures to this day, his killers plotted their revenge. They should have known better. There is a United Nations investigation preparing to look into the death of Rafik Hariri; if they want information on who assassinated Hariri, there is surely something useful to be uncovered in the murder of Samir Kassir.

Several years ago, Samir had to protect himself against the attentions of the head of the General Security Directorate, General Jamil al-Sayyed. He had written a typically impudent article titled: "Who Are You Being a Soldier Against?" in which he criticized Sayyed.

The general reacted by dispatching agents to tail and harass Samir for weeks, and by confiscating his passport. This was no game. In an interview last year, Samir told me: "I have reason to think that they initially intended to harm me. However, I spotted my 'followers' early on ... and I immediately contacted officials not directly linked with the [security services] so they would intervene. After that, the agents' purpose was maybe to isolate me."

Sayyed is now gone, but that doesn't mean Samir's enemies are. It was his misfortune to be a target for the issuing of multiple messages, which, for various reasons, could not be sent directly to the recipients. Samir's death was certainly a settlement of past scores and a warning to the media; but it was particularly a sign that the killers of Rafik Hariri are still around, and that changing what the Syrians left behind will not be as easy as many imagine. Most alarmingly, Samir's death may be linked to the grand brawl lying ahead over the future of the presidential mandate, and which both the men in Baabda and their foes in Mukhtara and Qoreitem now regard as an existential struggle.