Samir Geagea

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Lebanese Forces Leader

Quotes

“If Hizbullah continues as it is today, this will attract many negative elements to Lebanon - like it or not. You might say that we should fight these negative elements. We cannot. Lebanon cannot confront all these negative forces.”

"The members of Hizbullah do not perceive Lebanon as their nation. The way they perceive it, the nation has a clear caliph – Ayatollah Khamenei. That is the nation...(t)hey are honorable fighters with a cause, but unfortunately, their cause has nothing to do with our view of Lebanon."

"I have spent 11 horrific years in solitary confinement in a 6-square-meter dungeon three floors underground without sunlight or fresh air. But I endured my hardships because I was merely living my convictions."


Early Years and Education

You were born on October 25, 1952 in Ain el Remmmaneh, a suburb of Beirut. Your father was a member of the Lebanese Army. You attended “Ecole Benilde” elementary school and secondary school in Furn el-Chebek. On a scholarship you studied medicine for six years at the American University of Beirut and Saint Joseph University. Even though you studied medicine for so long, you never actually practiced medicine.


Public Life

In the early 1980’s you were appointed head of the Lebanese Forces’ militia northern Front, where you were in charge of over 1500 soldiers. The Lebanese Forces is a right-wing political party that originally started as a militia, but after the Lebanese civil war reinvented itself politically. As the leader of this group, you led your soldiers into many battles, including fights against the Syrian Army, against Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party militia, and against the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). In 1982, at least 800 Palestinian civilians were massacred at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut between September 16 and 18 of 1982. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) surrounded these Palestinian refugee camps, and this allowed your men to kill most of the people inside. Lebanese Christian militiamen massacred these civilians, led by the Christian Phalange group that was out for blood after the murder of its leader, Bashir Gemayel, but with the cooperation of Lebanese Forces militiamen. Gemayel was a Lebanese Christian leader who was elected President on August 23, 1982 and was then assassinated less than a month later on September 14. Along with 26 other people, he was killed by a car bomb that exploded outside of the Beirut headquarters of the Phalange. The Sabra and Shatila massacres were part of an effort to expel the PLO from Lebanon, as part of Israel’s “Peace for Galilee” invasion that was masterminded by Israel’s then Defense Minister Ariel Sharon (though Sharon denied responsibility for the huge loss of life, and Israeli military court found him “indirectly responsible” for the killings, a finding which derailed Sharon’s political ambitions for several years).

On March 12, 1985, with the help of Elie Hobeika, you orchestrated an internal coup in your party, against the then party leader Fouad Abou Nader, as you and Hobeika felt that Nader was too conciliatory towards the Syrians. Nader did not attempt to fight back, as he felt that no blood should be shed. Then, on January 15, 1986 you became the head of the Lebanese Forces after forcing out Hobeika, who had committed what you considered to be an act of treason by signing a treaty with Syria. You are also rivals with Michael Aoun, a prominent Christian leader and head of the Free Patriotic Movement. In the spring of 1989 you turned against Aoun after he wanted to continue to fight the losing war against the Syrians. Also, you take issue with Aoun’s cordial relationship with Hezbollah. On October 13, 1990 you were offered ministerial portfolios in the new Lebanese government after Aoun was ousted, but you refused as you felt that Syria still had too much power. On April 21, 1994 you were arrested for the ordering of a church bombing that took place two months prior, killing 9 people. More importantly, you were also charged with attempting to undermine government authority by “maintaining a militia in the guise of a political party.” You were also accused of the assassinations of Former Prime Minister Rashid Karami, National Liberal Party leader Dany Chamoun and his family, and former LF member Elias Al Zayek, as well as attempting to kill cabinet minister Michel Murr. You were convicted of these crimes, but acquitted of the church bombing, resulting in your receiving four life sentences. In 2005, supporters of the Cedar Revolution, a chain of demonstrations in Lebanon that were the result of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, won the majority of the parliamentary elections. The Lebanese Parliament passed an amnesty bill on July 18, 2005, which led to the approval of your release from prison. 

After a short period in France, you returned to Lebanon to lead the Lebanese Forces party, which in the 2009 parliamentary elections increased its number of seats from 6 to 8, making them the second most powerful bloc in the March 14th Coalition. Since you return, you have remained an outspoken critic of Syria, an attitude which may have resulted in a 2012 assassination attempt. While you were unharmed and the shooter was never arrested, you strongly suspect the culprit to be a Hezbollah agent acting at the behest of Syria. In 2015, the Wikileaks release of diplomatic cables revealed you to have been in contact with the Saudi government, asking for money to help shore up your party’s financial needs. While the request was embarrassing, it was not entirely surprising, given your shared interest in ridding Lebanon of foreign (read: Shiite) influence, as well as Saudi Arabia’s longstanding history of so-called “checkbook diplomacy.”

At one point in 2014, you were seen as the leading candidate for President, but in early 2016 you surprised many by backing Michel Aoun, your former rival. The government remained deadlocked for several more months, until Hariri ultimately followed your lead in backing Aoun. To some extent, this change of heart reflected Saudi Arabia’s decreased presence in Lebanese internal politics, partially due to their ongoing war in Yemen, and partially due to their dissatisfaction with the growing influence of Hezbollah. Without their traditional backing, Hariri felt the need to throw his support behind a compromise candidate, and was rewarded himself when Aoun, in his capacity as president, appointed him Prime Minister on December 18th.


Domestic Issues of Concern

Your Lebanese Forces party is the main Christian component of the March 14th Alliance. The Lebanese Forces are a right-wing party founded by Bashir Gemayel. On September 10, 1990, the Lebanese Forces Party was founded with three principle goals: safeguarding Lebanon’s independence, founding the government on basic human rights, and establishing a democratic system where every citizen has human rights. The original reason behind the formation of your party was to create a united Christian Lebanese front against the Palestinians. Throughout the history of your party, the main focus has to been united Lebanon under Lebanese rule, and to rid the country of foreign influence, chiefly that of Syria. At the present time, this influence is led by Hezbollah, which has Syria’s strong backing. Also, since the time of your release the LF has been working on rebuilding its image, mainly by attempting to reorganize, reopen political facilities, and reestablish the Christian presence in Lebanon. You have continued to work on promoting a political system built on diversity, freedom to foster development and democracy of representation. Your party is well represented at the higher education levels of your society, including student organizations, and labor unions involving doctors, lawyers, engineers and teachers. Your main issue of concern remains the role of Syria in your country. After you were sent to jail as a result of Syrian influence, you have continued to hate how they sway your government. Your strong stance against Syria is both one of your biggest strengths as a leader, and one of your biggest weaknesses, as there are many who feel that Hezbollah's greater prominence (which brings great influence for Syria) is good for Lebanon. 


Beliefs and Policies Pertaining to the Middle East

You are firm on your stance that Lebanon should truly be its own country, and that no outside forces or influences should play a major role in your country’s decisions. An interesting aspect of your policies pertaining to the Middle East is the fact that you fought on the side of the Israelis. Even though you did not wish to turn to Israel for help, in the early 1980’s you were forced to join forces with them to rid your country of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. At that time, you and Ariel Sharon formed an effective (if secret) alliance, with the common goal of riding Lebanon of outside forces. However, this is something that has been used against you by many Lebanese, who want nothing to do with Israel. You said that even though Israel is not a friend, at the time they were the only country that was willing to help Lebanon rid itself of the enemy Palestinians. In the current climate, this may be compared to your turning to Saudi Arabia for financial assistance. Basically, while your goal remains an independent Lebanon, you have no problem reaching abroad for help in achieving it.  


Role Playing Notes

You are first and foremost a military man. Even though you were convicted of crimes you claim you did not commit, and sentenced to time in jail, you do not regret the decisions that you have made. You will continue to fight for Lebanon to be controlled by the Lebanese, and for the government to be fully democratic. For you, an ally is someone who can help you rid Lebanon of outside influence, and enemies are those who attempt to use Lebanon as their playground. One thing that you must be very careful of is how the Syrian government interacts with you. As Syria regains influence in Lebanon, you need to be able to understand how they are going to talk to you. For Syria, you represent one of the few remaining people who are steadfastly against their country. You feel that you were wronged by a government heavily influenced by the Syrians, and will continue to fight for Lebanon to shape its own destiny. Syria can either attempt to alienate you completely, or try to hope that they can reason with you. Another thing you should play upon is the violence in your past. As not only a military leader, but someone who was convicted of murdering four people, you are considered to be quite ruthless. When it comes to your home country, you will do what is necessary to get the job done. However, in prison for the murders, you underwent what you called “auto-psychoanalysis”, in which you went back and revisited your past wars, thinking about what was good and what was wrong. When you were released from prison you stated that you hoped the people who you had harmed had forgiven you. While your 2016 backing of Aoun for president may show that you have been willing to lay old conflicts to rest in the interest of a unified Lebanon, others see a cagey political move, in which you let Aoun keep the President’s chair warm while you work behind the scenes to later secure the position for yourself. In any case, this newfound flexibility gives you great latitude in establishing productive relationships, both inside Lebanon and abroad.


Sources

http://www.lebaneseforces.com/about.asp

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Geagea

http://www.samirgeagea.com/

http://articles.latimes.com/2008/dec/15/world/fg-warlord15?pg=1

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1779713.stm

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