Why is Bassil attacking the Lebanese army commander?
Monday – 8 Rajab 1444 AH – January 30, 2023 AD Issue No [
General Joseph Aoun (Getty Images)
Beirut: Youssef Diab
The head of the Free Patriotic Movement, Lebanese MP Gebran Bassil, does not tire of attempts to surround the Maronite figures who are seriously running for the presidency, most notably the army commander, General Joseph Aoun, as his attack on him yesterday (Sunday) constituted a clear circumvention of contacts and meetings aimed at finding a common space between some blocs. Parliament and parties, including the recent meeting that brought together the head of the Progressive Socialist Party, Walid Jumblatt, with a delegation from “Hezbollah” devoted to discussing the presidential file and putting forward new names that could be compatible, foremost among them the name of General Aoun, who faces strong rejection from Basil and his team.
During a press conference, Bassil launched a violent attack on the army commander, accusing him of “violating the laws of defense and public accountability, taking by force the powers of the Minister of Defense (Maurice Selim), and disposing of millions at his whim with a fund of private funds and army property.”
Basil’s campaign against the army commander came a few days after a press interview by Defense Minister Maurice Selim, in which he attacked General Joseph Aoun, and confirmed that he was “about to put his dismissal to the cabinet,” noting that the defense minister retracted his words after three days, following his visit. To the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi in Bkerke.
However, the head of the “Meeting of Our Lady of the Mountain,” former MP Fares Saeed, considered that this attack “falls within the struggle of the Maronite roosters over the presidency of the republic.” In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he stressed that “Basil’s attack is unjustified against a person appointed by former President Michel Aoun at the head of the military establishment, and he was among his team,” placing the matter “in the context of Basil’s rivalry with General Joseph Aoun in the presidency.” Saeed ridiculed what he called “Basil’s allegations and his concern for the army, laws and transparency, because his practices in power disqualified him from marketing slogans of concern for institutions.”
Saeed pointed out that Bassil “continues today the systematic attack of former President Michel Aoun on three Maronite personalities, namely the Governor of the Banque du Liban, Riad Salameh, the army commander, Joseph Aoun, and the head of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Suhail Abboud, and he wanted to hold the Governor of the Banque du Liban and the judicial collapse responsible for the financial and economic collapse. To the head of the Judicial Council, and the security collapse later – if it occurred, God forbid – to the army commander. Saeed, who is known for his strong opposition to the term of former President Michel Aoun, believed that “Bassil’s words have no effect on the conscience of Christians, and they do not detract from the value of the army commander, because for Christians the leadership of the army may be more important than the presidency of the republic, and if a figure like Basil attacks it, it will not.” It means that it affected Christians or changed their convictions.
Bassil’s escalating position comes on the eve of an upcoming visit by the “Democratic Gathering” bloc headed by Representative Taymour Walid Jumblatt to the Patriarchal edifice in Bkerke to meet with Patriarch Al-Rahi, and put him in the atmosphere of the meeting of the “Socialist” and “Hezbollah” leaderships. And the expert in political and security affairs, retired Brigadier General Khaled Hamadeh, said that Bassil “opens fire on all candidates for the presidency, including the army commander.”
In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, he confirmed that the army “is a stand-alone case and is respected and supported by all Lebanese, whoever is the leader of this institution.” Hamadeh pointed out that the head of the Free Movement “put in the picture behind him (during the press conference) the word (we are alone), meaning that he is left alone in the presidential battle, and is trying to seek sympathy from (Lebanese Forces leader Samir) Geagea, under the pretext of warning against isolating Christians deserve the presidency, but this will not change the convictions of Geagea and the majority of the Christian parties that Bassil fought for many years.
For his part, Walid al-Ashqar, a member of the Political Council of the Free Patriotic Movement, refused to link Basil’s words about the army commander to the presidential battle, and pointed out that the head of the movement “is not yet a candidate for the presidency of the republic, with evidence that he proposes a group of names to agree on any of them, unless it happens.” Developments necessitated his candidacy, as he made clear in his press conference.
Al-Ashqar confirmed to Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is a problem in the army commander’s management in terms of monopolizing the management of funds and appointments in the military establishment, which exceeds his powers, and constitutes an infringement on the powers of the Minister of Defense,” noting that “the management of the financial and administrative file belongs to the Minister of Defense and not the commander The army, and this is what we always point out in order to preserve the army, its unity and its role.