The Last Hours of Ghazi Kanaan
Which brings me to an Ah-Ha! moment and speculation of my own. Tycoons are dangerous men because their wealth gives them an all-corrupting tool. When they take to politics and mass media, like Berlusconi or Murdoch or Hearst, they can even subvert nations. Rafiq Hariri entered the ring as a political kingmaker and media magnate as Prime Minister and owner of Lebanon's Future TV. No doubt a clever and resourceful fellow, whose stunning ascent from rags to riches raised eyebrows, he likely had an umbilical to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With those two turbines of wealth churning on a hypothetical concerted agenda or even just calling the shots--well, this would certainly be seen as a threat to the nation by many, even in a place of legendary double-dealing, oligarchy and corruption like Lebanon (with all due respect for the Lebanese people). So I wouldn't be surprised if Lebanese political figures were behind the Hariri assassination.
Le Monde's Beirut correspondent Mouna Naïm analyzes the demise and death of Ghazi Kanaan.
The 64 year-old Syrian Interior Minister, Ghazi Kanaan, put an end to his days on Wednesday 12 October 2005 in his office in Damascus.On Wednesday 12 October, the Syrian government announced that Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan had shot himself the same day in his ministry office in late morning. Carried by the state information agency, SANA, the laconic announcement of suicide was oddly unseemly for the stature of the former general. Indeed, Ghazi Kanaan was a confidant of late President Hafez Al-Assad and served for twenty years (until 2002) as his personal emissary in Lebanon. In his position as chief of the Syrian Army intelligence services in the Land of Cedars he had his ups and downs.
It was his success in Lebanon which earned him, upon his return to Damascus, the appointment as Chief of the Department of Public Security. In 2004, he rose to become Interior Minister in a country where order and security are the pillars of power—euphemisms for internal politics and the stability of the régime. It was also his omnipotence in Lebanon, were he installed intelligence networks and built the necessary means of coercion—combination of carrot and stick—for bringing the country to heel. This earned General Kanaan the privilege of being one of the Syrian officers questioned by Judge Detlev Melhis, who is heading the international Commission of Inquiry into the February 12th assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut.
Ghazi Kanaan was in any case the best placed person to explain the Syrian decision-making apparatus in Lebanon. A few weeks after the interrogation, Ghazi Kanaan saw his assets in the United States as well as those of his successor in Lebanon, Rostom Ghazali, frozen by the Bush Administration.
For all these reasons and, most important, because of the imminent publication of the report of Commission of Inquiry, speculation, reinforced by the opacity of the Syrian régime, continues brew both in Lebanon and in Syria. Some doubt the story of a suicide and instead suggest an assassination. There is much similarity, they say, to the unconvincing official announcement of the suicide of former Prime Minister Mahmood al-Zohbi in 2000.
Still others talk of rivalry and dissention at the core of Syrian power for which Ghazi Kanaan, along with other personalities, was fingered to pay the price: he was to have been removed from the Interior Ministry for a position more significant in protocol but which was, in reality, a move to put him out to pasture, says one diplomatic source. He had objected to the appointment of his successor in Lebanon whom he believed to be more brutal than necessary. He was also opposed to the September 2004 Syrian demand for the extension of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud's mandate, which set off the Lebanese crisis.
In the absence of any specific information contained in the conclusions of the Hariri assassination investigation, the most contradictory rumors are circulating. For some, Syria is implicated while others insist that no proof of Syrian involvement has been found. Damascus cleaves to the latter. Through the national media, over which it has total control, the Syrian government has been blasting for the last few days any and all Lebanese factions or personalities which might have accused it of complicity. To punish him for remarks which he believes unfriendly, Syrian Prime Minister Naji al-Otri has been refusing to answer phone calls from his Lebanese counterpart, Fuad Siniora.
A totally unheard-of step by a Syrian official has contributed to clouding the mystery concerning the suicide and feeding the rumor mill: On Wednesday morning, Ghazi Kanaan phoned a reporter for La Voix du Liban (Voice of Lebanon), a Lebanese-Christian radio station—a bizarre move given the distrust with which Damascus views this community—to assure the Lebanese of his devotion and to deny allegations broadcast the day before by a Lebanese TV network. According to this story, Kanaan received millions of dollars from the late Rafik Hariri. He asked the reporter to distribute his written remarks to other media outlets and concluded with this phrase: This is probably the last statement which I will be able to make. Some say this was his final testament while others claim it was merely a closing used by an official unused to addressing the public.