Beirut: On the heels of recent disputes over the appointment of three officers to the Military Council, the Lebanese Minister of Defence Samir Moqbel approved the appointment of Brigadier General Camille Daher as the new head of Military Intelligence, to succeed General Edmond Fadel, whose term of office was extended for six months in September 2015.
The surprise announcement was a victory for Army Commander General Jean Qahwaji, whose retirement was postponed for one year until September 30, 2016, and who wanted Daher in the intelligence post. According to the generally well-informed Al Nahar daily that reported the news without providing any personal details on the contender, the decision was a purely military one based on merit, which upset the country’s political establishment that was prevented from interfering.
Al Nahar claimed that former president Michel Sulaiman wanted to push the appointment of General Wadih Ghafari, and shared his views with “his” representative in the cabinet, Defence Minister Moqbel, though the latter sidestepped the demand and accepted Qahwaji’s non-political recommendation.
Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) leader and former Army Commander Michel Aoun was not happy with the designation either because of intrinsic differences with Qahwaji. In fact, the FPM insisted that the Cabinet fill other vacancies and appoint a new Army chief, before looking into fresh matters that paralysed the state for much of the past two years, including sorely needed security designations that could not wait.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Waleed Junblatt voiced his discontent as well, taking to Twitter to voice his displeasure in a series of rants, which were topped by an assertion that the army commander and the defence minister acted “outside of the rules of professionalism”.
It was not clear what irritated Junblatt but Wiam Wahab, the head of the Arab Tawhid Party and a fellow Druze, responded on Twitter that his outbursts were unbecoming. Junblatt added fuel to the fire when he implied that Qahwaji served Syrian interests in Lebanon, especially when he wrote that “Rustom Ghazaleh is back at the Beau Rivage”. The reference to the Syrian strongman who ruled Lebanon with an iron fist under occupation and the old Syrian intelligence headquarters in Beirut from where he operated upset many.