Chapter 10:

Hobeika chief of Intelligence, the toughest, bloodiest.

Bashir and Amin Gemayel had always been arch enemies and fierce rivals. The only thing holding them and Lebanon together was their father and founder of the Kataeb Party, Sheikh Pierre Gemayel. After Bashir’s assassination, the Lebanese Forces decided to run Amin for President. The decision was obviously dictated by feelings of grief and bereavement, fanatic attachment to the Kataeb Party from which they all came, and to cut the ground from under President Camille Chamoun’s feet, as he had the favors of the Israelis.

Unlike Bashir, Amin had been a Parliamentarian since 1970 and had no strong foreign “connections”. He provided the family, the Kataeb Party and the Lebanese Forces with continuity, though on a much weaker level. That was a plus to the Lebanese Forces commanders.

On the popular level, the Lebanese Forces were considered the shield of Lebanon, its pride and strength. They were taken at their face value. The Lebanese Forces leaders knew that if they backed the President of the Republic, even though only superficially, he would owe it to them for a while and leave them free-handed. He would just be a “bridge”. Deep down the Lebanese Forces leaders disliked and distrusted Amin. They planned to cripple him later should he branch off from their control.

A shrewd politician and aware of the Lebanese Forces leaders’ feelings for him, Amin Gemayel decided to set their minds at ease, and gain Christian support through them. Amin’s first move upon taking office on September 23, 1983, was to pay a visit to the War Council. At the meeting Amin pledged to the War Council that he would follow in Bashir’s footsteps. Suspicion prevailed. Bashir’s wife, Solange had to intervene personally to contain the hot-heads at the meeting. Obviously each had an unfathomable scheme to do away with the other. Each was aware that the “?preuve de force” had started. This latent antagonism was understandable.

Amin had been a leading candidate in pro-Syrian Moslem eyes, though supported by the Israelis. Bashir was elected President against the wishes of the Syrians and Moslems. Amin often declared that Israel’s objective was to destroy Lebanon’s role in the region. He always recommended pacification, compromise and dialogue with the Syrians.

Contrary to Amin’s words in 1983, I personally handed him messages from General Sharon at his Presidential Palace in Bikfaya, messages he was receiving through Hobeika. On Christian and military levels, Bashir’s heirs remained the strongest and most popular. On the political level, the message was well received by the Syrian command that promptly sent a special emissary to their Maronite friend and ally, President Soleiman Franjieh, to make clear to him, despite his hatred for the Gemayel's, that they were determined to do business with President Amin Gemayel this time.

This alliance left little time and no elbow room for Hobeika to maneuver. He had six years , by Amin’s mandate, to battle with him in an open rivalry over the Syrian favors, thus paralyzing his actions. Amin cinched it and built up his own parallel military and political forces and institutions in his Northern Matn fiefdom. He had strong Moslem support, backed by the Syrians and the Kataeb party politbureau. Amin pressed the Lebanese Forces to disarm, hand over the fifth basin of the Port of Beirut. This port was a golden goose egg held by Jean Basmarii and Jean Bteghrini. He asked them to hand over the “National Fund” and all of the assets managed by Jean Assaf. The clincher was the dismantling of the Barbara “checkpoint”, another goldmine held by Samir Geagea. After weeks of prodding, the Lebanese Forces accepted to truck their arms out of East Beirut, into mountain areas, but adamantly refused to comply with the other demands. Trouble was brewing.

Fadi Frem, Commander of the Lebanese Forces, appointed by Bashir before his assassination considered Amin’s election as President a serious setback in Bashir’s political line. He was paralyzed by family ties. Frem married Fuad Abou Nader’s sister, which was Amin’s niece. He was well educated, an engineer and graduate from a United States Academy. Frem came from a rich bourgeois family.

Hobeika did not share this background. Frem was less enigmatic and uncanny than Hobeika. Frem was Chief of the Intelligence Service of the Lebanese Forces in 1978, one of the toughest and bloodiest years of the war. In 1981, Frem became Chief of Staff, a post he had handed over to Samir Geagea when he was promoted Commander. However, the man lacked boldness force and charisma.

The players in the Christian arena were the President, the Kataeb Party, the hardline “independentists” of the Lebanese Forces and the “moderate” Lebanese Forces. Each, for a specific reason wanted to bring down Frem. When his mandate expired, each of the players planned to place the Commander that suited their ends into power.

The scales tipped in favor of the candidate of The Presidency and the Kataeb Party, Fuad Abou Nader. Nader was a 28-year-old medical doctor and Amin’s nephew. He was appreciated by the militiamen for his courage on battlefields and on the fronts. He had been Chief of Operations and Chief of Staff from 1982 to 1984. Nader’s uncle, Amin, was aware that he would have a hold on him. He was right in his reckoning. Fuad’s allegiance to his “uncle” and the Kataeb party was brought out to light after his election. While other positioned themselves, Hobeika was cleverly making a political niche for himself.

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