Is reading a profession?

Retired Brigadier General Jean Nassif has published a book of his memoirs entitled “Military Biography and Transnational Lessons” (President Fouad Chehab – Office Two – The Security Quartet). The signing ceremony will be held at the Fouad Chehab College of Command and Staff under the auspices of the Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, on May 24. rnNassif presents details of his work within the second office team (Lebanese Army Intelligence) and his relationship with President Charles Helou, especially with President Fouad Shehab, who was one of the closest officers to him. It sheds light on President Helou’s departure from the Chehab line, the repercussions of regional developments on the political situation in Lebanon, especially the issue of the arming of the Palestinians, and the details of the circumstances of concluding the “Cairo Agreement”, which he says affected Lebanese sovereignty. Then he explains what the officers of the “second office” were subjected to in terms of prosecution, deportation and trial before acquittal, and President Chehab’s position on this issue, and how the exposure to the most powerful Lebanese security apparatus affected the weakening of the state and the army and the permissibility of the Lebanese arena, security and political. Brigadier General Nassif speaks at length about the personality of President Chehab, his impressions, and his convictions, and the foundations of what was known as the “Chehabi approach.” He also mentions his confrontation with the Israeli general, who was at the head of the hostile forces that reached the vicinity of the Fayadiyah barracks in 1982, and his representation of the Lebanese army in the Quartet Security Committee of From 1983 until 1990, during the era of President Amin Gemayel and the government of General Michel Aoun. Here are excerpts from Chapter 9 of the book, which deals with the growth of the armed Palestinian presence in Lebanon, starting in 1967 and the signing of the “Cairo Agreement” (1969):

From a meeting between Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser and Charles Helou

“As a result of the 1967 defeat, the Palestinian idea of ​​self-reliance to liberate the land began to grow. The resounding failure of the regular Arab armies led to the birth of the Palestine Liberation Organization with great financial support from the Arab Gulf states. The idea of ​​resistance grew and developed after obtaining Soviet weapons and intensifying training courses. The Palestinians now have a serious military organization, with a presence in Egypt, Syria and Jordan first, and then Lebanon… Within the internal apparatus in the second branch was a branch to monitor the Palestinian refugee camps, which was able at first to control the camps strictly, and prevent the presence of weapons inside them at all. We had a military presence in every camp, supervising the implementation of laws and measures imposed by the state. Although there were only one or two members in each outpost, they had absolute power and prestige that frightened and deterred the residents of the camps.

I personally supervised this branch for a period of about five months during the absence of its head on an external session. During that period, I visited all the camps to see the situation on the ground, and the security was completely controlled by us, and the refugees were obedient, fearing our authority. Even the matter of distributing aid that was provided by UNRWA, medical care, and the work of dispensaries was done under our supervision. Then, with the increase in Palestinian activity from the camps, First Lieutenant Farid Abu Merhi was appointed to head the branch, an energetic and efficient officer who held the task with an iron fist.

With the passage of time, information began to come to the Second Division about the exit of armed Palestinian elements from the camps towards the southern borders, firing Katyushas towards the occupied territory randomly, and then fleeing; This led to an Israeli military response with heavy shelling of the army and the neighboring villages, causing severe damage. The Lebanese state, together with the League of Arab States, sought to address this escalating and harmful chaos. Resolutions were issued that strictly forbid the firing of missiles or any other firearm without informing the local military authorities. The Palestinians adhered to this for a while, but soon these incidents began to recur at an accelerated rate.

Yasser Arafat hides as “Sergeant Abdullah”

The Second Division doubled its monitoring of the area and the movement of armed Palestinians, and one day it managed to arrest an armed Palestinian group of thirteen members, who threw Katyushas into the occupied territories and tried to escape. First Lieutenant Farid Abu Merhi began interrogating the group members after receiving intelligence information that there was an important commando leader among the detainees. After lengthy interrogation sessions, Abu Merhi was able to identify the head of the group because of a contradiction in his answers. The person was claiming that his name was “Sergeant Abdullah”, and he did not acknowledge his true identity or who was behind him. However, after using the usual harsh methods in investigations, he collapsed and introduced himself: “I am Yasser Arafat!”

Abu Merhi informed Lieutenant Colonel Gabi Lahoud, head of the Second Division, about the matter, so he attended and spent many hours talking to Arafat. At that time, the young Palestinian leader defended the sanctity of his cause and sought to recover the usurped land of Palestine. Lahoud insisted that the resistance must respect Lebanon’s sovereignty over its lands.

In the middle of 1969, the security and military situation deteriorated between the Lebanese army and the Palestine Liberation Organization on Lebanese soil. An initiative of the League of Arab States took shape and gained Gulf momentum to hold a meeting between a delegation representing the Lebanese state and a delegation representing the Liberation Organization to address the crisis situation, provided that the meeting takes place in Cairo under the auspices of President Abdel Nasser, who gives the guarantee of implementation later.

Confusion about the identity of the negotiating delegation

The identity of who will represent Lebanon in the meeting created confusion, confusion, and confusion… First, it seemed that it would be better for the President of the Republic not to be at the head of the Lebanese delegation. In any case, President Helou was confused, wanting to avoid attending to avoid confrontation. As for the (resigned and caretaker) Prime Minister Rashid Karami, who was also Minister of Foreign Affairs, he also avoided heading the delegation because he knew that the cards in the hands of the Lebanese state were weak, while the predominant Sunni opinion on the Lebanese scene was on the side of the commando action, and President Karami was not It is possible that he would agree to something that detracts from Lebanese sovereignty.

For these considerations, it was decided to assign the Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Najib Sadaka, to represent the Lebanese government and head the Lebanese delegation to Cairo. Since the summit will touch on sensitive security issues, it was agreed that the Army Chief of Staff, General Youssef Shmait, would be among the delegation. However, General Shmeit apologized for the mission, and proposed the name of the army commander, General Emile Bustani, who agreed that he would head the Lebanese delegation in this case. Bustani’s approval was linked to the upcoming presidential elections, which he dreamed of winning.

negotiations in Cairo

The Lebanese delegation arrived in Cairo on October 26. General Bustani was accompanied by Major Sami Al-Khatib from the Second Division, and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Najib Sadaqa, was joined by the Lebanese Ambassador to Egypt, Halim Abu Ezz El-Din. The Palestinian delegation did not come to the Egyptian capital, not on the first day, nor on the second, nor the third, nor the fourth… With this waiting, the Lebanese delegation benefited from holding daily meetings with members of the Egyptian team in the conference to explain the troubles that Lebanon suffers from as a result of this abnormal situation. And the Palestinian transgression of the country’s sovereignty and independence, and the facts that necessitate putting an end to all of that, and Al-Masry was understanding and responsive to the Lebanese delegation’s offer. We were in the central team of the Division in constant contact with Major Al-Khatib, who explained to us amidst skepticism about the presence of Arafat and the Palestinian delegation, that what he concluded with General Bustani from the atmosphere there is that Arafat postpones his arrival until he is sure that he has the largest support from the Arab countries to try to impose the maximum he desires And that the conference will likely not reach a firm agreement in the interest of the Lebanese state, but rather set some controls for the absolute freedom of Palestinian action. Al-Khatib also informed us that General Bustani is keen on lengthy phone calls to the President of the Republic at the end of each day in his presence and the presence of Dr. Sadaqa and Ambassador Abu Ezz El-Din, to inform him of all the details of the discussions and developments and to ask for directions, but the latter did not give any clear or specific instructions, contenting himself with repeating: « You act, you act! And I will cover you in two dimensions…”, and that Bustani explained to Hilou the importance of establishing the Lebanese state and the presidency of the republic as much as possible diplomatically with the Arab countries to limit their influence on Arafat’s demands, but the president was hesitant and committed to his decision not to interfere…

Arafat and the Palestinian delegation did not come to Cairo until November 2, at a time when Arab positions were strongly supportive of the Palestinian demands, which put the Lebanese delegation in a very weak position. In light of this unhelpful atmosphere, we were betting on prolonging or postponing the negotiations, which would allow the Lebanese state to communicate with Arab countries in order to restore some balance and improve Lebanon’s negotiating position again.

November 3, 1969

Surprise signing agreement!

At the end of the negotiations the day after the arrival of Arafat and the Palestinian delegation, we were surprised when Sami Al-Khatib informed us that an agreement had been completed and signed, and it is a secret agreement! Al-Khatib informed us that the content of the agreement is not in favor of Lebanon and does not strongly prove its sovereignty. Soon, General Bustani called me and informed me, in my capacity as responsible for media, that the official statement about the agreement and its signature by the parties must be broadcasted, provided that the statement is issued at the same time in Lebanon and Egypt (8 pm, and it was 6:30 then). General Bustani wrote to me the brief text of the statement, which does not include the “secret” clauses, but only announces the signing of the agreement. I showed Lieutenant Colonel Gabi Lahoud the text, and he asked me to show it to the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister.

President Karami’s answer

I contacted President Karami first, since Lieutenant Colonel Lahoud had learned that General Bustani had just contacted President Helou directly. President Karami was surprised by the speed at which the agreement was reached, and he answered with words of great significance: “There is neither power nor strength…!” By that, he meant: “May God save us!” Then he asked me to read the statement. He listened to my recitation, then thought for a while and asked me to tell the “teacher” (President Chehab): “He has experience and a comprehensive view. He sees things that we may not see.” Then I contacted President Helou, who did not comment on the statement, and agreed to President Karami’s request to take the opinion of President Chehab.

I informed Lieutenant-Colonel Lahoud of the contents of the two calls with the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic, and then called President Shehab. President Shehab’s first comment was his extreme astonishment: “Aren’t my few people in agreement?” Then he added, winking at Imad Bustani: “Manoush Hain, son of Jeries!”… I showed him the text of the statement and President Karami asked for his opinion, so he asked me to read the statement again slowly so that he could write the text. During my recitation, he paused at the adjective given to the members of the Egyptian delegation accompanying President Abdel Nasser, who are the Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Defense, and said: “No, no, that is what it means, but Egypt… Look at the minister’s coat. Put them in this adjective to give an indication that the agreement was concluded under Arab sponsorship, not just Egyptian. Then, when the Arabic word “nation” appeared, he also asked to replace it with the Arabic “state.” He added, “At least let the statement be issued in the Lebanese media in this manner.” After that, I informed Lieutenant Colonel Lahoud, and then President Helou and President Karami, of President Chehab’s remarks, and they agreed on what he advised. I remember what President Karami said after he was informed of the details: “I saw how? I told you, the teacher looks further than us!” And he added with a sigh: “Our matter is up to God.”

The next day, An-Nahar newspaper headlined: “The statement was issued in two different texts in Beirut and Cairo!” After a while, the same newspaper published the agreement with its full confidentiality clauses, after Brigadier General Eddeh claimed that one of the ministers had “forgotten” him at the table in the House of Representatives. Release…

Brigadier General Nassif with Presidents Charles Helou and Elias Sarkis (Asharq Al-Awsat)

President Helou and the Cairo Agreement

After Sami al-Khatib’s return from Egypt, we met in the division to present the “secret” clauses and assess the situation, and we were certain that the only clause protecting Lebanese sovereignty that could be included in the agreement was Article 13, which generally stated that “it is recognized that the Lebanese authorities are both civil and military.” It continues to fully exercise its powers and responsibilities in all Lebanese regions and in all circumstances.” While the other provisions allow the Palestinians to work, reside, and move within Lebanon, arm themselves within the camps, maintain self-security in the camps, participate in the Palestinian military revolution from Lebanese territory, and facilitate the passage of Palestinian militants. To the border areas… We concluded to submit a recommendation to the Army Command, the Presidency of the Republic and the Presidency of the Government that a second meeting of the parties should be requested to amend what was agreed upon, because the matter would greatly diminish Lebanon’s sovereignty and the authority of its army on the national territory in favor of a non-Lebanese armed presence. We also formulated our recommendation later with a proposal that Lieutenant Colonel Ahmed Al-Hajj go to the League of Arab States, representing Lebanon, to demand amendments that restore the Lebanese army to its full sovereign role.

But President Helou did not want to take any such step or even express positions expressing Lebanon’s objection and dissatisfaction, and preferred not to confront… We made a new recommendation from him that he request a meeting of the League of Arab States to reconsider the agreement, but he did not make up his mind and did not move and remained silent. … I think, based on my experience dealing with him, that his personal nature played the greatest role here. He naturally avoids direct confrontations, or expressing what he desires or thinks or what he is not satisfied with clearly and frankly.

I think that President Helou’s conscience was not at ease later on regarding his failure to act decisively regarding the agreement during and after the stage of concluding it in Cairo, and he kept trying throughout his life to evade this burden in the media, but in an article he wrote on the occasion of the death anniversary of President Shehab on the 25th of April (April) 1998, he mentioned Two sentences that carry a clear meaning.

You opened the title “President Chehab’s Commitment to Lebanon’s Sovereignty,” President Helou wrote: “Fouad Chehab did not neglect two oaths: his military oath and his presidential oath. I experienced this through his meeting with President Abdel Nasser, in a tent on the Lebanese-Syrian border. Speaking to me after he understood the circumstances of the Cairo Agreement from me, he said: What matters to us above all is the strict implementation of Article 13 of the agreement… ».