Politicians, leaders, prime ministers, and presidents are simply the front image of negotiations. Netenyahu is not a decision maker, Rouhani is more of a diplomat regarding international conflicts, Erdogan has more influence internally and King Abdallah spends more time being hospitalized.
The real players in the large Middle East are the head of intelligence and counter-intelligence of each country. They are the key players when it comes to starting, ending or pouring more hatred regarding a certain conflict.
Bandar Bin Sultan (Head of Security Council, Saudi Arabia)
The former Saudi ambassador to Washington, also known as “Bandar Bush” due to his close ties to the Bush family was named in October 2005 Secretary General of the National Security Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Since that date and he is tailoring the new Middle East map in a way that suits the long term benefits of Saudi Arabia and it’s western allies. His main role consisted of opposing the Iranian potential ambitions in the countries that faced a political change; and that by supporting radical groups with Islamic ideology and money. Granting these two elements proved to be successful in controlling the aspect of the Syrian war since it moved from opposition of Al-Assad’s supremacy to the situation that is driving Syria into the actual “guided” chaos. Two years back, Qatar, Turkey, the USA and some European countries indirectly encouraged the Syrian rebels but the creation of new-armed factions such as Jubhat Al-Nosra and Da’ech made the Saudi intelligence a major player in the Syrian war. Its role in Libya appeared after the death of Gadhafi by tapping into Libyan weapons caches and “sell” them back to the Syrian rebels. The Saudi intelligence had also close ties with Wissam Al-Hassan (Head of the Lebanese Intelligence) that was assassinated in October 2012.
In July of 2012, Bandar Bin Sultan was appointed as General Director of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, an Arabic equivalent of the CIA. This new role gave him wider intelligence access and action in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and more recently in South Russia.
Qasem Suleimani (Major General of the Qods Force, Iran)
He is the major of a division of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Coprs (IRGC), which conducts special operations outside Iran. This branch has close ties with Russia, Syria and factions like Hezbollah in Lebanon. Lately, its main objectives were to diminish the takeover of Sunni supremacy headed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar on countries in the Middle East. Beside the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Syria, a wave of special Iranian forces, military advisers, and counterinsurgency experts were dispatched to fight along Bashar’s army. Their goal was also to expand their political and economical influence to the Middle East, amidst a struggle to penetrate a Sunni dominated region.
His government tried to build ties with Mohammed Morsi in Egypt, angering Saudi Arabia, which later backed the coup.
A short documentary about Iran’s Secret Army in Syria (Link)
Hakan Fidan (Chief of Intelligence, Turkey)
The strong man of Turkey remained in the shadows throughout the Syrian conflict; his role consisted of building ties between Syrian rebels and Western/Arabic countries by facilitating crossing of militiamen from the Turkish borders, providing weapons, aids, relocating the Syrian refugees in tents on the borders, deployment of SAM 7/8 anti-aircraft missiles. He worked closely with Lebanese counterparts (Oukab Sakr) to provide the Syrian opposition with the needed arms. Along with Saudi Arabia he backed the former Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, as well as the NATO military campaign to overthrow Muammar Gadhafi in Libya.
All three heads of intelligence share different ideologies, came across many confrontations in the last couple of years; and that on the same communication ground: Lebanon
These agencies do not operate in high security countries in Europe, the United States or other Gulf states. We all remember the misstep of the Mossad’s operation in Dubai following the assassination of the Palestinian spokesman Al-Mabhouh, that was uncovered by the Emirati intelligence in just 48 hours. Eventually, the Mossad apologized and promised not to conduct any future operations.
The weak status of Lebanon made it the perfect tool for the regional head of intelligence to communicate between each other’s. When they weren’t able to confront across the borders and in the Syrian war, Saudi Arabia and Iran found the haven country for sending bloody messages to each other’s.
#1 – Lebanon is already divided between two political views, each one backed by Iran and Saudi Arabia.
#2 – Lebanon is a country with unmonitored borders with Syria.
#3 – Lebanon’s intelligence is limited and sometime biased, therefore investigations over an attack or assassination doesn’t lead to any positive result.
#4 – Lebanon with abundant weapons in the hands of different factions (Lebanese and non-Lebanese) offers to the highest bidder the services of mercenaries to kill, place bombs or any other act of terrorism, and that without leaving any trace or fingerprint.
#5 – Lebanon can be easily managed by foreign powers. Its people are driven by fear, religion and provocation; without any general common sense and will to rule their country by themselves.
People’s mind in Lebanon is getting more saturated than ever, it became limited to the war atrocities of Samir Geagea during the Lebanese civil war, to the cowardly behavior of Michel Aoun when he fled the country, to the outdated project of Hezbollah to turn Lebanon into an Islamic country, to the fear of Hariri’s clan in taking over the economy of Lebanon and to Joumblatt’s roundabout that he keeps turning around.
It is sufficient for a Lebanese politician to welcome the visit of a foreign ambassador in order to change his political views, raise his demands, or escalate a situation.
It is simply the repetitive story of a landlord, a shepherd and his sheep…