Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 5   No. 6 Table of Contents
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June 2003 


Intelligence Briefs: Lebanon

Government under Suspicion of Seeking to Monitor Cellphone Calls
Syria Accountability Act on Track
Lebanese Detainee Dies in Syria
Assad Hints at Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon

Government under Suspicion of Seeking to Monitor Cellphone Calls

A government plan to install monitoring equipment in the main switchboards of Lebanon's two cellular phone operators has raised suspicions that the authorities are seeking to facilitate wire-tapping of mobile phones. Telecommunications Minister Jean Louis Qordahi has said that the devices are designed to assess the revenue and expenses of LibanCell and Cellis so that a price can be set for the sale of new operating licenses to the private sector. However, according to "technical sources" quoted by the daily Al-Nahar, the equipment proposed by the Telecommunications Ministry has wire-tapping capabilities.

Syria Accountability Act on Track

As a congressional subcommittee prepares to review the Syria Accountability and Lebanon Sovereignty Restoration Act on July 15, congressional sources say that the bill has majority support in both houses of congress. As of late June, 58 (out of 100) senators had declared support for the bill, while the number of supporters in the House had reached 204 (out of 435) and was expected to increase considerably.

Lebanese Detainee Dies in Syria

On June 25, a Lebanese cab driver detained 11 years ago by Syrian intelligence was finally returned to his family . . . in a coffin. Joseph Emile Howayyes was arrested in June 1992 after his taxicab struck a Syrian military jeep on the Dhour Shweir-Bolognia road east of Beirut. According to Lebanese human rights groups, he was sentenced by a Syrian military court and jailed in Damascus for the next eleven years.

The Lebanese government imposed a media blackout on the burial of Howayyes in Zahle, as Syria denies holding any Lebanese detainees in its prisons.

Assad Hints at Syrian Withdrawal from Lebanon

Syrian President Bashar Assad has acknowledged for the first time that the Lebanese government is capable of maintaining order in the country without the presence of Syrian forces and hinted that their withdrawal will be forthcoming. "We have staged three redeployments in Lebanon over the past two years, which shows that the Lebanese army has become in firm control," he said in a June 9 interview aired by Al-Arabia satellite network and widely quoted in the Lebanese press. "It also shows that civil institutions have begun to take up their role and the Lebanese society has become healthy. It is therefore natural that we redeploy and withdraw in the direction of Syrian territory." Significantly, Assad did not link the withdrawal of Syrian forces to the achievement of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement.


2003 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.
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