US-backed Geagea ready to support presidential bid of Lebanese army chief
General Joseph Aoun last year pushed Lebanon's military court to convict a columnist for The Cradle for 'undermining the military establishment'
By News Desk - July 18 2022

US Ambassador to Lebanon photographed with the Lebanese Army chief Joseph Aoun on 21 May, 2021, during a conference between Lebanese and US officials (Photo credit: Al-Janoubia)

The head of Lebanon’s US and Saudi-backed Lebanese Forces (LF) party, Samir Geagea, has expressed support for the potential presidential nomination of the Commander of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), Joseph Aoun.

The term of the current Lebanese President, Michel Aoun (no relation), is set to expire on 31 October.

The leader of the LF told media on 16 July that his party would support the nomination of Commander Aoun if “it turns out that his chances are high.”

Geagea added that Commander Aoun has “run the military institution in a good way and has improved it and acted as a real statesman at its head.”

He went on to say that Lebanon’s upcoming president must “prioritize reform and abide by the constitution.”

According to information leaked by Lebanese diplomatic sources, last year the US embassy put forth Joseph Aoun’s name as their preferred choice for president. He is also backed by other western powers, including France and the Vatican.

Over the past several months, Commander Aoun has been under scrutiny by Lebanese media associations due to the army’s negligence of duty.

Last year, The Cradle published an in-depth investigation by journalist Radwan Mortada, in which he named those who bear responsibility for the deadly Beirut port explosion on 4 August of 2020.

Mortada specifically accused the army of failing to act on their duty and prevent the explosion as, by Lebanese law, they are responsible for the handling of dangerous substances, including ammonium nitrate.

Mortada focused on the failure of the US-backed, politically compromised Judge Tarek Bitar to summon the commander of the LAF for questioning.

The investigation also looked into the role of the LAF in last year’s deadly shooting of Hezbollah and Amal supporters in the Tayouneh neighborhood of Beirut.

His criticism prompted the military court, under orders from Commander Aoun, to open a case against him and sentence him in absentia to over one year in prison.

The journalist told The Cradle in an exclusive interview that the military’s jurisdiction does not give them the right to sentence and try journalists for “verbal offenses.”

Mortada is still battling the case against him.

Geagea — who was himself implicated in the orchestration of the Tayouneh massacre — was quick to criticize Hezbollah’s drone operation near the Karish gas field earlier this month.

The Israeli-trained Christian leader claimed the resistance group wished to escalate tensions, show off its military capabilities, and “pre-empt the expected positive breakthrough in negotiations for US-sponsored maritime border demarcations with Israel.”

In the race to choose a new president, Lebanese media has reported Hezbollah is looking to back its longtime Christian ally: Suleiman Franjieh of the Marada party.

Hezbollah is allegedly hoping to do so with the consent of its other Christian ally, Gebran Bassil, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM).

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