Did Damascus sacrifice a senior official? Syria’s interior minister, who ran Lebanon as security chief until 2003, committed suicide Wednesday, Syria’s official news agency reported.
Kenaan, a general by rank, was the top Syrian official in Lebanon for two decades, starting in the 1980s and up until 2003. In that capacity he controlled Syrian intelligence forces active in Lebanon.
During that time, he was characterized as “the strongest man in Lebanon” and “the country’s real ruler.” Several years ago he was promoted to the post of interior minister as a reward for his service. Under the new position he gained control of Syria’s internal security apparatuses.
Kenaan is also considered to be behind the initiation of Syria-Hizbullah cooperation, particularly in matters related to the transfer of weapons.
His death was reported days before the expected release of a U.N. report into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
"Interior Minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan committed suicide in his office before noon,” the Syrian Arab News Agency reported. “Authorities are carrying out the necessary investigation into the incident."
The news agency did not mention the U.N. investigation into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, which is due to issue its report by Oct. 25.
Hours before he died, Kenaan contacted a Lebanese radio station and gave it a statement, concluding with the words, "I believe this is the last statement that I could make."
He asked the interviewer to pass his comments to other broadcast media.
‘Syrian authorities behind death’
Tel Aviv University Professor Eyal Zisser told Ynet that although it is unclear whether Kenaan has indeed committed suicide or was killed, the act was certainly arranged by Syrian authorities.
“The Syrians apparently decided to sacrifice him ahead of the conclusions of the international investigative committee,” he says. “Now they might say Kenaan was the guilty party in the assassination (of Hariri) and try to finalize the matter.”
Kenaan himself, along with other senior Syrian officials, was questioned by international investigators about two weeks ago in connection with Hariri’s killing.
“There is no doubt the United States wants (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to be removed, and even if there is no clear policy, those are the winds blowing from Washington,” Zisser says.
Meanwhile, anti-Syrian Lebanese sources said Kenaan’s suicide was without a doubt connected to the ongoing investigation into the Hariri affair.
Ali Waked and AP contributed to the report