Is it rational that an elegant and intellectual woman such as Buthaina Shaaban, adviser to President Bashar Assad, would get involved in dirty crimes?
According to media reports, her voice was recognized in telephone recordings of former Lebanese Information Minister Michel Samaha, who is held on charges of a serious plot. And there are also veiled accusations that she may have been involved in the assassination plot of civil and religious figures in Lebanon. There are recordings, found in the house of Samaha, that is said to be a great treasure of information. It is also said that he used to record everything that goes on with him and around him, until he implicated himself and others in the case.
Similarly, the former U.S. President Richard Nixon had introduced the idea of recording everything that went on with him in the White House, and the recordings became the rope with which he hanged himself politically. They proved his involvement in the Watergate scandal.
There is no way to contact Buthaina Shabaan, and mutual friends say she does not answer their calls. She has been quoted as saying in response to the serious charges against her, that what took place there were “a type of bickering and political debate accepted there in Lebanon, which do not merit a response or comment.”
She is mistaken. Everything in this very important issue deserves a response and comment, and accusations do not mean involvement. We know Buthaina from her responsibilities as a media official in the court of Assads, the late President Hafez Assad and now his son. Therefore it has been ruled that the nature of her duties enabled her for such activities, especially in the Assad regime’s huge security apparatus capable of carrying out conspiracies and assassinations.
But it was true that she was involved in any form, in Assad’s recent plot, which invoked very serious charges, the only explanation is that Assad deliberately implicated as many as possible of those around him, so that they do not even think about escape or staging a coup. This makes them partners in his crimes and therefore they must defend the regime until the very end.
Buthaina was a translator and a media officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and then moved to work as a media adviser in the presidential palace. This certainly enabled her to see minute details of what was happening there, and became an important witness specifically to the history of Bashar Assad's crimes. Syrian repressive regime is very much afraid of defections, fearing state secrets may be leaked and also to prevent its collapse. Assad must be thinking that the majority of civilian officials are waiting for an opportunity to escape and defect, fully aware that the regime is collapsing and have a dark future ahead of them. Therefore, most of the officials’ relatives are placed under semi-house arrest watched by security forces, using them as a means to deter dissent.
Khaled Meshaal, a Hamas official, was staying in Damascus and left in protest, and in the wake of his criticism of the Syrian regime a few days ago, security forces assaulted his office and his relatives, the last was his son-in-law. The regime forces looted his home and burned it.
Those wishing to dissent are many, but it is becoming more difficult, realizing that whoever can escape, would survive and start a new life. One Arab official interested in the Syrian revolution explained the basis on which to deal with the men and women of the regime. He said whoever defects one day before the collapse of the regime will find our doors open to them, but if they escape an hour after Assad’s fall, they would not find anyone to greet them.
Assad knows that around him are opportunists. Senior figures, such as his foreign minister and his media adviser may leave Damascus for good and they are faced with significant temptations for defection, especially as they were not involved in the killings although it is said they were involved in justifying these crimes.
Therefore, Assad’s regime, fearful of the unity of its followers does not rule deliberately implicating senior staff in dirty operations in any way, and prevent them a way out.
But what makes a responsible media official part of a conspiracy to kill people, and if it is true that there are recordings against her? It’s most likely that the regime did not only conspire to kill its opponents in Lebanon, creating a rift between them and possibly a civil war, as it warns that Lebanon would fall if the Syrian regime collapsed, but also conspired against statesmen such as Michel Samaha, and possibly implicated others like Buthaina Shaaban.
The writer is the general manager of Al Arabiya. The article was published in the Saudi-based Arab news on Oct. 10, 2012