Samir Geagea and the Lebanese Forces Party – Hezbollah’s Lebanese Nemesis

The Lebanese Forces (LF – القوات اللبنانية – al-quwwat al-lubnāniyya) was established in 1976 as a group of several Lebanese Right-wing Christian parties, mainly the Phalanges party (Kataeb). The first leader was the later elected president of Lebanon, President Bashir al-Gemayel (pictured left), the son of Pierre al-Gemayel, leader of the Phalanges. The LF had a military force of about 18,000 fighters.

Bashir al-Gemayel

In the early 1980s, there was a split in the LF due to the support of some of the party leaders in the continued Syrian involvement in Lebanon. The Phalanges, which were a significant factor, refused to accept the Syrian occupation.
As part of the battles against the Syrian presence, Israel assisted the LF (most of whose fighting force came from the Phalanges) with training, ammunition, and weapons, even directly attacking Syrian helicopters which were rapidly transporting soldiers to the battle zones in the Beqaa, which was an exceptionally vast battlefield in 1981 (“the Battle of Zahle”).

In 1982, Bashir al-Gemayel was elected President of Lebanon, just as Israeli forces entered Lebanon during the first Lebanon war. Before he was sworn in, on September 14, 1982, 3 weeks after winning the election, al-Gemayel was killed by an explosive charge placed on the floor above the party headquarters in Beirut, where he was speaking. The explosion demolished the building.

After al-Gemayel’s assassination, the LF was commanded by Fadi Frem (September 1982 to October 1984), Fouad Abou Nader (October 1984 to March 1985), Elie Hobeika (March 1985 to January 1986), and Samir Farid Geagea (from January 1986).

Samir Geagea

Samir Geagea joined the Phalanges in 1975, advancing thru the ranks until being appointed commander of the LF in 1986. In the organization’s heyday, the LF controlled the port of Beirut while collecting taxes in the Christian areas (instead of the Lebanese government).

Geagea’s tense relationship with Michel Aoun, then the Lebanese army commander (and currently Lebanese president), almost wrought destruction on Lebanon in 1990. During the civil war, the LF and the Lebanese Army battled due to Aoun’s insistence on not accepting the Taif agreement and opposing the Syrian presence in Lebanon. This, contrary to Geagea’s opinion. One should note that he initially supported Aoun’s position but then changed his mind.
Aoun was exiled from Lebanon to France after Syrian intervention. Geagea decided to join politics after the Civil War in 1990. However, he could not maintain the union between the Phalanges and the LF; therefore, he ran separately from the Phalanges. Geagea has maintained some opposition to Syrian intervention in Lebanon despite his support for the Taif agreement that ended the civil war in 1990.

In 1991, the LF was disarmed of its heavy weapons, and some of its units were transferred to the Lebanese Army. The LF at the time possessed heavy weapons, such as APCs, numerous military trucks, helicopters, and speedboats.

On April 21, 1994, Geagea was arrested in connection to an explosion at the Sayidet el Najat Church in Jounieh, an explosion that claimed the lives of 10 people. His arrest followed a month-long siege of his headquarters in Keserwan. Geagea was charged with involvement in the blast. The Lebanese government disbanded his party. Geagea was acquitted on the explosion charges but subsequently convicted for other crimes he committed during the civil war (even though there was a general amnesty in Lebanon). Geagea served 11 years in prison until he was released following the “Cedar protest” (the protest that led to the withdrawal of Syrian Army forces from Lebanon) and following the amnesty of the Lebanese parliament in July 2005.

Geagea returned to head the LF party and even considered himself a presidential candidate in 2014. However, he eventually joined his former rival Aoun (who returned to Lebanon from exile in France after the Syrians’ withdrawal from Lebanon) and ultimately supported him for his presidential candidacy. Geagea’s support helped Aoun get elected.

Sethrida Geagea

Geagea has been married since 1990 to Sethrida, who is 15 years younger than him, whom he met while studying at the American University in Lebanon. His wife, a prominent LF activist, was elected as the LF representative to the 2005 parliament while Geagea was in prison. The couple have no children. Geagea has two brothers: Joseph and Nahed.

Geagea studied medicine at the American University of Beirut and at St. Joseph’s University (his nickname “al-Hakim” – “the Wise One” was given to him because of his medical studies). Geagea discontinued his studies in 1978, leaving one year left to complete his Doctorate.

In October 2021 (after the fierce clashes between LF and Hezbollah and the Amal Movement in the shootings in the a-Tina neighborhood of Beirut on October 14), the Syrian regime submitted Interpol with an extradition request against Geagea. The extradition request was filed based on various allegations against Geagea, such as collaboration with terrorist organizations against the Syrian Army and the Syrian State. In addition, it was alleged that Geagea’s forces attacked Syrian voters (refugees) who were in Lebanon while they were on their way to exercise their democratic right in the last Syrian presidential election.

Geagea lives in a 17,000 square-foot mansion in the town of Maarab near Jounieh. The security of his estate apparently relies on the Lebanese state budget, at the cost of billions of Lebanese pounds a year. Samir and Sethrida own nine other properties in the al-Matn province, Kasruan, Bsharri, and Jbeil. We should note that Sethrida’s family, the Tuk family, owns many businesses in countries such as Greece and Ghana.

In March 2020, as part of an article on al-Jadeed TV, Geagea and the LF were accused of corruption. According to the report, assets previously bought with the funds of citizens and donors whose purpose was to provide financial support to the LF, passed over the years, in circumstances related to the dissolution of the party in 1994, to the ownership of “intermediary” proxy companies (for example the al-Asmar Company) to avoid forfeiture. After that, some of the assets were transferred into private hands, partly benefiting Samir and Sethrida Geagea and their associates. The total number of LF assets is estimated at 414 properties.

On April 04, 2012, Geagea was the target of sniper fire. The rifle that fired the bullets from a considerable distance (about a kilometer) is a unique sniper rifle not sold in Lebanon (not even on the black market). This fact raised the suspicion that those responsible for the assassination attempt must have access to unique weapons, probably originating in the United States or Russia. Hence, fingers were pointed at pro-Syrian elements, especially Hezbollah.

Geagea has been considered a sworn enemy of Hezbollah for many years. In addition to the attempted assassination described above, we know that in January 2014, Hezbollah launched a drone over his home, apparently for intelligence gathering and intimidation purposes.

Following the shooting incident that occurred in Beirut on October 14, between supporters of the LF and supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement, Nasrallah spoke on October 18. Nasrallah dedicated his speech to the LF. Nasrallah presented the LF and their leader- Geagea, as enemies of Lebanon in general and as enemies of the Christians in Lebanon in particular. Nasrallah stated that the LF was a powerful organization aiming at inflicting another civil war in Lebanon. Nasrallah made it clear that, if necessary, Hezbollah would also protect Lebanon from any “internal enemy” and that all 100,000 Hezbollah trained combatants would do so (Note – Nasrallah exaggerated. We estimate that Hezbollah has between 40,000 and 50,000 operatives, including reservists. In addition, not all Hezbollah operatives are combatants).

Over the years, after the LF surrendered its weapons at the end of the civil war in 1990, many statements, some more reliable and some less reliable, were heard, and important data regarding its military power was provided. Should Hezbollah fear the military force of the LF, or is it just more propaganda distributed by Nasrallah serving Hezbollah’s interests and narrative?

An old report on the Al-Jamal website claimed that the US allocated special financial funding to the LF according to a European intelligence report submitted to NATO. As part of the funding, the LF tried to buy a small harbor for their military use in the “eastern region close to Jounieh.”

In August 2007, it was reported that the LF had re-recruited civil war-era operatives, divided them into armed groups, and even trained them with live weapons in several areas of Lebanon. The Lebanese Army arrested nine LF members at the time, accusing them of conducting illegal training in the area of Kasruan. The detainees claimed to be part of the LF’s “security force.” Eventually, it was claimed that they were the bodyguards of the Director-General of the Lebanese Broadcasting Authority. Some of the detainees belonged to “Force Sadem” (‘Strike Force’ – a hand-picked company-sized commando special forces unit belonging to the LF, operating during the civil war in 1990). It is claimed that the force was re-established after the dissolution of the LF in 1994.

A telegram leaked to WikiLeaks (the source of the cable originated at the US Embassy in Lebanon and was sent to numerous US security officials) specified that Geagea visited the US Embassy during the events of May 2008. During these events, Hezbollah took over the airport and other power centers. During his visit to the embassy, Geagea wished to inform Washington that he had between 7-10 thousand trained combat-ready combatants needing weapons. Geagea suggested the weapons be delivered to him by sea (if the airport was closed due to Hezbollah’s takeover). Geagea stated that he was not confident that the Lebanese Army would be able to protect the Christian areas in Lebanon from Hezbollah. In addition, Geagea proposed sending an Arab force of 5,000 peacekeeping troops into Lebanon that would “cause trouble” for Hezbollah. Geagea asked the US ambassador to intervene in the crisis and exert pressure on Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Walid Jumblatt, and army chief Michel Suleiman.

In October 2010, the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Dar revealed that intelligence officials in the Interior Ministry of one of the Arab countries were behind the transformation of areas in northern Lebanon into military training centers in full coordination with the LF personnel. It also stated that they recruited Lebanese to become part of a special forces organization to create tensions between Hezbollah and Aoun supporters and the LF. In addition, it came to be known that the Lebanese Army had received maps from political elements revealing the locations of the LF’s weapons depots.

In September 2020, the LF held a paramilitary parade in the Christian el-Gemmayzeh neighborhood of Beirut. The parade was carried out without weapons but in the presence of military militiamen in LF military uniforms. The march appeared to have been aimed at sending a message – the LF maintains other options besides political options…

El-Gemmayzeh Military Parade

In October 2020, Geagea denied that the LF was arming itself: “they say the LF is armed or being armed. How can we arm ourselves in secret? We’re not talking about a few hundred gunmen; we’re talking about 15 thousand. Where could we possibly hide them unless we’d use illegal border crossings like Hezbollah? This is all a lie… whoever has any information on this should lay it out on the table…”

Geagea’s comments came in response to an article in the Hezbollah affiliated newspaper, al-Akhbar. The report claimed that during a meeting attended by Walid Jumblatt, Geagea offered to take on Hezbollah with the help of the 15,000 LF fighters. Geagea was quoted as saying that Hezbollah’s power was weakened at the time due to the situation in Lebanon. He also alleged that his party’s military force was stronger than Bashir al-Gemayel’s, while Hezbollah became weaker than the PLO fighters deployed in the past in Lebanon.

The official response from the LF’s information department was complete denial. “This is an attempt to demonize the LF, who have given up their weapons and since 2005 have been trying to disarm all Lebanese militias.”

According to al-Akhbar, the LF is working to strengthen its position and presence on the Lebanese street: starting with joining the Lebanese protests in October 2019, appearing in the semi-military parade held in the el-Gemmayzeh neighborhood, in honor of the victims of the port explosion, shooting in the air at the funeral one of the victims of the port explosion, Joe Bou Saab, an LF man that served in Ein el-Remmaneh (see below photo), and generally generating an increased LF presence, not necessarily with weapons, in a series of areas such as Al- Achrafieh, Ain el-Remmaneh, and others.

In January 2021, Geagea again denied that his party would re-arm itself. Geagea stated that the LF would arm itself only “if the Lebanese army (LAF) and the internal security forces should collapse.” Geagea attacked Hezbollah, claiming that “it is nothing more than an Iranian tool. Its missiles are Iranian missiles and it exists only to serve as an Iranian project”, as stated by the IRGC’s air force commander.

At the end of 2017, the Russian Sputnik published a map marking areas of the dominance of the various armed forces in Lebanon. From the map, one can learn which areas the LF and the Phalanges dominate (indicated together), marked in light blue. The dominance of the LF lies mainly in the area between Beirut and Tripoli, a predominantly Christian region.

Map marking areas of the dominance of the various armed forces in Lebanon (Sputnik News 2017)

Unlike Hezbollah scouts, the LF scouts (“Freedom Scouts”) are not used regularly as a platform for recruiting young and new operatives to the organization’s military system.

The LF scouting insignia

The LF scouts are a dedicated Boy Scout movement, with paramilitary symbols, for children of the LF. The Boy Scouts hold paramilitary parades in honor of Geagea and the group’s civil war casualties.

Analysis of the Scout’s activities on Facebook shows Christian symbols and religious activities and signs of clear support of the Lebanese Army – i.e., there is a trend of encouragement to enlist in the Army.

In conclusion, according to our indications, the LF has operatives armed with small to moderate weapons. We estimate that there are a few thousand belonging to the military framework of the LF. As of now, the LF does not constitute a significant military counterweight against Hezbollah. In our assessment, it is highly likely that given a significant confrontation between the LF and Hezbollah, Hezbollah will gain the upper hand. Geagea and the LF know that. However, in our assessment, the shooting incident in Beirut on October 14 and Nasrallah’s response speech enhanced the status of Geagea and the LF. Among Hezbollah opponents in general and the Christian camp that supports the LF in particular, Nasrallah is perceived as weak and stressed. Circumstances appear to have delivered excellent service to Geagea and the LF ahead of the expected parliamentary elections in March 2022.


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Tal Beeri

Tal Beeri

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