Ahmad Suidani, also known as Ahmed Suidani in English (Arabic: أحمد سويداني), was a notable figure in Syrian military and political circles. Born in 1932 in Daraa, a city situated in the Hauran region of Syria, Suidani rose to prominence as a dedicated Ba’athist within the Syrian Arab Army, ultimately becoming a trusted associate of Syrian presidents Amin al-Hafiz and Salah Jadid.
Military and Political Career
Suidani’s journey into the political and military realms began with his affiliation with the Ba’ath Party, a prominent Arab nationalist political organization. Following the 1963 Syrian coup d’état, which marked a significant shift in Syria’s political landscape, Suidani assumed a pivotal role by heading the Syrian Intelligence Directorate under President al-Hafiz. This position granted him considerable influence and authority in the country’s security apparatus.
With his dedication and competence, Suidani was further recognized and promoted to the rank of major general (Liwa) after the 1966 Syrian coup d’état. In this elevated role, he took command of the Syrian Arab Army under President Jadid. Notably, Suidani led a significant operation to uncover the Israeli spy Eli Cohen in 1965, showcasing his prowess in intelligence and security operations.
Ahmed Suidani’s Role in Syrian Politics?
Ahmed Suidani, a prominent Syrian soldier and politician, played a pivotal role in shaping the political landscape of Syria during the mid-20th century. His influence within the Ba’ath Party and his close association with Syrian presidents Amin al-Hafiz and Salah Jadid underscored his significance in Syrian politics.
A Rising Ba’athist Figure
Ahmed Suidani’s political trajectory took off as he emerged as one of the key Ba’athists within the Syrian Arab Army. His close ties with Presidents Amin al-Hafiz and Salah Jadid showcased his rising prominence within the Ba’athist ranks. Following the 1963 Syrian coup d’état, which marked a transformative phase in Syrian politics, Suidani was entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Syrian Intelligence Directorate under President al-Hafiz.
Ascension in Military Leadership
Suidani’s journey continued to ascend in the echelons of Syrian politics and military power. Post the 1966 Syrian coup d’état, he was promoted to the distinguished rank of major general (Liwa) and given command of the Syrian Arab Army under President Jadid. This elevation in rank and responsibility underlined his crucial role in the nation’s security and military affairs.
Unmasking Espionage: Operation Eli Cohen
An exemplar of Suidani’s role was his direct involvement in the operation to uncover the Israeli spy Eli Cohen in 1965. This operation demonstrated his proficiency in intelligence operations and unwavering commitment to safeguarding Syria’s national interests.
A Confrontation and Its Aftermath
However, Suidani’s journey was not without challenges. The Six-Day War defeat against Israel in 1967 prompted Suidani to hold Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez Al-Assad accountable for the loss of the Golan Heights. This disagreement led to a quarrel within the Syrian high command, culminating in Suidani’s report denouncing Al-Assad’s actions. The aftermath saw accusations of coup plotting against Suidani by Al-Assad, resulting in Suidani’s subsequent removal from key positions in 1968.
A Legacy in Syrian Politics
Ahmed Suidani’s role in Syrian politics was undeniably significant, marked by his tenure in high-ranking positions within the Syrian government and military. His journey encapsulates the complexities and intricacies of political dynamics and power struggles within Syria during his time. While his life was tinged with controversy and disagreements, his impact on Syrian politics remains an essential subject of historical analysis, offering insights into a crucial phase in Syria’s political evolution.
The Impact of Ahmed Suidani’s Leadership on Syrian Intelligence
Ahmed Suidani’s role in Syrian intelligence left an indelible mark on the nation’s security apparatus. His ascent to heading the Syrian Intelligence Directorate after the 1963 Syrian coup d’état underscored the trust and confidence placed in him by President Amin al-Hafiz. This trust was not misplaced, as Suidani exhibited exceptional leadership and strategic acumen during his tenure.
A Proficient Intelligence Head
One of the significant highlights of Suidani’s leadership was his direct involvement in critical intelligence operations. Notably, he personally led the operation that uncovered the Israeli spy Eli Cohen in 1965. This operation showcased his proficiency in intelligence gathering and his commitment to safeguarding Syria’s interests from external threats.
A Turning Point: The Six-Day War
However, the dynamics of Suidani’s leadership changed in the aftermath of the Six-Day War defeat against Israel in 1967. Blaming Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez Al-Assad for the loss of the Golan Heights, Suidani found himself embroiled in a contentious situation within the Syrian high command. This discord led to Suidani penning a critical report denouncing Al-Assad’s actions and decisions.
Downfall and its Wider Implications
The aftermath of this confrontation was detrimental to Suidani’s leadership in Syrian intelligence. Al-Assad accused Suidani of plotting a coup and, in a swift turn of events, arrested and imprisoned around 100 officers, dealing a severe blow to Suidani’s position and influence. This event ultimately led to the downfall of Suidani’s leadership in Syrian intelligence.
4 Controversies Surrounding Ahmed Suidani
Ahmed Suidani’s tenure as the head of Syrian intelligence during a crucial period in Syrian history was fraught with controversies that had lasting implications. These controversies shed light on the political discord and power struggles that characterized his leadership.
1- Blaming Hafez Al-Assad for the Golan Heights Loss
One of the primary controversies arose in the aftermath of the Six-Day War defeat against Israel in 1967. Ahmed Suidani pointed fingers at Syrian Minister of Defense Hafez Al-Assad, attributing the loss of the Golan Heights to his actions. This accusation sparked a quarrel within the Syrian high command, underlining the division and internal conflicts within the government and military.
2- Accusations of Coup Plotting
Suidani’s response to the Golan Heights loss was to write a report denouncing Al-Assad’s decisions. However, this move backfired, as Al-Assad accused Suidani of attempting to foment a coup. This accusation had significant repercussions, leading to the arrest and imprisonment of approximately 100 officers. The implications of these accusations were profound, not only affecting Suidani’s career but also the overall stability within the Syrian intelligence and military apparatus.
3- Misrepresentation in Media: The Spy Series
Another controversy emerged in the realm of media representation. The Netflix series, The Spy, incorrectly depicted Ahmed Suidani as al-Hafiz’s Director of Security. This portrayal, although a fictionalized account, added to the controversy surrounding Suidani’s legacy. It underscored the challenges of accurately portraying historical events and figures, potentially leading to misconceptions about critical periods in Syrian history.
4- The Shadow of Human Rights Abuses
The broader context of controversies surrounding Syrian intelligence is the reputation for ruthless efficiency and alleged human rights abuses against detainees. While specific allegations were often difficult to substantiate, Syrian intelligence has been historically criticized for its approach towards detainees. However, it remains unclear if Suidani was directly involved in such abuses during his tenure as the head of Syrian intelligence.
Imprisonment and Demise
The aftermath of the confrontation led to Suidani’s imprisonment for 25 years. During this period, he remained confined until his release. Sadly, Suidani passed away shortly after his release in 1994 in his hometown.
Intelligence Role and Legacy
Ahmad Suidani’s role as the head of Syria’s secret police during the late 1950s and early 1960s was crucial. He served as the head of security for Colonel Amin al-Hafiz, overseeing important responsibilities such as background checks for individuals introduced to the colonel. One notable event was his involvement with Eli Cohen, an Israeli Mossad spy posing as a Syrian businessman. Suidani, with a keen eye for security, verified Cohen’s background and later exposed his espionage activities, leading to Cohen’s execution in 1965.
Additionally, Suidani played a significant role in the 1963 Syrian coup d’état, a pivotal event that reshaped Syria’s political landscape. His dedication to the Ba’athist cause and his military and intelligence acumen left a lasting impact on Syrian politics during his tenure.
Ahmad Suidani’s life and career were emblematic of the complex and tumultuous political landscape of Syria during the 20th century. From his early military involvement to his rise within the intelligence and security domain, Suidani’s trajectory reflected the power dynamics and conflicts that defined Syria during his time. Despite the controversies and disagreements that marked his career, Suidani’s contributions and legacy in the military and intelligence spheres remain a subject of study and discussion in Syria’s historical and political narrative.