Hikmat al-Shihabi

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Hikmat Chehabi
(Arabic: حكمت الشهابي‎)
Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch
In office
7 January 1980 – 1 July 1998
Personal details
Born (1931-07-01)1 July 1931
Al-Bab, Aleppo Governorate, Syria
Died 5 March 2013(2013-03-05) (aged 82)
California, United States
Political party Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party
Religion Sunni Islam
Military service
Allegiance  Syria
Service/branch Syrian Arab Army
Years of service 1952-1998
Rank Syria-Feriq.jpgColonel General
Unit 10th Armoured Division
Commands Syrian Arab Army
10th Armoured Division
Battles/wars Six-Day War
Yom Kippur War
Awards Hero of the Republic

Hikmat Chehabi (Arabic: حكمت الشهابي‎‎ 8 January 1931 – 5 March 2013) was a Syrian career military officer, who served as the chief of staff of the Syrian Army between 1974 and 1998.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Chehabi was born into a Sunni family in 1931 in Al Bab, Aleppo province.[2][3][4] He attended Homs military academy and then had advanced military training in the United States.[4]


Chehabi began his career in aviation, training in the Soviet Union and the United States.[2][5] From 1968 to 1971 he served as deputy head of the military security department.[6] In 1970, he earned a Soviet degree in intelligence services. In April 1971, he was named head of intelligence services of the (military intelligence), assisted by Colonel Ali Duba. He was promoted to a general the following year, and supervised the department of military security. After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, he led the Syrian delegation to the United States in April 1974, negotiating the conditions of the Syrian–Israeli disengagement. On 12 August 1974, he was appointed chief of staff of the Syrian Army, replacing Yusuf Shakkur, who was promoted to deputy defense minister. In December 1983, while President Hafez Assad was ill, Shihabi was part, along with General Mustafa Tlass and Ali Duba, of the committee in charge of running the country.[1] From 1994 to 1995 he was part of a delegation that traveled to the United States to discuss peace negotiations with Israel.[1] His term as chief of staff lasted until 1998.[6]

Chehabii was also one of Baath Party's four-member “old guard” members of the Regional Command.[7]

Resignation and exile[edit]

On 8 July 1998, after twenty-four years as army chief of staff, Chehabi resigned his post in a purge prior to Hafez Assad's death and was succeeded by Ali Aslan.[8][9] It occurred because Shihabi's close association with then-vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam caused Bashar Assad to see him as a threat. Also, Shihabi was against Hafez's son succeeding him.[10] Shihabi publicly announced his rejection of Bashar Assad as the future ruler of Syria.[11] In 2000, rumors surfaced in Syrian newspapers, which proved false, claiming that Shihabi would soon be indicted on corruption charges.[12] Shihabi quickly fled to California from Lebanon, where he had been when he received word of the rumors. His exile was short-lived however, and he returned to Syria a month later and was deemed "rehabilitated" by Bashar Assad and promoted to the rank of Colonel General to give him parity with his rival Mustafa Tlass and to show that Tlass was losing favour with Assad.[13]


Chehabi was one of the senior Syrian officials who were close to late Rafik Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon,[14][15] and Lebanon's Druze leader Walid Jumblatt.[16]


On 5 March 2013, Chehabi died in California.[2]


  1. ^ a b c Faure, Claude (2002). Dictionary of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Culture, History, and Politics. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 432. ISBN 0-02-865977-5. 
  2. ^ a b c "Syrian army mourns death of former chief of staff". China. 5 March 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Assad retires chief of staff, sacks intelligence chief". Hurriyet Daily News (Cairo). AP. 4 July 1998. Retrieved 8 March 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Sami M. Moubayed (2006). Steel and Silk. Cune Press. p. 83. ISBN 978-1-885942-40-1. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "Syrian army mourns death of former chief of staff". Global Times. 6 March 2013. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Eyal Ziser (2001). Asad's Legacy: Syria in Transition. C. Hurst, Publishers, Limited. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-85065-450-6. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  7. ^ Bar, Shmuel (2006). "Bashar’s Syria: The Regime and its Strategic Worldview". IPS. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  8. ^ Political Chronology of the Middle East. Routledge. 12 October 2012. p. 2038. ISBN 978-1-135-35673-6. Retrieved 10 February 2013. 
  9. ^ Zisser, Eyal (September 2000). "Will Bashshar al-Asad Rule?". The Middle East Quarterly: 3–12. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  10. ^ Hinnebusch, Raymond (2011). "The Ba'th Party in Post-Ba'thist Syria: President, Party and the Struggle for ‘Reform’". Middle East Critique 20 (2): 109–125. doi:10.1080/19436149.2011.572408. 
  11. ^ Haddad, Bassam (2005). "Left to its Domestic Devices: How the Syrian Regime Boxed Itself In". Area: Mediterranean & Arab World 43. Retrieved 12 March 2013. 
  12. ^ Ghadbian, Najib (Autumn 2001). "The New Asad: Dynamics of Continuity and Change in Syria". Middle East Journal 55 (4): 624–641. Retrieved 9 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Esther Pan (10 March 2006). "Syria's Leaders". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 11 February 2011. 
  14. ^ William Harris (19 July 2012). Lebanon: A History, 600-2011. Oxford University Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-19-518111-1. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  15. ^ Mugraby, Mohammad (July 2008). "The Syndrome of One-Time Exceptions and the Drive to Establish the Proposed Hariri Court". Mediterranean Politics 13 (2): 171–193. doi:10.1080/13629390802127513. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  16. ^ Glass, Charles (1 March 2007). "The lord of no man's land: A guided tour through Lebanon's ceaseless war". Harper's Magazine. Retrieved 9 April 2013.