Khaddam: Assad doesn’t behave as a head of state but rather as a student in a secondary

publisher: ايلاف

AUTHOR: اندريه مهاوج

Publishing date: 2006-03-16


Former deputy to the Syrian president, Abdel Halim Khaddam, renewed his sharp criticisms of the way Syria’s affairs are being managed under President Bashar al-Assad. He perceived a lack of intention to carry out internal reforms or a serious approach to addressing the country’s crises. He stated that President Bashar al-Assad’s speech at the party conference indicates a lack of understanding of the implications of his words or their impact on the country’s interests, expecting Syria’s isolation to increase. Khaddam also noted that President Assad doesn’t behave in his political speeches as a head of state, but rather like a student in a secondary school when its students are protesting.

Regarding the Lebanese issue, Mr. Abdel Halim Khaddam expressed in an interview conducted with him in Brussels that President Assad’s recent speech raises concerns about the relationship with Lebanon, as he pre-determined the results of the national dialogue and linked them to his policies. He considered the affiliation of some dialogue participants to the policies of Bashar al-Assad and Tehran as casting doubts on the outcomes.

Mr. Abdel Halim Khaddam praised the role of resistance in liberating the south, stating that it’s patriotic, but he believed that it’s not within the rights of the resistance to be part of a foreign state’s strategy.

Concerning Syria’s recognition of Lebanon and establishing relations with it, Mr. Abdel Halim Khaddam mentioned that border demarcation is a natural and necessary matter for the interests of both countries. He asserted that diplomatic representation is a natural state in relations between nations.

The following is the text of the dialogue conducted with Mr. Khaddam in Brussels:

“Did Deputy Walid Jumblatt visit you? And if the answer is positive, was there an agreement between you on joint action to monitor developments in both the Lebanese and Syrian arenas?”

Mr. Walid Jumblatt was received before his trip to the United States, and upon his return, we discussed the developments in both the Syrian and Lebanese arenas. Our perspectives were in agreement on cooperating for the benefit of Lebanon and Syria.

Based on your extensive political involvement with the Lebanese issue for many years, do you believe that the current dialogue conference is capable of being 100% Lebanese? And do you consider the foundations of defining resistance as purely national when its arms and funding come from abroad? Do you think that this resistance is linked to the interests of the Syrian and Iranian regimes?

All Lebanese and those who wish for the security and stability of Lebanon hope for the success of Lebanese leaders in achieving the aspirations of the Lebanese people by agreeing on all issues that enhance national unity and avoid anything that harms the security and stability of Lebanon. Undoubtedly, the participants can make the conference 100% Lebanese if they prioritize Lebanon, its stability, and security over other issues related to their relations with various countries.

Returning to Bashar al-Assad’s speech at the recent party conference in Damascus, we feel concerned because he pre-determined the results of the dialogue and linked them to his policies. He divided the participants of the dialogue into two teams: a national team allied with him, forming the majority, and a minority of Lebanese receiving instructions from abroad and working against Lebanon’s interests. If they don’t return to their senses, they would be classified as foreign agents. His reaffirmation of support for his allies casts doubt on the conference’s outcomes due to the connection of some parties with his policies and Tehran’s.

Therefore, only those who consider themselves allies, including Speaker Nabih Berri and Mr. Hassan Nasrallah, can dispel these doubts. They can do this by focusing on Lebanon’s interests, security, and stability without being affected by Lebanon’s use of non-Lebanese policies.

As for the resistance, it is inherently national and it liberated the southern region. It received assistance, and this assistance does not negate its national character. All resistance movements worldwide receive external aid. However, when the resistance becomes linked to other strategies beyond its primary purpose, it loses its resistance status and becomes part of those other strategies. Thus, it goes beyond national sovereignty in its relations with foreign strategies, whether they are friendly or fraternal nations. Such a situation can hinder the state’s exercise of sovereignty on its own land. Therefore, the resistance has no right to be part of the strategies of the Syrian regime or the Iranian regime.

There are many calls for the normalization of relations between Lebanon and Syria, similar to the relations between all independent and sovereign nations. Why does the Ba’ath Party refuse to acknowledge Lebanon’s separation and its status as an independent country, leading to diplomatic relations, border demarcation, and direct government-to-government interactions, instead of attempting to directly influence the official Lebanese decision or, at best, going through parties and supporters to secure Syrian interests?

Since its independence, the Syrian state recognized the Lebanese state and its sovereignty. This recognition is further solidified by the participation of both states in signing the Charter of the Arab League. Therefore, the matter of recognition is established both politically and legally. In light of this recognition, numerous agreements have been signed between the two states since independence. Also, the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party has no differing perspective, as the Syrian state’s relations with other Arab countries are based on the same principles. Moreover, border demarcation is a natural and necessary matter for the interests of both states. This matter stands between Syria and its neighboring countries. It is normal to say that diplomatic representation is a natural state in relations between nations.

As for the alleged use of certain Lebanese parties for Syrian interests, this is not accurate. Utilization may occur for narrow interests that do not serve the Syrian state. Ensuring the interests of states is achieved through the relations between their institutions.

What is your comment on President Assad’s recent speech at the Arab parties’ conference? Do you see any signs of reform or openness within Syria that could avoid a final confrontation with the international community? Regarding relations with Lebanon, do you perceive a continuation of the threatening rhetoric towards this country?

President Bashar al-Assad’s speech at the party conference followed an approach built on not grasping the meaning of the words or their implications on the country’s interests. The speech initiated a war of words with the United States and does not indicate any reform-oriented or serious approach to addressing the country’s crises, including the economic and living crises, as well as the suffering of citizens due to its security apparatus. Undoubtedly, this policy will increase Syria’s isolation and the pressure from the international community. We observe that in his political speeches, he doesn’t behave as a head of state but rather as a student in a secondary school when its students are protesting.

What information do you have about the continued pursuit of free voices and the arrest of some political activists in Syria? How do you interpret the support provided by Arab parties and unions, such as the Arab Lawyers’ Union, or perhaps some countries, to the Syrian regime? Has this regime been able to contain your movement?

The regime, by its nature repressive and authoritarian, continues to exert its security apparatus on citizens. This repression is part of the regime’s nature. I call on the security apparatus to stop their involvement in the detention and torture of nationalists, as this will put them in a position of accountability.

As for the support provided by certain Arab parties, it’s illusory support. We are aware of the crises these parties face in their countries due to their stagnation and inability to develop themselves, as well as their lack of understanding of their societies’ needs. What applies to these parties also applies to some unions led by some party members who are already isolated from political life in their countries. Notably, none of the leaders of these unions have been able to become members of their country’s legislative institution.

In terms of developing our movement, despite some protections it may have received, the regime is incapable of containing our movement because it reflects people’s suffering and aspirations for liberation, progress, advancement, and dignified living.

It seems that attempts to unite the Syrian opposition have stalled. What progress has been made so far in terms of forming a large political bloc or an exile government? Are there any imminent tangible steps in this direction?

Some forces are working earnestly to establish an open front for all national forces and figures to save Syria and build a new democratic system that guarantees public and individual freedoms, power rotation, and raising the standard of living for all citizens.

The American aid to the Syrian opposition has seemingly not been widely welcomed. How do you characterize the American role in the process of developing the system in Syria? Do you believe there are shared interests between the opposition and the US administration in this matter, or does each have their own calculations?

Change in Syria is the responsibility of Syrians alone, as the process of change and building a new system is a purely internal process. There’s no doubt that change, building a democratic system, and addressing the fundamental issues faced by Syrians are the factors for stability in Syria and contribute to achieving stability in the region.

The continued existence of this regime poses instability in Syria and the region.

Some countries, including France, currently do not welcome the change of the Ba’ath regime in Syria. Is this true? Are there any restrictions on your political opposition activities coming from France? Or are there reasons that prevent you from conducting this activity from another country?

Change in Syria is a Syrian national matter and not the concern of any particular state. The process of change and building a new system is an internal affair imposed by the nature of the phase and the people’s needs and requirements. This process helps push away the dangers facing Syria and develop its relations with the international community to restore Syria’s role that has been lost for years on the regional and international stages. I conduct my political activities in a manner that does not conflict with the rules of the host country.