A pause with Mr. Abdel Halim Khaddam

publisher: مركز الشرق العربي

AUTHOR: خالد الأحمد

Publishing date: 2006-09-05


The meeting with Mr. Abdul Haleem Khaddam last Sunday on the channel “Al-Mustaqbal” was extensive, during which he mentioned many facts that others might not be aware of, given his position during Hafez al-Assad’s days. Since the teacher’s style influenced me, and the teacher’s style involves repetition to emphasize points, I preferred to summarize parts of this interview that I find necessary to pay attention to:

  1. Mr. Khaddam states: Hafez al-Assad was the one who issued instructions to halt any movement from the Golan Heights and to exhaust Israel from Lebanon:

    (The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad made a decision since the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 not to move the front of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights “and to exhaust Israel in Lebanon” by activating the resistance).

    He said (Hafez al-Assad issued instructions to the Syrian security apparatus not to allow any resistance operations from the Syrian Golan Heights area so that Israel does not retaliate inside Syria, causing confusion to the regime. There is “great concern in Syria that Bashar’s recklessness could lead to a conflict (with Israel) at the wrong time.”)

    Here (1982), the Syrian decision made by President Hafez al-Assad was to exhaust Israel in Lebanon. Basically, when the decision was made that classic warfare was no longer possible due to the emerging realities during the October War, strict instructions were given to the armed forces and military intelligence to prevent any resistance operations in the Golan Heights. The Israeli reactions would be inside Syria, not in the operations area. Therefore, in 1982, this decision was made, and we practically began encouraging Lebanese parties to engage in resistance activities.

  1. As for the current goals of the Assad regime in the sixth war it ignited in southern Lebanon, the fire spread throughout Lebanon, burning and destroying it with unprecedented destruction. These goals are:                                                                                                      Drag Lebanon into sectarian strife to enable its return to Lebanon.                                                                                                                      Bury the investigation into the assassination of President Rafik Hariri.

Mr. Khaddam says: (Regarding Assad’s statement about “March 14” being an Israeli product, he said: “It is clear that the Syrian regime has two goals. The first is to drag Lebanon into internal strife to bury the investigation into the assassination of President Rafik Hariri. This is clear. After the assassination of President Hariri and the issuance of Resolution 1595, Farouk al-Sharaa stated that it is not in the interest of the Lebanese to reveal the truth because it would lead to an explosion in Lebanon. He believes that this explosion will give him the opportunity to bury the file. The second goal, he also believes that if the explosion occurs, his allies will be able to tighten control over Lebanon, allowing him to return to Lebanon. The problem has nothing to do with interests but with the benefits taken from Lebanon and the corruption that was taking place in Lebanon. Therefore, he is wrong to say this, first of all, to Hezbollah, which was calling for national unity, accusing a fundamental team in Lebanon of being an Israeli product.)

  1. Regarding the investigation into the assassination of President Rafik Hariri, Mr. Khaddam said:

(When asked if the international investigation into the assassination of the martyr President Rafik Hariri deviated from the official Syrian path and the pillars of the regime, he said: “Bashar al-Assad knows what he did, knows how he made the decision, how the crime was carried out, and who participated in it. His concern reflects the feelings of someone who commits a crime and fears its exposure. There is a difference in the investigative approach between (Detlev) Mehlis and (Serge) Brammertz. Brammertz has a different professional approach and benefited greatly from Mehlis’s phase. How? Mehlis used to declare, leak, and launch a political and media campaign against the investigation, calling it biased. Brammertz completely avoided this subject. The report he presented to the Security Council is a professional reading. This report reached Bashar al-Assad, the regime, the officers,” confirming that “any security action in Syria cannot be carried out without a decision from the president. Can Rustom Ghazaleh, for example, bring out 1000 kilograms of explosives from the army’s warehouses? This group that rigged, monitored, and executed, can Rustom Ghazaleh bring it? My answer is, this is a decision from the head of state.

I return to say to Bashar al-Assad, my conviction is that the investigation will reach him, and he knows this. He moved directly from a situation where he was figuring out how to open a dialogue with the Americans to a position of a revolutionary leader in the region. He believes that if he moves to this position, he will become a victim if accused. He wants, through this position, to stir up the Arab street so that this street protects him.) [Protect him from the investigation].

  1. Regarding the Syrian opposition, Mr. Khaddam believes that it will not follow the Iraqi path to change the regime, and that the Syrian opposition wants to change the regime but does not want to change the state, like the disbanding of the army and ministries as happened in Iraq. He sees the Syrian people as cohesive, without divisions like in the Iraqi people, and believes that the Baath Party is not responsible for the crimes of the Assad regime because the party has been marginalized for a long time.

(And he considered that talking about the Iraqi model in Syria is completely ruled out because the national fabric in Syria is cohesive and different from Iraq.)

He clarified that “the Syrian opposition aims not to dissolve the state but to change the regime and build the state on the foundations of democracy, meaning transferring power from the family to the people, and this is the real guarantee,” affirming that “it is not at all proposed in any way to dissolve the army and security apparatuses.”

He pointed out that “our guarantee in Syria is the national spirit existing among Syrians, and there is no division in the national fabric in Syria that Bashar al-Assad tried to create,” indicating that “there is no one in the Alawite sect thinking of engaging in a national conflict for the sake of the Assad family.” He said, “I challenge anyone to stand up and say that the leadership of the Baath Party makes decisions. It is not the ruler in Syria.”

When asked about his common ground with the Muslim Brotherhood, Mr. Khaddam said that Syria’s interest united him with the Muslim Brotherhood:

(Regarding what unites him with the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, he replied: “The interest of Syria. In Syria, there is a broad Islamic trend, and the Muslim Brotherhood is part of it,” wondering: “How can we talk about democracy and isolate a political group in Syria? When you isolate a trend, it pushes it towards extremism, and Syria’s interest requires openness to the Muslim Brotherhood as a moderate trend. It is a big mistake to block Islamic currents.”)

As for why Bashar did not enter the battle alongside the Lebanese resistance, despite having a mutual defense agreement with Lebanon, Mr. Khaddam stated that the Syrian people, burdened by the corruption of the ruling regime, cannot afford any war. He emphasized the significant economic and disastrous conditions in the country, stating that Syria cannot bear the burden of war, and there is great concern among Syrians that Bashar al-Assad’s recklessness could lead to a conflict prematurely.

Regarding Bashar’s fear of war, Mr. Khaddam said: “The same fears. I mean, he has the option for a war in Lebanon without Syria bearing any military burden. Here you ask me, what is the value of the military agreement between Syria and Lebanon within the framework of the Lebanese-Syrian Treaty? It has been proven that the treaty is just ink on paper. Some officials close to Bashar al-Assad said that what prevents us from intervening is the existence of the separation agreement in the Golan Heights, and thus this prevents us from clashing with Israel. Israel violated this agreement when it struck Ein Al-Sahab. They said if Israeli forces approached the Syrian border, we would enter. Israeli forces are present in Syrian territories in the Golan Heights. In Bashar al-Assad’s speech, he said Israel was defeated in the early days. Well, if it was defeated in the early days, why didn’t Syria take advantage of this defeat and enter the Golan and liberate it?”)