Abdel Halim Khaddam: The Syrian-Iranian Alliance and the Region (1)

publisher: الراي

Publishing date: 2010-12-18


When I decided to write this book, I took it upon myself to be objective in presenting facts and analyzing them away from emotions and effects. “I asked myself a set of questions and gave answers after thinking,” says former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam in the first chapter of his book “The Syrian-Iranian Alliance and the Region,” which was issued a few days ago and is his first political memoir.

The “controversial” Syrian politician presents some of the events he witnessed, participated in, or learned about. He reveals how Damascus opened its territory to Tehran’s activity and helped it establish its regional alliances in inflamed areas from Pakistan, Afghanistan to Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Before returning to the details of Syrian-Iranian relations, Khaddam points to the escalation of American interest in Iran since the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War with the Soviets. America provided a lot of assistance to the Shah of Iran, considering that his country was the first line in the face of Soviet expansion.

He then presents how Washington uses the Iranian nuclear file as a cover for major issues of concern and fear in the West, the most important of which is the nature of the Islamic regime. Khaddam believes that the dispute between Washington and Tehran did not start because of the American hostage-taking in its embassy in Iran but started at the moment the Shah’s regime collapsed, and Khomeini arrived in Tehran. He described America as the “Great Satan.”

In Khaddam’s opinion, the United States and Israel are obstacles to Iran’s achievement of its regional goals. However, he points to the difficulty of the American bet on blowing up the internal situation in Iran, considering that external tensions will weaken the ability of the internal opposition. On the foundations of Syrian-Iranian relations, Abdel Halim Khaddam traces the early beginnings of relations between Damascus and the leaders of the revolution, how the President of the Supreme Shiite Council in Lebanon, Mr. Musa Al-Sadr, played the main role in it, how the author’s relationship with Iran began until Syria settled on the signing of a treaty of friendship with the Soviet Union and the establishment of an alliance with the Islamic Republic.

He revealed the Syrian objectives of the alliance with Iran, the most prominent of which was the overthrow of the Iraqi regime, which put Damascus at war with it while it was fighting Iran. Khaddam said: “Despite the ideological contradiction between the secular regime in Syria and the Islamic regime in Iran, this has only led to the consolidation of the alliance, considering that the main issues were not disputed.” He admits that “the nature of the regime in Damascus did not allow Syria to have a long-term strategy but produced an arena in which the regime could maneuver, which led Syria to consider fighting a war to liberate the Golan because of the inability to build the state and build its institutions.”

In important areas of the memoirs, Khaddam tells about the nature of the relationship of the late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad with Lebanese politicians and his confidence in them and why he was not safe for mostly Christian and Sunni Muslim politicians. It also refers to the story of the wider and effective Iranian entry into Lebanon during the Israeli invasion of its territory in 1982. It tells how the rise and growth of Iranian influence in Lebanon and the nature of the tasks carried out by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in its territory.

The author discusses President Hafez al-Assad’s lack of concern about Iranian influence and expansionist ambitions. He also describes Syria’s continued support for Hezbollah since its establishment, as well as the details of the dispute between Damascus and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, which Iran inflamed.

Khaddam recounts a conversation he had with the Iranian ambassador to his country that included Ataba from Damascus to Tehran. He asked whether it was reasonable for Hezbollah’s weight in Iran to be greater than that of Syria.

In an important chapter of the memoirs, Khaddam talks about Hafez al-Assad’s attempts to stop the Iran-Iraq war in its early days due to Saddam Hussein’s intransigence. Some in the Gulf expected Iraq to achieve a quick victory, which, along with other events, led to an imbalance in Syrian-Gulf relations. It is important to note.

Khaddam also reveals the role he personally played in providing assurances to the Gulf states regarding Iranian intentions towards them, the content of his visit to their leaders, the atmosphere in the region and the nature of relations between its countries. He also discusses how the Iraqi-Iranian reconciliation was much easier than the reconciliation between Damascus and Baghdad.


“Rai” has published four chapters of Khaddam’s book in episodes. The first part, titled “The Islamic Republic,” includes an accurate historical, geographical, and political definition of Iran, which is located in a region with significant influence on the international economy and security. Its strategic location has given it an important role throughout history.

Khaddam notes that Iran’s role emerged in the twentieth century after the success of the communist revolution in Russia, which increased in importance after World War II when it formed a barrier against Soviet attempts to cross into oil-rich areas in the Gulf. The West provided Iran with military and political support, and Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi emerged as one of the regional leaders with the strongest ties to the United States. His ambitions to dominate the Gulf region led him to establish the Baghdad Pact, and he also focused on invoking Iran’s history before Islam.

After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in March 1979, led by Ayatollah Khomeini, the region entered a new phase, not just because of the fall of the Shah, as many rulers had fallen before him, but because of the nature of the new regime and its revolutionary goals. The revolution called for change in the Islamic world and salvation from the legacies of colonialism, which made it clear in its hostility to the West in general and to the United States in particular. It also raised fear and anxiety among the ruling regimes in the Islamic world, especially in the Gulf region, and concerned the Soviet Union about the extension of the revolution to the Asian Muslim republics. The Islamic Revolution in Iran caused concern to the West, as the new regime was at the heart of its strategic interests in the Gulf region.


The Great Satan

continues. Khaddam stated, “A few days after the revolution’s victory, its leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, declared the revolution’s hostility towards the West, particularly focusing on the United States as the Great Satan. This description implies permanent conflict with the United States, as well as constant conflict between the believers and the devil.”

Khaddam pointed out that “Arab countries, especially in the Gulf region, as well as Islamic countries bordering Iran like Pakistan, were very concerned about the new republic. It started shouting slogans calling for change in every direction. Anxiety and fear of the Islamic revolution turned into a war against it. The spearhead in that war was the Iraqi regime led by Saddam Hussein, supported by the West led by the United States and most Arab countries.”

He added that “even after three decades since the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, people are still talking about the Iranian threat, and concern continues to rise due to Iran’s goals and policies such as the liberation of Palestine and the overthrow of Israel. The Middle East region is witnessing a conflict between three strategic projects, particularly in the Arab Mashreq: the Israeli project, the Western project led by the United States, and the Iranian project in the absence of an Arab project to defend the interests of Arabs, their sovereignty and their land. This has turned the Arab region into an arena of conflict between these projects.”

He believed that “the Arab system established in March 1945 has failed to become an Arab project due to the nature of the existing regimes on the one hand and the external factors affecting the policies of most Arab countries and the predominance of narrow interests over national interests. This is a source of concern.”

The former Vice President of Syria asks several questions related to Iran and the people of Masarat to answer them, including:

“First, is the Islamic Republic of Iran a Persian republic that invokes the history of Persians to take revenge on the Arabs? My answer is simply: the Republic in Iran is an Islamic republic and not for race. Iran is a country composed of five nationalities, and Persians are the largest nationality. Any trend towards Persian nervousness will lead to a rift in the state in Iran.

Second, the issue of danger and anxiety is a relative matter related to policies on the one hand and the nature of regimes on the other.” He explained that “Iran is pursuing policies in the region and in the international arena that are not consistent with the policies of most Arab countries but are radically contrary to them. This is a source of concern for those countries. Fear results from tension and disagreement leading to a clash between Iran and these countries.

Third, is Iran serious about achieving its strategic project in the region and building a strong state capable of achieving its influence from Lebanon to Afghanistan and being this reference country and the leader of the peoples of the region? The answer is clear: Yes. Iran is serious about achieving its regional project, taking into account that it will not resort to using military force to achieve its project. It will not fight a war outside its national borders because it knows the significant damage of wars and learned this during the war with Iraq. In addition, its resort to military force will put it in multiple confrontations with Arab countries and with the West, which is always looking to protect its interests, especially oil. Iran will fight a war and use its military power only in the event of external aggression. Iran is working to implement its regional project by employing events and circumstances. Every event gives it an opportunity.”


Khaddam discusses the “Syrian-Iranian” alliance, stating that Syria has been used by the coalition as a platform for Iranian regional activity. Through Syria, Iran has built an alliance with various Palestinian factions that oppose the peace process. As a result, it has inserted itself into the heart of the Palestinian equation and the Arab-Israeli conflict. In Iraq, the American war has allowed Iran to maintain control through its allies and security services. This has forced the United States to engage in dialogue on Iraq’s security situation. Additionally, Iran has capitalized on the American war against the Taliban regime to secure a significant role in Afghanistan, prompting the United States to consider dialogue on the situation.

Khaddam emphasizes that Iran’s regional project concerns many Arab countries because it violates their regional sovereignty and constitutes interference in their internal affairs. This further complicates relations between Iran and the Arab countries and leads to divisions within Arab countries between groups that align with the Iranian project and other regimes. He notes that the growth of sectarian tensions among Shiite and Sunni Muslims in various regions and their sympathy for Iran is another factor of concern. This poses a threat to the unity of Lebanon and its stability, as well as the massacres in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Regarding the changing of government regimes, Khaddam questions whether Iran is working towards this goal in Arab countries. He answers that any change that serves Iran’s policies or aligns with its main objectives is welcomed by the leadership of the Islamic Republic. However, Iran is not actively seeking to effect change in any particular country, as doing so would embroil it in internal disputes. The Iranian leadership is not adventurous or reckless, but it will take advantage of any change in any country that serves its policies and interests.

It is worth noting that Iran does not seek to use its loyalists and supporters in their countries’ internal affairs. Instead, it keeps them as a pressure tool to use during critical times. This approach is only applied in the Gulf region, as Iran understands that it is a red zone for international interests. It seeks to avoid any actions that could cause concern to Gulf states and will continue to show goodwill towards them. Iran’s presence in these countries is only to be used in the event of a major threat to its regime.

“Hezbollah” and Tehran

Khaddam discussed the role of “Hezbollah” in Iran’s regional strategy, highlighting that it is significant in Lebanon and viewed by some Lebanese groups as an Iranian intervention and a threat to the country’s unity and identity. He also emphasized the importance of the Syrian regime in Iran’s strategy, not only in terms of its relations with Syria but also in using it as a platform for its regional activities. Similarly, Palestinian allied organizations and Iranian allies in Iraq play a vital role in their respective arenas, aimed at protecting Iran’s regional policies, not changing regimes.

Khaddam posed a question about whether the problem for Arab countries is Iran’s ambition to become a major country whose influence extends beyond its regional borders. He clarified that while ambitions that transcend national borders are concerning for other countries, another aspect is related to the state that falls within the circle of ambitions.

In conclusion, Khaddam stated that while Iranian ambitions are a concern for Arab countries, the real danger lies in their inability to recognize the reality and its dangers. He believes that the ability of Arab regimes to make decisions is limitless, but their ability to implement them is non-existent. He further emphasized that the Iranian project is not only contrary to the interests of some Arab countries but also to those of the West led by the United States. He raises the possibility of forming a line of cooperation and alliance between Iran and Arab countries based on their common opposition to Israel, but acknowledges that regional and international powers will ultimately govern matters. Therefore, the region will remain a zone of conflict and depletion until Arab countries can establish their system, unite their efforts, overcome their reality, and build a new reality based on the will of peoples, the rules of science and knowledge, and the ability to identify the dividing lines between friends and enemies.