Abdel Halim Khaddam to (Al-Shiraa): Bashar is weak and cornered in the court, and Iran will sacrifice him if it is cornered.

publisher: الشراع AL Shiraa

Publishing date: 2007-09-23


We have broken the barrier of fear and are organizing internal groups in Syria.

The Muslim Brotherhood represents moderation, and their general monitor calls for a civil state in Syria.

The Baath Party is a cover for the crimes of the Assad and Alawite regimes, similar to an orphan on the table of the wicked.

The Alawites are harmed by the Assad regime, just like any other sect.

People will respond to us when we call them to take to the streets.

Iran needs support as its economic situation worsens, and it cannot finance a deficit of a state like Syria.

The situation in Syria is no longer tolerable: the government is preoccupied with wealth, and the people are preoccupied with poverty and fear.

Corruption in Syria involves between 300 and 400 individuals, all of whom are part of the regime.

Hafez Assad did not hold anyone accountable, and there was no project during his reign that did not stumble in implementation.

Corruption has ruined the Syrian economy, and there are numerous examples of misconduct.

  • Rami Makhlouf undermines the country’s immunity, and his trade and annual profits exceed two billion dollars.
  • 30% of any project for Rami Makhlouf, and the profits are distributed among the Assad family.
  • Iran established Hezbollah as a political and advanced military base on the Mediterranean.
  • During Hafez Assad’s days, there was an agreement with the Iranians not to overthrow Saddam to ensure no benefit to the United States and Israel.
  • Syria and Iran will pay the price if wars engulf the region.
  • The possibility of war breaking out is greater than the possibility of it not happening.
  • The countries in the region cannot afford, and the world cannot bear, Iran taking control of the region because whoever takes Iraq dominates all the Gulf countries.
  • Bashar is leading us to war and aligning us with Iran’s interests.
  • Shia Islam in Syria will not benefit Iran and will breed extremists against it.
  • If things escalate, Bashar believes he will destabilize the situation in Lebanon through Hezbollah.

*Hezbollah defends Bashar to obstruct the court, and it does not want its battle against the state.

The dialogue with the former deputy to the Syrian President, Abdul Haleem Khaddam, is multi-faceted.

*It is a dialogue with the leader of the opposition or the most prominent opposition figure in Syria today, speaking about the reality of the Syrian opposition represented by the National Salvation Front, which held its conference in Berlin and is preparing for imminent steps inside Syria to bring about the change it demands.

*It is also a dialogue with a veteran diplomat who knows many secrets, details, and intricacies, revealing some of them whenever he sees that his perspective on a particular issue needs support or endorsement, even if it’s from a not-so-recent history.

*The dialogue with Abu Jamal is a conversation with a Ba’athist and Arab nationalist who speaks about the internal fabric of Syria with much knowledge, presenting the reality of corruption and the philosophy of Hafez al-Assad, the late president, who laid the foundation for the current situation in Syria, which, as Khaddam says, is no longer tolerable because “the government is preoccupied with wealth, and the people are preoccupied with poverty and fear.”

*It is also a dialogue with a statesman who knows many of its secrets, understands the thought process of the system he lived and worked within for decades, and left when his views differed, especially concerning Syria’s role.

*Most importantly, this dialogue is with an extraordinary witness, surpassing what can be described as the historian of the moment. With his seasoned personality, he can keep up with the events of the present, discussing them with the wisdom and lessons of the past while simultaneously having the ability to move forward into the future and formulate a vision that encompasses all that has happened during the days he lived in power for more than two decades. When conversing with Khaddam, it feels like you are facing the contemporary history of Syria.

*He turns the pages and reads the headlines and details, standing before its lessons and implications on the threshold of a new phase. Khaddam seems confident that Syria is on the brink of a new era, whether due to the results achieved by the National Salvation Front, as he says, or through the steps initiated by the Front.

*In this dialogue with Khaddam, he paints a picture of the general scene in Syria and the region, the reality of the Syrian regime and its weaknesses, speaking in detail about his vision for what awaits Syria, its position, role, and about the equations and balances of power in the region. He discusses the possibilities he sees as likely to occur on various fronts.

*The following is the first part of the interview with Khaddam, which took place in Berlin on the sidelines of the National Salvation Front’s conference. The second part will follow in the coming week.

Mr Abdul Haleem, two years have passed since your uprising against the regime in Syria. What have you achieved so far, and what have you not achieved?

  • When I rebelled against the regime, I did so with my decision because the situation in Syria had become unbearable. Syria was like a block of salt thrown into water, dissolving. Syria, once prosperous and occupying people’s minds, became a place where Syrians were preoccupied with poverty and fear. The ruler in Syria became preoccupied with wealth, how to extort people, and how to steal it.

Are there facts regarding this matter? How does he extort people, and where does his wealth come from?

  • There are not only facts, but there is also a philosophy to the matter, and this philosophy has existed since the days of President Hafez al-Assad. Hafez al-Assad’s philosophy aimed to control wealth in the country and power.

As for wealth, how did he control it? He personally remained in the shadows but allowed his brothers, his brother-in-law, and relatives to start corrupt practices.

Is this the philosophy of governance?

  • No, it’s corruption — the accumulation of wealth, concentrating wealth. A project should involve Mohammad Makhlouf as a partner, even with any foreign company, or one of his brothers should step in. This situation opened the eyes of the second ring around Hafez al-Assad, including a group of officers. Each one would say, “Why does Assad have wealth, collect money, and own buildings while I, an officer, have nothing?” Everyone involved in corruption had a file with Hafez al-Assad. If someone attempted to play with security and create trouble for the regime, their file would be opened. Corruption reached a point where there were 300 to 400 people, all part of the regime.

When we entered Lebanon, the situation worsened due to the influx of money into Lebanon. An officer goes for service in Lebanon, spends two years there, and suddenly builds a palace, amassing wealth. This had repercussions on the Syrian economy. For instance, a project costs $100 million; the state pays $150 million because there’s a bribe that must be paid to this or that person.

Was this matter under the guidance and sponsorship of Hafez al-Assad personally?

  • Nothing happens in secret, and the whole country talks about it. I’ll give you an example. There was a decision to establish a paper mill in Deir ez-Zor. They told Assad that cotton swabs could be turned into paper pulp. They contracted with an Austrian company to build the factory, which cost around $200 million in the early 1970s. They brought cotton swabs to turn them into pulp, but the project failed. They created a factory for something that hadn’t been studied. The primary material that the project should have been based on was not tested. They said, “Let’s plant poplars and make pulp from them.” So, they planted hundreds of thousands of poplar trees in the Raqqa region. However, the poplars also failed to yield any production. The factory remained non-functional until two years ago when a businessman working in the paper industry started bringing pulp from abroad to operate the plant.
  • Did Hafez al-Assad not hold anyone accountable despite the losses and bribes?

    • He didn’t hold anyone accountable. There’s not a single project in Syria that didn’t stumble during implementation. Why do projects fail, and how are things done? There was talk of a tender to build a spinning mill. Experts were brought in to set specific specifications. They came up with a theory that for each submitted offer, marks would be assigned – this project is 90%, and that one is 80%, and a price would be set for each offer. Someone might submit a high-specification offer at a high price, and another might submit average specifications at an average price, and the lowest one gets the job if it’s the cheapest.

    Let’s move to implementation because the foreign company has an agent who takes 10% or 15%. When the project is executed, it’s done based on specifications to save and profit. The factory finishes whether it works or not. If it starts working, it must produce 100 units, but it produces only 50.

    Dams were built, dozens of dams in Syria. In one of the dams, when the dam was first filled, it collapsed due to the overflow of water.

    Corruption has ruined the Syrian economy.

  • #… And no one was held accountable. Is a businessman investing in a project supported by an officer?
    • Not only by an officer but by the family as well, because the one who would hold accountable is a facade at Muhammad Makhlouf’s, at one of the Assad family members.

    Another example,

    We built a spinning mill in Jableh, costing around 200 to 300 million dollars. Who was the agent of the Chinese company that executed the project and supervised the implementation? Kamal al-Assad, Bashar’s cousin. When the factory was completed, they wanted to appoint a manager to take over the project from the Chinese. Who became the manager? Kamal al-Assad’s son, a recent engineering graduate, for a project costing 200 to 300 million dollars. Kamal al-Assad’s son took over the project from Kamal al-Assad.

    Did the project succeed or fail?

    • It operated at less than half its capacity because there were construction defects due to the contractor being Kamal al-Assad. A storm came and blew away the entire construction because there were deficiencies in the specifications.

    For example, today, there is a wave of price increases in food, clothing, electricity, and water under the banner of economic reform to alleviate the state’s deficit. At the same time, Rami Makhlouf annually takes net profits equivalent to two billion dollars.

  • From where?

    • First, the mobile phone gives him 1.4 billion dollars. Second, the duty-free markets usually sell to travelers, but in Rami’s case, they sell within the country.

    So he undermines the country’s trade and industry?

    • Indeed, and also the Ministry of Finance.


    • He brings in cigarettes, massive quantities that Makhlouf introduces into the duty-free market. The next day, he sells the cigarettes to agents within the country, resulting in the disruption of “Al-Rigie,” the official institution supposed to be responsible for distributing tobacco.

    The fees that the state used to collect are now collected by Rami Makhlouf.

  • But didn’t the Syrian consumer benefit from lower prices?

    • He benefits, how? Let’s assume the commodity’s original price is $100, and its actual cost is $50. The state benefits from $50!

    What does Rami Makhlouf do instead of selling it for $150; he sells it for $140. Yes, the consumer saves $10, but the state loses $40 that Rami Makhlouf took, which is the state’s money. All goods subject to customs duties are present in duty-free markets. From prohibited goods on the Lebanese-Syrian border duty-free markets, he didn’t just stop at foreign goods; he brought cheese and labneh, causing some shops in Chetoura to close competition with the stores there.

    Furthermore, any investor who wants to operate in Syria must be a partner with Rami Makhlouf to succeed and start working. The latter takes 30% of the project’s profits, earning from $2 to $3 billion, and it doesn’t go to him alone but to the whole family. This applies to Bashar al-Assad, Maher, Asef Shawkat, Kamal al-Assad, Zou al-Himma Shalish, Riad Shalish, and the entire family.

    Thus, corruption has infiltrated all state institutions, and the judiciary in Syria today is non-existent even in the Middle Ages, given the scale of corruption within it.


    Because when Rami Makhlouf comes with a lawsuit and imposes a judgment on the judge, he issues the judgment in favor of Rami. In return, he issues 20 judgments collecting money from the plaintiffs.

  • Is there anyone who dares to file a lawsuit against Rami Makhlouf, for example?

    • Never. For instance, Mercedes-Benz has had a local agent for 30 years. Makhlouf wanted the agency for himself, and to lay his hands on it, he went to court. The court ruled in favor of the local agent. What happened the next day? Rami’s gangs came to the head of the court, broke his bones. Then, the head of the Cassation Court turned into the head of the Appeals Court in Aleppo, meaning they demoted him and sent him out of his city.

    #… So, there are people resisting in Syria?

    • Yes, there are those who say, “How did he issue absurd judgments?”

    And Hafez al-Assad

    You mentioned at the beginning that Hafez al-Assad followed the philosophy of drowning others, and he was personally distant. What about the oil money that was said to enter his accounts secretly or be put under the category of the president’s secret expenses?

    • No, the oil money goes to the Ministry of Oil because it’s the one selling it. The Ministry of Oil sells dollars to the Central Bank in Syrian pounds, and the Central Bank gives the Ministry of Oil Syrian currency and takes dollars. Syrian cash goes to the Ministry of Finance. So, the oil money comes into the budget, fueling 49% of the budget, even before three years ago. But this year, the oil’s share has decreased because the deficit in the oil balance was $1.3 billion in 2007.
    • Despite the rise in oil prices?

      • Yes. We sell oil, but we import oil derivatives. We sell a barrel of oil for $70, but a barrel of derivatives costs four or five times more—diesel, mineral oils, and others. We import crude oil from Iraq. We used to sell our oil, and Iraq would sell to us at encouraging prices.

      Where did the rumor that Hafez al-Assad had oil money in his pocket come from? The foreign currency reserves abroad were registered in the name of Hafez al-Assad, totaling $13 billion. This accumulation occurred after the rise in oil prices and Arab aid after the October War.

      A problem arose when one of the officials brought up the issue of reserves. At that time, Hafez al-Assad transferred the reserves from his name to the state’s name in 2000 before his departure.

      All the reserves, including the interest?

      • The figure reached $18 billion and was transferred to the state.

      It was said that Basil al-Assad, when killed, was heading to Europe to access these reserve funds.

      • I have no information to confirm or deny this matter

      Return to the uprising

      What have you achieved? What have you not achieved?

      • The country was in a state of disarray, as I mentioned earlier, like a block of salt dissolving in water—poverty, chaos, no responsible government official knew what their job was. I made the decision to leave, I left, and then I emerged as an individual. However, there is a current within the Ba’ath Party that aligns with our common goals, and we established the National Salvation Front.

      The first thing we did was to present the Syrian cause to the Syrians, the Arab public opinion, and the world.

      Has the Syrian cause become part of the political process in Syria after being monopolized by the regime?

      • No one dared to mention the name of Hafez al-Assad or any security officer. This was the first step. The second step was to start a mobilization process and break the wall of fear in a regime that has ruled with an iron fist for 40 years, creating a state of terror. Even close friends were afraid to share information with each other, fearing it might reach the security forces.

      Do you think there are those now in Syria who dare to challenge the regime and the officers?

      • Yes, there is now a daring stance against the regime. Send someone to Syria and ask any taxi driver to hear words you won’t hear in Lebanon against any official.

      And does it ensure that the taxi driver is not part of the intelligence?

      • No, the taxi driver could be a doctor, an engineer, or a school teacher because no one in Syria can survive on their salary.

      When I review the visuals, there is an increasing interest in watching and wondering when the change will happen. This is the case in all of Syria, including the coastal region.

      So, we broke the barrier of fear and dared to confront the regime, then organized internal groups in Syria.

      We won’t ask you about it because it’s a highly secretive matter, but is the coverage sufficient to prepare for the civil disobedience you call for?

      • We have covered enough ground for this purpose. The obstacle before us was the Arab and international cover. There was a fear among people that if we took to the streets and the regime committed a massacre against us, who would protect us?

      The current Arab situation was covering for the regime, and the entire West was attacking the regime. So, if they wanted to talk about Lebanon, they attacked Bashar. If they wanted to talk about Iraq, they attacked Bashar. If they wanted to discuss the Palestinian issue, they attacked Bashar. However, the suffering and injustice experienced by the Syrian people had not been mentioned by anyone. We are now waiting after making strides in our communications with the world, addressing them, saying: “You have fought wars against dictatorship. You have said this and that.” We sent a message to the Foreign Relations Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives when they were working on a report about the intention to cooperate with the regime. We told them, “You entered a war against dictatorship and Nazism in Europe. Bashar al-Assad is a dictator. How are you dealing with him? Where is your talk about human rights and democracy?” This is the problem we face despite the improvement in the situation. The Arab situation, as we see it, has been cutting against the regime, but this opposition has not yet reflected on attention to the internal Syrian situation. This is our role, to shed light on the suffering of the Syrian people and their situation

      What about the Front?

      What has the Salvation Front achieved?

      • The Front began with 17 politicians, mainly consisting of two factions: the Islamic and nationalist factions. In the second conference, the conference expanded to include 60 people. This time, there are about 140 members, but some individuals couldn’t attend due to visa issues, and the number will stop at 120 participants.

      Aren’t you afraid of infiltrations that the regime might use against your coalition to disrupt your movement?

      • We do not rule out infiltration, but we cannot remain under the pressure of infiltration. There is a study of each person’s case, but naturally, there are things that might happen, like someone talking to another during lunch about matters that shouldn’t be discussed. These discussions might reach the Syrian embassy in one country or another.

      Does your alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood provide reassurance inside Syria, in the Arab world, or the West? Do you see this alliance as an addition or a burden? How do you view it?

      • Firstly, I am concerned with Syria’s interest, a country that is overwhelmingly Muslim, and Syrians, whether Muslims or Christians, are religious. There is a rift in Syria due to the events of the eighties that must be resolved, and it will not be resolved unless there is reconciliation between the nationalist and religious factions, i.e., between the Baathists and the Muslim Brotherhood. If the problem persists, the internal problem will persist.

      The second point is that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate Islamic trend. If we want to deal with them through a policy of exclusion and isolation, if we close doors in front of them, they will turn to extremism. Is it in Syria’s interest for moderate Islam to turn into Islamic extremism? On the contrary, we should encourage moderate Islam, and we have collaborated with them. This collaboration revealed many things, as the Muslim Brotherhood introduced a lot of modification to their ideas and actions. These are fundamental thoughts in their view of life and political life. I am talking about the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, representing moderate Islam. When the General Observer of the Muslim Brotherhood appears in an interview on TV and is asked, “Do you want a religious state?” he always responds, “Syria is not ruled by a religious state but by a civil and national state. We want a modern civil state whose reference is the ballot box.” Usually, the Islamic leaderships do not say this, but they say something else.

      Is there a real transformation within the Muslim Brotherhood and their ideas and policies between their situation in 1982 and in 2007, a quarter of a century later?

      • I am completely convinced. Also, the Baathists in 1982 are different from those in 2007.


      Perhaps it’s you and not the regime…

      I am speaking for myself and for a significant faction within the Baath Party. Because the Baath Party, as desired by the regime, serves as a cover for the crimes of the Assad family. The Baath Party is not currently in power. Who decides in Syria now? The Baath Party? The Qatari leadership? You can see that Abdullah al-Ahmar is now sitting like an orphan at the malevolent's table. This is the situation, and the party members, especially the leaders, are poor souls who burn in their hearts. Bashar al-Assad, his family, and their security apparatuses are the ones ruling.

      Does the Arab and international cover for the Muslim Brotherhood exist, knowing that the Arabs and the West see the Brotherhood through Hamas, and they have a contrary stance?

      • Some Arab countries have a general aversion to the Muslim Brotherhood, like Egypt, for example, and Jordan. I am not talking about the regime of this country or that; I am talking about my country. The circumstances in Syria require the dominance of moderate Islam. If extremism prevails in Syria, it will be more dangerous than the situation in Iraq.

      Is there Arab conviction in forming this cover?

      • We are trying. The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is half of Hamas, so they are influenced by Hamas. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is influenced by Hamas because Hamas is essentially an Egyptian product. I have my situation in Syria. Bashar al-Assad has Law 49, which dictates the death penalty for any Syrian belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood. Despite this, Khaled Meshaal, the Palestinian belonging to the Brotherhood, is residing in Syria under the protection of the same regime and sits in the arms of Bashar al-Assad. This is the situation. However, we cannot take the Brotherhood as a whole. Let’s take, for example, the Brotherhood in Lebanon, which is the Islamic Group; they are close in thinking and moderation to the Brotherhood in Syria.

      So, if we put this equation, Abu Jamal: the regime is the regime of minorities or their protector – Alawites, Christians, Shiites, Druze, Ismailis – and the Salvation Front is the formation of the majority, isn’t there a fear of a clash between the majority and the minorities?

      • Firstly, the Salvation Front is not a meeting of the majority; it is a meeting of Syrians. In Syria, since independence, the Syrian people have overcome the sectarian stage. Even before independence and during the mandate, the Syrian people surpassed the issue of the five mandates. When independence came, the first president of the Syrian Republic was Fares al-Khoury, a Christian from Lebanon. The sectarian issue does not exist. Mikhail Lian formed a parliamentary list against Rashid al-Kikhya in Aleppo. With Lian, Ihsan al-Jabri, Saadallah al-Jabri’s brother, was also present.

      But after 40 years in Syria, don’t you think that this sectarian tension has become acute?

      • Yes, there is a created sectarian tension by the regime through regionalism. I tell you that the Alawite sect is as affected by this regime as the other sects. Why?

      If you go to the coast, you will see that 90% of the people are suffering from poverty, just like the rest of the Syrian regions. The most impoverished areas in Syria are the Aleppo countryside and the coastal region.

      There is a group of 300 to 500 beneficiaries of the regime, but hundreds of thousands of Alawites are oppressed. The sect is not the beneficiary or the ruler; Hafez al-Assad was the ruler, and he used the sect. They bore the burden of the family’s monopolization of power, as part of the Syrian society. The second burden on the Alawites is that they are accused of ruling, and therefore, they fear bearing the consequences of the regime’s mistakes.

      Therefore, the Salvation Front focuses on the idea that the responsible party is the family, and the Alawite sect is a fundamental partner in the nation, one of the essential components in Syria, and it is affected by the regime. It is recorded that when the National Salvation Front moves, the movement will be widespread in the coastal region.

      Isn’t there fear of stirring up the nerves of this sect by the regime scaring it from the Muslim Brotherhood?

      • What has the regime offered it?

      On the other hand, how do you provide assurances to them? Is this a response to that?

      • You know that I am a son of the coast, and when I grew up, all my friendships were with Alawite brothers, whether I was a student, a lawyer, or a political figure. All my relationships were with Alawite brothers.

      As a nationalist politician?

      • Absolutely not, as an ordinary citizen. Sectarian behaviors only appeared in periods where the role of the security apparatus was emphasized against everyone, including the Alawites. And now, the insults against the regime from the Alawites include everyone. For over a year, there have been movements and contacts with them, and I am confident that there is a broad movement of Alawites, both Baathists and non-Baathists, who will be partners in the movement against the regime.

      Is it true that the regime succeeded in attracting moderate Islamic elements to block the path for the Muslim Brotherhood?

      • Such as?

      Allowing the establishment of mosques, embracing preachers and religious scholars, and supporting religious institutions.

      • This doesn’t accomplish anything. If they bring in Ahmad Hassoun and make him a Mufti, it doesn’t mean the regime succeeded in ensuring the loyalty of Muslims. Ahmad Hassoun is insulted in Aleppo just like Ariel Sharon.

      And in Damascus, don’t you have a problem, meaning it is under the control of the regime with a security and social equation?

      • We don’t have any problem in any Syrian province; people respond positively to us.

      Are you confident that people can respond to you by overcoming the barrier of fear when you call them to take to the streets?

      • Yes, the country is on the verge of collapse. This factor, who earns 4 or 5 thousand Syrian pounds and has several children at home, if the price of tomatoes reaches 70 pounds per kilo, onions to 60 pounds, and potatoes to 50 pounds, and the prices of electricity and water have doubled. If he wants to take the bus from his house to his workplace, he pays at least one twentieth of his salary. If his daughter wants to go to university, he cannot afford to buy her a blouse.

      But the regime says otherwise, that there is no external debt, and it is self-sufficient, and it exports foodstuffs abroad, as happened recently when it sold 70,000 tons to Egypt.

      • It exports wheat, but ask the people how much a kilo of bread costs in Syria. Its price is 25 Syrian pounds. No matter what is exported, what matters is what the people eat.

      The regime has no external debt? True, but why does it have no external debt? It had debts to the Soviet Union amounting to 15 billion dollars, the price of weapons. There was a settlement for these debts, and they became 2 billion, which is 13 billion dollars. They did not vanish because the Syrian economy improved but because there was a deal with Russia. The same happened with France, Italy, and the former socialist bloc countries. All these had settlements. So, there is no external debt, but ask me about the regime’s internal debts.

      Every year there is a budget deficit of around 40%. How is it covered? It is covered by adding to the treasury to the General Debt Fund. It means when the new budget is issued, a second law is issued to defer the debt due to a deficit for another twenty years, compounded year after year.

      Calculate these installments on every citizen. This is one point. Calculate the debts of the Commercial Bank of Syria. When I left Syria, the bank had debts to state institutions of about 250 billion Syrian pounds. The Central Bank has debts to the treasury, withdrawals of about 200 billion pounds. Where are the funds of the social institutions? The Ministry of Finance put its hands on them. The funds of the postal service, social security, and the oil company sell oil to state institutions (factories, electricity…) on credit, and it takes loans from the Commercial Bank. So, it has debts and is owed debts. Among these complications, the state’s indebtedness is one trillion.

      What about Iran’s role in supporting the current Syrian regime?

      • Iran needs support, and its economic situation is at its worst.

      But it spends in Lebanon as part of its self-promotion.

      • In Lebanon, for example, it spends a hundred million dollars, but Syria needs billions of dollars. What does it do here?

      Iran establishes a company in Syria for a cement plant. They bring the equipment they made themselves and place it in Syria, registering it as internal debt in Iran, meaning they did not pay dollars to Syria.

      I remember during the Iraq-Iran war, Arab aid to Syria stopped, so we went to Iran, and they gave us annual oil assistance, a certain amount. But it wasn’t more than that. Iran does not have the capacity to finance the deficit of a country like Syria.

      This extensive presence of Iran inside Syria, politically, security-wise, and through Shiism, can it be without compensation? And why would Bashar al-Assad bring the Iranian bear to Syria without any compensation?

      • Bashar al-Assad has no choice; he is cornered in the issue of the International Tribunal in the assassination of Rafik Hariri. No one can stop or cancel the investigation.

      What about deals?

      • No deals. He knows that tightening the pressure on him, no one will stand with him in the region; he has no one but Iran. Yes, we were allies with Iran during Hafez al-Assad’s era, but Bashar changed it from an alliance to subordination.

      In return for what?

      • In return for protection because he is weak. He believes that if things get tough, he will board his plane and flee to Iran or, as he believes, he will ignite the situation in Lebanon through Hezbollah. Iran helps him with Hezbollah, and the party considers Iran its political, ideological, and jurisprudential reference. Iran extends personal support to Bashar al-Assad, but Hezbollah does not engage in a battle in southern Lebanon to move to Beirut and fight against the state because it wants a national unity government. Never. It defends Bashar to obstruct the court. Hezbollah has become its main tool in confronting the International Tribunal by blowing up the court in Lebanon through Hezbollah, which means Iran.

      Do you not believe there is divergence between Iran and Syria regarding Lebanon?

      • It is in Iran’s hands. As long as it does not harm Iran, Hezbollah remains with Bashar al-Assad. But if Iran is going to pay the price for escalating the situation, it is ready to sacrifice Bashar al-Assad.

      To avoid paying the price of sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shias?

      • Sectarian strife for the Shiites makes the entire Islamic world against Iran. This also means a justification for the Western world that Iran is against everyone, making its situation difficult.

    Let’s speak in the language of reality. Iran is powerful within its borders, strong in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza. In the geopolitical positioning between Iran and all the Arab countries, Iran is the strongest, capable of taking the initiative and launching attacks. There are no Arab countries ready to fight, neither in Iraq nor Lebanon, nor in Palestine, while Iran is actively engaged, along with Syria.

    • Iran has intelligent leadership, a strategy, and Iran is the regional powerhouse, stretching from the Mediterranean to China. Therefore, Iran wants to be a partner with the world in its interests in the region. After the revolution, Iran established Hezbollah as an advanced political and military base on the Mediterranean, forming an alliance with Syria during Hafez al-Assad’s era, where Syria stood with Iran in its war against Iraq.

    You were aware that Iran established Hezbollah for this purpose, not just to fight Israel, but through fighting Israel, Iran’s project succeeds.

    • Of course. Of course. We needed resistance against Israel where there was a mutual interest exchange.

    In the Palestinian issue, Iran took advanced political positions compared to all Arab countries and established the Quds Force. After Iraq invaded Kuwait, the primary goal became Iraq, which emerged from the war exhausted. We, along with Iran, tried to overthrow Saddam, but we failed. So what did Iran do? Iran worked contrary to what we had agreed upon.

    What is it?

    • We had an agreement not to overthrow Saddam if his fall would benefit the United States or Israel, and we worked according to this agreement, which was solidified during Hafez al-Assad’s visit to Tehran.

    Despite your knowledge that they had formed the Badr Corps and militias from Iraqi prisoners during the war.

    • No, they had Iraqi supporters, and we also had Iraqi supporters with alliances on both sides. The Islamic parties associated with them had their main offices in Syria because Iran did not give them the freedom of movement that we provided for these Iraqi parties. However, their connection to Iran was stronger than their connection to Syria because the Syrian regime took a nationalist approach, while there was an Islamic approach there.

    … Shia?

    • Yes, religious. So, what did they do? They used the allied Islamic parties to form alliances with the Americans. Was it easy? Ahmed Chalabi and some opposition leaders abroad, where Abdul Aziz al-Hakim and another delegation, along with Hamam Hamoud, and I had a lecturer in negotiations. The Brothers supported us with information.

    Since those days, the Americans were thinking about how to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Until 1995, there was a US delegation in northern Iraq, and there was an agreement that Jalal Talabani and Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim would lead a movement against the regime, supported by some army officers and Masoud Barzani. This movement was supposed to start in March 1996. Still, Masoud found the matter complicated, withdrew from it, and was supposed to take the Mosul line. However, his withdrawal made the Americans retreat. Their role was to support the rebels with airstrikes. Saddam entered and swept them away. The dispute between Masoud and Jalal played out, and we knew about it from Jalal.

    What did you tell the Iranians?

    • The Iranians were aware of it, but they denied any connection to it.

    Did you believe them?

    • We believed them formally, not substantively.

    When the events of September 2001 occurred, Bush came up with his theories about terrorism. The opportunity arose, and they rushed towards the Iranian-backed Iraqi opposition, along with the Kurdish parties, more towards the Americans.

    In such a situation, did Iran abandon its agreement with you because Bashar came after Hafez al-Assad?

    • No, the atmosphere was the same, and the subordination came later. In any case, there is an Iranian saying: “If you see a snake, do not kill it with your hand; kill it with your enemy’s hand.” That’s how they acted in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Iranians pushed their group to meet in London with the British and Americans to form a cover for the war. The Americans occupied Iraq, thinking that the war was just about overthrowing Saddam Hussein and not knowing what to do afterward. Their allies were the Kurds and Iranian Islamic parties. They formed the Governing Council, dissolved the army, and disbanded the Ba’ath Party. The dissolution of the army resulted in the emergence of the resistance. Just as the Iranians used the US army to strike Saddam Hussein, the Iranians used Saddam Hussein’s group to strike the Americans.

    Today’s conflict is not just between Arab countries sensitive to sectarian conflicts or concerned about Iranian expansion. It is a conflict between the strategic interests of the West, led by the United States, and Iran’s strategic interests.

    The issue is that Iran’s size is not only regional but also internationally intertwined.

    Of course, the Russians are still watching until now. They have interests and are trying to achieve accomplishments. Therefore, the danger in the region has become beyond the control of regional parties due to international entanglements. The situation is complicated and dangerous because of the intertwining of regional networks with international interests. Hence, the Syrian concern. The question is, where is Bashar al-Assad taking Syria? If the situation in the region explodes, Syria will be one of the conflict zones, and it will pay the price, along with others, including Iran. No one will be immune from significant damage if wars sweep the region.

    Do you expect wars or a war in the region?

    • All indicators confirm that the likelihood of war is greater than the likelihood of avoiding it. Handing over leadership of the region to Iran is something neither the regional nor global powers can bear. Not America, nor Russia, nor Europe, nor China. Iran has reached a point where it cannot afford to retreat because the nuclear file is not the main issue. It is crucial, but the main issue for Iranians is who controls the interests of the region.

    The United States formed a coalition in 1990 because Saddam entered Kuwait. Now, Iran wants to take Iraq, and Iraq’s oil is better and more significant than Kuwait’s oil by twenty times. Whoever takes Iraq will control all the Gulf states. Therefore, the situation is complex and dangerous.

    Shia in Syria

    Returning to the internal Syrian question, where is Bashar al-Assad leading us?

    • Yes, where is Bashar al-Assad leading us? Towards war, tying us to Iran’s interests. Additionally, there is another indication that Iranians are spreading within the Shia movement in Syria.

    What is the impact of this within Syria?

    • It leads to reactions, and the danger in these reactions is that fundamentalism may give rise to extremists, as long as the regime sponsors it. Shia Iran sponsors it with blind and hateful sectarianism, as seen in Iraq, Lebanon, and unfortunately, throughout the Arab world. This is where the danger lies.

    Is there a state of rejection and resentment over these conditions within Syria?

    • There are many cases of rejection, not just dozens but hundreds of emails saying that they are Shia-izing the country and attacking Iran and the Iranian ambassador.

    The Iranian leadership is supposed to have wisdom and not add fuel to the fire. The region is inflamed; what do you want from this situation? If a hundred or two hundred Sunnis convert to Shia, does this mean the return of Imamate, making Ali ibn Abi Talib the Commander of the Faithful again, and executing Muawiyah? This issue happened 15 centuries ago. Will Muslims continue to live with its effects for all this time, only to be renewed now?

    Are we a nation ruled by graves?

    • Of course, practically, the Islamic world lives among graves.

    Doesn’t Iran fear internal backlash, claiming that it is Shia-izing the Alawites—doesn’t it fear Sunni-Alawite-Shia reactions?

    • Rejection of Shia is not limited to Sunnis; there are also those among the Alawites who reject it. Their sheikhs gathered to protest and condemn it.

    We haven’t heard about this.

    • These news items don’t come out publicly. Even among Sunnis, these issues are not discussed openly; they are conveyed through limited messages. If someone were to go to the coast now and ask some Alawite sheikhs, they would not accept this situation. They would say that they are Muslim Shia (as Shia has multiple sects) and Arabs, so why this action?

    It is said that sensible Alawites have appealed to the regime not to make an entire sect pay the price for the violations of a few officers.

    • Bashar al-Assad does not listen to anyone because it is not about politics but about his survival or downfall, the continuity or fall of the regime, and massive material interests.

    Do you hear about disputes within the family? There were reports of clashes in Tripoli between Maher al-Assad’s group and Rafat al-Assad’s group. Why Maher and not Syrian intelligence? Where is Asef? Where are the others?

    • Yes, the problem occurred when Rafat al-Assad’s group opened an office in Tripoli under the name “Al-Fursan,” and a group from Maher al-Assad’s side closed it.

    Is there a sense that inside Syria, some want war as an escape from the tough upcoming reckoning, to compel the Arabs to stand with Syria to lift its current isolation?

    • In my opinion, there is no such feeling because the general trend is moving in another direction. Getting involved in a war and its consequences threaten to overturn the entire regime. War is not a picnic; it comes with costs. The regime cannot afford it, and the country’s economic, psychological, and political situation cannot bear the burden of war. Whoever gets involved in war will lead Syria to destruction, which is treason, because if you enter a war unprepared for and unable to bear, you betray the country.
    • Syria and Israel

      Between Syria and Israel, what is happening now, war or settlement?

      • There is neither war nor settlement. Bashar al-Assad believes that by flirting with the Israelis, he can pass through the American gate. He sees that Democrats in America are closer to Israel. He receives deputies who talk to him about peace. Tomorrow, when the Democrats take power, they will open the door for him. He fails to realize that, regardless of who governs America, its interests come first, and among those interests is Israel. Some delude themselves that Israel controls America, but the reality is that Israel is one of the tools the United States uses worldwide. One of Israel’s previous goals was to overthrow the Soviet Union—that was its role.

      So, what is Iran doing in Syria? The Revolutionary Guard, agreements, military preparations, missiles, equipment, and pumping currency into the Central Bank of Syria?

      • Do they believe that if military matters explode in the region, they can turn Syria into one of the conflict zones for them? They consider their front extending from the Mediterranean to central Asia.

      Could Syria be a preemptive war zone to protect Iran?

      • If war erupts against Syria, Iran will watch. What can it do? There is a geographical barrier.

      Will Hezbollah leave? Will it only participate in this war?

      • What can Hezbollah do when it cannot face a real war? The issue is that the calculations for the July war are different from a war against Syria.

      Despite Nasrallah threatening surprises against Israel in case of a new war?

      • One hopes that reason prevails over rhetoric.

      How do you explain the recent Zionist breach of Syrian airspace, reaching the Deir ez-Zor area on the Iraq border?

      • In my opinion, the Syrian military statement is confusing. Firstly, they say they entered from the sea, meaning they entered Syrian territory by sea, 730 kilometers away. They also say that the planes broke the sound barrier. How can they enter covertly and break the sound barrier?

      Within the first 700 kilometers, there are several radar stations. Why didn’t these radars detect these planes? Either there is interference, or those supervising the radars are sleeping. The other issue is that the airstrikes occurred in the eastern region of Deir ez-Zor. The question is, why would Israeli planes go to the eastern border to strike a site? If they wanted to send a message to the regime, they could strike a densely populated area near Damascus, Homs, or Aleppo, where people would hear the echoes of the airstrikes. So when the Syrian media spokesman denied the breach, the Americans and Israelis first denied the breach, and then the United States said, “No comment,” followed by an Israeli statement saying, “No comment.” Why did the first Zionist statement saying they did not breach come out, and in the second instance, they said, “No comment”?

      What is your interpretation of this?

      • So far, I am not sure if they were Israeli planes or others.
    • Could American planes be a possibility?

      • I don’t have facts, but the Syrian military should have scrutinized and asked why this location was targeted.

      Some say this Zionist infiltration aims to reveal a passage to reach Iran?

      • The passage to Iran via Jordan is closer. Directly from western Iraq to Iran is closer.

      Is it a test of Syria’s capability or its regime’s intentions to enter the war or remain neutral?

      • Firstly, Syria only learned about the incident after several hours, and there is a known precedent. Six years ago, when Israeli planes bombed the area of Ain al-Sahib near Damascus several kilometers away, I was in Banias. Dr. Bashar called me, saying, “Have you heard what happened?” I said, “Yes,” and he was upset. I told him, “I’m coming to Damascus, and we’ll discuss it.”

      Was he upset, meaning there was a lapse?

      • Yes, he was upset, meaning he wanted to respond. I told him, “Take it easy; I’m coming, and we’ll discuss it.” When I reached him, I asked what the army leadership did. He replied that they hadn’t heard the news. Bashar heard it on the radio just like me. This indicates the state to which Bashar al-Assad has brought the country. That’s why we are afraid and concerned about Syria. This regime is leading Syria to a destructive and frightening place.

      The equation that says Iran supports the regime in Syria, and Israel does not want to overthrow it, doesn’t this prolong its lifespan?

      • Israel does not want to overthrow the regime for a simple reason. Syria has always been the voice and the shoulder carrying the Palestinian cause. Syria is now weak, its state is dilapidated, and its regime is busy accumulating wealth, engaging in corruption, and suppressing people. This suits Israel perfectly. What does Israel want? It wants the Arab world fragmented, weak, and backward. Israel’s strength lies not in its military power but in the Arab state of affairs.

      Do you rule out any agreement or war between Israel and Syria?

      • Neither war nor peace. Olmert cannot give Bashar al-Assad anything that justifies the required concessions, and Bashar al-Assad cannot give Olmert anything that justifies a settlement with him.