Abdul Halim Khaddam to “Al-Shiraa” (2): Asef Shawkat spoke to a journalist about how the Syrian regime assassinated Rafik Hariri.

publisher: الشراع AL Shiraa

AUTHOR: حسن صبرا

Publishing date: 2007-10-02

  • Bashar doesn’t know his head from his feet.
  • Maher al-Assad doesn’t involve himself in politics; all he wants is security and money. Shawkat doesn’t dare to discuss politics with Bashar.
  • If peaceful change doesn’t happen in Syria within a year, it’s heading towards extremism.
  • Asef Shawkat spoke to a journalist about how the Syrian regime assassinated Rafik Hariri.
  • Bashar is the one who issued the decision to kill Hariri.
  • I said to Assad, “Would you sacrifice Walid Jumblatt for this dog Rustum Ghazaleh?”
  • I asked Hariri through Mohsen Dalloul to leave Lebanon because Bashar considered him an enemy of Syria, and his fate would be death.
  • Bashar’s security apparatus is foolish.
  • Elias al-Hrawi planted the idea with Hafez al-Assad that I, Hariri, and Shihabi would carry out a coup in Syria.
  • Hafez al-Assad used to like Hariri and requested not to let go of him.
  • The general direction within the regime was holding onto Hariri.
  • Imam Sadr is a true Arab nationalist.

Former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam focuses in the second part of the extensive dialogue conducted by “Al-Shiraa” in Berlin on his facts, observations, and evidence related to the story of the relationship between the late President Rafik Hariri and the Assad family.

Khaddam talks about what President Bashar al-Assad told him when he considered Hariri an enemy of Syria and that his fate was death. He mentions that his brother, Maher al-Assad, sent someone to reassure Hariri, while General Assef Shawkat, as Khaddam adds, spoke to a journalist about how the Syrian regime assassinated Hariri.

Khaddam reveals that he sent former deputy Mohsen Dalloul to inform Hariri of Assad’s stance towards him and asked him to leave Lebanon.

He also discusses the tense relationship between Bashar al-Assad and the leader Walid Jumblatt due to Brigadier General Rustum Ghazaleh, noting that the security apparatus under Assad is unintelligent.

He addresses the situation inside Syria, warning that if peaceful change does not occur within a year, Syria is heading towards extremism. Khaddam considers that Assad doesn’t know his head from his feet, and he points out that his brother Maher does not interfere in politics and only wants security and money, while General Shawkat doesn’t dare to discuss politics with Bashar.

Khaddam also reveals the conspiracies that the late President Elias El-Hrawi created against him and Hariri, including the allegation to President Hafez that Khaddam, Hariri, and Emad Hakmat Al-Shihabi were planning a coup in Syria.

Bashar al-Assad is trapped in the issue of the international tribunal. What can he do other than continue seeking sabotage and obstruction in Lebanon? Will his actions remain without Arab or international punishment?
  • Most likely, he won’t last until that time.
You're talking about just a year ahead.
  • Yes, I’m talking about a year.
How long do you expect him to remain in power?
  • I don’t want to specify. All conditions for change in Syria are ripe.
Will the forces and countries that support him allow you to overthrow the regime?
  • There is no support, and there is also no support for the movement against Bashar al-Assad. Today, we heard that Walid Muallem is going to Saudi Arabia, and in the afternoon, we heard news that Riyadh will not receive Muallem. This means Bashar’s relations are bad with everyone, but no one has taken a stance saying they support a movement to overthrow the regime. That’s the situation.

I want to return to the issue of holding the Alawites responsible for the regime. Neither Bashar al-Assad nor his predecessor Hafez al-Assad oppressed people with Alawites, but rather a portion of the Alawites. Look at today, there are two heads of the security agencies who are not Alawites: Assef Shawkat and Ali Mamlouk. Assef Shawkat is from the Arab Bani Khalid tribe on the Lebanese border, but he’s part of the familial composition, and this is not related. He sends messages to various forces saying, “Don’t consider me part of the ruling group.” I believe he won’t remain in power for long.

And who will remove Assef from power... Maher al-Assad?
  • No, definitely Bashar.
  • Because he doesn’t like him, he’s afraid of him, and he inherits the animosity of Bassel towards him. He brought in Brigadier General Ali Yunis to become the deputy head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, and there’s a conflict between Assef and Ali Yunis. Assef is sharpening his nails, and he has replaced most of the officers in the directorate.
But Assef brought in his brother Mufid.
  • Sorry, there’s pressure on Assef, but now Bashar wants to bid him farewell.
Do you agree that Assef promotes himself regionally and internationally as someone trying to do something, but Bashar prevents him?
  • I don’t know if he’s complaining, but I do know that the Military Intelligence Directorate is tasked with connections with Western intelligence. It had connections with American, French, and German intelligence. They provided them with information, and Sarkozy was the Minister of Interior. It’s possible that he met Assef. But in my estimation, there’s no direct connection. However, he magnifies the relationship without justification. France is a state with institutions and agencies that serve its national interests, so it’s influenced and acts in line with France’s policies. To say that there are connections between Assef and Sarkozy is delusional. In the backward world, if someone has lunch with another person, they think they’ve put them in their pocket, but this is not true at all.
Has your freedom of movement as an opposition political leader been restricted recently in France compared to how it was during Chirac's era?
  • Not at all.
Do you have freedom of media movement?
  • There was an agreement during Chirac’s era to tone down my media activities in France because when I “made a big fuss,” a friend informed me of that during Chirac’s time, so I worked on toning it down. This is still in effect, knowing that no one has asked me. But I’m in a country that I respect its laws without any changes.
How do you see the current movement by Sarkozy towards Syria? He seems to condition dialogue with Bashar on seeing something positive happening in Lebanon, separate from Syrian intervention. What do the French want exactly from Syria in Lebanon?
  • They want full and unconditional sovereignty for Lebanon, no interference in Lebanese affairs. They want complete distancing of Syria and its extensions from Lebanon. They want the demarcation of borders between Lebanon and Syria, establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, and they want the International Court to play its role.
Is this final statement or an offer to initiate a dialogue with concessions from here or there?
  • Bashar al-Assad is an impulsive and arrogant man. He doesn’t want a dialogue with anyone. He believes that everyone else is wrong, and he is right. The English, Germans, Italians, Spaniards, Norwegians all came to him and talked to him. He promised them something and then did the opposite. He did the same with the Arabs. So, they stopped talking to him because they don’t trust what he tells them.

Before Resolution 1559 was issued, an announcement was made about a Security Council meeting to make a decision regarding the extension of Emile Lahoud’s term. Bashar contacted Farouk al-Shara and told him to contact Moratinos and tell him that Syria has an initiative, and he asked him to help us with it. We want the Prime Minister of Spain to call the leaders of France, Britain, and Germany (Chirac, Blair, Schroeder) and tell them that Syria has an initiative. It’s about withdrawing the extension of Lahoud’s term in exchange for not issuing Resolution 1559 from the Security Council. The Lebanese parliament convenes and elects a president if the Security Council doesn’t meet to make this decision.

Moratinos presented this to his superior, and the Prime Minister of Spain asked to talk to Bashar al-Assad. So, Bashar called the Spanish Prime Minister and rejected the initiative. The Spanish asked for a few hours, during which they communicated with Chirac, Blair, and Schroeder and convinced them not to issue Resolution 1559. Then Moratinos called al-Shara, telling him that the concerned Western countries have agreed to stop the issuance of the international resolution. Syria needs to contact Nabih Berri to cancel the parliamentary session scheduled to extend Lahoud’s term. Al-Shara responded to Moratinos, saying that you have to contact Berri. Moratinos called Nabih Berri and he responded that we are an independent and sovereign country.

Bashar presented an offer, and after four hours, he backtracked, and Resolution 1559 was issued.

Bashar al-Assad deals with the country as if it’s a toy that his father bought for him. He breaks it, and then he goes to his father to buy him a new one. That’s how Bashar operates in the country.

Why this recent tension between Syria and Saudi Arabia, especially when Bashar al-Assad has put all his eggs in the Iranian basket? It would be more advisable for him to seek help instead of creating problems with a country that has stood by him for a long time.
  • This is part of the prerequisites for the alliance with Iran, to sever Syrian relations with the Arabs.
Does Iran want him isolated?
  • He believes that his Arab relations will bring him commitments towards Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. So, he is running away from these commitments to join Iran.
It's like he's shooting himself in the foot.
  • Actually, he’s shooting himself in the head. He doesn’t know his head from his feet.
Is there a direct reason for the current dispute with Saudi Arabia?
  • Before the Arab Summit conference, as I heard from Lebanese sources, it was supposed to take place in Cairo. Amr Moussa goes to Saudi Arabia and asks to hold the conference in Riyadh. The Saudis tell him that their condition for hosting the summit and having Bashar al-Assad attend is that they receive an apology from him. Then they will consider the matter. So, Moussa conveyed an apology from Assad to them. Assad went to Riyadh and met with King Abdullah. He made commitments to them, but he did the opposite of what he committed to in front of the Saudi King.

Bashar makes promises but doesn’t keep them.

Is it characteristic of Bashar to make promises and not keep them?
  • Yes, that’s his nature. He is indecisive. We have had many experiences with him. We would present him with an idea, he would get convinced, and then he would make a decision. After a while, someone else might convince him of the opposite, and he would take a contradictory decision to the first one.
Is he the one who makes the decisions or someone else?
  • It’s him.
He used to say that he wants a certain thing, but Maher doesn't want it or Assef doesn't agree to it. Now it seems that he is the decision-maker. Is that right?
  • First, Maher doesn’t interfere in political affairs. He wants money and security. Assef doesn’t dare to discuss politics with him.
This is a complex equation. If one is interested in money and the other is afraid to talk about politics, how do they manage the country?
  • Don’t you see where the country is headed? They are leading it towards the abyss.
But they see themselves in the best of situations. They say that they have the world cornered!
  • They don’t sleep at night. Once, Bashar summoned one of his close associates who used to hold positions during his father’s time. He called him at 7 in the morning, and this person asked him, “Why are you summoning me at 7 in the morning?” Bashar replied that he doesn’t sleep and can’t sleep. Then the former official responded, “You can’t sleep because you are the one who put yourself and the country in this situation. He doesn’t sleep.”

Who told you that the country is managed?

There's a feeling that they are comfortable and that the world wants to please them in Lebanon and Iraq.
  • The world doesn’t understand Syrian society. In this society, there are several people being used. The population of Syrians is 20 million people, workers, farmers, traders, engineers, lawyers, doctors, teachers. This is Syrian society. A security sergeant can humiliate the highest head, whether an intellectual, a professional, or an academic. If peaceful change doesn’t happen in Syria soon, Syria is heading towards extremism.
How much time do you give for change in Syria?
  • The situation can’t bear one year.
Have the conditions for change been met?
  • Most of the internal conditions have been met.
Do you believe that people will take to the streets as you call for in the National Salvation Front?
  • The media is a primary means to break the wall of fear, and we don’t have this means.
Haven't you considered establishing a satellite station?
  • That costs 10 to 15 million dollars, and we don’t have any of this amount.
Don't you think that there are Arab or foreign countries that have cut all ties with the regime, and therefore, they might allow you to have a satellite station or a channel?
  • So far, the Arab media is somewhat closed to us.
Despite the friendships?
  • States and governments have their calculations, and what does changing the government through the people mean

The International Court

It is said that the trials will start soon. Do you not see the possibility that the regime might sacrifice some officers to protect itself?
  • This investigation reached the full picture since the days of Mehlis. Assef Shawkat presented this picture through one of the Lebanese journalists, a friend of his. He told him how they assassinated Rafik Hariri.
Is it really that simple?
  • Yes, and the journalist relayed the account from Assef to one of the employees of Western embassies, who later spoke about it in Paris to someone else. After June, don’t you notice that the last Brammertz report talked about countries that are not cooperating with the investigation committee? The country that is not cooperating is the one to which the journalist conveyed this information. They don’t want the source revealed.

The image of Hariri’s assassination exists, since the days of Mehlis, and even when Brammertz came, he didn’t want to be a victim of the media like Mehlis.

Mehlis came to me and stayed for two hours. He conducted investigations with me, and many investigators later, along with others, for 30 hours. They focused on a main issue: who makes the security decisions in Syria? Fifty questions about this topic. This crime involved tons of explosives, and about 20 or 25 people were involved. Who rigged the car? Who brought the explosives? Who made the decision? Which officer in the Syrian army can obtain two tons of explosives?

Rustom Ghazaleh was the Chief of Staff and the head of the military intelligence branch. He had two types of reports: reports related to political security that went directly to President Hafez al-Assad. If there was something that required consulting, he would transfer it to him. The other type of reports related to any officer committing a violation or running over someone with a car, for example. If there was a need to transfer the head of a precinct in Al-Hasakah, it required the approval of the President.

Hafez al-Assad used to intervene in transferring the head of a precinct?
  • In the army, if a sergeant needed to be transferred, Hafez al-Assad, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the President of the Republic, needed to approve it in advance. So, how about transferring two tons of explosives? What is the personal interest of Rustum Ghazaleh in killing Rafik Hariri, and what is the interest of Assef Shawkat in killing Hariri?
On the other hand, what is Bashar's interest in killing Hariri?
  • The one who issued the decision is Bashar. He’s impulsive. Before the extension of Lahoud on August 18, 2004, I was going on a medical vacation for check-ups. I visited Bashar and told him, “Doctor, there’s talk about the extension.” He immediately responded, “There’s no extension, neither in Syria nor in Lebanon. Neither the Arabs nor foreigners. Lahoud was informed that there is no extension, and he asked me to inform Rafik Hariri that there is no extension.”

I told him, “I hope no one leads you to the extension. Neither you can bear it nor can Syria or Lebanon.” He replied, “Absolutely not, you just tell Rafik.” So, I left and informed Hariri. But after eight days, Hariri calls me from France and says, “Your people changed.” I asked him in surprise, “What are you saying?” Hariri replied, “Bashar summoned me and directly informed me about the extension. I don’t want to talk about what happened over the phone.” I asked him, “Did you talk to Walid Jumblatt?” He said, “I passed by Walid, and he advised me to extend because he won’t extend.” I told him, “Take your decision about the extension. You agree to it and sign off.”

How did you dare to have this conversation over the phone?
  • I told you, I was abroad, not in Damascus where the phones are monitored. Anyway, I came to Sardinia and met Hariri. He recounted what happened to me, and he wants to reconsider the decision of extension. He asked me if they could do anything to him, and I said as long as you agree to the extension, why would they harm you?

I returned on September 5, 2004. The next day, I met Bashar to tell him, “Didn’t we agree that there would be no extension?” I said to him, “Doctor, you transferred the danger from inside Lebanon to inside Syria.” He responded, “There’s a big conspiracy between America, France, and Rafik is involved. They wanted to hold presidential elections, and Rafik is paying $300 million to buy the deputies and bring a president that suits him.” I said to him, “How could you believe in such a delusion? And who’s going to pay $300 million? Americans need congressional approval even to move a penny. Same with Chirac in France.”

He said to me, “Yes, Hariri will pay the money.” I said, “This is not possible at all. Why would the man sacrifice $300 million? And even if hypothetically he buys the deputies, and you have 115 deputies in the parliament. If these 115 deputies are for sale, why are you still in Lebanon? If those who are with you are for sale, why are you staying in Lebanon?”

Bashar asked me, “What’s the solution?” I said to him, “There are two solutions: Lahoud’s resignation.” He said, “This is difficult.” I told him, “Everything is possible, but you have to reconcile with the Christians. First, reconcile with Walid Jumblatt. He has attacked Jumblatt a lot.” I told him, “Walid is a key ally of Syria, and he plays a major role in canceling the May 17 Agreement. You can’t cancel it with Talal Arslan. No one can cancel Walid Jumblatt. He wanted to come to you, and you refused to meet him.” Bashar replied, “Rustum Ghazaleh attacked him.” I said, “Is this dog Rustum Ghazaleh worth sacrificing Walid Jumblatt? Is this reasonable?”

Why does Bashar hate Walid Jumblatt?
  • Because of Talal Arslan and Sleiman Frangieh. His mind is very small.
Is there a personal matter?
  • Absolutely not. Walid was against extending Lahoud, and Bashar wanted to extend him. I told him, “Meet Walid Jumblatt, have a dialogue with him. Similarly, meet Patriarch Sfeir and Ghassan Tueni without reservations. Amin Gemayel, Nassib Lahoud, Boutros Harb, Nayla Moawad, all of the Qurna Shihwan group. This is how the dialogue should start with you, not with the Foreign Minister. On the other hand, invite Hassan Nasrallah, Nabih Berri, Walid Jumblatt, and Hariri. When Assad told me he couldn’t handle this dialogue, I told him, ‘Then invite the four Islamic leaders and ask them to have a dialogue with the Christian leaders. Tell them to hold a dialogue with the Christian side. Agree on a national unity government, share power equally, and conduct elections based on a law agreed upon by the Christian side.’ Any election law will result in 90 deputies for Syria’s benefit. The government’s role is to hold the elections, and no one can question its integrity. After that, form a new government. This way, things will be settled with Lebanon and we’ll move beyond everything that happened since the extension.” He said, “Good.” This conversation took place on September 6, 2004.

After a few days, I asked him what happened. He said, “I discussed the matter.” Patriarch Paul Naïmé approached Mohammad Nasser and tried to convince Patriarch Sfeir. I told him, “Paul Naïmé doesn’t carry any weight. The Patriarch doesn’t like him and doesn’t listen to him.” He said there’s a person named Ibrahim Daher trying to play a role with the Christians.

I told him, “I’ve been involved with Lebanese affairs for 30 years, and I’ve never heard of this name. Then I continued, “Dr. Bashar, Patriarch Sfeir has been involved in politics for 70 years, and he knows everything. You can’t dismiss him or others. Send the message directly to him. Either he listens to you directly or he listens to people who believe they represent you.” Earlier, Nabih Berri went to him and spoke to him. When he came out, he publicly said two words that belittled Nabih and threatened him. He said, “Okay, we’ll see.”

After a few days, Rafik Hariri came to me. I asked him what happened. He said, “I met Bashar, and he asked me to form a government with the only condition that Sleiman Frangieh be included.” When Hariri asked Bashar about Najib Mikati, Bashar replied, “He’s not necessary. I don’t care about him; I only care about Frangieh.” Hariri went on to form the government on September 21, 2004. Complications arose, and Hariri apologized and appointed Omar Karami. As talk about parliamentary elections and preparations for them began, it seemed that Rafik would win all the seats in Beirut, the North, and Western Bekaa, and Walid would win the seats in the mountain. It appeared that Qurna Shihwan would get the Christian seats, including Zahle. Lahoud began inciting, and instigators went to Bashar, inciting him against Hariri by saying he will control the next parliament. Bashar was quick to believe and disliked Hariri. Some instigators even asked Bashar to get rid of Hariri. A campaign against Hariri began. Omar Karami made a statement that Hariri and Walid Jumblatt are executing an American project. Statements from Sleiman Frangieh, Talal Arslan, and the Syrian intelligence group followed. Then came the oil story. As the campaign intensified, Hariri became stronger both as an Islamist and as a Christian. So, Bashar decided to assassinate Rafik Hariri.

I informed Hariri through Mohsen Dalloul. We had a meeting at the party headquarters, and Bashar began his speech by saying, “When I made the decision to extend Lahoud’s term, I said there’s a 50% mistake and a 50% accuracy in this decision. But now, I’m completely convinced that the decision was 100% accurate. The reason is that there’s a conspiracy: America, France, and Rafik Hariri are involved. Rafik Hariri is a man who’s rallying his sect against Syria. This is something unacceptable.”

This man is allowed to be an enemy of Syria!!

Did Bashar imply that Hariri incited the Sunnis inside Syria against the regime?
  • Elias El-Hrawi used to talk about this. He said it to President Hafez al-Assad. Anyway, the QUTRIEH leadership was surprised by this talk. The next day, I spoke to him, saying, “Brother, why are you saying this in front of 15 people? This talk will leak and reflect badly on you.” A few days later, Mohsen Dalloul came to me, and I asked him to convey to Hariri that the situation in Syria is against him, and he should gather his belongings and leave Lebanon.

“Did you have a feeling that they would kill him?

  • Of course. When Bashar al-Assad says that this man is an enemy of Syria, conspiring against it, and labels him a conspirator, the result of conspiring with America and the French against Syria is assassination.

I told Mohsen, “Inform Hariri of my message.” He replied, “Of course.”

Weren’t you afraid that your stance could put you in danger? Inside Syria, they can’t do this to me. Why? There’s a problem in the country.

I said to Mohsen: Tell Hariri that the situation in Syria is complicated; leave Lebanon. After several days, I went to the American University Hospital in Beirut for medical checkups, and then I went to Hariri to ask me what’s the story behind this conversation. I confirmed everything that had happened, urging him to leave. He told me, “Inshallah, after the elections.” I said, “What elections? May elections be cursed… Then he said to me: I noticed that I had 50 security personnel; now there are only 6.

Then Hariri asked me, “What is Maher’s situation?” I told him Maher is a tool. He said to me that Maher sent me a message through Aouni Al-Kaaki. He says in it that he wants to see me and that he has nothing to do with the campaign against me.

I told him, “What do you want with this talk? Is he trying to reassure you before killing you? Just leave.”

I asked Mohsen Dalloul: Did you convey my message to Hariri? He answered, “Of course.”

Weren't you afraid that your stance could put you in danger?
  • Inside Syria, they can’t do this to me.
  • There’s a problem in the country.
A car accident could happen to you, or a fabricated accusation leading to your death...
  • Neither a car accident nor a baseless accusation. Because everyone knows about the tensions between him and me.
How did these tensions arise?
  • The security agencies there are foolish. When they are given orders, they attack Khaddam. Whom do they attack? They attacked my children. This situation has been the case since his father Hafez’s time.
Could there be a plan to kill Rafik Hariri that he knew about, involving 25 people? If someone wants to kill, they narrow it down to one or two. How could 25 people be involved in this crime?
  • When he speaks in the leadership, he’s preparing for a plan that requires 20 or 25 individuals. As mentioned in the report (Brammertz), every action done by one group may not be known to the other group. For example, the group involved in planting the explosives is different from the observation group. They have different tasks. It’s not necessary that those who planted the bomb in the car were targeting Rafik Hariri. The observers include a number of Lebanese and Syrian officers from the intelligence agencies.

In your opinion, Abu Jamal, the statements that attacked Hariri before his assassination, targeting Omar Karami, Sleiman Frangieh, Talal Arslan, and others… Did these individuals know that there was a plan to assassinate Rafik Hariri?

Despite the disagreements between him and Rafik, it’s impossible for Omar Karami to agree to the assassination of Rafik Hariri. His brother went as a victim, and in addition to Omar’s ethics, you might have criticisms of him, but the man has principles and self-respect; Omar is different. As for Sleiman, there’s a possibility that he might have known. As for Talal, he’s too young to be involved.

Sleiman said that if Bashar asked me to ally with Sharon, I would ally with Sharon.
  • Yes.


Ghazi Kanaan

Was there something in Ghazi Kanaan’s testimony before Detlev Mehlis that led him to “commit suicide”?

  • Before I revealed it, there was a period during which I didn’t see him.

Intentionally or prohibitedly?

  • It was prohibited for him to see me; he used to pass by me occasionally and talk to me about his activities in the interior ministry. Then I learned from Bashar himself that there was a problem with Ghazi.

 Assef Did not like him?

  • No, Assef didn’t like him, and the security apparatuses never liked each other either. The rule set by Hafez al-Assad made the groups around him contradictory, and each faction wrote reports about the others.

There were three people very close to him: Hikmat al-Shihabi, Naji Jamil, and me. Naji left. He was very bothered by my relationship with Hikmat.

Didn't he think of orchestrating problems with some people?
  • No, because I am rational and and  also Hikmat too  . We’ll go back to the story of Elias El-Hrawi. He called President Hafez saying he was coming to see him the next day at 12 pm. Assad instructed me to receive him at the border. I arrived at 11:30 and found presidential cars. I asked the security officers outside, “Whose cars are these?” They said, “They belong to President Elias El-Hrawi. He has been here since 11 o’clock.” I entered and found him sitting with General Ibrahim El-Safi and Brigadier General Ghazi Kanaan. I asked him, “May you be blessed, what brings you here?” He replied, “No way, by God, I missed the youth.” I told him, “Yesterday you had them around, and you didn’t have to miss them. What’s the story?” Everyone burst into laughter.

I escorted them to the president. We sat for a short while, and then he left. I escorted them to the border, and after El-Hrawi’s convoy departed, Ibrahim El-Safi, Ghazi Kanaan, and I returned. Ghazi said, “Do you know what this Effendi was talking about with us? He said, ‘Beware, there’s a Sunni alliance forming between Abu Hazim (Hikmat) and Abu Jamal (Khaddam) and Abu Baha (Hariri) to change the regime in Syria and remove Alawites from power.'” We humiliated him, and we talked to him sternly, words that an officer wouldn’t speak to a president with.

When we reached Damascus, I called President Hafez al-Assad. He said to me angrily, “Do you know about this (insults and accusations against El-Hrawi)? He came to tell me that you and Hikmat al-Shihabi and Rafik Hariri are forming an alliance to overthrow Syria.”

Who tasked El-Hrawi with this scheme?
  • I don’t know. In reality, I considered it as an attempt to improve relations, maybe he wanted to get closer to Assad. He didn’t know the nature of our relationships. I thought to myself, “Is it possible that a head of state stoops to this level of disgrace?” This is his nature, knowing that it was Rafik Hariri who extended his term in office and worked with us for the extension.

Imagine that after one week of the extension, Khaleel El-Hrawi sent a message to Ghazi Kanaan. The message said, “His Excellency the President greets you and says he can no longer bear Hariri, and he wants to replace him. He wants Adnan Aadem as Prime Minister.” Ghazi shouted at Khaleel and started cursing Elias El-Hrawi. He said, “Damn this despicable person! It’s only been a week, and the man (Hariri) served him with loyalty. This is your uncle, there’s no loyalty, no ethics…”

Is this a personal sickness with El-Hrawi, or is there someone inside Syria who connected with El-Hrawi to use him against his opponents and against you, for example?
  • There’s no connection with anyone. Mohammad Nassif was a friend of Hussein El-Husseini, but he didn’t interfere in Lebanese affairs. When he was in charge of intelligence, he had relationships with many Lebanese, serving some and helping others.
But all of Rafik Hariri's opponents were with Nassif, as well as Berri's opponents.
  • The truth is that Mohammad Nassif hated Rafik Hariri because he cooperated with Nabih Berri, and this is the equation. Anyone who disliked Nabih Berri was supported.
What's the problem between Nassif and Hariri, considering that Hafez al-Assad was fond of Hariri, as they say?
  • President Hafez was very keen on Rafik Hariri, insisting not to let go of him. The proof is that when Emile Lahoud became president, he asked him who the prime minister should be. Lahoud replied, “Selim Hoss.” Assad corrected him, saying, “No, it should be Rafik Hariri. Lebanon needs him, and we need him.” Hafez Assad knew the benefits Syria gained from Hariri. The man was the foreign minister for Syria, and there’s also the reference that can be consulted.
But inside Syria, there was always a faction that disliked Hariri, but Hafez al-Assad's cover protected him. When Hafez left and Bashar came, this faction that disliked Hariri ended up in power.
  • There’s no faction; there’s a group of people who have relationships in Lebanon. Lebanese come to them, and they talk and spread rumors. Some object because Rafik Hariri has strong ties with Saudi Arabia, and they dislike Saudi Arabia, even though they are within the regime. But the general line was holding on to Hariri.
Because Hafez al-Assad wanted it?
  • Not just the president; it’s the interest of the regime.

The Disappearance of Imam Sadr

It's said that there was an Iranian interest in hiding Imam Musa Sadr, and that it happened in Libya through Palestinian organizations. What do you know about this matter?
  • During that period, tensions were high between us and Libya due to the situation in Lebanon. We had disagreements with the National Movement and Abu Ammar. The whole Arab world and the international community were against us. Imam Musa, may he rest in peace, called me the morning of his departure to Libya. At 7:30 am, he said, “Abu Jamal, I want to have a cup of coffee.” He was with Sheikh Mohammed Yaqoub and journalist Abbas Badreddine.

He told me he was coming to visit me on his way to Libya. I asked him, “What will you do there?” He replied, “There’s an issue between me and Colonel Gaddafi, and President Boumediene intervened to resolve it.”

Didn't he mention the issue to you?
  • No, I tried to dissuade him from going, not because I was afraid for him, thinking Libyans would kill him; that never crossed my mind. I was afraid the Libyans would convince him to stand with the Palestinians and leave us.
You were concerned he might change politically?
  • It’s possible to talk to him to change his stance. We were under pressure at that time, and when someone is under pressure, they suspect everyone.
In that period, didn't Imam Sadr see President Assad, who was abstaining from meeting him?
  • When Sadr came to Damascus, I used to see him. The important thing is that the man went. Then a delegation from the Islamic Shiite Council came, including President Hussaini, Sheikh Abdul Amir Kabalan, and Deputy Mahmoud Ammar. This was a couple of weeks or three after Sadr disappeared, to inquire about the fate of the Imam.
Did you know what happened?
  • We didn’t know.
Deux ou trois semaines sont suffisantes pour vous enquêter, especially avec un service de renseignement puissant.
  • Les Libyens disent que l’homme est venu et est parti. J’ai dit à la délégation chiite, il y a une règle selon laquelle si un homme disparaît et est absent pendant un certain temps, il ne reviendra pas. Sheikh Abdul Amir a élevé sa voix pour accuser les autres, comme si j’étais celui qui avait tué Musa Sadr. Ils sont allés voir le président Hafez al-Assad, et il les a rassurés.

Assad a envoyé le ministre d’État aux Affaires étrangères, Abdel Karim Al-Adi, à Tripoli. Quand il est revenu, il nous a rapporté que les Libyens étaient convaincus que Sadr était parti en Italie. Nos efforts se sont arrêtés à ce point.

Mais lorsque la délégation du Conseil chiite, des députés et du mouvement Amal sont venus à Damas pendant le Sommet de la Résistance et de la Défense en présence de Kadhafi, vous les avez empêchés de rencontrer Kadhafi...
  • Nous ne les avons pas empêchés. Mais nous avons eu peur que quelqu’un insulte le Colonel Kadhafi. Il est chef d’État, notre allié, et toute insulte à lui est une insulte pour nous. À mon avis, cette affaire a été traitée de manière erronée dès le départ, de toutes les parties. Il a été proposé de former une commission conjointe composée de la Syrie, du Liban, de l’Iran et de la Libye dans le but de se rendre en Libye, d’écouter les Libyens et de vérifier les informations. Si leurs informations sont correctes, le dossier est clos. S’il y a une erreur, l’enquête prendra une autre direction.
J'ai entendu de la part d'Iraniens au pouvoir en 1981 que selon eux, le Cheikh Musa était un agent américain, un substitut démocratique national à l'Ayatollah Khomeini, le guide révolutionnaire islamique. Le Cheikh Sadr était la couverture religieuse du Mouvement de Libération de l'Iran dirigé par le Dr Mehdi Bazargan. Par conséquent, ils détestaient le Cheikh Sadr et craignaient qu'il ne soit le remplaçant de Khomeini en Iran...
  • L’Imam Musa Sadr était un vrai patriote et arabe, et personne n’a le droit de l’accuser d’être un agent américain. L’homme était musulman et avait une cause, une vision progressiste de l’islam. Il était proche de l’Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Sadr, tous deux étant des progressistes dans la pensée islamique. De plus, l’homme a fondé les Brigades de la Résistance libanaise pour affronter Israël.