Bouteflika denies our revolution… and the war will not end unless Bashar Al-Assad is burned in front of the people

publisher: الشروق اونلاين

Publishing date: 2013-05-07


Years after his split from President Assad’s regime in 2005, following three decades as vice president and one of his close associates, Abdel Halim Khaddam, 80, eagerly awaits the downfall of Bashar al-Assad’s regime, anticipating an end to decades of repression and the start of a new political era.

“Al-Shorouq” had the opportunity to meet with former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam, now a lawyer, at his heavily guarded residence in one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in Paris. During the meeting, he discussed his transition from defending the policies of the Syrian regime to advocating for the revolution and the Syrian people’s right to free themselves from what he describes as a tyrannical regime. He also touched upon Algeria’s position in the Syrian crisis and its relationship with President Bouteflika.

Al-Shorouq: Given the challenging circumstances currently engulfing Syria, do you believe you can play a role in resolving the existing issues and safeguarding Syria against future risks?

Khaddam: Resolving the existing issues? Between whom?

Al-Shorouq: Between the revolution and the regime?

Khaddam: I believe in uniting all Syrians, regardless of their affiliations. Algerians know who I was and how I acted. I was one of the decision-makers, but not the sole decision-maker. Engaging in negotiations with the current regime or contemplating such negotiations would be considered a betrayal of the nation. This regime has committed acts of genocide and destruction, claiming the lives of over 100,000 Syrians, and leaving 40% of Syria in ruins. It has perpetuated sectarian massacres…

Do you not think that stating a refusal to engage in dialogue with the presence of Bashar al-Assad is an unacceptable argument? Bashar al-Assad is a reality.

We will only come to the negotiation table once Bashar al-Assad’s regime falls. Dialogue with him is impossible. His regime will eventually collapse.

Currently, he still holds power, with support from Russia and China.


Given the ongoing civil war, it is necessary to put an end to the bloodshed, set aside personal ambitions, and accept negotiations. However, Bashar al-Assad remains in a position of power.

That power will eventually crumble. I mean, if the tyrant appears strong, it does not mean we should give in and engage in talks with him!

This is absolutely unacceptable for any Syrian, and the Syrian people will prevail.

When France announced its willingness to leave Algeria, the Algerian people engaged in negotiations. However, France is a foreign country. In the case of Syria, the current president, who is a criminal, is using the army, which was originally meant to protect the Syrian people, as a tool to kill them.

Boumedien was a patriotic and progressive leader with an iron grip. Taleb Brahimi is an educated and polite man.

I understand from your words that you are against Lakhdar Brahimi’s mediation to find a peaceful way out of the crisis in Syria?

Yes, I reject it. Furthermore, Brahimi is incompetent and lacks the qualifications to take action. The entire Syrian opposition rejects Lakhdar Brahimi because he attempted to establish a dialogue with Bashar Al-Assad. For Syrians, Bashar al-Assad’s reign is over. He is a murderer and a gang leader who will be killed and removed from Syria.

Doesn’t the Brahimi plan propose that the opposition negotiate with the vice president to find a way out of the crisis?

The vice president holds no real power. He can’t even order a cup of coffee for himself. If he requests a cup of coffee, he must ask for permission and it will only be fulfilled when authorized. The vice president is in a poor position.

Are you implying that you were also a vice president and that you were also powerless and in a similar situation?

No, I was not a mere tool. I held the position of vice president, and the Algerian people know who I was and what I stood for. I was a decision maker, not a servant of decisions.

Muammar Gaddafi prevented Libya from transitioning from a tribal society to a civil society.

You were one of the decision makers, so does that mean I was part of the problem?

I held the responsibility for foreign policy, not for internal policy. The Syrian Foreign Ministry played a prominent role on the international stage and within the Arab community, and I take pride in everything I have done in the realm of foreign policy to serve my country.

There exists a clear distinction between domestic policy and foreign policy. Domestic policy relies on repression, whereas foreign policy is built on dialogue. During the tenure of the late President Houari Boumediene, may he rest in peace, didn’t Algeria also have a firm grip?

Boumediene was not repressive;he possessed a charismatic personality and was not a dictator

. He indeed had a firm grip, but Boumediene’s foreign policy was progressive and aligned with national interests.

This break with the Syrian regime signifies an acceptance of the alliance of opposition forces abroad. It has transformed into a sanctuary for extremist and sectarian groups, as well as elements of Al-Qaeda. What is your comment on this?

There exists an opposition abroad, and it is a national opposition. Simultaneously, there is a revolution taking place within Syria. This revolution has erupted like volcanoes across the country. It was not orchestrated by a specific party or group. Rather, the regime’s pressure, persecution, and crimes created an underground force that gradually erupted in different governorates. It began in Horan, then spread to Banias, Homs, Deir ez-Zor, and eventually reached all governorates.

Regarding the issue of Al-Qaeda, they do not hold sway in Syria. There are Islamist factions engaged in the fight. Yes, initially, they were leading peaceful civil demonstrations. However, when Bashar Al-Assad began the killing spree and employed planes, tanks, rockets, and toxic gases, what can you expect from them?

The village of Bayda was bombarded by gunfire from battleships. Subsequently, the Shabbiha, consisting of 4,000 members of the Alawite sect, entered. They were mobilized by the regime under the guise of the National Army and proceeded to mercilessly slaughter 400 individuals with knives. In the city of Banias, they slaughtered 200 people.

How do you perceive the position of Algeria regarding the crisis in Syria?

To be honest, the Algerian government has not demonstrated loyalty to the Syrian people. During the Algerian revolution, Syrian women even donated their clothes in support. The Syrian people stood in solidarity with the Algerian revolution. Unfortunately, what we witness today is a grave mistake committed by Algeria’s president, the former friend Abdelaziz Bouteflika. This mistake not only affects the Syrian people but also the Algerian people.

I hold an opposing viewpoint. The Algerian regime remained loyal to the Syrian regime because you were part of it and supported the Algerian regime in its fight against Islamic militants.

Certainly, the issue at hand is not about regulations, but rather about the Syrian people who supported the Algerian revolution. Every day, demonstrations took place in Syria carrying Algerian slogans. Doesn’t this people deserve the support of the Algerian president? They stand in solidarity with the grievances of the Syrian people, and he should be aware of this.

Hafez al-Assad would have disagreed with his son. If he were still here, he would not have committed this grave sin.

Please allow me, Mr. Khaddam. How can Bouteflika support the massacres against the Syrian people when he promoted national reconciliation in Algeria after the years of crisis? Moreover, Algeria’s foreign policy is based on non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

This is different. Does aiding a people who are being slaughtered amount to interference in internal affairs? Let me pose a question: If the Algerian government were to commit massacres against the Algerian people, what would be the appropriate response?

What is expected from the Algerian government?

At the very least, the Algerian government should adopt the stance taken by the majority of Arab countries, condemn the killings, sever diplomatic relations with the Syrian regime, close the embassy, and provide assistance to the Syrian people.

Algeria maintains relations with countries irrespective of their internal problems.

Alright, but then why doesn’t Algeria have relations with Israel?

The Algerian people you mentioned may have sympathy for the Syrian people, but they are also against an opposition that is based abroad and calls for NATO intervention, especially from France…

No, no, there is another reason for this attitude. The Algerian people have been misled. Their government has deceived them. The seriousness of Algeria’s policy towards Syria will become evident to the Algerian people. The Syrian people will emerge victorious and regain their place in the Arab and international arenas with their heads held high. However, when it comes to dealing with regimes, Israel is a regime, so why not engage with them? In fact, some Algerian politicians even visited Israel a few years ago, as reported in the media. The Algerian government’s stance towards the Syrian people lacks brotherhood and does not honor any patriot who loves their own country.

Nevertheless, Mr. Khaddam, Algeria’s positions remain consistent, and it refuses to recognize the “unclear” opposition parties. It has also opposed granting Syria’s seat in the Arab League to the Syrian National Coalition.

This is just a statement to justify their mistake. How can the Syrian crisis be considered unclear? Every day, at least 200 people are reported in the media as being killed. Are we to believe that they all committed suicide? It means that the Algerian leaders have closed their eyes and ears. They only listen to what Bashar Al-Assad says. Bashar Al-Assad’s time is up and he will not remain in power, and those who defend him will not benefit from it.

Based on your previous statements, do you believe that Hafez al-Assad differs from his son Bashar?

There is no doubt that he had disagreements with his son. Hafez al-Assad was a dictator, but he had intelligence and it is believed that if he were still alive, he would not have committed the same grave mistakes. However, Hafez al-Assad’s crime was that he challenged the principles of the Baath Party, disregarded Syrian values, and imposed his son as his successor. Bashar Al-Assad, being handicapped by his capabilities, would not have acted in the same manner if he were rational.

We have witnessed the consequences of foreign intervention in several Arab countries, such as Iraq and Libya.

No, no, please excuse me. There was no international intervention in Iraq. It was a case of a country occupying Iraq. Saddam Hussein was in power and he was a tyrant. The opposition primarily consisted of Shiite parties with links to Iran. Iran urged these parties to participate in a conference in London in October 2002, which was organized by the Americans and the British. During the conference, they called for international intervention, and consequently, American intervention, as no one else was willing to intervene except the Americans. The Iranians brought the Americans to Iraq and exhausted them until they achieved their goals.

The American war in Iraq led to the downfall of Saddam Hussein. A transitional government was formed, with 16 ministers from the Iranian group and 7 ministers from other sects. By an Iranian decision, this government dissolved the Baath Party, the Iraqi army, and the security services, resulting in chaos.

Iran played a significant role, providing support to militias to further drain the Americans until they eventually left Iraq. Iran played its cards right, successfully bringing down Saddam Hussein and dismantling the Iraqi army and security forces. The Shiite parties now dominate the country. The American entry into Iraq was the outcome of Iranian calculation. There is undoubtedly a leadership that is strategizing and carefully planning.

Does this mean that NATO did not cause any casualties in Libya and its intervention did not result in any victims?

Were the casualties caused by foreign forces or the tribal conflicts among Libyans? Libya has a fragmented tribal society due to Muammar Gaddafi’s policies of favoring certain tribes while marginalizing others. He manipulated and played with the people. This issue is not the fault of foreign intervention but rather a consequence of societal structure.

Muammar Gaddafi prevented Libya from transitioning from a tribal society to a civil society.

In my opinion, the focus should be on the internal affairs. The formation of a government by the coalition is a mistake. They are aware of this.

What is your relationship with the National Coalition and the Interim Government?

I have respect for all opposition parties, but my efforts are primarily directed towards supporting internal affairs. I believe that internal affairs should take precedence. The coalition has entrusted Hito with the task of forming a government, but he cannot do so without control over the land. Forming a government based on mere symbols is a mistake on the part of the coalition, and they are aware of the challenges involved. Currently, there is an attempt to expand the coalition to include all factions of the Syrian opposition.

Let’s return to Algeria. Did you not attempt to utilize your previous connections with Algerian officials to convey your stance on the events in Syria?

I had friendly relations with the leadership surrounding President Houari Boumediene. I maintained relationships with President Bouteflika, Taleb Brahimi, and Abdelhamid Mahri, who served as Algeria’s ambassador to Syria. After my resignation, when Abdelaziz Bouteflika came to France for medical treatment in 2005, I called him and his brother answered the phone. I expressed my desire to speak with Abdelaziz. Since we were friends and had previously worked together against what we referred to as reactionary forces, his brother informed me that he would call me back. I waited for a long time, but he never contacted me, so I removed him from my list of friends. I met with this friend later when he was in exile in Switzerland.

In which year did this meeting take place?

I do not recall the exact year, but it was during a conference on Lebanon, and I invited him to visit Syria. I received him warmly and offered him a villa in the Mezzeh area of Damascus to reside in. We used to meet regularly, and he would often leave the house to sit in a café at the Sheraton Hotel. I would join him there and spend an hour or two together. However, after some time, he expressed his desire to leave Syria as he felt bored. He subsequently departed for Switzerland, and since then, I have not had the opportunity to see him.

Once he stopped answering my calls, I decided to sever my connection with him. On the other hand, Ahmed Taleb Brahimi is a different individual. During my time in Syria, he visited me on numerous occasions. Ahmed is an educated and polite man, and we had a very good rapport.

Algeria and Syria were once two allied countries. Together, we formed the Progressive Alliance against the Reactionaries (laughs). However, unfortunately, it has become quite challenging to discern who truly upholds progressive values and who aligns with reactionary forces. The situation has become quite muddled.

A final message to the Algerian people and President Bouteflika?

I extend my best wishes to the Algerian people for success and the resolution of all their problems. As for Bouteflika, he does not concern me anymore. I had tried reaching out to him once, and the experience left me deeply disappointed. We used to be like brothers during our meetings at the Arab League, the United Nations, and the Resilience and Challenge Front, which Algeria, Libya, South Yemen, and we established together. We shared a strong bond in every sense of the word. However, he suddenly severed the ties of brotherhood.

I hope for progress, development, and stability for the Algerian people. I also hope that our Algerian brothers and sisters recognize the deep affection the Syrian people hold for them. Despite what has happened and is happening, Algeria still holds a favorable position among Syrians. The Algerian people are not to be blamed. Throughout various stages, Syria has always been committed to supporting the progress of the Algerian people. This is evident in the large number of educational missions that participated in the Arabization process in Algeria. Many of them still reside in Algeria and have married Algerian partners.

We are two brotherly peoples, and nothing can separate or divide us. Governments may change, but the bond between our people remains steadfast.