In secret messages from Khaddam: A tempting initiative presented by “Saddam Hussein” to “Hafez al-Assad”

publisher: ORIENT NET

AUTHOR: ياسين ابو فاضل

Publishing date: 2021-06-27

Documents of former Syrian Vice President (Abdul Halim Khaddam) revealed an initiative by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to restore diplomatic relations with Syria and the Assad regime’s reluctance to respond to that step.

This came in a new episode of Khaddam’s memoirs published by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper today, Sunday, after reviewing letters exchanged between the two sides among many documents that Khaddam carried from his office to Paris during his defection from Bashar al-Assad’s regime in 2005. The Iraqi envoy, Ambassador Anwar Sabri, confirmed that Abdul Razzaq Al-Qaisi confirmed the authenticity of these documents
Observers note, before addressing the letters published by Asharq Al-Awsat, that Khaddam, in all the memoirs he published, talks about Hafez al-Assad’s regime as a balanced national regime... avoiding criticism of its sectarian roots, its mafia structure, and his intention to harm the interests of the Syrians... which makes Khaddam’s interpretations A subject of doubt and caution, despite the importance of the documents he left behind and published by his family after his death
Saddam takes the initiative

According to the letters - in his first letters to Hafez al-Assad in August 1995, Saddam Hussein took the initiative to expedite the reopening of the two embassies that were closed in 1982, holding high-level and public political meetings, and opening the borders.

According to the source, the first message came through the Iraqi ambassador, Rafi’ al-Tikriti, who conveyed a personal message from Saddam to convey it to Hafez al-Assad, in which it said: “I confirm that the step we are taking towards Syria with the aim of building trust and rapprochement between the two countries is a very serious step, and that any sensitivity is a matter of sensitivity.” "The past will not be repeated. The experiences of the past have their own circumstances and circumstances, and we must forget them and begin with real and serious openness and with open hearts regarding this dangerous stage."
Late that month, Anwar Sabri Abdul Razzaq Al-Qaisi, the Iraqi ambassador to Qatar, called the Director General of the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development, Yahya Bakour, asking him to inform Damascus of his desire to pay a visit carrying a message from Saddam.

Khaddam said that Hafez al-Assad discussed the two letters with him and Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, and decided to agree to the Iraqi ambassador’s presence in secret and to limit his communications to Khaddam alone, while ensuring that communications take place with the Iraqi ambassador in Qatar and not in Ankara, for many reasons, most notably the possibility that the two (Syrian) embassies and Iraqi) in Ankara, infiltrated by numerous intelligence services, in addition to the Hafez al-Assad regime’s keenness to continue its relations with the Iraqi opposition and Arab countries hostile to Saddam Hussein’s regime, most notably Iran.
He added that he met on September 5 of the same year with Anwar Sabri Abdel Razzaq, who conveyed Saddam's confirmation of Iraq's desire to restore relations to normal with Syria based on considerations related to Arab national security, especially in light of the Israeli-Jordanian-American rapprochement.
Iraq proposes opening embassies

The ambassador quoted Saddam Hussein at the time as saying that Iraq seeks, with an open mind and sincere intention, dialogue with all Arab parties, without exception, in order to clear the atmosphere and conclude Arab reconciliations on objective foundations, taking into account the higher Arab interest and confronting the challenges that threaten everyone, in addition to distancing The area is free from the circle of complexity and blackmail

The ambassador added, "Therefore, the president proposes that Muhammad Saeed Al-Sahhaf, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, visit Damascus to hold a broad political dialogue in which the visions and assessments of both sides of the events will be determined, and he is ready to come immediately, secretly or publicly."
Jordan's feud brings together opponents

After that, Khaddam presented the letter to Hafez al-Assad, and discussed it with him at length in light of the history of tense relations between the two countries. The latter thought that the answer should be positive and friendly, in which he requested a meeting to find out the seriousness of the Iraqi position.
Accordingly, on September 13, 1995, Khaddam received the Iraqi ambassador and dictated to him a message in which he said: “The fate of Syria and Iraq requires them to lift the Arab situation out of a state of falsity and deterioration, because they constitute a tremendous force in confronting the dangers facing the Arab world. The most prominent of these dangers is the role The Jordanian government, which, as we said previously, has become an important part of the American-Zionist strategy, and the suspicious attempts it is trying to make, whether with Washington, Turkey, or the Zionist entity, and the rumors about the alliances that are forming and appearing in public, and their danger is not only for Syria and Iraq. But on the Arab nation.”
Khaddam then proposed holding a meeting to find out the Iraqi side’s point of view on how to resume relations and cooperation, and on September 19, the Iraqi ambassador in Ankara met his Syrian counterpart and informed him that the leadership in Baghdad had received these inquiries from the Syrian leadership with all satisfaction, and was leaving the Syrian leadership to determine the nature and level of And the extent of dialogue and cooperation. It is prepared to meet a Syrian on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The Syrian leadership determines the degree of secrecy, level and date.
Saddam makes a tempting offer

On February 2, 1996, Khaddam received Anwar Sabri, and informed him of the text of a message in which Saddam Hussein suggested the necessity of opening the oil pipeline that passes through Syria, and taking technical steps to prepare this pipeline to be one of the five ports that Iraq will rely on to export oil during the implementation of the United Nations offer. Or after lifting the siege, as well as for Syrian ports, to be the commercial outlet for Iraq

Saddam Hussein also offered steps to be taken urgently, including the following :
1 - Restoring diplomatic relations between the two brotherly countries, and Iraq will take the initiative to announce this

2- Initiating political contacts at the highest levels, to determine priorities for building relations between the two countries

3 - Initiating security discussions between the two brotherly countries at the level of the heads of the security apparatus

4 - Opening the borders according to procedures agreed upon by both sides
Hafez al-Assad responds

Khaddam said that he presented the letter to Hafez al-Assad, who saw in it great benefit, but at the same time he expressed concerns that the Iraqi retreat might cause the loss of an Arab bloc that stands by al-Assad and rejects peace with Israel before it is achieved with Syria.

He added that he agreed with President Hafez to prepare a draft response that would keep the path of dialogue open, to explore the possibility of reaching a serious agreement on the one hand, and to prepare the climate, especially with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which were the most affected by the invasion of Kuwait and the most sensitive among the Gulf states to this issue, on the other hand.
On February 4, 1996, Khaddam presented the draft letter to the president, who approved it. Then he summoned the Iraqi ambassador and dictated it to him, and this is its text:

“Mr. President extends his greetings to his brother, President Saddam, and expresses his satisfaction with his initiative, and shares his concern about the situation in the region and about the conspiracy aimed at dismantling the Arabs and eliminating the Arab identity (...) and the Jordanian-Israeli project is part of this conspiracy that targets the Arabs in their past and present.” And their future... Our concern began a while ago, and we expected such developments taking place in the Arab arena. Therefore, President Hafez spoke about the necessity of achieving Arab reconciliation and moving beyond the events of the past, and that everyone is threatened from abroad.”
The letter did not include clear approval of the steps proposed by Saddam Hussein, but it quoted Hafez al-Assad as saying: “After King Hussein announced his project, we formed directions that we believe are in the interest of the Arab nation and the interest of Iraq and Syria, and we were in the process of making contact with a number of Arab countries from "In order to expand the comprehensiveness of these trends, then your (Saddam's) initiative came. Therefore, in the coming days, contacts will be held with these countries at a high level, with the aim of convincing them of our aforementioned trends."