Khaddam: If the Sahra remains with Morocco, its inhabitants will benefit more.

publisher: مغرس

AUTHOR: سليمان الريسوني

Publishing date: 2012-05-14


Khaddam: If the desert remains with Morocco, its inhabitants will benefit more.

He stated that the perception he had of Hassan II was initially intimidating, but upon engaging in a conversation with him, he discovered that Hassan II was a progressive individual who displayed a profound affection for Syria.

Inside his residence near the Arc de Triomphe, in the heart of the French capital, Paris, “Al-Masayah” interviewed Abdel Halim Khaddam.

The individuals most acquainted with the intricacies of the Syrian dossier are those who served under Presidents Hafez and Bashar Al-Assad, with Khaddam himself assuming the role of deputy and foreign minister responsible for two of the most perilous and enigmatic issues in the Middle East: the Lebanese and Iraqi files.

Seated in the “evening” chair, Abdel Halim Khaddam divulged the secrets of his association with the regime of both father and son, describing them as “steeped in corruption and tyranny.” He recounted Hafez al-Assad’s obsession with dynastic succession and how Bashar al-Assad attempted to sideline him. He initiated a critique of his father’s regime, referring to him as “My Uncle Abdel Halim.” Additionally, he recounted the moment he found himself as the president of the republic following Hafez al-Assad’s demise, the scenes involving constitutional amendments to facilitate Bashar’s ascension to the presidency, and his decision to depart from Syria and become the regime’s staunchest adversary, alleging their plans to establish a state in the Sahel region where the majority of Alawites, the Assad family’s sect, reside.

Abdel Halim Khaddam also discussed his relationships with Hassan II and Mahdi Benbaraka, as well as how the Syrian position shifted concerning the Sahara issue. He mentioned that Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika could not shake off the mindset of his predecessor, Houari Boumediene.


  • How was your meeting with Hassan II during one of the Arab delegations dedicated to the Palestinian cause arranged?

There were two delegations involved. The first, led by King Hussein of Jordan, visited Europe. Simultaneously, another delegation headed by King Hassan II, in which I also participated, visited the United States, Russia, and China.

Both delegations were tasked with discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict with several permanent member states of the United Nations. Regarding Jordan, our relationship was not initially friendly. There was considerable tension due to Jordan hosting, along with Iraq, the Muslim Brotherhood, which conducted terrorist operations within Syria. However, after a meeting between the King of Jordan and myself in Paris in the early eighties, King Hussein expressed regret over the strained relationship and stated that he was unaware of the support provided by the Jordanian security services to the Muslim Brotherhood.

His expressed desire was to mend relations between Syria and Jordan.

Could you elaborate on the interactions that occurred between you and Hassan II during these meetings?

Since 1972, relations between Syria and Morocco have been restored to normalcy. During my tour of North Africa, which included visits to Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania, I aimed to explain the regional situation and convey our intention to combat Israel while seeking support from these countries.

What was the message conveyed by Hassan II during your visit to Rabat?

The perception we had of King Hassan II was that of an intimidating figure, someone oppressive and ruthless. However, upon meeting him, I discovered that he was a progressive and insightful individual. He expressed a profound fondness for Syria and a strong desire to offer support. He stated, “We may lack oil, but we possess forces that we can deploy to assist Syria and partake in the war alongside them.” I could hardly believe my ears, overwhelmed with joy upon hearing his words. It felt as if I had plucked a star from the sky. Hassan II was willing to send troops to support Syria despite our ongoing conflicts.

In what manner were you engaged in this conflict?

Our involvement included supporting the Moroccan opposition. The Baath Party had a well-established presence in Morocco through a comprehensive organization. All individuals who traveled from Morocco to study in Syrian universities returned imbued with the principles of the Baath Party upon completing their studies.

Upon returning with the news of Hassan II’s approval to support Syria, I was elated. It was a momentous occasion where Moroccan and Syrian blood would unite, even though Morocco is geographically distant from Syria. Moroccans were willing to travel thousands of miles to support Syrians in their war. This had a profound emotional and national impact. Consequently, during President Hafez al-Assad’s initial meeting with King Hassan II following this development, a sense of affection prevailed, and a foundation for positive relations was established.

Did the positive relationship between Syria and Morocco not have an impact on your relationship with Algeria?

Our relationship with Morocco did not hinder our relationship with Algeria. On the contrary, we made efforts to play a constructive role in promoting reconciliation between the two countries. Unfortunately, these efforts were not met with acceptance.

Who was responsible for the refusal?

It is not fair to solely blame one party or the other. Both parties, particularly Algeria, contributed to the rejection. During the first national conference held in Morocco in 1974, the Algerian-Moroccan dispute was brought up. While there was some flexibility displayed by both sides during the meeting attended by Hafez Al-Assad, King Hassan II, Algerian President Houari Boumedien, and their respective foreign ministers, reservations were evident. Algeria had reservations in one form, and Morocco had reservations in another.

Initially, we politically supported Algeria’s position, but upon further examination of the issue, our inclination shifted in favor of Morocco. We believed that if the disputed territory remained with Morocco, its inhabitants would benefit more. It is an arid desert with no resources, and its inhabitants would continue to be nomadic. Thus, remaining within Algeria would not bring them any benefits, as Algeria has no interest in the desert. On the other hand, losing the territory to Morocco would harm Algeria and the desert tribes.

How did Algeria respond to this change in your position?

Regarding the main issues, we were not satisfied. This was Syria’s firmly held position after a thorough study of the situation.

Regarding Algeria’s initial support for the Polisario Front, what is your personal opinion on it?

Prior to the war, both Libya and Syria recognized the Polisario Front. However, after the war and our meeting with Morocco, the situation changed.

What kind of moral and material support did Syria provide to the Polisario Front?

There was never any material support. If you consider it support, it was through a partial recognition of the Polisario State by receiving a delegation from the Polisario.

Did Hafez Al-Assad personally receive the delegation?

No, the reception was by the party and not the president. This reception was not publicly announced.

How did you perceive the Polisario Front?

Initially, we regarded the Polisario as a liberation movement when our relations with Morocco were strained. However, as I mentioned earlier, our position changed after we had closer involvement with the situation. After the renewal of relations between us and Morocco, we were able to see the matter from different perspectives.

What was your view of Morocco and its regime?

We considered Morocco to be a reactionary, conservative, and oppressive monarchy. These views were influenced by the opinions expressed in Algeria and by the Moroccan opposition.