Khaddam, the Syrian tsunami

publisher: UPI


Publishing date: 2005-12-31

An interview given by former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam Friday to an Arab TV insinuating that Syria played a role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could offer the smoking gun the United Nations investigator Detlev Mehlis has been looking for.

Khaddam’s revelation to the Dubai-based al-Arabia was the equivalent of a bombshell exploding in Damascus. This was the break the Syrian government had long dreaded. This was the break the international community was long hoping for. And this is the break welcomed by the Syrian opposition.

Khaddam’s interview could result in increased pressure being applied on President Bashar Assad’s government. Khaddam said Assad had threatened Rafik Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister who was assassinated on February 14.

“Khaddam’s testimony at this critical juncture in Syrian history has, in effect, sent shock waves across the country’s political landscape and ushered in grave consequences,” Syrian opposition writer Akram Al-Beni told

Since resigning his office as vice president in June 2005 Khaddam had moved to Paris. Speaking from the French capital, Khaddam told al-Arabiya news channel Friday that Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad threatened Hariri just months before his murder.

The former vice president and long-time Syrian diplomat said the Syrian intelligence services could not have carried out such an operation without Assad being informed. Khaddam also accused Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and other Lebanese officials for “inciting” Assad against Hariri.

Khaddam, who attended Hariri’s funeral in Beirut looked visibly shaken at the time.

Hariri’s assassination set off a chain reaction in Lebanon as hundreds of thousands of Lebanese took to the streets in protests, demanding that Syria withdraw its forces and its intelligence units from Lebanon. International pressure from Washington and Paris, who co-authored United Nations Security Council Resolution 1559, forced Damascus to comply. Reluctantly, Syria pulled out of Lebanon after 29 years of military presence.

Some analysts are predicting that Khaddam’s denunciation of Assad’s government will expedite the collapse of the regime in Syria.

Ali Sadrudin Al-Bayouni, the head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, agreed that Khaddam’s stance could force a regime change in Syria and turn it into a democratic country. “Khaddam’s testimony will break up the power monopoly in Syria,” he said.

Lebanon’s Al-Mostakbal newspaper Saturday quoted Lebanese opposition Druze leader Walid Jumblatt as saying, “This testimony gives credit indeed to the U.N. probe into the grisly murder of Hariri.”

Khaddam, however refused to speculate on who might have ordered Hariri’s murder. “We must wait” for the final results of a U.N. investigation that has already implicated senior Syrian officials.” Said the former Syrian vice president.

Khaddam, for his part accused Assad’s regime of corruption, saying the Syrian leadership had committed many mistakes, and that Maj. Rustom Ghazali, the man in charge of Syrian Intelligence “had scolded former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.”

Khaddam had moved to Paris after resigning last June. United Press International had learned a few weeks ago that the Syrian government has frozen the former vice president’s assets in Damascus.

Syria has consistently denied any involvement in the killing of Hariri, but complying to international pressures, pulled its troops out of Lebanon in April after a 29-year military presence.

Syrian opposition sources in Washington believe Khaddam may have already testified before the U.N. committee investigating Hariri’s murder.