Khaddam to Al-Watan: Iranian failure brings down Hezbollah

publisher: الوطن ALWATAN

Publishing date: 2015-03-17


Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, who defected from the Damascus regime, launched an attack on Iran, affirming that it is the source of trouble. He claimed that militias in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen all benefit from Iran, opposing Syrian support as a means to put an end to Iranian expansion.

In an interview with Al-Watan, he stated that if Iran fails in Syria, the survival of Hezbollah will not last more than two months, and the fate of the militias supported by Iran will be the same. He reiterated his knowledge of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri two weeks before the operation, accusing the Syrian president of orchestrating it.

Khaddam praised the efforts of the Kingdom (Saudi Arabia) in supporting Arab peoples, stating that Saudi Arabia is the country capable of aiding all Arab nations, and he strongly rejected any insult towards it. He emphasized that the American-Iranian rapprochement would be futile since Tehran does not commit to anything and will not offer anything.

Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam did not conceal that he was aware of the current Syrian regime’s intention to assassinate former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. He mentioned that he specifically traveled to Lebanon to inform Hariri that Bashar al-Assad intended to assassinate him.

In an interview with Al-Watan from his residence in the French capital, Paris, Khaddam called for the convergence of Arab interests to strengthen their position in the world. Simultaneously, he rejected labeling ISIS as resistance, describing it as an organized killing organization.

Khaddam promised that the downfall of Iran in Syria is like cutting off the head of the snake, and he asserted that Hezbollah would not remain in Lebanon for more than two months after its fall in Syria. All of this and other details were discussed in the interview. Here is an excerpt from the dialogue:

Interviewer: You were one of those whose statements were heard regarding the assassination of the Lebanese President Rafik Hariri. What happened to that case?

Khaddam: I was not summoned; instead, the investigators came here to Paris. I told them the truth about the assassination and who was behind it.

Interviewer: What are the facts that you mentioned?

Khaddam: One piece of evidence and facts is that we were gathered at the party’s headquarters in Syria two weeks before Hariri’s death. Bashar al-Assad greatly disliked Rafik Hariri, and during the meeting, Bashar spoke about Hariri as an agent of France and the United States. He claimed that Hariri’s presence posed a threat to Lebanon and Syria. Since that moment, I confirmed that there was a plot to eliminate him. Later, I went to Lebanon, met Hariri secretly at his home, had lunch with him, and informed him that the Syrian regime aimed to eliminate him. I asked him to leave Lebanon immediately. Hariri replied that Maher al-Assad had invited him to stay. I responded that these were just reassurances, but he was not convinced. A week after our meeting, he was assassinated.

Interviewer: Was there a meeting with Bashar al-Assad, and was he questioned?

Khaddam: One investigator came, sat with him for some time, asked him some formal questions, and left immediately because he was afraid of being assassinated.

Interviewer: Let me transition with you to talk about the situation in Syria. How do you describe what is happening there?

Khaddam: In Syria, a people are facing genocide. In Syria, a catastrophe has begun worse than any tragedy experienced by an Arab country, under the watchful eyes of the international community and Arab regimes. Iran and Russia have deployed all their fighting forces, in addition to the Syrian butcher Bashar al-Assad’s army. Despite this, the Syrian people have persevered, and thousands have fallen as martyrs, become disabled, or gone missing. Most Syrian regions have been destroyed.

Interviewer: Were there signs of a political crisis before your departure from Syria?

Khaddam: Since 2006, five years before the revolution, I predicted that the country would go through a crisis. I informed major Arab countries and world nations that if the Syrian people were not attended to, it would eventually become a haven for extremists from around the world. However, no one was convinced by my words. In every interview, I reiterated this, but to no avail.

Interviewer: Is what is happening in Syria a genuine resistance or are these military factions with political objectives?

Khaddam: I say it frankly, the factions claiming to represent the opposition bear a great responsibility because they wanted to fight against the corrupt Assad regime while being fragmented. Assad faced them united with Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah. Therefore, any people fighting aggression while being divided cannot achieve their goals. Unfortunately, there is conflict between some factions, and one reason for this conflict is the aid that was reaching certain factions over others.

But you did not answer my question. Do these factions have political goals, or are they just fighting factions?

Khaddam: They did not realize the seriousness of what was happening in the country, and they believed it was just a show. There are genuine fighters who sacrificed themselves, not affiliated with any faction, fighting for God and then for the homeland. There are those who sought a heroic role and visibility through newspapers and television to gain political leadership and interests. They became a burden and an obstacle to achieving unity among the fighters.

Interviewer: How do you see the role of the Arab League in confronting the region’s issues?

Khaddam: The Arabs have great significance; they are a mighty force that terrifies the world. However, this will not be realized until the mines in the arena are removed, and there is no skepticism and betrayal among them as countries. When Arab leaders established the Arab League, they made a mistake by not unifying their interests, treating each country’s interests as independent. This is a strategic mistake, and I believe that the role of the League still needs a lot. Perhaps the events in the region require everyone to look with a perspective of common interest.

Interviewer: Do you believe that armed movements like ISIS have thwarted the Syrian resistance?

Khaddam: ISIS is an organization that practices killing for the sake of killing and destruction under the guise of Islam, with no real connection to it. It poses a real threat to all Arab countries. Controlling it could have been achieved by improving the economic, social, and political conditions of these countries because extremism does not come from the sky. Instead, these groups thrive and exploit populations due to poor security conditions in Syria and Iraq.

Interviewer: Do you think it’s more of an intelligence creation?

Khaddam: Before answering, there is a question: where do they get the weapons they possess? There are confirmations that they are linked to a state or states aiming to destabilize the region’s security.

There is Arab and Gulf dissatisfaction with Iran’s interventions in internal affairs. How do you view such accusations?

Khaddam: Unfortunately, the Arabs have not taken Iran seriously as a state with grand strategies and objectives. Iran presents itself as the major state that should lead the region. Initially, after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Khomeini aimed to establish an Islamic international system worldwide led by Iran. However, this goal failed after the Iran-Iraq War. Iran then shifted its focus to two things: stirring up sectarianism among Shia populations in the region and making their allegiance to Qom a religious direction. The second is concentrating efforts on strengthening its scientific capabilities. With Russia’s help, Iran managed to produce all kinds of weapons.

The only solution is not a direct military confrontation with Iran, but rather assisting the Syrian people in facing it. If Iran falls in Syria, it will immediately fall in Lebanon and Iraq. Hezbollah will not last more than two consecutive months, confined within its regional borders, facing internal difficulties. In this way, the head of the snake will be cut off.

Interviewer: But Iranian policy varies from one president to another; one may come with a reconciliatory approach towards the region, while another might aim to stir tensions.

Khaddam: This is an old Iranian policy. The first president extends his hand, and the one who follows uses a dagger. They talk in their meetings with neighboring countries about the importance of security, yet their actions on the ground differ entirely from their rhetoric.

Interviewer: Do you see Ahmed Al-Jarba as a future figure in Syrian politics?

Khaddam: I don’t believe he is the right person in the near future if Assad is overthrown because politics is not that simple. The country needs someone more competent, and he did not fulfill his national duty when he was in the Syrian Coalition. I believe the solution is to hold a Syrian national conference under the sponsorship of a major state like Saudi Arabia. The conference should be supported by all regional countries, and a consensus figure from all Syrian factions should be nominated. The Kingdom has a skillful foreign minister. Prince Saud, a very intelligent close friend, played a significant role in shaping the region’s policies, influencing international decisions, and had a stance on the Palestinian issue that I will never forget. He defended Palestine more effectively than the Palestinian representative at that time. I admire Prince Saud’s diplomacy and credibility. Hence, the idea of Riyadh sponsoring a conference, as I mentioned, could be significant.

Interviewer: Throughout your political career, did Saudi-Syrian relations ever experience tension as they do now?

Khaddam: In fact, since I was the foreign minister during Hafez al-Assad’s era, relations were exceptional. However, tension started when Bashar al-Assad took over, as he was not politically qualified. He was caught by Iran, aligned with them, and adopted their policy of not extending his hand to Arab countries, imposing negative statements against them. I consider Saudi Arabia as the state capable of aiding all Arab peoples, and thus, insulting it is unacceptable.

Interviewer: There has been a lot of talk about the Geneva Conference and its outcomes. How do you view the decisions made?

Khaddam: The Geneva Conference complicated matters rather than resolving them. Some decisions seem to suggest a desire for a military coup led by an army officer to rule the country, resembling Bashar al-Assad’s scenario.

Interviewer: In the Gulf, there is a Saudi proposal by the late King Abdullah to establish a Gulf Union. Do you expect it to succeed?

Khaddam: The recent best decisions by Gulf countries were King Abdullah’s reconciliation with Gulf states. His hosting of these countries and their agreement with each other is crucial because their destinies are intertwined. Establishing a union is an important and progressive step, and we hope it materializes, followed by similar projects in other Arab countries.

Interviewer: The recent rapprochement between the United States and Iran, what impact do you think it has on the region’s countries?

Khaddam: In my opinion, the United States made a significant mistake proportional to its size as a major power. Their agreement with Iran will not be effective because Iran will not offer anything that serves American policies. Iran plays on the nuclear bomb string that doesn’t exist fundamentally to gain maximum benefits. If Iran threatens with a nuclear bomb, 200 nuclear bombs will fall on them, erasing them from the map.

Interviewer: Regarding the current Yemeni crisis and the Houthi takeover of power, as a politically knowledgeable person, how do you see the situation there, and what is the validity of Ali Saleh’s involvement in that crisis?

Khaddam: Firstly, I know Ali Saleh well, and he is currently considered a worthless currency. He does not have the strength he had as a president. What is happening now is 100% Iranian action. Iran has previously stated that its fighters in Yemen are greater than those in Lebanon, and the weapons reaching them come exclusively from Iran.

Interviewer: So, who is responsible for the situation unraveling in Yemen?

Khaddam: I believe President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi made a mistake when he did not decide to confront the Houthis, and later asked the Arabs for support or informed them that he would relinquish power to the Houthis. Negotiating with the Houthis was a significant mistake that allowed them to take over the entire state.

Interviewer: I will present to you several political figures, and I would like you to provide a description of each person:

  1. Hosni Mubarak: A politician with many positives. He served Egypt in various aspects. He was criticized for the lack of credibility in the presidential elections during his tenure, similar to some other Arab rulers. He acted wisely when he stepped down from power, preserving the lives of Egyptians even though the military was under his control.
  2. Ali Abdullah Saleh: A charismatic man who started from scratch and made successive leaps until he reached power. However, he failed to realize that societies evolve and believed that they remain as they are.
  3. Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: A military figure who rose to power and monopolized it. He stumbled in the later years, handing over power indirectly to his wife’s family, causing the country to unravel.