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Friday, January 06, 2006

Khaddam: Bashar is a traitor, Hafez was weak, the regime killed Hariri

Former Syrian vice president Abdel Halim Khaddam upped the ante against the Syrian regime in an interview with Asharq al-Awsat that was published on Friday.

Khaddam gave several interviews this week, including one to AP and another to France 3. In those interviews, he said that the Syrian regime has outlived its time, and held Bashar Assad responsible for Syria's isolation and weakening.

"The most important thing is to save Syria from this regime," he said, adding that "those who were behind the assassination in Lebanon continue to kill because their goal is to create chaos in the country".
In the Asharq al-Awsat interview, Khaddam's answers left no doubt that Bashar ordered the assassination of Rafik Hariri. In response to a question on whether Hosni Mubarak is seeking to keep Bashar away from being interviewed by the UNIIC, Khaddam said:

The problem is the responsibility in the Hariri assassination cannot stop at a certain level because such a decision cannot be taken without the president's knowledge. The decision comes from the top of the pyramid. Why would Rustom Ghazaleh want to kill Hariri? Was he competing with him over the premiership?
Khaddam's answer clearly assigns the responsibility for killing Hariri to Bashar. He makes it clear that the regime cannot get away with this murder by using a scapegoat like Ghazaleh. In other words, the regime is stuck and there is no way out for Bashar. No deal can save him.

Khaddam spent most of the interview arguing that the Syrian regime cannot be reformed, and that the only option left is to overthow it. He described Bashar as a "traitor" who should be put on trial. He also confirmed that he received death threats, and that he will testify before the UNIIIC. Here is a summary of the rest of the interview:

Bashar and his family plundered the country

Khaddam said the regime's response to his interview revealed that the sole role of the "fake" constitutional institutions in Syria is to cover for what Bashar says.

The scene at the People's Assembly was saddening for Syrians who wondered: does this assembly represent us? They [the MPs] were repeating insults like parrots. They were insulting a person who had the principal role in elevating Syria's stature for 30 years… Until 1998 Syria was at the peak and all Syrians spoke of its foreign policy and praised it, while criticizing the domestic policy… Is criticizing Bashar, who pushed the country into this predicament, apostasy?
Khaddam accused Bashar of nepotism and of allowing his family and friends to plunder the country and its neighbor. He said he knows for a fact that Rustom Ghazaleh stole 35 million USD from al-Madina bank.

The Lahoud Extension

The former VP, now labeled traitor by the Syrian regime, revealed new information on the extension of Lahoud's term, all in the context of Bashar's poor foreign policy skills:

After Bashar made the decision to extend Lahoud's term, I warned him that Syria cannot handle the repercussions of that decision. He [then] had and lost an pportunity to prevent UNSC 1559 from being issued. He asked [Syrian FM] Farouq al-Sharaa to contact the Spanish foreign minister, [Miguel] Moratinos, to help Syria in preventing that resolution in exchange for giving up the extension. Moratinos asked that Bashar contact the Spanish premier. Bashar did that. For his part, Moratinos conducted a series of talks with Chirac, Blair, Schroeder and Bush, after which it was decided to abandon the resolution on the condition that the Lebanese parliament speaker [Nabih Berri] cancels the parliament session. Moratinos conveyed that to Sharaa who insisted that he [Moratinos] personally contact Berri. And after he did, Berri responded: "Lebanon is an independent country and Syria cannot curry favor with us." The session was not canceled. Two hours later, the UNSC passed the resolution.

Here I ask: Why did Assad change his position? Look at the results: UNSC 1559, Hariri's assassination, the Syrian forces withdrew from Lebanon humiliated, relations with Lebanon deteriorated and Syria is suffering international and Arab solation. Isn't that harming Syrian interests? Isn't that treason? If anybody needs to be put on trial, it's the head of the regime.
Khaddam here blames Syria not only for Hariri's murder, but for UNSC 1559 which was supposedly blamed on Hariri by Syria and its allies in Lebanon. He confirmed that the Syrian regime pretty much dug the hole that it is in right now. It created the context for the murder, and then killed Hariri using that context as a pretext. In Khaddam's version of events, the Syrian regime is not only murderous but also very stupid.

On Hafez and the Assad family

Perhaps realizing that the public is wondering about his own criminal record during Hafez's reign, Khaddam distanced himself from Hafez's domestic policies, which he says he didn't always agree with. And for the first time, he signaled that Syria's problem lies in the Assad family.

I left the regime during Hafez's time in power. I agreed with him on all foreign matters, but disagreed on domestic issues. President [Hafez] Assad was an important man in Syrian history, but he was weak towards his family. He left the chance for the Assad family to engage in all kinds of deviancies on the coast and [the hinterlands].
Khaddam said he was against Bashar inheriting the presidency, but he had no choice but to help him because Hafez arranged for the succession before his death. Hafez, Khaddam revealed, made all the necessary security and military arrangements for the succession to take place "by force".

Khaddam for president?

Khaddam said he is not concerned with becoming president, but that he has a "political program" to save the country and not to become its president. He added that Syrian "national unity" suffered because of the regime's isolationist policy. He said all the powers in Syria must seek national unity and reach agreement.

"The basis is [regime] change," he said, welcoming all parties who are willing to walk down that path, including the different Islamist groups that he says are currently being excluded.

As for the Baath party, Khaddam said that in its current ideology it cannot achieve any of its "far goals". "There needs to be a fundamental change in thought and method," he added.

He proposed to empower Syrian people with the "ability to confront the mistakes that were committed", as a way to weaken the grip of the security services in Syria. He ruled out a military coup as a way to bring about that regime change.

In conclusion, Khaddam is seeking regime change through what seems to be a media campaign and full support for the Hariri investigation, which he uses to prove the invalidity of the Bashar regime. It is still unknown whether he is backing his words with clandestine activities inside the country. To me, it seems like he is banking on the regime change to come through Lebanon, the country he lost one day in 1998, when another group of thugs took his treasured place. Regardless of his power aspirations, Lebanon stands to benefit from all this, if only to empower the Hariri investigation and finally expose the Syrian regime's continuing murderous policies. In that regard, Khaddam is the perfect witness. But he should be nothing more.

UPDATE 1: AFP translated a part that I missed:

He told Asharq Al-Awsat he was "working to bring about the suitable conditions for Syrians to pour into the streets and act to overthrow the Syrian regime so that things go well"... However, he said he has not asked other nations to help Syria's opposition. "I did not contact anybody because change has to come from within. If the main vector for change is external, then the interests of the country are harmed."

UPDATE 2. Khaddam gave another interview to Newsweek. In it, he repeats what he said in past interviews. He does, however, give more details on the degree of animosity towards Hariri in Syria. He said that after Hariri's extension conversation with Assad, in which the latter threatened to crush him if he disobeys his will, Hariri said “I will never visit Damascus again in my life.” Khaddam repeats what he told other news organizations about how Bashar would always accuse Hariri of cooking up UNSC resolution 1559.

In one of the past party meetings, the Politburo was discussing the U.N. Resolution 1559. Assad said, “This resolution was cooked by Prime Minister Hariri and [French] President [Jacques] Chirac, and Hariri is working against the interests of Syria.” He said that Prime Minister Hariri tried to gather the Sunnis around him, and this is against the interests and security of Syria.”

Ten days before the assassination took place, President Bashar Assad started calling his friends in Lebanon to come to visit him … A lot of Lebanese close to the Syrian government started questioning the patriotism and nationalism of Rafik Hariri.

And then more on Lahoud's role:

Where do you think Bashar Assad got these ideas about Hariri?
It is the Lebanese security forces around Lahoud. They are writing reports against Hariri. President Lahoud sends those reports to President Assad. President Assad resends those reports to Rustom Ghazaleh to check them out. But Rustom Ghazaleh and Jamil Sayyed [a Lebanese security chief, now in jail] are the ones who initially made those reports, so after checking with Rustom Ghazaleh, the answer is, "Definitely, it matches, it’s authentic information.”
And then Khaddam reassures everyone that regime change is coming soon, and so is democracy. And there is no basis, he says, for fearing an Islamist takeover, which has always been the argument for keeping Bashar's regime in power.

What is the actual picture you have of the way things will develop in the next few months.
When the scenario starts to materialize all the people are going to see it. [But] if there is a big political agenda it is not feasible to make it public in the press.

Does your vision of Syria include any members of the Assad family?
The Assad family is one family in Syria. Whoever rules Syria will be decided solely by voting and ballots. Whoever gets the ballots, he will make the decision along with the Syrian people in that regard.

You’re not afraid that the Muslim Brotherhood will get all the ballots?
No. In Syria, Christians and Muslims have a religious consciousness, but they are not fanatics. It’s a kind of mosaic of religions in equilibrium. And the Muslim Brothers now have enhanced their way of thinking, and they have come up with a new liberal agenda. And naturally when we talk about an open and democratic state, everyone is welcome to present his agenda.

Read the Newsweek interview in full here.

Berri disobeyed Bashar? Whad kind of stupid excuse is that.
"As for the Baath party, Khaddam said that in its current ideology it cannot achieve any of its "far goals". "There needs to be a fundamental change in thought and method," he added."

It means more politica Islam .
2nd Anon, Not that I am a supporter or defendeo of the Ba'ath but how does on possibly translatea demand for a more open , democratic anf effective Ba'ath as a call for political Islam? Many political parties all over the world have transformed themselves whenever they recognised their failed policies were an obstacle and not an advantage.

Whether the Syrian Ba'ath can transform itself, at least a splinter of the Syrian Ba'ath, depends on the sincerity of the reformers and the degree of inclusivity of their new program. Don't forget that you cannot reform successfully if you do not differentiate yourself sufficiently from the original model.
To Anonymous 1: "Berri disobeyed Bashar? Whad kind of stupid excuse is that." Khaddam did not say that. He implied that Sharaa told Moratinos to contact Berri directly knowing that Berri will not listen to Moratinos and Berri will be blamed for not cancelling the Parliamentary session for extending Lahoud's term.
Berri responded: "Lebanon is an independent country and Syria cannot curry favor with us."

I love that part. Of course the Syrians and Siamese-twin-Berri knew excatly what they were doing.

Berri must have felt very proud saying that to the Spanish guy, while not believing it for one second. How can the creep look at himself in the mirror everyday?

Finally, maybe the Hezb can now blame Berri for 1559 and call him a traitor. ;-)
I have tears in my eyes, Khaddam the democrat wants people to vote. Who knew?
Good post Kais. I especially agree with the conclusion "In that regard, Khaddam is the perfect witness. But he should be nothing more."
khaddam is full of shit, but the fertilizer kind of shit, meaning that he's useful for now
Poor Lebanon and Poor Syria.
But don't we deserve the governments
we got?
Al-Syassah is reporting that president Mubarak has given his personal assurances to DC, London and Paris that Syria will :
1 Provide the investigating committee with unconditional access to all Syrian suspects except for an interview with Bashar

2 Syria will establish consular relations with Lebanon

3 The Syrian Lebanese borders will be fully demarcated

4 Syria will provide the UN with documentation regarding the Lebanese ownership of the She'eba farms.

Assuming that the above is accurate then it will be difficult to argue against the influence that the Khaddan defection seems to be having.

Another report is suggesting that the Friday sermons in many a mosque in Homs, Hama and Allepo were directed against the Syrian leadership.

Are we witnessing THE CATALYST that would coalesce the opposition and make them lose their fear of the regime. I sure hope so.
Bashar promised several people before but he is not keeping his promises! Sooner or later, the rest of the world will know that he is not but a liar, dictator and does not keep his promise!
OK, will the other Ghassan please use another name?
We're just jealous, dude.

Great post, by the way, Kais. Very thorough. You're gonna put us all out of business eventually.
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