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sabra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 03:12 PM
Original message
Assad, other Syrians, threatened Hariri -Khaddam (ex Syrian VP)

Assad, other Syrians, threatened Hariri -Khaddam

DUBAI, Dec 30 (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and other top officials threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri who was assassinated in February, a former Syrian vice president said.

"Hariri received many threats," Abdel-Halim Khaddam told Al Arabiya television in an interview aired on Friday. "Assad told me he had delivered some very, very harsh words to Hariri ... something like 'I will crush anyone who tries to disobey us'."

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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 03:54 PM
Response to Original message
1. Profile: Abdel-Halim Khaddam
Syrian Vice-President Abdel-Halim Khaddam, reported to be planning to step down to make way for younger politicians, was seen in the 1980s as a possible successor to the late President Hafez al-Assad.

But Khaddam, one of Syria's longest-serving leaders, went on to back Assad's son Bashar, who took office in 2000, and helped him increase his grip on power.

Members of the ruling Baath Party said Khaddam, a lawyer by training, expressed his intention on Monday to step aside for Syria's younger generation of politicians. His departure comes as the Baath Party is considering reform.

In the days following Hafez al-Assad's death, Khaddam oversaw steps for a smooth succession for Bashar.

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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 05:29 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. This "Dossier: Abdul Halim Khaddam" has some interesting quotes:
As one of the only Sunni Muslims in a regime dominated almost entirely by Alawites (an esoteric offshoot Islamic sect considered heretical in much of the Arab world), Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam has exercised a great deal of influence over Syria's foreign relations within the region during the last two decades. Though once considered a possible successor to Syrian President Hafez Assad, his political influence has been on the decline for several years. (...)

Ironically, Khaddam's close association with Hariri marked the beginning of his political demise. Bashar Assad, the son and heir apparent of Syrian President Hafez Assad, took control over Syrian policy in Lebanon in 1998, fearing that Khaddam might use Hariri, his money and his Saudi connections to challenge his ascension to the presidency. Syrian policy in Lebanon under Bashar took advantage of widespread disaffection with Hariri and his failed economic policies to bring the Lahoud-Hoss government to power. Hariri has spent his days since then trying to rub shoulders with Bashar Assad and distancing himself as much as he can from Khaddam and former Syrian army Chief of Staff Hikmat Shihabi, another loser as a result of Bashar's ascendency. Hariri is no longer offering his private plane, his mansions in Europe or his boat to accommodate and entertain the Khaddam and the Shihabi families. (...)

Khaddam's role within the Syrian regime has become largely ceremonial: paying condolences and carrying messages to the leaders of Sunni regimes in the Arab world. He is unlikely to contest this demotion, knowing that any overt signs of dissatisfaction will encourage the ostensibly reform-minded Bashar to expose details of the well-known indulgences of Khaddam and his sons in corrupt activities inside and outside Syria (e.g. Khaddam and his sons, along with the Shihabi family, used their political influence to involve themselves heavily in the cellular telephone business in Lebanon, which has earned them tens of millions of dollars in the last few years). Although officially Khaddam is still a vice-president, his political wings have been clipped and he will most likely slip graciously into a comfortable retirement.

Ironically, now he is citing "corruption within the regime and its failure to reform" as reasons for his break with President Bashar Assad.

Khaddam had his assets in Syria confiscated in early December:

Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Khaddam: Assets And The Truth

Al-Siyasah newspaper released an article today citing sources which claim that the former Syrian President's Deputy, Abdulhalim Khaddam, had all his assets in Syria transferred to the government coffers. Therefore, Khaddam has allegedly lost all his possessions in his country.

This move has come about, as the article claims, due to the Syrian regime's conviction that Khaddam has provided Mehlis and Jacques Chirac with all of what he knows about the Hariri assassination, including who is involved in the planning and execution, by name, on the 6th of September 2005.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #3
6. Yeah. It seems clear he's pissed off at little Assad.
Edited on Fri Dec-30-05 05:53 PM by bemildred
But it's hard to be sure what is going on here, exactly.

The MEIB story certainly adds more context to the situation,
and the blogger.

I wonder if he cut a deal with the French?
I would think he'd need a bit of protection at this point.

That is an interesting quote:

"Lebanon was part of Syria and we will restore it with any attempt at partition . . . Lebanon will either be united or will be returned to Syria."
Abdul Halim Khaddam, January 1976
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 04:05 PM
Response to Original message
2. There are even better quotes:
"I will destroy anyone who tries to hinder our decisions," Assad told Hariri during a meeting in Damascus, Khaddam told Dubai-based television Al-Arabiya in an interview from Paris in which he also announced his resignation.

DEBKAfiles Middle East sources note that Haddam insinuated in the interview that Assad had had pre-knowledge of the murder and could have prevented it.

Syrian President Bashar Assad was dealt more bad news Friday night after former Syrian Vice President Abed al-Halil Hadem said that the embattled Syrian president "could have prevented the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri."

Now, the interesting thing is that Richard Armitage personally warned Assad not to harm Hariri, according to an earlier report by The Times:

After the assassination attempt (on Marwan Hamade), Paris and Washington sent messages to Damascus warning the Syrians not to harm opposition leaders, specifically Mr Hariri and Mr Jumblatt. Richard Armitage, the US Deputy Secretary of State, reiterated that warning during a meeting with Mr Assad in Damascus on January 2.,,251-1530888_2,0...

Are we to believe that Assad went on with the "plot" to kill Hariri, knowing that it had already been "uncovered" by the US and France? How reasonable is that?
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 05:50 PM
Response to Original message
4. Haaretz: Former Syrian VP says Assad was involved in Hariri's death
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent and The Associated Press

Former Syrian Vice President Abdul-Halim Khaddam, a one-time stalwart of the ruling Baath Party, on Friday accused Syria's President Bashar Assad of being personally involved in the assassination of former Lebanese Premier Rafik Hariri.

Khaddam made the claim as he declared a formal break with President Bashar Assad in a television interview from Paris, citing corruption within the regime and its failure to reform. (...)

"No Syrian security service can reach a decision independently, besides the president. Bashar told me that people in Syria were involved and that means that he was involved," Khaddam said in the interview with Al-Arabiya, the pan-Arab satellite broadcaster, his first since he left Syria several months ago. (...)

He claimed to have left his homeland on good terms with Assad. "There are differences in opinions, but there was mutual respect," he said, adding that his family was with him in Paris where he was writing a memoir.
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sabra Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. allemand, any predictions with this one?
Edited on Fri Dec-30-05 05:51 PM by sabra
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 07:29 PM
Response to Reply #5
8. Perhaps Khaddam just declared his intention to run for the presidency of
Syria...? ;-)

Abdel Halim Khaddam, former vice president. Khaddam is a Sunni, although his wife is Alawite. He served as foreign minister of Syria from 1970-84, then as vice president. He was instrumental in working with Kenaan to exert Syrian control over Lebanon and had a very close relationship with both Hafez al-Assad and Rafik Hariri. He is also alleged to have profited financially from his time in Lebanon. Experts say he is currently living in Paris and actively holding meetings with European and U.S. officials about Syrias future.

It's a bit contradictory that Khaddam accuses Assad of cold-blooded murder, but at the same time he speaks of "mutual respect" and says that "his relationship with al-Assad remained "amicable"."

Assad was personally warned by Armitage not to harm Hariri. After the killing he was very quick to agree to a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon, even before the pro-Syrian base in Lebanon was mobilized in a huge demonstration. Therefore I still don't think that it is reasonable to assume that Assad was involved in the killing. Khaddam's accusations against him may be politically motivated ("regime change").

But Khaddam asks a very interesting question:

"Why is Rustom Ghazali being protected and we all know his vices. This is a question that the Syrias are asking," Khaddam said. "I told Bashar several times that he should remove him ... he acted like he was the absolute ruler of Lebanon."

Ghazali is both brutal and corrupt. He may well be involved in the murder of Hariri. So why is he still being protected? One possible answer is that members of Assad's family were also involved:

According to senior Middle East sources, Assad was present at a meeting when Shawkat and the presidents brother, Maher, argued that Hariri should be assassinated. Assad is said to have rejected the plan, but Shawkat and Maher who is also chief of the presidential guard allegedly went ahead anyway.,,2089-1838577,00...

There were reports that Maher once shot Shawkat in the stomach, so I really don't know how credible this "diplomatic source" is, but this is certainly one possibility. Assad is not in a position (and probably also not willing) to move against his own family.

Another possibility is that only local Syrian and Lebanese officials (including Ghazali) were behind the bombing and that it was linked to the fraudulent collapse of the Al-Madina bank. There may even be a mafia link. This is also mentioned in the latest Mehlis report:

The UN enquiry into Hariri's killing in a February bomb blast has said that fraud, corruption and money laundering may have been connected to the assassination. (...)
The bank is also facing a money-laundering probe. Unconfirmed press reports said the bank was used for the money-laundering of several trillion dollars by the Russian mafia, Iraqi state funds and Saudi Islamic associations.
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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 07:36 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. That's a good idea. We know that some want "regime change" in Syria.
Perhaps he is the new "democratic" leader. Sort of a Syrian Chalabi.
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-31-05 06:51 AM
Response to Reply #5
11. Yet another theory: Kazimi explains how he came to suspect Jumblatt, but
now thinks that al-Qaeda may have been behind the bombing:

An excursion to Mukhtara, or how I came to suspect Junbulatt in Hariris killing

Somewhere along the line, and as it became increasingly clear that the bomb-laden Mitsubishi truck that detonated beside Hariris motorcade was driven by a suicide bomber, I began to suspect Junbulatt less and less. It seemed unlikely that the now seemingly docile parliamentarian would be able to compel anyone to die for him.

All that is frivolous at this point for there is yet another suspect: Al-Qaeda. Ive written about this in my columns (The Saudi Mega-Plot, Who Killed Hariri? and The Mehlis Mess), but my thoughts were met by institutional friction. It is easy to point the finger at Syria, but Sunni Wahhabis operating in Lebanon? That seems ridiculous to many. But if I were Al-Qaeda, and specifically its Zarqawi-led Jund Al-Sham arm (previously headed by Abul-Ghadia Al-Suri), wouldnt I want to get rid of a galvanizing figure among Lebanons Sunnis like Hariri, and have the blame for the crime cast on another hated regime I seek to overthrow?

Late on Tuesday night, three projectiles landed in the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona. Zarqawis organization, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, claimed that this was its doing and that it had fired 10 GRAD (BM variety) missiles from Lebanon. The GRAD has a range of 25 Km at best, and guess what? There is a Sunni enclave just north of Marj Ayoun along the Litani River, some 25 Km from that Israeli town.

Do the math.

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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 05:55 PM
Response to Original message
7. One thing I think you can say at this point:
The US and it's minions have not given up on taking Syria
to the UN Security Council etc. This is the response to the
demolition of Mehlis case, the new initiative.
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daleo Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Dec-30-05 11:35 PM
Response to Reply #7
10. They never give up, these neo-cons.
A tenacious bunch indeed. Ken Starr never gave up on persecuting Clinton either.
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Dec-31-05 07:32 AM
Response to Original message
12. The Daily Star provides the most detailed account of the interview:
Khaddam: Assad threatened Hariri over extension
Ex-vice president accuses ghazaleh of taking $35m from bank al-Madina

By Karen Mneimne and Hanan Nasser
Daily Star staff
Saturday, December 31, 2005


After Hariri's murder, "I told Bashar that he should bring this criminal (Ghazaleh) and chop his head off because he had created this situation in Lebanon.

"I also told Assad that Ghazaleh embezzled $35 million from Al-Madina Bank and that he should be removed, to which Assad replied 'don't worry about Ghazaleh he is a thief.'


"Months before his murder, I told Hariri he should leave Lebanon, because his situation was complicated by Syria. It never occurred to me that he would be murdered by Syria," said Khaddam.


Following Hariri's death, "I told Bashar to form an investigation committee to punish the officers who committed blunders in Lebanon. Why should the state suffer? Assad replied that 'now was not the time'."


So on the one hand Khaddam remembers Assad threatening Hariri and saying that he will "crush him", but on the other hand it "never occurred" to him that Hariri "would be murdered by Syria"? :eyes:

Perhaps Assad said that "now was not the time" to punish the Syrian officers because he knew that it would only give ammunition to those who are more interested in "regime change" than in finding the truth.
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allemand Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Jan-01-06 06:42 PM
Response to Original message
13. Joshua Landis says that Asad may have killed Hariri to get rid of Khaddam!
Very long and interesting (but also very speculative) analysis:

But would Bashar al-Asad really have ignored a direct warning from Washington not to harm Hariri?
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