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Former Syrian VP Khaddam: The Syrian Regime 'Aims to Drag Lebanon into Civil War'

Former Syrian VP Khaddam: The Syrian Regime 'Aims to Drag Lebanon into Civil War'

In an August 28, 2006 interview with the Lebanese TV channel Al-Mustaqbal, former Syrian Vice President 'Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, who is today an expatriate leader of the Syrian opposition, ridiculed senior Syrian officials' excuses for non-intervention in the recent Israel-Hizbullah war. Khaddam argued that the Syrian regime's refusal to mark the borders with Lebanon is a pretext aimed at continuing the resistance in southern Lebanon, since, he said, these borders "can be marked on the map within an hour." He also revealed information that, following Israel's May 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon, while he was still serving as vice president, Syria issued instructions to portray the liberation of the Shab'a Farms as one of the goals of the Lebanese resistance, a goal that had not been named in the past.

The following is a translation of the main points of the interview:

All Elements in Lebanon Must Accept the Fact That the State is the One That Makes the Decisions

"The guarantee that there will be no second round [of the war] is the [establishment] of national Lebanese unity, and [when] all Lebanese elements will accept the state as the one that makes the decisions and has the responsibility. But if things remain as they are... then the problem will move to the intra-Lebanese arena..."

Hafez Al-Assad Gave an Order to Prevent Resistance in the Golan

"In 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon and the war became a direct [war] between us and Israel on Lebanese soil. We fought in Beirut, in the mountains, [and] in the Beqaa and we stopped the Israeli advance between 'Ayn Zhalta and Sultan Ya'aqoub in the western Beqaa region. Then came the decision for a cease-fire. After that, [then-Syrian president] Hafez Al-Assad decided to exhaust Israel in Lebanon. [Even before that,] when Hafez Al-Assad decided that traditional war with Israel had become impossible because of what became clear during the [1973] October War, he gave strict orders to the [Syrian] armed forces and security apparatuses to prevent all resistance activity in the Golan. This was because any response by Israel would have reached the internal Syrian arena...

"Thus, in 1982, when the decision was made, we began to encourage the Lebanese parties to carry out resistance activities [in Lebanon]..."

Top Syrian Officials' Explanations for Syria's Non-Intervention in August 2006 War are All Excuses

"[Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad is fearful and apprehensive about war developing and reaching Syrian territory... As far as he is concerned, the war can be conducted in Lebanon without Syria being forced to bear any military burden. If you ask me about the value of the Syrian-Lebanese military agreement, which is part of the [military] contract between them, [I will say] that it has been proven to be [just] a piece of paper.

"[They claim to have] an excuse. Some of the senior officials close to Bashar Al-Assad have said it: 'What prevents us from intervening [in the war] is the Separation of Forces Agreement [between Syria and Israel] in the Golan [Heights]'... [Yet] Israel violated this agreement when it attacked at 'Ayn Al-Saheb. They said, 'If the Israeli forces approach Syria's borders, we will intervene.' [Yet] Israeli forces are on Syrian lands in the Golan. Bashar Al-Assad said in his [August 15, 2006] speech that Israel was defeated in the first days. If indeed it was defeated in the first days, why was this defeat not exploited in order to intervene in the Golan and to liberate it?"

There Can Be No Resistance in Syria While the Syrian People Itself is Held Prisoner

"How can there be resistance in Syria when the Syrian people sees itself as a prisoner, when a [Syrian] intellectual says three words and is [immediately] arrested, and when the Syrian people is stripped of its freedom, oppressed, and plundered by the ruling family?..." (1)

There Must Be Relations of Equals Between Syria and Lebanon; Today There is No Place for Syrian-Lebanese Unity

"What is the difference between Lebanon and any other Arab state? This is absolutely not the time to establish unity between Syria and Lebanon. [The idea of] such unity has never [even] crossed our minds. Syrian-Mauritanian unity [will come] before [Syrian]-Lebanese unity... In my experience with the intricacies of the Lebanese situation, I say that there must be relations of equals between Syria and Lebanon, and this will serve the interests of both countries. Why shouldn't there be diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon?"

Syrian Objections to Marking the Border at Shab'a Farms is an Excuse in Order to Continue the Resistance

"Marking the Syria-Lebanon border requires [nothing more than] diplomatic will... Even the borders between Saudi Arabia and Yemen are marked, despite the disputes that have continued for over a century. Why shouldn't the Syria-Lebanon [border] be marked? The occupation has nothing to do with this... They can be marked on the map within an hour...

"Actually, [Syria's objections] to marking the border is a pretext aimed at justifying the continuation of the resistance movement in the South. [Liberating] the Shab'a Farms was not one of the aims of the resistance [i.e. Hizbullah]. No one spoke of the Shab'a Farms. [They started talking] about them [only] after the [May 2000] Israeli withdrawal [from Lebanon]. This was an order that came from Syria."

Assad Aims to Drag Lebanon Into Civil War so as to Close the Investigation of the Al-Hariri Assassination and to Return to Lebanon

"It is clear that the Syrian regime has two aims: The first is to drag Lebanon into civil war, so as to close the investigation of the assassination of [former Lebanese] prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri... The second aim of the Syrian regime is to bring about a situation in which matters in Lebanon will blow up, and then [Syria's] allies [i.e. Hizbullah] will manage to take over Lebanon – which will enable the Syrian regime to return to Lebanon..."

The Decision to Assassinate Al-Hariri was Made by Bashar Al-Assad

On the assassination of Rafiq Al-Hariri, Khaddam said: "Bashar Al-Assad knows what he's doing. [He knows] how the decision [to assassinate Al-Hariri] was made, how the crime was carried out, and who took part in it... No security operation could be executed in Syria without the decision of the president. Could Rustum Ghazale have taken a ton of explosives from the army's warehouse [without Assad's knowledge]? Could Rustum Ghazale have brought in the group that laid the explosives, tailed [the victim], and carried out [the assassination] without [Al-Assad's] knowledge? My answer is that this is a decision that came from the president...

"I reiterate and say to Bashar Al-Assad that I am convinced that the investigation will reach him, and he knows this... The Syrian regime will fall... The life expectancy of this regime is short, and Bashar Al-Assad's last speech [on August 15, 2006] will be his farewell [speech]."(2)

(1) Recently, the Syrian government press has been threatening that there will be resistance in the Golan that will fight Israel "as the Lebanese resistance fought it." See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 1264, "Syrian Government Press Threatens War in the Golan: 'Those Who... Call for Peace Must Always Support the Resistance,'" August 25, 2006, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP126406 .
(2) Al-Mustaqbal (Syria), August 28, 2006.