An insider’s view

SYRIA’S troubles are multiplying by the day. Damascus has already been scorching under global spotlight and growing Western pressure over the Hariri assassination probe and the allegedly continuing interference in Lebanon’s affairs. The bombshell dropped by the former vice-president Abdel-Halim Khaddam therefore couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for the Syrian regime.

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Published: Tue 3 Jan 2006, 9:09 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:07 PM

Doubtless, Khaddam’s allegation that President Bashar Al Assad had threatened former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri with reprisals months before the assassination is the most damaging incrimination of the Syrian leadership so far. More importantly, Khaddam’s accusations, made in an interview with the Al Arabiya TV, against the Syrian leadership cannot be brushed off easily for the simple reason he himself was part of the leadership until recently.

As the vice-president, senior cabinet member and a top leader of the governing Baath Party, Khaddam had been an important part of the establishment for over three decades. He was not only involved in the decision-making process at the highest level but also played a key role in evolving and implementing Syria’s policies in Lebanon.

So Khaddam obviously knows what he is talking about when he puts the Syrian leadership in the dock over Hariri assassination and for much else happening in Lebanon. He had the rare advantage of an insider who not only enjoyed a ringside view of the goings-on in Damascus and Lebanon but also influenced those decisions. Khaddam may have an old axe to grind. That however doesn’t necessarily mean Khaddam is lying in linking Damascus to the Hariri killing and the subsequent chain of events in Lebanon. He’s only begun to sing now that he is abroad, beyond the reach of the regime in Damascus.

Whatever Khaddam’s motives, there is little doubt that his damning disclosures will have serious ramifications for Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East as a whole. The Khaddam interview has turned the heat on Damascus further providing the West, especially US and France that have joined hands in the UN to orchestrate the moves against Syria, more reasons to corner the Baathist regime and possibly teach it a lesson for its alleged support to Iraqi insurgents and Palestinian groups.

The Khaddam interview is likely to speed up the UN investigation into the Hariri killing. While the interim report by Detlev Mehlis had argued that the high profile assassination couldn’t have taken place without the knowledge of top Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials, Khaddam has suggested the killing couldn’t have been carried out without the approval from the very top. This is as bad as it gets. We only hope the UN probe will be able to sift facts from fiction and bring out the truth as soon as possible.

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