July 11, 2011 Special Dispatch No. 3986

Former Syrian Vice-President Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: In Three Months, I Expect the Heads of the Syrian Regime to Be in Prison

July 11, 2011
Syria | Special Dispatch No. 3986

Following are excerpts from an interview with former Syrian vice president Abd Al-Halim Khaddam, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on July 4, 2011.

"I Expect the Army to Disintegrate"

Interviewer: "As observers say, the decisive factor in the Tunisian and Egyptian revolution was the army, even though the people played a major role. In Tunisia, the army was neutral, and in Egypt, it sided with the people. In Syria, as you've said more than once, the army seems to be siding with the regime. This means that as long as this is the case, the revolution will not succeed."

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "This army will not remain in its current situation. It will not continue to be an implement of oppression and murder. The spirit of patriotism will be rekindled among many of the army officers. This army will not persist in its current position. The day will soon come when the army finds itself at a dead-end, with no choice but to return to the people."

Interviewer: "Is this analysis wishful thinking, or is it based on information?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "This is not an analysis. It is based on my own knowledge of the army's structure, and of the circumstances in which the officers find themselves."

Interviewer: "Are your hopes based on a rift within the army's ranks?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "I expect not only rifts. I expect the army to disintegrate."

Interviewer: "Do you mean a rift along sectarian lines?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "No."

Interviewer: "Along what lines, then?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Patriotic lines." […]

There is no Military Solution for Syria Vis-a-Vis Israel

Interviewer: "Are you saying the region – Israel, for example – would tolerate such anarchy in Syria, on its border?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Israel cannot do anything beyond its efforts to preserve the regime."

Interviewer: "Who is behind Israel?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Its interests, because it thinks…"

Interviewer: "No, some international forces adopt Israel's view and defend its security."

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Will a change of regime lead to war in the region? Absolutely not."

Interviewer: "I held an interview with one of the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood, who kept saying that the Syrian regime had not fired a single bullet at Israel since 1973. I asked him what they would do if they replaced the regime, and he said: 'We will ignite the Golan Heights.' What would you do? You are a different kind of opposition, consisting of ex-Ba'thists, and even present-day Ba'thists. Would you ignite the Golan Heights or make peace or make peace with Israel?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Let me tell you something from the past. After the 1973 war, when President Sadat moved towards making peace with Israel, we discussed the situation, and we became convinced that it would not be easy for us to wage war [again]. The USSR did not approve of this. Egypt was out of the picture. We were in the midst of a bitter conflict with Iraq. A civil war was raging in Lebanon. We could not say that we would wage a war in many years to come. Therefore, President Hafez Al-Assad decided to accept the Disengagement Agreement, leading to a status quo in the region."

Interviewer: "Let me be brief, before we take another break. You are suggesting that in the Syria of the future, after the current regime, the situation will remain the same, without any military confrontation. Is that what you are saying?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Look, when it comes to a military confrontation, there are many factors that must be taken into consideration: domestic, regional, and international factors."

Interviewer: "In your view, do all these factors lead to maintaining the current situation?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "The current factors indicate that a military solution is not an option now." […]

"The Fall of the [Syrian] Regime would Lead to the Liberation of Lebanon and to the Isolation of Hizbullah"

Interviewer: "In the event of a military intervention, do you think Iran would not intervene?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Iran would undoubtedly be affected by the fall of the regime, because the Syrian regime allowed Iran to control a region stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to Afghanistan. The fall of the regime would lead to the liberation of Lebanon and to the isolation of Hizbullah. Iran would lose the Palestinian bargaining chip, as well as its influence in Iraq."

Interviewer: "And therefore?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Iran would be affected, but it would not do anything beyond what it is already doing. It has already sent IRGC detachments, experts, advisors, and equipment."

Interviewer: "Do you have any proof of that? Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mu'alem was asked this recently, and he categorically denied it, saying that Iran gives Syria political support. Do you believe this? They say one thing, and you say another."

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "First of all, do you believe what this regime says? There are events witnessed by everyone, yet you say: 'They say one thing, and you say another.' Yes. People have seen Iranian buses, full of armed men, heading to Hauran. In Jisr Al-Shughour, they arrested six Iranians from the IRGC…"

Interviewer: "Were these six Iranians about to tip the balance in Syria?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "They were there. They were experts on military equipment."

Interviewer: "Do you think that the Syrian regime is in need of [Iranian] military capabilities? After all, it has a huge army."

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Yes, it needs combat experience and experience in oppression…"

Interviewer: "Doesn't it have experience of its own when it comes to oppression?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "Not in this way, with the army entering cities, shelling them with tanks and cannons, violating all that is sacred, and humiliating people. Such a thing has never happened…"

Interviewer: "Didn't it happen in Hama in 1982?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "It happened in Hama, but at that time there was a problem between the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood party…"

Interviewer: "So it is okay to attack Hama if Muslim Brotherhood members are there?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "The problem now is between the regime and the entire Syrian people."

Interviewer: "I'd like to return to this point. When the Muslim Brotherhood was barricading itself in Hama, it was okay for the Syrian army to shell the city, in your view?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "That's not what I said. I said that it is what the regime did. Nevertheless, it will be only fair, after the fall of the regime, to establish an inquiry commission that will investigate the issue of Hama, as well as the issue of the Tadmor [prison massacre in 1980], and will hold accountable the people who made this decision and carried it out." […]

Interviewer: "In his latest press conference, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mu'alem was asked what he thought would happen in three months' time, and he said that he expected Syria to become a model of democracy. What do you expect will happen in Syria in three months?"

Abd Al-Halim Khaddam: "I expect the head of the regime to be in prison."


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