Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The Khaddam Affaire as seen from Paris

This view of the Khaddam affaire as seen from Paris was posted by Nicholas in the comment section. I am posting it here, because it is interesting and gives us yet another perspective on the present predicament in Syria. Nicholas believes the French are in no position and have little inclination to push the Syria issue to a showdown. He suggests following the oil.

After a good week's vacation, people in Paris are back to town and back to work. The first question I was asked at the office this morning was not how was your break? Bur rather: “What is going on with your guys?” Even a Lebanese colleague was outraged at Khaddam and said that he and all his friends (Lebanese) believe he has been paid to do this. I didn’t get a chance to chat more but I think I’m going to hear some interesting opinions over here all day.

The newspapers and TV new bulletins here in Paris have put the Khaddam story front page over the weekend, again with translations of the Khaddam script that could least be described as “inaccurate” or only present half the sentence; just like the la takraboo el salat then period phrase. On the way to the office, radio news announced that the UN commission wants to interrogate Bashar Assad (front news). Yet, on this Monday morning things were different. Le Figaro (right wing leaning and close to the Chirac clan) included 5 articles on the subjects; this is a record quantity on Syria and all in the same issue. The first on the UN wanting to interrogate Bashar Assad, Farouk Shar’a and Khaddam. He second on the reactions in Lebanon (mostly based on article in An-Nahar). The third a description of Khaddam.

Then comes the interesting part: article 4 and 5. One is entitled: the Hidden Message of Abdel Halim Khaddam and this discusses the hypothesis of Khaddam presenting himself as potential candidate for the post-Bashar Assad era. The last, is a 2 sentence declaration by the Quai d’Orsay (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs) declaring that it is not in contact with Khaddam who is in Paris for private reasons (bad translation of à “titre privé”). So is France keeping its options open (article 4) or assuring Bashar Assad that all is not over yet (article 5)?

In Champress this morning, an article also noted that Bashar Assad is going to go on a tour of capitals this year and that efforts are underway to organize a reconciliatory meeting with Chirac in Paris. (as far as I am concerned Champress is far from being your ultimate undisputable source of information). During the vacation, I met a friend who is in the oil business and he confirmed that a French oil company (not Total – this should be enough of a hint) is looking seriously into applying for a couple of the oil licenses that are to be put to tender in the first quarter of 2006. This company is highly politicized (yes, even more than Total) and would not have decided to go into such venture without some green light from “up there”. Earlier, I noted that Total has been in talks with the Syrian authorities about a refinery construction, this has been sited again from two different sources: Les Echos (the French version of the Financial Times) and from Zawya.com (a mideast business information site-serious and reliable news source). So it looks like its pretty serious.

Somewhere in the thread above someone noted that in the eyes of the West Syria is already guilty [of the Harriri murder] regardless what happens. This statement is very true and I think it would be wisest if the Syrians dealt with things based on this above assumption. Even the Lebanese over here, who have strong influence on events in Beirut as well as Foreign policy spheres in Paris, are somehow getting bored with this story and would like to move on; this point has been mentioned to me from different people with different political tendencies (pro- and against-Syria but all Lebanese). One of these friend suggested the following: “Let them stick it over Ghazali’s back and get over the entire thing. Even if not guilty himself, let this be the price to pay for his other misgivings. The Khaddam declaration against him can be used. Bashar can admit having been harsh with Harriri in the presence of Ghazali but he regrets it and that’s why he talked to Khaddam about it. Ghazali wanted to please his master so he did the assassination thinking this would win him favors with Bashar. Khaddam noted that Bashar is not really fond of Ghazali and knows that he is a “thief” (laugh laugh). Given the international mood, everyone would turn the page and move on to something else.” This fits neatly; notably when one notices the incredible US silence.

The French seem to have got this message and this would explain the oil deals on talk now and Champress’ story of a Chirac-Assad meeting in 2006. Chirac is in his last year as president (and very weakened), he is doing all he can to smooth the transition of the presidency (not to his son) but to the current Prime Minister (who is the only person willing to grant Chirac immunity from persecution for corruption). Cleaning up the foreign affairs file would be a major priority during the upcoming political battle. It is also worth noting that the current Foreign Minister is puppet/joke (no-one takes him seriously – not even in the EU).
Sorry to cut the discussion thread over whether Khaddam is fit or not to rule, but maybe the above thought from Paris could help the debate.

Apologies about pasting the 2 articles of Le Figaro below, but last I tried to include links, it did not work. Thank you all for your understanding.

Le message caché d'Abdel Halim Khaddam
En accusant un régime qu'il a toujours servi, l'ancien vice-président syrien cherche peut-être à se placer dans la course au pouvoir.
Pierre Prier
[02 janvier 2006]

ABDEL Halim Khaddam s'est-il placé, de Paris, dans la course au pouvoir pour l'après-Bachar ? Le contenu de l'entretien choisi pour le donner, et jusqu'au média qui le délivre semblent indiquer un positionnement politique de l'ancien vice-président, plus qu'une intervention décisive dans le dossier Hariri lui-même.
L'interview de Khaddam n'apporte en effet aucun élément concret à l'enquête de la commission de l'ONU sur l'assassinat de l'ancien premier ministre libanais. Abdel Halim Khaddam exprime surtout sa conviction personnelle que le sommet du pouvoir – il se garde bien de nommer le président Bachar el-Assad – est responsable du meurtre de Hariri.

Menaces directes contre Hariri
Detlev Melhis a lui aussi exprimé cette certitude avant de se faire remplacer le 15 décembre dernier. Mais il n'a pu en apporter la preuve, empêchant ainsi le Conseil de sécurité de voter des sanctions contre Damas. Dans l'un des passages les plus incriminants de son entretien, Khaddam confirme le récit contenu dans le premier rapport Mehlis : convoquant Hariri à Damas, Bachar el-Assad l'aurait très directement menacé.

Le vice-président cite trois sources, dont deux morts : Hariri lui-même et le ministre de l'Intérieur Ghazi Kanaan, «suicidé» en octobre dernier. La troisième source est le président Bachar. Un apport qui n'aidera en rien le successeur de Detlev Mehlis, sauf si Abdel Halim Khaddam a des éléments vraiment concrets à lui communiquer dans le cadre d'un interrogatoire.

Quant au moment choisi, on peut se demander pourquoi le vice-président, âgé de 73 ans et vieux compagnon de route de Hafez el-Assad, le père, a attendu trente-cinq ans pour dénoncer le régime syrien. Quand il démissionne du parti Baas en juin, Khaddam paraît surtout mû par le constat de sa marginalisation dans les instances du parti. L'ex-vice-président explique qu'il est parti pour protester contre l'absence de réformes politiques.

Une vue qui surprendra les lecteurs d'une interview récente donnée à la presse officielle, où il accusait les partisans du multipartisme de «servir les plans de l'étranger et d'Israël». Sur le plan politique, Khaddam n'a jamais fait figure de réformateur. Mais l'ancien dirigeant était considéré comme «souple» sur la question libanaise. Il entretenait d'ailleurs des liens d'amitié avec Rafic Hariri et fut le seul officiel syrien à assister à ses obsèques.

Comme Hariri, Khaddam était sunnite, et ce n'est pas un détail. Le vice-président démissionnaire n'appartenait pas à la minorité alaouite, dont est issu le clan Bachar, mais à l'écrasante majorité sunnite, au moins 70% des Syriens. En ces temps de repli sur l'identité confessionnelle, tout sunnite est plus ou moins en odeur de méfiance. L'amitié avec Rafic Hariri, qui pouvait servir de modèle à toute une bourgeoisie sunnite syrienne, ne donnait pas de bons points dans un CV. Surtout quand le pouvoir soupçonne l'Occident, les pays arabes sunnites et même certains membres des cercles dirigeants d'être à la recherche d'un sunnite présentable pour conduire le pays.

Intentions qui restent à décoder
On peut comprendre que Khaddam ait attendu de s'être installé à Paris pour donner son interview. Il l'a confié à al-Arabiya, chaîne à capitaux saoudiens proche de la famille royale, dont Rafic Hariri était l'ami. Un message de plus dans le message. Mais les intentions d'Abdel Halim Khaddam restent encore à décoder. Surtout dans la mesure où le régime de Damas, qui a gagné du temps et des alliés à l'ONU, est sorti consolidé, au moins pour un temps, de son dernier bras de fer avec l'ONU.

Khaddam est à Paris à titre privé
[02 janvier 2006]
Le ministère français des Affaires étrangères n'a aucun contact avec l'ancien vice-président syrien, Abdel Halim Khaddam, qui séjourne à titre privé à Paris, a assuré hier à l'AFP une source diplomatique. Le Quai d'Orsay s'en tient aux informations de la presse, selon lesquelles Abdel Halim Khaddam séjourne depuis juin à Paris.

Syria signs US$39 million contract to import Chinese buses Al-Bawaba, Jordan - Jan 1, 2006. Syria's Transport Ministry has signed a contract with the Chinese Zijan Timis Company whereby 600 buses will be imported to the country. ...

Russia to build oil refinery in Syria: The value of the project is 2.7 billion dollars, reliable business circles reported on Wednesday. The complex to be built near Deir az-Zor is planned to be put in operation in 2010.

This is not the first contract. On December 5, the Stroitransgaz Company signed a contract worth 200 million dollars with the state-owned Syrian Gas Company for the building of a gas-processing complex new Palmyra, which will include a factory, auxiliary production capacities and pipelines connecting the complex with gas fields.

Canadian Oil Companies Hunt for Oil in Syria


At 1/05/2006 05:17:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

I wouldn't trust Al Seyassia. But if it was true then the Saudi's have declared a full fledged war on Syria. but i highly doubt that Khaddam is that dumb. as said earlier my feeling is that Khaddam has accepted to become the pawn of his masters in riyadh and is not really looking or expecting for a come back to the political life in syria anytime soon.

At 1/06/2006 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Yabroud said...


At 1/06/2006 03:29:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Yabroud above, I agree with you but you need to be more concise

At 1/06/2006 08:47:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Well, Hariri Jr., Siniora and Nasrallah are all in Saudi Arabia to settle their differences.

At 1/06/2006 09:21:00 PM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

Figaro wants to know why it took Monsieur Khaddam thirty-five years to denounce Damascus.

This is from Le Monde:

[quote]On Wednesday 4 January in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac and his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, discussed Syria and Lebanon for an hour and a half, of which thirty minutes were spent in private. According to Presidential spokesman Jérôme Bonnafont, Mr. Chirac insisted that Syria “respond to the demands of the UN” and underscored the determination of Paris to ensure that “the UN commission completes its mission”. Shortly before the meeting, while extending New Years greetings to the press, Mr. Chirac had made statements to the same effect.

On the eve of his meeting with the French President, Mr. Mubarak was in Jeddah where he met with King Abdallah Ben Abdel Aziz to discuss Syria and Lebanon.

These meetings were meant to send a message to Syria, which is seeking an exit from the Hariri affair while bemoaning “Western aggression” to its Arab “brothers”. But by ignoring the advice of the Egyptian president and the Saudi monarch, who have been insisting on cooperation with the UN, Damascus, which was an ally of Saudi Arabia and had maintained good relations with Egypt, turns its back on them.

The meetings in Jeddah and Paris have brought increased pressure, already significant, upon Syria. The recent revelations of Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam on the nature of Syrio-Lebanese relations have increased suspicion of the implication of highly-placed Syrian officials in the assassination of Rafic Hariri. The international commission of inquiry has found “convergent proof” of such an involvement. Investigators want to question President Bachir al-Assad in person.

Damascus, which continues to question the impartiality of the UN commission and has attempted to cow Belgian magistrate Serge Brammertz, may have to desist. According to people who know him, Mr. Brammertz is an “efficient, independent-minded and forceful magistrate”.

Beyond the Hariri affair, Paris wishes to reaffirm its support of Lebanon, which has been rocked by assassinations for nearly a year. Mr. Chirac reiterated his support “of economic and political reconstruction programs pursued by the Lebanese government." Several days ago in a message to Fuad Siniora, Dominique de Villepin reaffirmed the determination of Paris to support the revitalization of Lebanon: "The period of irresponsibility and impunity has ended” said de Villepin, referring to 29 years of Syrian hegemony in Lebanon. [end quote]

And here is an interesting tid-bit. De Villepin speaks Arabic and was born in Morocco.

At 1/06/2006 10:22:00 PM, Blogger Syrian Republican Party said...

It was a known fact, the censors of syriacomment are not in Damascus but Washington.


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