Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Khaddam and Muslim Brothers Team UP

Massoud A. Derhally: writing in Arabian business, "Syria's Khaddam Bombshell" believes argues that the cracks opening up within Syria mean the ultimate demise of the regime.

Though the Syrian regime may not be on the verge collapse, what have become palpably clear are the cracks within the system, which increase the pressure on the leadership and concurrently cast doubts about its lifeline. The evidence pointing to Damascus’s complicity seems only to be mounting in the eyes of the UN commission and the international community. Undoubtedly the choices before the present regime are few. As Kilo, the prominent opposition figure, says from his home in Damascus: “The regime cannot surmount the present challenges, it has a choice of reconciliation with the outside and reform on the inside, meaning a different political system. There is no other choice or else.”
I am not sure this is true, especially if one is using Khaddam's defection as a measure. As Massoud quotes me: "Joshua Landis believes that Khaddam’s testimony must be put into context; that he no longer is part of the clique that rules Syria and has little following in the country. “Khaddam and family are washed up in Syria — that is why he must now turn to America and the opposition and the UN process,” says Landis." This does not mean the Asad is winning. He is not. The Syrian army has been pushed out of Lebanon and will never return. Asad is trying to consolidate his remaining influence in Lebanon and there are clearly many Lebanese who are not averse to this because they continue to see confrontation with Israel and the "West" as necessary values. So long as they do, Syria, as champion of this fight, will find a role in Lebanon and the region. To make this role obsolete, the West will have to stabilize Iraq and the US will have to withdraw its troops. Also, most important to Lebanonese and Syrians, the Arab-Israeli conflict will need to be resolved. Sovereignty is an impotant issue and cannot be swept under the rug. So long as substantial percentages of Arabs and Syrians believe that the sovereignty issue can only be resolved by force and confrontation, they will look to the Baath regime as an ally - as well as to Iran, fundamentalists, or whomever can help them confront.

Here is Imaad Mustafa's defense of the Syrian regime in the face of US accusations that Syria stirred up the demonstrations and violence in Damascus and Lebanon. Both the US and Damascus have some truth on their sides:
NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--The Syrian ambassador to the U.S. denied Wednesday that his country was inflaming sentiments over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad as charged earlier in the day by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Imad Moustapha told Cable News Network that two major causes of anti-western sentiment are the occupation of Iraq and the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

CNN quoted the ambassador as saying "if somebody would tell Secretary Rice that Syria is not the party that occupies Iraq and is not the party that occupies the West Bank and Gaza then probably she would know" Syria wasn't responsible for "fueling anti-western sentiments."

At a news conference in Washington, Rice had charged that Iran and Syria had "gone out of their way to inflame sentiment" over cartoons that first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September.

Protesters have attacked the Danish embassies in both countries, and Rice noted that both Iran and Syria are countries in which the government maintains tight control.
Khaddam has teamed up with the Muslim Brothers in order to strengthen his hand. This is something he has called for for a long time. For over a decade he has argued within the Baath Party that it must move away from a strict nationalist stand in order to embrace Islam. As he once said, "Nationalism has not liberated an inch of occupied territory. Only Islam can do that." He was impressed with the power of the Iranian example. See this story " Asad's Alawi Dilemma," on "Syria Comment" a year ago for the quote.

Here is Nadim Ladki's story at Reuters Feb. 8. on Khaddam's new alliance with the MB and plans.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam and the exiled leader of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood agreed on Wednesday to join forces to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

A source at Khaddam's office said the former official held talks with Ali Bayanouni, head of the Sunni Islamist group, in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday.

"There was agreement on a joint vision to save Syria from the crisis that the regime has placed it in," the source told Reuters in Beirut by telephone. "It was also agreed to contact other opposition leaders inside and outside Syria to come up with a joint plan of action."

The source said the two leaders also rejected any foreign intervention in Syria: "The responsibility of changing the corrupt regime in Syria lies only on the Syrian people."

Bayanouni confirmed the meetings in a telephone interview with the Arabic television station Al Jazeera.

"The most important aspect we agreed upon in our last meeting is the need to work with other national powers and hold meetings with them ... to agree a formula for cooperation amongst us," Bayanouni said.

Khaddam was for 30 years a political ally of Assad's late father, authoritarian president Hafez al-Assad.

Now he is promoting a detailed "national action program" that calls for a transitional government in Syria to take the country from the totalitarian regime to a democratically elected parliament that appoints a government.


It also calls for a separation between the powers of president and those of the legislative and executive bodies, the abolishing of a four-decade state of emergency and the release of all political prisoners.

The program also stipulates the democratic government would commit to the return of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967, in any peace deal with the Jewish state and respect all U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Khaddam, a Sunni Muslim who quit in June and has since moved to Paris, broke away from Assad in December. He said last month that Assad was facing growing pressure from economic problems at home and the international investigation into the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

Syria, led by Assad since his father died in 2000, faces international isolation and possible U.N. sanctions unless it cooperates fully with the inquiry into the murder of Hariri a year ago.

The inquiry has implicated Syrian officers in the killing and Khaddam has said Assad personally had threatened Hariri and that the assassination could not have taken place without direct orders from the president.

Damascus has denied any links to the murder and has not agreed to let investigators question Assad, though other security officials have been quizzed in Vienna.

The Brotherhood, founded in Syria in 1945, is widely seen as the most serious rival to the Baath Party which in 1980 made membership of the group punishable by death.

It became involved in violent opposition to Hafez al-Assad's military-backed government in which his fellow minority Alawites held many key posts, culminating in an uprising that was ferociously suppressed in the town of Hama in 1982, where many thousands died.

More than 70 percent of Syria's 18 million population are Sunni Muslims.
Ehsani writes in the comment senction that he likes Khaddam's plan:

I think that the well advertised meeting between Khaddam and the Moslem Brotherhood leadership today could be significant What Khaddam could be trying is two fold:

1- Increase his power base and his Sunni Islamic credentials
2- Attempt to show the west that he has the ability to include the Moslem Brothers under his umbrella and potentially be able to exert influence over it in the future.

It is interesting to note that Khaddam’s “national action program” calls for a transitional government in Syria to take the country from the totalitarian regime to a democratically elected parliament that appoints a government. It also calls for a separation between the powers of president and those of the legislative and executive bodies, the abolishing of a four-decade state of emergency and the release of all political prisoners. The program also calls for the return of the Golan Heights in any future peace deal with Israel.

I, for one, find the above goals very noteworthy. In spite of this man’s alleged corruption record, I find the above program extremely attractive. There is no doubt that he faces a significant hurdle in making his case to the Syrian people who may have problems embracing him. Having said this, the Syrian people may have to make the most of all the bad deals on the table. Between having the above implemented by an ex corrupt individual or continuing with the status quo, my choice is clear. At this moment in the country’s modern history, we have to set our priorities. We simply cannot expect a saint to drop from the sky to take the leadership of this country and rid us of all its ills. Note the word, transitional government. If Khaddam can spearhead this effort and if enough guarantees can be made that this would indeed be an actionable national program, I think that Syrian people ought to take this deal. This opinion is going to be controversial, and I understand that.

P.S. Thank you Active Listener for the kind words. It is indeed the case that there are so many smart and articulate Syrians out there. Thanks to Dr. Landis, he has provided to us this entire attractive forum to be able to communicate, discuss, agree and disagree.


At 2/09/2006 09:46:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

I dont see this gang-up as a serious development just yet.

To me this alliance highlights the MB’s desperation as well as its newfound pragmatism. It might be the strongest opposition party out there but they still have to compete with many different secular parties that oppose MB dominance. So if the MB held a stronger hand they would not be willing to align themselves with the very image of their oppressors.

I also dont see much help that Khaddam can bring to the MB. my full view regarding the issue is on my new post.


At 2/09/2006 09:54:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

abolishing the emergency rule is great, cooperation with other group to represent the syrian people is great, the other point which has been missed, is fight coruption,the money that has been taken away by Assad and his family and all officials who benefit from his corruption, must return to the people, here I dont trust Khaddam, would he return the money, would he explain how he made his money, where did you get this money from, we need to go back to 1955-1958 days, Shukri Al Quwatly died after honorable strugle not taking a penny.
this meeting Khaddam and BIanoni, has one importance it is the begining of other meetings, that other group will join, and may be work with the inside opposition.

At 2/09/2006 10:12:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/09/2006 10:37:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

I would like to elaborate and expand on my original comments above. My apologies for the length.

At the outset, I also agree with the many that think that Khaddam is not an ideal instigator for the change that this country desperately needs. What is critical though is to think of this as a transitional and 2-step process. In order to unseat Assad, the prospective person/group has to have very strong external contacts. We may not like hearing this, but it is a fact. Khaddam does have the powerful backing of S. Arabia. He also seems to enjoy the backing of France. While we cannot confirm what the U.S. thinks of his candidacy, one can safely assume that Saad Hariri has done his best to market him well in the White House. Indeed, the White House must also view a Khaddam led Syria as a way to open a positive and powerful Syria-Lebanon axis. This can do wonders for isolating Iran from its Lebanese contacts. Not surprisingly, Khaddam has recently started arguing against the increasingly warm relations between Syria and Iran. Perhaps this is directed at the White House. In sum, Khaddam can boast an interesting array of external backers that could make a case for his candidacy. This does not mean that the Syrian people will like it. Indeed, the regime has and will do its best to paint Khaddam as an agent of the above external forces, precisely because they fear their support. They Syrian people would naturally buy that argument.

One of the things that I find intriguing is why would a person like Khaddam come out the way he did in the first place? This man is a fox. He could have easily enjoyed the fine food of Paris and lived happily in his lavish villa by staying out of politics. Instead, he chose to give up his potentially lavish retirement and risk it all. Why would he do that if he did not have strong hints or inklings that Bashar’s days are numbered? Could he have heard or known that Bashar’s personal indictment is near certain and hence he had to make his move from now?

In conclusion, of course the country deserves better than this man. Of course, moving from Bashar to Khaddam is not exactly a brilliant trade. The man has amassed a fortune and benefited from his public office. But who hasn’t? Whatever Kaddam has accumulated, it pales in comparison with what the Assad/Makhlouf clan has been able to accomplish. It is not even close. Even Tlas has made more than Khaddam. I do not want to sound like I am condoning this man’s past or actions. The Baath party and the Assad rule is at blame here. Anyone in Khaddam’s or Tlas’s positions would have done the same. You see your boss steal and plunder. He turns a blind eye when he sees you doing it and the vicious circle continues till the plug is pulled on you. What we all have to do here is try to be realistic. As we go forward, International backing is going to be critical. A person who can assure the region and the International community that chaos will not ensue is also going to be critical. Working with the Moslem Brotherhood leadership could well be a signal to all interested parties that he has the ability to contain this movement under his wing should he be given the nod. The Syrian people and the west do have the responsibility of ensuring that this move is strictly transitional. Khaddam must be held accountable to implement his so-called “national action program” as listed above.


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