Happy New Year everyone! There is hope for freedom yet.
Happy New Year everyone! There is hope for freedom yet.
In truth, of course, Mr. Khaddam, who resigned his post back in May 2005, is actually living in exile in Paris, his growing disenchantment with the current regime and its President having reaching a certain climax with the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafic al-Hariri, his longtime friend and business partner.
But, the story of Mr. Khaddam’s disenchantment with the ruling clique dates back to the time before Bashar’s ascension to power. He was never in complete agreement with this move. Indeed, it seems clear considering that he was the VP at the time of Hafiz al-Assad as well, that he thought himself the more qualified person for the job. The rise of Bashar and the New Guard was problematic for him. The lot simply lacked the necessary experience and qualifications, and he obviously looked at them with much disdain.
Mr. Khaddam did not make say this in a direct manner though. In fact, when he spoke in a direct manner about the President, he said that he was nice and polite and that their relations was cordial, and that the President had bid his farewell before his departure to Paris knowing that Khaddam will be there for a long time. But later, he also said that he was rash and easily influenced by the very narrow circle of people around him, and that he took matters his own hands. Indeed, he made him appear extremely foolish, rash, amateurish, dictatorial, and all but accused him of ordering the assassination of Hariri in some fit of anger.
The assassination itself required the involvement of a whole apparatus, and could not have been committed by the likes of Ahmad Abu Addas, only an idiot would believe that, he said. He also said that such an apparatus cannot act on its own. The President himself in his Der Spiegel interview had said that the buck stopped with him. If so, and should the UN investigative Team reach the conclusion that a Syrian apparatus was involved, then the apparatus could not have acted on its own. Moreover, Mr. Khaddam, being a lawyer himself, praised the work of Mehlis and said that his reports were professionally done, and said that Mr. Mehlis mean to stress the technical aspects in his reports in order to avoid the politicization of the issue. The people who politicized the issue were the chief suspects, he said.
This is how Mr. Khaddam chose to implicate the President. Mr. Khaddam also implicated President Emile Lahoud as being one of the key instigators of the Syrian regime against Hariri.
The picture he draws is one of a country currently ruled by a crime syndicate headed by an impulsive buffoon.
The fact that Mr. Khaddam himself and his family had been part of the syndicate up until recently and that he benefited much from various corruption schemes in the country was brushed aside.
Mr. Khaddam also said that he knows much more than he would say at this stage. He will keep silent at this stage for the sake of Syria. He said that when he had to choose between the regime and homeland he chose the homeland.
When asked about Assef Chawkat and Maher al-Assad, he said he has no dealing with people in military positions in the country. As for the alleged suicide of Ghazi Kanaan, he said that he cannot deliver a final judgment on the matter, but that he wouldn’t rule suicide, for the man had been going through some very tough psychological conditions.
Mr. Khaddam also said that he was the extension for Lahoud and that he had cautioned the President against that, and the President had assured him that this won’t happen, only to hear a few days later while in Paris, that the decision to extend for Lahoud was made. He then called al-Hariri and advised him to accept the extension but resign his post. He said that he told al-Hariri that he could not handle opposing the decision directly.
Why Mr. Khaddam come out into the open at this point in time and not earlier? It seems that MR. Khaddam was leaning more towards spending the last years of his life quietly. But, this was made difficult for him on account of reports that his life in danger even as he lived in Paris, and indeed, it was said that French authorities had warned him against making too many public appearances. Also, there were reports in the Syrian press recently that reflected negatively on him, and reports that the remaining property that his family have in Syria was about to be confiscated. Indeed, the family of Mr. Khaddam had been busy liquidating their assets in the country for years now, so the family was for long preparing for such an eventuality. Their liquidation activities increased in the last few months.
My friend and colleague and head of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, Martin Indyck, was mentioned a number of times in the interview as well, in reference to his meeting in 2004 with the Syrian President. Mr. Khaddam said that the President had briefed him on the content of this meeting among other such meetings with American officials. It seems that the President read too much into the American emphasis on Iraq and thought that this gives him a free hand in Lebanon. Khaddam warned the President against such thinking, to no avail.
Indeed, to his credit, Martin soon realized the tendency of the Syrian President to misread messages. In fact, his talk with the President centered more on the possibility of a track 2 exercise involving Syrian, American and Israeli officials by way of paving the way for an eventual, resumption of the Syrian-Israeli peace talks. I know this, because I was at Brookings at the time, and I was involved this effort. We were hoping that by reaching a peace agreement between the Syrians and the Israelis will pave the way for some internal reforms inside Syria. I was never really convinced of this line, but I also believed that we should try everything to get some movement on the internal front. Our efforts did not work, of course.
I will have to reveal more about my former behind the scene activities in due course of time, I guess. But for now, let’s see how the Syrian regime deals with this little bombshell.
Meanwhile, and while some has begun calling for the UN team to talk to Mr. Khaddam as a witness, I think that it is quite probable that the new witness referred to in Mehlis 2 is indeed Khaddam.
Sovereignty issues and the independence of the homeland mean absolutely nothing to me. If the devil can provide high living standards, good education and healthcare systems, and adequate safeguards for basic liberties, let the devil rule. The problem with our ruling devils is that they cannot provide any of these things.
By transmogrifying into vampires, they forced the people to become leeches, then, they dealt with them as such. Since I don’t like being treated as a leech, I cannot stomach having vampires for leaders. I also cannot stomach the idea of becoming a vampire myself. I never developed a taste for human blood. Hell, I even don’t like the way my own blood tastes. I prefer tee, or orange juice. An occasional beer or a glass of wine will do nicely as well.
Some dignity wouldn’t hurt either, and the ability to be my own master will always be appreciated. The occasional tyranny of nature suffices for me. I really don’t want to see it augmented by input from my “peers.”
This is where all my opposition comes from, and my heresies. Things could have been much more simple had I been born an American or a Japanese. But I had to be born a Syrian. This complicated things for me. This is simply not a good time to be a Syrian. Ever since I had to struggle to make things simpler, perhaps even less Syrian.
The struggle goes on. It’s a very personal struggle.
As we celebrate Christmas this far from the Holy Land (and of course we do celebrate Christmas, what’s a point of being a heretic if you cannot celebrate Christmas?), things appear to be as murky as ever. But the kind of holiness that I like, the holiness of family and friends, and momentary contentment, is all around us today. This suffices.
Merry Christmas, and merry heresies, everyone.
Some will argue that the peoples of the Middle East are simply not ready for that. I agree. Giving the freedom to do what they want, most people in the Middle East might seek to simply create an alternative form of servitude, e.g. Iraq. Still, I see no other way for people to learn anything about self-governance but to muddle though, e.g. Iraq.
This is a very expensive learning process of course. But, shall I say that freedom is worth it?
If so, would I then opt to live, à la Voltaire, in a place like Iraq while it undergoes such baptismal rituals?
Are you crazy? I am a heretic. My life wouldn’t be worth two pennies there.
Yet heresy is really in the eyes of the beholder, and there are currently thousands of heretics living in Iraq today, for all, the dangers they have to face every day?
Well, then, I guess that I have to admit that I am a coward. Or, I am just a man who saw an opportunity to take himself and his family out harm’s way, before things got ugly.
And things are bound to get ugly sooner or later in the old country. Things always take a nasty turn whenever people end up having fools for masters, and whenever they themselves tend to behave like fools.
“…it is highly unlikely that the Syrian regime will voluntarily effect any major changes in its general structure or its modus operandi. Half-hearted pressures on it to do so will probably not be enough. Still, a full-scale invasion with the goal of effecting a regime change, even with a good casus belli in hand, will most likely prove too problematic at this stage. Syria has a relatively new president who has been received with all due honors by many world leaders, including Spanish Prime Minister José Maria Aznar, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, German Prime Minister Gerhardt Schroeder, and French President Jacques Chirac. Syria's relations with the world community are much more intricate and ambivalent than those of the Taliban or the Saddam regime, as we have noted earlier. The case against Syria will never be as clear-cut as that against Afghanistan or Iraq. A full-scale invasion of Syria would seem to require a U.S. administration that is even more oblivious to the rest of the world than the current Bush administration seems to be. Moreover, even the plausible casus belli envisioned above, that is, the failure of the Syrian government to hand over certain wanted officials, might still not be enough to garner sufficient internal, not to mention international, support to invade Syria. This leaves only one potential avenue for future intervention: a series of diplomatic, rather than military, surgical strikes—that is, a series of seemingly minor diplomatic crises resulting in specific compromises that could produce the desired change over time and have the aggregate effect of a major, internal shakedown. A small stick and big carrot approach might indeed prove the more efficient way to deal with the Syrian regime, and might save us all from the clutches of both roughshod clean break advocates and diehard status quo beneficiaries. Another consideration that might help in avoiding conflict is the strong potential for Israeli involvement. Israel might want the Syrian regime weakened and humiliated, and to see the end of its support of Hezbollah, but it is highly unlikely that Israel would willingly participate in an all-out confrontation with Syria. Such a development might prove too costly, materially and humanly, for the Jewish state, especially since the possibility of WMD use might be more real here than it was in the war against the Iraqi regime. Just as Israel might have its apprehensions vis-à-vis an all-out conflict with Syria, so might Turkey, with its endemic Kurdish problem and continuing inability to explore any realistic solutions for it. Regardless of the dismissive attitude of the Bush administration with regard to international opinion and the anxieties of certain EU countries, it is highly unlikely (and quite unadvisable), that the United States ignore the wishes of its long-time, vital, regional allies. Smart diplomacy needs to prevail over smart bombs in the Syrian case.”Believe it or not, the above quote comes from a policy brief I have given at an international conference in Europe in May 2003, and later at various think tanks in the US as well. Ever since I posted this article on my personal website Amarji, it has received more hits than any other item on site, followed closely by a policy brief on Iraq called “The Aftermath of Conquest.”
As a novelist and a poet, nothing could more insulting. As an amateur political analyst, nothing could be more gratifying.
Reading the two articles on Syria and Iraq these days also show that my predicative abilities are that bad either. I mean, come on, predicating that a crisis concerning the handover of certain wanted officials could take place two years before any sign of something along these lines developing is really good. And predicting how the Syrian regime would behave was right on the money too. My predictions concerning Iraq were also quite accurate.
But what does really say about me? I mean, haven’t I been contradicting myself by calling for regime change in Syria, claiming that the regime is nonviable?
I don’t think so. For I am an activist as well as an analyst, the future of Syria matters immensely to me and I have a clear stake in the outcome as a citizen. I want to be able to influence the outcome.
My strategy is take advantage of the Syrian regime knack to create crises for itself and to play on that in the hope of exacting some concessions that can afford the opposition more time to reinvent itself and push for a change from the inside. For, ultimately, a peaceful change can only take place when there is enough pressure from the inside and when an internal alternative is allowed to impose itself on the scene. I want to help in the creation of a space for that alternative to emerge.
We now have a Damascus Declaration in hand. We have a call on the President to resign made from Syria by Syrians, and we have created more space for the reform elements in the regime to push for greater economic and administrative reforms. Let’s see what can be done with that over the next few months.
But no. It’s not time for the big carrot yet. In the final analysis, it is not clear yet to whom we are supposed to offer it. The campaign of diplomatic surgical strikes must continue for a while longer. We are on the right track though. Something Gotta give.
A special thanks to my “avid reader” for reminding me of these articles not too long ago, for pointing out the alleged contradictions in my stands, and for finally “de-masking” me. Wow, I feel strangely refreshed.
This is of course a complete misreading of the situation. The investigation is ongoing, and Mehlis has made it quite clear both in the text of the new report and throughout his pronouncements afterwards, including his latest interview with Asharq al-Awsat, that the Syrian regime is to blame for the murder of Hariri and that the next phase of the investigation will focus on Syria more than before.The sensationalism that surrounded the release of the First Report and this whole episode with the visibly deleted names might have hindered the investigation in many ways by creating an untoward political climate and alerting the chief suspects. Mehlis seems intent on avoiding a repeat of this situation in the future, as best as possible. In his words: “I think we should not give any suspect party involved the hint, or hints, of where this investigation is going, what we know, and what we will do. Because this is the only thing that could really harm the investigation.”
The next phase, therefore, might witness a more conservative approach to its relations with both the Syrian regime and the media. Still, investigators will have to talk to Syrians suspects of varying levels and the Syrian authorities will find themselves once again hard-pressed to deliver on what is likely to be undeliverable for them. The next six months, therefore may not necessarily be as quiet as might hope, be they members of the investigating team or the Syrian regime.
Still, and since the Syrian regime is not going to cooperate in indicting itself, the real focus of the investigation is going to be the analysis of the available physical evidence, that is the over 400,000 telephone records, the tens of thousands of available documents, the money trail, and the hundreds of testimonies on record. This is where the real evidence for the case is located. This is the stuff that convictions are made of.
Mehlis has just thrown us a curve ball, the regime is free to be fooled by it. In fact, let’s hope it will, no matter how partially so. The regime is at its worst when it is confident. Meanwhile, the opposition should focus on getting its act together and trying to communicate more effectively with the people, focusing its campaign on the ongoing corruption of the Syrian regime and the impact this is having on the country’s economy and standing in the world.
So Syria, it’s one more bet for old times’ sake. Will you give?
This is why I became a believer in regime change. It happened long before Hariri’s assassination.
So, does this mean that my analysis of the current predicament is somehow tainted by own unflattering views of the Syria regime? Of course, they are. Does that mean that I am wrong? Well, I am not sure whether being subjective is necessarily synonymous to being wrong. Otherwise, there can be no right in this world.
Still, and what matters to me at this stage, and seeing that I continue to stumble into things against my better judgment (but not necessarily my inner pre-disposition), things like giving a damn, like becoming an activist, then an oppositionist, and before that a husband and a father, is to see myself being able to live without fear in the very country that I am supposed to call home, and to live free and under no one’s patronage.
I obviously cannot do that with this regime on board. Hell, I may not be able to do with this regime gone even, but that’s a different story, a story of continued cultural alienation and rejection, one that is too chronic to be cured. But with this regime gone, I’ll have a choice, I guess, no matter how theoretical. Or at the very least some visitation rights.
Still, my friends from the good old days of Bohemian quietism and frenetic almost obsessive intellectual and cultural pursuits must be angry with me now. Indeed, I have long been cast out from their heaven, it seems. Somehow, intellectual and cultural pursuits when taken place in a political and social vacuum prove not to be as fulfilling, as they ought to have been, I guess, for someone like me. So much so that someone like me simply grows out of being someone like me, as he slowly drifts away and becomes “other.”
But in Khawla’s arms and the children’s eyes, I do have an occasional respite and shelter, not matter how momentary. Perhaps that should suffice. Indeed, it often does. But being the pathetic fool and greedy bastard that I am I cannot help but yearn for an even greater sense of fulfillment. Yet such fulfillment might just be synonymous with death. Well, I guess I am bound to find out, eventually, just as we all are.
As for the timing of the event, it is indeed quite curious, but it could be quite coincidental. It could indeed just be related to the fact that with the return of Tueni’s from Paris, an opportunity presented itself to Syria’s operatives who already have a list of names that need to be dealt with. The idea that there is a blacklist of sorts has been around for quite a while now and seems to have some credibility. Moreover, and as it is often said, stupidity is not a defense.
As for all those European ambassadors saying that the Bush Administration should begin talking to the Syrian regime, well, and putting aside the ludicrousness of confusing real politick with a readiness for embracing thugs in the age of democratization and reform, there is one little thing that this nice piece of advice seems to ignore, namely that there is an ongoing UN probe that has already implicated this regime and at the highest levels of political assassination. It is also obvious that bringing the guilty party to task is something that is bind to undermine the regime, so what are we talking about? This is not about what the Bush Administration is or is not doing, regardless of what one might think of if. Rather, this is more about the Syrian regime and the way it drove itself into the corner and declared itself defunct.
This regime does not behave in any kind of a rational manner that can allow for any kind of constructive dialogue to take place. Just ask the Saudis, the Egyptians, and the French about their experiences with negotiating with Bashar, just listen to what our Foreign Minister al-Sharaa has to say. And oh pray do get yourself investigated by Assef Chawkat for a change and see what this thug has to say about the nature of the contemporary world. These are Syria’s leaders. These are the people with whom the US should be making its deal, according to all those rational coolheaded observers out there. I say if one is seeking a deal to reopen Auschwitz under a new and improved management, well then this regime might indeed qualify.
But if that’s real politick for you, I strongly beg to differ. It sounds more like real polidick to me, and I am just tired of being screwed.