Friday, December 30, 2005

In Desperation, Khaddam Enters the Stage

The Hariri family decided that today would be the right time to show their cards to the world. Khaddam's interview on al Arabiyya was their Ace… their earthquake.

Frankly, they could not have pulled this stunt any sooner! The UN investigation has screeched to a deafening halt. Not that that matters anyhow, for the Syrians have been behaving as confident as ever, and some of their trusted mouthpieces, like the stalwart Patrick Seale, even occasionally admit that they did kill Hariri as a legitimate act of self defense. Two months ago, Presidents Bush and Chirac frequently mentioned Lebanon in speeches and press conferences; today, both heads of state are moot. In short, Lebanon has not been this isolated since the assassination of Hariri.

Domestically, we face a stalemate between the March 14 forces on one side and the Hizballah-Amal-FPM Tripartite on another. The country effectively has no government. Hizballah continues to conduct its private war against Israel in the South. There is even talk that the Tripartite is considering eliminating the March 14 parliamentary majority by walking out of Parliament and calling for new elections. Of course, this time, there would be no question as to who Baabda-Aley will go to. As for the other electoral districts, including Beirut (which was won without a real fight by the Future Movement), they definitely will not yield the decisive victories that they did back in June. In other words, the March 14 alliance is cornered, and its hands are tied behind its back. There is a real threat of returning to the status quo ante (pre-February 14 – with the sole exception of Aoun and the FPM’s presence in Parliament).

Consequently, Khaddam’s interview could not be more important. It is intended to help break the March 14 alliance out of its current rut. The Hariris have saved this card for exactly such an opportunity. Khaddam is no Husam Husam. He is a respected veteran Syrian official who is extremely difficult to discredit. His public testimony is intended to shame the opponents of March 14 and remind them of the “Justice” dimension of what is currently playing out within Lebanon and in its relations with Bashar’s regime. Another aspect of this maneuver has to do with Bashar’s judgment. If he cannot be judged in a proper court of law, then the Hariris want him to be judged by public opinion. Thus far they have failed miserably in winning the public relations battle. This initiative may be their first concerted effort at dismantling the ridiculous gains that Assad’s regime has made in an equally ridiculous “Arab Street.”

Khaddam’s interview could not have come at a better time for the March 14 alliance. Hizballah, Amal and the FPM are probably planning their countermove. They’re asking questions like: How much do they have to concede to this public relations coup? How can they counter it? Do they actually need to counter it? Or can they simply roll with the punch but stand their ground? The hard reality for the Future Movement and its allies is that if the Tripartite do not budge, I simply do not see what else will budge them. Lebanon is on the brink right now. Political developments can go either way. The ball is now in the Tripartite’s court. Let us wait and see what they do next.

22 comments:

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

“Khaddam is no Husam Husam. He is a respected veteran Syrian official who is extremely difficult to discredit”

Yeah sure, in fact “Al-Credible” is Abdul Halim’s middle name…and the man literally beams rays of respect and wisdom…he’s the Baathist Buddha of our time…and an old friend of king Fahd and sheikh Rafiq may Allah and Zeus keep watch on their souls…I know it for a fact because the grand mufti of Riyadh told me so…been there, seen it on Future TV, read it in Al-Nahar, done that…In a word, Khaddâm is the living embodiment of Syro-Lebanese friendship….

An ethereal friendship albeit cemented by feudal intermarriages [Dalloul + Hariri] cum shared spoils of crooked government tenders between 1991 and 2003 [Dalloul + Hariri + Khaddâm]: as the French say, these days one can’t just live off friendship and fresh water.

In 1989, when Khaddâm, Fahd, and Hariri engineered the collaborationist Taef “agreement” using a deadly mix of Wahhâbi dollars and Syrian menaces to sway hesitant Christian and Shiite lawmakers, a famous Paris-based Lebanese exile said the following:
“In a way, I can understand Khaddâm: the man is a thug but at least he works for his country…as for Hariri, well he’s just an amateur politician who thinks that he can succeed by collaborating with the enemy”

In many ways, MP Raymond Edde was speaking highly prescient words

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

Dr Vic, what are you arguing for? We all know who Khaddam is. The point is that this interview is a severe blow to Syria, and you know is true.

Raja, just replace the word 'respectable' by credible. Don't forget that Khaddam was the acting president of Syria for a short time...

Anonymous said...

You crack me up. You really think this is all a Hariri card? You don't think there are bigger issues at stake within Syria and that the repercussions of these statements by Khaddam may hit much bigger fish that the March 14 movement?

You just don't realize that this interview is a lot more far-reaching, and that Hariri's assassination is only one element. This is about the Syrian regime.

You have to stop idolizing the "Hariri family" and stop thinking they actually have "cards" and you also have to stop thinking the world revolves around Solidere.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...
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Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I can't be certain that the Hariris were behind this, but the fact that Khaddam's interview and the disclosure of Husam's photos occured on the same day can't be a coincidence.

Moreover, you have to consider that all of this is happening amid a governmental crisis in Lebanon concerning the formation of an international tribunal to try Syrian leaders.

Anonymous said...

I also do not understand why you think this is a Harir card. This is GREAT news. I am surprised at your microscopic analysis of it. This is unusual of this blog.

Anonymous said...

Khaddam is a long time ally of Hariri. He has political, business and family ties to the Hariri family. So yes, he's a card of the Hariri family.

Raja said...

critical anons,

Allow me to explicitly postulate that the Hariri family is the main thrust behind destroying the Assad family. Of course, there are other forces at play like Saudi Arabia, the United States and France... forces that are much more powerful. But, for the Hariri family, it is a personal matter. Very personal. And I'm not too sure the United States would prefer a Bashar(less) Syria to a Syria ruled by a very weak Bashar.

Another point to clarify is that the US, France and Saudi Arabia do not have direct links to Lebanon. The Hariri family does - the Future Movement. Therefore, their regional politicking has a considerable impact on local Lebanese politics. A point I tried to highlight in my analysis.

Finaly, some other commenters have pointed out the close relations that Khaddam developed over time with the Hariris; and last but not least, let us not forget that the main patron of the "al Arabiya" news channel is none other than... the Hariri family.

I am gradually beginning to realize that Middle East politics is not so much inter-state politics as it is inter-family politics.

Anonymous said...

One also has to pay careful attention to his words. Mr. Khaddam implicates Lahoud in a very specific manner. His words are by far and away more pointed than the Mehlis report in terms of teh Lahoud involvement.

Anonymous said...

Look at the Nahar front page from today, and you'll be treated to the sight of "Nabouha in bright Orange". How cute!!!!! Not so subtle. I bet Micho got a woody.


-FGA

Anonymous said...

Raja,

You make a good arguement. But why is it not a possibility that Khaddam decided to speak on his own, without being told to do so by Hariri. I would rather it be this way, it would make it all much more credible.

Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...
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Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

I think that the Hariri family played a big role in this but as anon said we need to see the greater picture here. Let us not forget that Khaddam has well-known Sunni credentials and advocated a light islamization of the Baath to appeal to the masses (the Iraqi Baath). Not surprisingly, the Assads who were always allergic to Sunnism and turned down his proposition.

The so-called 'Shia axis' may die before coming to birth. Removing the Allawite government is a compensation for the Saudis who have long wanted something in return for the loss of the Sunni regime in Iraq. There have been a political flip in the region. It's ironic that Iraq is under Shia control while Syria and Lebanon are reverting to Sunni control.

Since Iran is becoming the nuclear hegemon in the region, it's understandable (but is it desirable?) that a Sunni axis centered along Saudi Arabia is built to counter it.

Dr Victorino de la Vega said...

« It's ironic that Iraq is under Shia control while Syria and Lebanon are reverting to Sunni control. There have been a political flip in the region. »

Well, in many ways, one could argue this has always been the “neo-conservative” (ancient Pharisaic would be a more fitting appellation but I’m digressing) grand scheme right from the start i.e. circa 1995 when most members of the Bush administration were working as mere advisers to Benjamin Netanyahu’s rightwing government.

The real “irony” is that Bibi and his hardcore revisionist Likudnik friends lost power in Israel itself where they’re viewed as fascist nutcases by most of their fellow citizen including General Sharon…But, by a highly Hegelian twist of fate, they were able to win over George W. Bush and the “gentile” Republican establishment to their paranoid warmongering worldview…

As for the so-called “political flip in the region”, well it’s kind of too early to tell…

Q wait and see, as Baathist thespians used to say in the early 1990s before they took back “province nineteen”

;)

ma said...

Khaddam is not doing so for anyone except for himself. He might be a card for the Hariri's... but he cares less for what is happening in Lebanon. His main goal is to rule syria, he actually thought he would after assad's death. Always remember that all syrian officials never did Lebanon any good and Khaddam is one of them. He always thought Lebanon is part of Syria, a part that the syrians should rule. Overthrowing his regime is just a small part of what he would think about later. God save lebanon and the lebanese ppl!

reem said...

Whatever Khaddam's intentions in doing his interview (whether for personal survival and power or as a Hariri card), his declarations have revived the criticism against the Syrian Regime, and will hopefully add some steam to the UN investigation. Whatever the intentions, it is a positive thing for Lebanon, with some (such as Marwan Hamade) seeing it as a new year's gift. It is difficult to see how a weakened government will be able to take advantage of this development, but after Lebanon's cause seems to have slipped from the US and French discourses, this event could help maintain it on the international stage. The painful part is that all the recent events have distracted from the optimism and the positive mood that reigned in the months following Hariri's assassination. Although there have been signs of renewed confidence in the country, such as Standard and Poor's sovereign rating upgrade in October, the situation as I see it now that I am in Lebanon is far from rosy. Restaurants and clubs were struggling yesterday to cover costs, as the turnout for New Year's eve was below expectations. Any intervention that undermines Syria in favour of Lebanon is welcome...

Mec de la Mecque said...

Marwan Hamade seeing it as a new year's gift?

Yeah sure: Hmadeh, Junblatt, Tueni and Hariri literally licked General Asad’s boots and Khaddam’s moccasins nonstop from 1989 till 2000 while “subversive anti-Taef rebels” had to live in exile in France for fear of assassination…

And now you want us to believe these hypocritical Druze ("Munafeqeen") and pro-Saudi crooks are some kind of valiant knights fighting Syrian “terror”!

Allow me to be kind of skeptical to use a polite word

Anonymous said...

long live Lebanon a country for all of us even if we don't love each other and even if we hate other countrymen just because of their sects.
I hope all those who hate the others to wake up and start thinking how to build our country.
We dont want another war, war killed our families and friends, destroyed our homes and left scars on us.
Wakeup and think positive, a war can never be won, so why fight ????????

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I like your blog but I agree that the focus on the Hariri family is kind of off-base. This is not about Hariri, or if so only in a small way. This is definitely about Syria and it is about regime-change and if the US was not in on the actual planning it is definitely one of the intended audiences for the interview, the other being Khaddam's networks in Syria. If his old colleagues want to make a move, he has international support, including the US, which is why he is talking about reform, democracy etc etc, all Bush administration talking points. Does that mean he's a reformer? Hardly, but he's still campaigning for the presidency of Syria.

It's odd because while Lebanese are I think generally very sophisticated in their political analysis, most Lebanese -- from actual analysts and journalists to ordinary people -- have been missing the bigger issues here. Strangely, that's apparently not the case with Syrians, which you can see if you go over to Syria Comment, where they are arguing about who is more courrupt and who they prefer: Khaddam or Bashar? Basically, it's a campaign and Syrians will continue to cast their votes until something gives one way or another.

The Syrians, for all their ideological obsessions, also understand the US' attitude toward Syria, which again has little to do with Lebanon in the way most people think. Many Lebanese recognize that the US's larger Syria problem is not about Hariri, but they are wrong to think it is all about Iraq. It is not, it is about September 11. If the Syrians thought they could please the US with some dubious intelligence on jihadist groups, they were wrong. The US also wanted them to cut out Hizbullah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well, which they would not do. Iraq was merely the last straw.

The US has always had a hard time with Hizbullah but 9.11 made any sort of accomodation impossible, a very different state of affairs from pre-9.11. This should come as good news for the many Lebanese who have feared that the US was going to cut a deal with Syria over Lebanon at any moment. Of course it's probably confusing that one reason Syria is important to the US is precisely because of Lebanon, or Hizbullah. Maybe many Lebanese reject the idea because of sympathy for the "resistance." I will refrain from commenting on the wisdom of that in the hope that others will in turn refrain from arguing that Hizbullah is not a terror organization but a legitimate resistance movement. The reality of that fact is immaterial; the reality that matters is now for better or worse the one the US describes in accordance with its interests, and in terms of Hizbullah that refers to the peace process and the Iranian nuclear program. The US is going to keep pushing for full implementation of 1559 which is an index of how remote the possibility of any deal with Syria is. It's not going to happen; what the Lebanese should truly be concerned about is that there is probably a clock on implementation of 1559, most likely pegged to the IRI's nuclear program.

Anyway, many Lebanese seem to be missing the larger isues here, considerably larger than the Hariri family, and it would help them act and think, and serve and protect their country, more effectively if they did.

ma said...

mec de la mecques keep this spirit up and we'll certainly have a new year!!!!
wake up this is what they want, just try to accomodate with what we have in lebanon inorder to live together, never think ur better than anybody else

Anonymous said...

Reem, thanks for your analysis. I agree with you completely. The Khaddam statement is a very positive and significant event. I am more optimistic than most of you guys. I see inevitable change. I see Lahoud making a very disgraceful exist; I see him down in the books as a crook and a villain.

Bashar and company will be too weak to exert any influence on Lebanon.

Hizballah will be cornered but will survive with diminshed influence. I just really hope that the Lebanese govt will step to the plate and provide the Shia of the south with enough support so as to make Lebanese patriots out of them and not HA martyrs.

-FGA

Anonymous said...

I'm not optimistic at all. Khaddam's statements are a good surprise, but what now? We're still moving in the dark, with no clear common goal, and that is dangerous.

In response to Anon 6:12,
".. but they are wrong to think it is all about Iraq. It is not, it is about September 11."
It is actually about Israel too don't you think? The post-9/11 US administration has become more anxious to protect Israeli interests than before. That may be a consequence of 9/11. But the fact is that some motives behind the recent US actions/positions is clearly protecting Israeli interests. That is also giving many Lebanese (even those like me who are angry at the Syrian regime's war on their country) the feeling of being just a play-thing in the hands of the world powers. You get the feeling that from now till the Palestinians have their own country, Iraq settles down into a real democracy, Syria (as a country I mean and not a regime) survives the current crisis without blowing up into smaller pieces, Lebanon will go on bleeding.

(PS. I do think that the pro-syrian claim that without Syrian interference Lebanon will cut a bad deal with Israel is completely absurd.)