Abdul Halim Khaddam
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Abdul Halim Khaddam
Abdul Halim Khaddam in 1975
|President of Syria |
10 June 2000 – 17 July 2000
|Preceded by||Hafez al-Assad|
|Succeeded by||Bashar al-Assad|
|Vice President of Syria|
11 March 1984 – 9 February 2005
|Minister of Foreign Affairs|
5 July 1970 – 1 March 1984
|Preceded by||Mustapha al-Said|
|Succeeded by||Farouk al-Sharaa|
|Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch|
13 November 1970 – 9 February 2005
|Born||15 September 1932|
Baniyas, Mandatory Syria
|Died||31 March 2020 (aged 87)|
|Political party||Syrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (1984–2006)|
National Salvation Front in Syria (2006–2020)
Abdul Halim Khaddam (/ / (listen) AHB-dəl hə-LEEM kə-DAM; Arabic: عبد الحليم خدام; 15 September 1932 – 31 March 2020) was a Syrian politician who was Vice President of Syria and "High Commissioner" to Lebanon from 1984 to 2005. He was long known as a loyalist of Hafez Assad, and held the strongest Sunni position within the Syrian government until he resigned from his position and left the country in 2005 in protest against certain policies of Hafez's son and successor, Bashar Assad.
Early life and education
Abdul Halim Khaddam was born on 15 September 1932, in Baniyas, Syria. His family was Sunni Muslim with a middle-class origin, and his father was a respected lawyer. Khaddam obtained his elementary and secondary education in Baniyas and then studied law at Damascus University.
Khaddam became a member of the Baath Party when he was just 17 years old. He began his political career as governor of Quneitra after the party came to power in 1963. Then he was appointed governor of Hama and Damascus. His first government portfolio was economy and trade minister in the cabinet formed by then head of Syria, Nureddin al Attasi, in 1969, making him the youngest minister in Syrian political history. Then he was named as an advisor to Hafez Assad. He later served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister from 1970 to 1984. On 7 January 1976, Khaddam argued that Lebanon was part of Syria. During his visit to Tehran in August 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, he publicly stated that the Syrian government backed the revolution before and after the revolutionary process.
He then served as Vice President from 11 March 1984 to 2005. He was responsible for political and foreign affairs as vice president. Khaddam was also chief mediator during the Lebanon Civil War, thus giving him the unofficial titles of "High Commissioner" or "Godfather" of Lebanon.
After the death of Hafez Assad in 2000, a 9-member committee was founded, which was headed by Khaddam, to oversee the transition period. He was appointed by this committee as interim President of Syria on 10 June and was in consideration to be Assad's permanent successor, but instead helped Assad's son, Bashar al-Assad, who took office in June 2000.
Khaddam was slightly injured in an attack in Damascus in December 1976. In October 1977, Khaddam again survived an assassination attempt at the Abu Dhabi International Airport. However, Saif Ghobash, the United Arab Emirates' first Minister of State for Foreign Affairs was killed in the attack instead. The Syrian authorities argued that it had been planned and carried out by Iraq. Khaddam reported that Rifat Assad also tried to kill him.
Khaddam was one of the only senior officials in Syria who was close to Lebanese Ministers and members of Parliament, most notorious was his friendship with Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Hariri partnered with Khaddam's sons in many businesses projects in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.
As the new president, Bashar Assad strengthened his grip on the Baathist bureaucracy, Khaddam, and other members of the "old guard" of the government, gradually lost influence. He announced his resignation on 5 June 2005 during the Baath Party conference after publicly criticizing the regime's many blunders, especially in Lebanon, making him the only high ranking Syrian official to publicly resign office while in Syria and at a Ba'ath Party conference, a move which many inside Syria considered extremely brave because of the potential risks involved. He then went to France with his family in fear for their safety as intelligence reports started coming in of potential assassination plots against him and other members of his family by the Assad regime. That made him the last influential member of the "old guard" to leave the top tier of the government. The announcement came at a point when Bashar Al-Assad had been trying to have his political wings clipped, but still the most powerful Sunni member in an Alawi government. After resigning, he relocated to Paris ostensibly to write his memoirs.
Defection and exile
On 30 December 2005, Khaddam fled Syria. In an interview with Al Arabiya on the same day, Khaddam denounced Assad's many "political blunders" in dealing with Lebanon. He especially attacked Rustum Ghazali, former head of Syrian operations in Lebanon, but defended his predecessor, Ghazi Kanaan, Syria's interior minister. Khaddam also said that former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, to whom Khaddam was considered close, "received many threats" from Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian parliament responded the next day by voting to bring treason charges against him, and the Baath Party expelled him. Following the Khaddam interview, the UN Commission headed by Detlev Mehlis investigating the Hariri murder said it had asked the Syrian authorities to question Bashar Assad and Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa. He met with the UN investigators searching for the Hariri assassination in Paris in January 2006. His accusations against Assad and his inner circle regarding the Hariri assassination also grew more explicit: Khaddam said he believed that Assad ordered Hariri's assassination.
On 14 January 2006, Khaddam announced that he was forming a "government in exile", predicting the end of Assad's government by the end of 2006. Khaddam is the highest-ranking Syrian official to have publicly cut his ties with the Syrian government, including Rifaat al-Assad. Khaddam formed the opposition group National Salvation Front in Syria (NSF) in 2006 which supports political transition in Syria. The NSF had its last meeting on 16 September 2007 in Berlin, where some 140 opposition figures attended. On 16 February 2008, Khaddam accused the Syrian government of assassinating a top Hezbollah fugitive, Imad Mughniyeh, "for Israel's sake."
Khaddam was tried in absentia by a military court in Damascus and sentenced to hard labour for life and to be stripped of his civil rights and prevented from residing in Damascus or Tartus, his native town, in August 2008. The reason for the verdict was "slandering the Syrian leadership and lying before an international tribunal regarding the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri."
Following his defection, Khaddam was accused of accepting German and French bribes to bury nuclear waste in the Syrian desert in the mid-1980s. However, Khaddam later defended himself in 2011 by naming a Syrian officer, Ahmad Abboud, to be responsible for the operation, in collaboration with Mohammed Tabalo who imported the wastes.
Role in the Syrian Civil War
Khaddam was considered an opposition leader to the Syrian government by the United States and the EU. He maintained strong relations with many senior army generals who had defected from the Syrian government and was supporting them to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad. In 2016, he accused Iran of supporting the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, saying that Iran "is working along the lines of creating a Sunni power to fight Sunnis in the region". He also blamed the US, for "pushing Turkey into Russia’s open arms," and suggested that the US had a role in the recent coup. He also believed that the U.S. administration, was no longer capable of fixing the situation in Syria.
Khaddam was married to Najat Marqabi, who is a member of a rich and well-known Tartous family. They had three sons and one daughter. One of his granddaughters is married to Rafik Hariri's son. Khaddam was interested in reading political works and hunting.
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|Wikisource has original works written by or about:|
Abdul Halim Khaddam
- Hariri threatened by Syria head, BBC News, 30 December 2005
- UN asks to meet Syrian president, BBC News, 2 January 2006
- Former Syrian VP set to form government in exile, Haaretz, 15 January 2006
|Preceded by |
| President of Syria |
June – July 2000