Abdul Halim Khaddam

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Abdul Halim Khaddam
عبدالحليم خدام
Abdul Halim Khaddam (cropped).jpg
Abdul Halim Khaddam in 1975
President of Syria
In office
10 June 2000 – 17 July 2000
Preceded byHafez al-Assad
Succeeded byBashar al-Assad
Vice President of Syria
In office
11 March 1984 – 9 February 2005
PresidentHafez al-Assad
Bashar al-Assad
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
5 July 1970 – 1 March 1984
Preceded byMustapha al-Said
Succeeded byFarouk al-Sharaa
Member of the Regional Command of the Syrian Regional Branch
In office
13 November 1970 – 9 February 2005
Personal details
Born(1932-09-15)15 September 1932
Baniyas, Mandatory Syria
Died31 March 2020(2020-03-31) (aged 87)
Paris, France
Political partySyrian Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party (1984–2006)
National Salvation Front in Syria (2006–2020)

Abdul Halim Khaddam (/ˈɑːbdəl həˈlm kəˈdæm/ (About this soundlisten) AHB-dəl hə-LEEM kə-DAM; Arabic: عبد الحليم خدام‎; 15 September 1932 – 31 March 2020)[1] 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[2] 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[edit]

Abdul Halim Khaddam was born on 15 September 1932,[3][4] in Baniyas, Syria.[5] His family was Sunni Muslim with a middle-class origin,[6] and his father was a respected lawyer.[7] Khaddam obtained his elementary and secondary education in Baniyas and then studied law at Damascus University.[6]


Khaddam became a member of the Baath Party when he was just 17 years old.[6] He began his political career as governor of Quneitra after the party came to power in 1963.[6] Then he was appointed governor of Hama and Damascus.[6] 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.[6] Then he was named as an advisor to Hafez Assad.[8] He later served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister from 1970 to 1984.[9] On 7 January 1976, Khaddam argued that Lebanon was part of Syria.[10] 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.[11]

Khaddam, as Minister of Foreign Affairs, with Prince Saud al Faisal, Ronald Reagan, and George Shultz in 1981

He then served as Vice President from 11 March 1984 to 2005.[12][13] He was responsible for political and foreign affairs as vice president.[14] Khaddam was also chief mediator during the Lebanon Civil War, thus giving him the unofficial titles of "High Commissioner" or "Godfather" of Lebanon.[15]

After the death of Hafez Assad in 2000, a 9-member committee was founded, which was headed by Khaddam, to oversee the transition period.[16] 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.[9][17]

Assassination attempts[edit]

Khaddam was slightly injured in an attack in Damascus in December 1976.[18] 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.[8] Khaddam reported that Rifat Assad also tried to kill him.[19]


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.[20][21] Hariri partnered with Khaddam's sons in many businesses projects in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.[19]


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.[22] 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.[23]

Defection and exile[edit]

On 30 December 2005, Khaddam fled Syria.[24] 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.[25]

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.[26] 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.[5]

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.[9] 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."[27]


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.[28] 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."[28]

Corruption accusations[edit]

Following his defection, Khaddam was accused of accepting German and French bribes to bury nuclear waste in the Syrian desert in the mid-1980s.[29][30]

Role in the Syrian Civil War[edit]

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.[31] 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".[32] 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.[32][33] He also believed that the U.S. administration, was no longer capable of fixing the situation in Syria.[33]

Personal life[edit]

Khaddam was married to Najat Marqabi, who is a member of a rich and well-known Tartous family.[34] They had three sons and one daughter.[6] One of his granddaughters is married to Rafik Hariri's son.[35] Khaddam was interested in reading political works and hunting.[6]

He died of a heart attack on 31 March 2020 in Paris, France.[4][36][37]


  1. ^ Mroue, Bassem (1 April 2020). "Syrian ex-VP, foreign minister dies of heart attack in Paris". Huron Daily Tribune.
  2. ^ "Profile: Abdul Halim Khaddam". BBC. 31 December 2005. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  3. ^ "La mort d'Abdel Halim Khaddam, ancien vice-président syrien". Le Monde (in French). 1 April 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Syrian Ex-VP, Foreign Minister Dies of Heart Attack in Paris". The New York Times. 1 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Profile: Abdul Halim Khaddam". BBC. 31 December 2005.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h "Profile: Abdel Halim Khaddam". Lebanon Wire. 7 June 2005. Archived from the original on 27 March 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  7. ^ Drysdale, Alasdair (January 1981). "The Syrian Political Elite, 1966–1976: A Spatial and Social Analysis". Middle Eastern Studies. 17 (1): 3–30. doi:10.1080/00263208108700455. JSTOR 4282814.
  8. ^ a b "Syrian blames Iraq for terrorist attack". Ottawa Citizen. Abu Dhabi. AP. 26 October 1977.
  9. ^ a b c Bowen, Andrew (17 September 2012). "Syria's Future and Iran's Great Game". The Majalla. Archived from the original on 28 October 2012. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  10. ^ "Syrian chronicles 1973–1990". Tayyar. Archived from the original on 19 December 2011. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  11. ^ Badran, Tony (22 June 2010). "Syriana". Tablet. Retrieved 4 August 2013.
  12. ^ "Abdel-Halim Khaddam: "I'm not going to head Syria's transitional government"". The Voice of Russia. 10 September 2012. Archived from the original on 17 April 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  13. ^ "Syria Primer" (PDF). Virtual Information Center. 24 April 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 February 2013. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Syria's Assad forms new cabinet". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Damascus. AP. 12 March 1984.
  15. ^ "Khaddam due in Beirut soon". The Montreal Gazette. Beirut. AP-UPI. 15 June 1984.
  16. ^ "Bashar Aims to Consolidate Power in the Short-Term and to Open up Gradually". APS Diplomat News Service. 19 June 2000.
  17. ^ Takieddine, Randa (1 April 2020). "Godfather of the Assad regime takes Rafik Hariri secrets to the grave". Arab News.
  18. ^ "Syrian minister wounded in attack". The Palm Beach Post. Damascus. UPI. 2 December 1976.
  19. ^ a b Glass, Charles (4 August 2005). "An Assassin's Land". London Review of Books. 27 (15). Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
  20. ^ William Harris (2012). Lebanon: A History, 600–2011. Oxford University Press. p. 262. ISBN 978-0-19-518111-1.
  21. ^ Mugraby, Mohammad (July 2008). "The Syndrome of One-Time Exceptions and the Drive to Establish the Proposed Hariri Court" (PDF). Mediterranean Politics. 13 (2): 171–193. doi:10.1080/13629390802127513. S2CID 153915546. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 October 2013. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
  22. ^ "Syria party kicks out 'traitor'". BBC. 1 January 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  23. ^ Moubayed, Sami (5–11 January 2006). "The fox speaks". Al Ahram. Archived from the original on 27 March 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  24. ^ Mallat, Chibli. Lebanon's Cedar Revolution An essay on non-violence and justice (PDF). Mallat. p. 125. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 February 2012.
  25. ^ Stern, Yoav (30 December 2005). "Former Syrian VP says Assad was involved in Hariri's death". Haaretz. AP. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Khaddam meets UN panel". Gulf Daily News. Paris. 8 January 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  27. ^ "Khaddam Accuses Syria of Killing Mughniyeh". Naharnet. 16 February 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
  28. ^ a b "Khaddam is sentenced to hard labour for life". Gulf Daily News. Damascus. 31 August 2008. Retrieved 23 December 2012.
  29. ^ "Republic of Caution". washingtoninstitute.org. 20 February 2006.
  30. ^ الرئيس السوري يصدر توجيهات صارمة بمنع فتح ملف النفايات النووية وبقية ملفات خدام الأخرى. ahewar.org (in Arabic). 19 February 2006.
  31. ^ "Khaddam calls for Syrian revolt". BBC News. 6 January 2006. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  32. ^ a b Wahab, Siraj (6 October 2016). "Daesh was nurtured by Iran, says former Syrian vice president". Arab News. Arab News. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  33. ^ a b Hatoum, Leila (5 October 2016). "EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam". Newsweek. Newsweek. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  34. ^ "Syria-The Power Elite". Mongabay. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  35. ^ Bar, Shmuel (2006). "Bashar's Syria: The Regime and its Strategic Worldview" (PDF). IPS. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 12 March 2013.
  36. ^ Desk, News (31 March 2020). "Former Syrian Vice President Abdel-Halim Khaddam passes away in France".
  37. ^ "Syrian ex-vice president Khaddam, foe of Assad, dies in France at 88". 31 March 2020 – via www.reuters.com.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Hafez al-Assad
President of Syria

June – July 2000
Succeeded by
Bashar al-Assad