Daesh was nurtured by Iran, says former Syrian vice president

Former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam. (Newsweek Middle East)
Updated 30 October 2016
0

Daesh was nurtured by Iran, says former Syrian vice president

Former Syrian Vice President Abdul Halim Khaddam believes that the United States is no longer capable of solving the problems in Syria.
“The situation (in Syria) is highly complicated because of the stand taken by each of the great powers, in particular the US and Russia,” said the 84-year-old Syrian politician who has been in Paris since he defected from Syria in 2005.
In an exclusive interview with Leila Hatoum of Newsweek Middle East, he said the ongoing war had become an international power struggle taking place on Syrian soil.
Khaddam served over two decades as vice president, first under Hafez Assad, from 1984 till 2000, and later under Bashar until 2005.
For a period of 37 days, Khaddam was Syria’s interim president between June and July 2000, after Hafez Assad’s death and before Bashar took over.
“When no one looks after those who are oppressed, it creates a situation of bottled anger which only leads to one result — explosion,” the magazine quoted Khaddam as saying.
“It is under these circumstances that Daesh came into existence, first in Iraq with the remnants of the former Iraqi regime, and then expanding to Syria and elsewhere,” he said.
Khaddam claimed that Daesh was nurtured by Iran, which he said “is working along the lines of creating a Sunni power to fight Sunnis in the region.”
He said he had hopes when US President Barack Obama was first elected president because of what he had heard of Obama and his respect for principles. “However, we did not see these principles in the case of Syria,” he said.
According to him, Obama failed to take the opportunity to renew US relations with the Arab and Muslim world. “All that the Syrians heard from Obama was that Assad must go,” said Khaddam, adding that Washington seemed to disregard its former allies in the Middle East in favor of new ones.
“It turned out there was a US-Russian agreement, and the US reconciled with Iran despite knowing that (Tehran) rules Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and has mobilized the Houthis in Yemen to distract the Arab Gulf nations who are allies of the US.”
Khaddam said Russia managed to pull the rug from under the feet of the United States in Syria, and “Washington has no one but itself to blame.”
The US, he argued, made a mistake when it pushed its ally, Turkey, into Russia’s arms, thereby giving Moscow an upper hand in the conflict.
“The Americans were involved in the (failed) Turkish coup,” alleged Khaddam, a fact which left a bitter taste in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s mouth. “The Russians received bonus points after tipping off Erdogan about the coup two days prior to the event.” (This claim remains uncorroborated.)
He further charged that Europe, the Americans, and the Arab nations failed to seize the opportunity to cut the war short and so spare the Syrian people a great deal of death and misery. “They did not take the necessary measures that they should have taken years ago (to topple the Assad regime),” explained Khaddam, “despite their knowledge that the regime in Syria was a murderous one.”
He said the US stabbed the Syrian opposition in the back, explaining that when the Syrian revolution began, people thought the US wanted to help.
Shortly before the revolution began, Syria’s chemical arsenal was evolving, and US President Barack Obama “took a decision to hit the Syrian regime and send the US Navy to the Syrian coast,” said Khaddam.
However, it seems that the Russians managed to convince the Americans that they would take care of the problem of Syria’s chemical arsenal.
“Even the Arab nations were relying on the Americans and the Russians because they thought that the superpowers had interests in the Arab world. But what was the result?” asked Khaddam, evincing clear disapproval of the course events have taken.
The new US administration must work on rebuilding the broken trust between Arab countries and Washington, said Khaddam. He admires Hillary Clinton. To him, she has political experience, unlike her Republican opponent Donald Trump.
He said though the Iranian regime considers itself a custodian of Syria; however, things were different during Hafez Assad’s time. “He never allowed the Iranians to intervene in Syrian affairs,” said Khaddam, citing one example of Iran’s attempts to expand in the region.
“During Hafez Assad’s time, an Iranian delegation arrived in Syria and attempted to convert some Muslim Alawite Syrians to Shia Islam. A group from the Alawites came from the coast to us and informed Assad of the matter. They complained the Iranians ‘came to change our faith,’ and Assad ordered his foreign minister to summon the Iranian ambassador to deliver an ultimatum: The delegation had 24 hours to leave Syria.”
Khaddam believes that cutting the supply line between Iran and its external groups is necessary, especially in the case of Hezbollah.
“Hezbollah’s presence is linked to the presence of the regime in Syria. And of course, Iran is the sectarian reference for this party, and supplies it with money. However, should Syria’s Iranian lifeline be cut, then Hezbollah won’t be able to stand on its feet. Hezbollah without the Syrian regime is worth nothing,” said Khaddam.
The same scenario is playing in Iraq, said Khaddam, who claimed that up to 50 percent of the Shiite population is against Iran. “Syria is the place which leads to Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine,” he added.


Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

Updated 9 min 53 sec ago
0

Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

  • An exhibition is ongoing at the site designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in a call to save it
  • Until Oct. 23, a show titled “Cycles of Collapsing Progress” seeks to celebrate the era that gave rise to the fairground

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Close to the seafront in Lebanon’s Tripoli, giant curves of concrete stand testimony to dreams before the civil war, etchings of an exhibition park never finished but already cracking.
This month, a rare exhibition is being held at the site designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in a desperate call to save it from ruin.
Inside the vast grey grounds of the Tripoli International Fair in northern Lebanon, a palm tree throws its dark silhouette onto a giant concrete dome.
A thin arch sweeps high over a narrow footbridge, and a steep staircase spirals up vertically, onto a circular cement platform perched on a curvaceous pillar.
“It’s a futurist paradigm that is unique in Lebanon and the region,” said Lebanese architect Wassim Naghi.
“In its modernity, in its reliance on curves, it sums up the progress of architecture over a hundred years,” he said.
And with buildings dotted over an area the size of 70 rugby pitches, it’s among “Niemeyer’s largest works outside Brazil,” he said.
The Brazilian architect designed landmarks around the globe during a decades-long career that started in the 1930s and ended in the 21st century.
When he died six years ago aged 104, he left behind hundreds of buildings, in Brazil as well as in the United States, France, Malaysia, Algeria and Cuba.
But today his work in Lebanon is in urgent need of restoration.
“These buildings of reinforced concrete need to be restored rapidly. There are buildings being eaten away at, blocks falling down, and many cracks,” Naghi warned.
“We fear there will be unpleasant surprises, especially during the rainy season,” he said.
Until October 23, a show titled “Cycles of Collapsing Progress” seeks to celebrate the era that gave rise to the fairground, but also sound the alarm.
In the halls under the perched platform, visitors can admire a seabed of snaking rebar, or even an elongated white space rocket hanging from the cieling.
The show “documents a golden age in Lebanon’s modern history — the architectural, scientific and cultural dreams of the time,” said curator Karina Al-Helu.
During the 1960s, the tiny Mediterranean country had its own space program, successfully launching a small unmanned rocket into space.
When Niemeyer was first asked to design the outdoor space in 1962, there were plans for the rooms under the circular platform to house a space museum.
But dreams of outer-space exploration, and any museum to commemorate it, were indefinitely put on hold with the outbreak of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The exhibition aims to remind Lebanese visitors of this chapter of the country’s recent past, Helu said, but also shine a light on a landmark about to collapse.
In a country whose history goes back millennia to the Phoenician period, she urged the authorities to give equal attention to modern architecture.
“It’s great to restore buildings that show Lebanon’s ancient history, but we should also care about the landmarks of this country’s modern history,” she said.
Architect Naghi said he was not optimistic about any immediate intervention by the government.
“The current atmosphere of crisis in the country doesn’t bode well,” he said, referring to a months-long deadlock over forming a cabinet.
Any renovation should involve in-depth studies and specialized companies, he said, “and that would require a lot of money, as well as a government decision.”
Instead, Naghi and others hope that the site can be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Brazil’s capital Brasilia and an outdoor center in the south of the country, both of which were designed by Niemeyer, are already featured on it.
Sahar Baassiri, Lebanon’s delegate to UNESCO, said efforts were now being made toward adding the concrete park to the list’s contemporary architecture section.
Akram Oueida, president of the fairground, said Lebanese officials have made promises of assistance, but none have yet materialized.
Getting the concrete park listed by UNESCO may help, Oueida said: “That could open the door to funding from donors.”