A former vice president of Syria has called on the U.S. and Europe to pursue non-violent regime change in Syria.
Abdul-Halim Khaddam resigned from the Syrian government in 2005 and moved to France, where he formed the National Salvation Front opposition group. He says his organization seeks to bring democracy to Syria.
“We are not asking the U.S. or Europe to resort to violence to help the Syrian population in its struggle for democratic salvation,” Khaddam said in an interview with WND. “We are only calling upon the international community to lift the cover on this totalitarian regime … and to suspend its diplomatic relations with the ruling authority.”
Khaddam said “a regime change today is looming on the Syrians’ horizon.”
Comparing the Baathist party government of President Bashar Assad government to the former apartheid regimes of South Africa, Khaddam argued the Syrian government presents a threat to the U.S.
“The Syrian regime presents a real threat for the United States and the West, because it is turning Syria into fertile land for the expansion of extremism, which is a natural reaction to the ruling regime’s tyranny, oppression and corruption,” he said.
“One might ask himself why these factions aren’t fighting Bashar Assad inside Syria; the answer is they both have mutual interests,” he said. “The extremists disregard Assad’s actions, and Assad facilitates, in return, their infiltrations into Iraq and Lebanon.”
Khaddam has been criticized by some for his alliance with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which also opposes the government of Syria.
The Muslim Brotherhood, regarded as the first radical Islamic movement of the 20th century, is where the founders of groups such as Hamas and al-Qaida got their start.
Khaddam argued his alliance with the Brotherhood was made “in order to strengthen national unity.” He insisted the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood cannot be equated with Hamas.
“The Syrian Brotherhood in Syria is a Syrian party while Hamas is a Palestinian party,” he said. “Each of the two has its own conditions and strategy stemming from its national context.”
Khaddam emphasized that Syria would not allow clerics to have political power, and he favored “equality among all Syrians regardless of religion, sect, ethnicity or gender.”
While Khaddam and his National Salvation Front has partnered with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, he refused to partner with another Syrian opposition group called the Syrian Democratic Coalition, which includes the U.S.-based Reform Party of Syria.
Khaddam said his group and the Syrian Democratic Coalition do not share the same goals, without specifying the differences. He did admit to differing with Farid Ghadry, the president of the Reform Party of Syria, on Israel. Ghadry spoke before the Israeli Knesset in 2007.
Khaddam said he would not visit Israel, saying the Israelis are “occupying Syrian lands in the Golan Heights, violating the rights of the Palestinian people, and United Nations’ resolutions.”
Despite the differences, Ghadry is insistent that the Syrian opposition groups unite.
“If the Syrian opposition does not unite, minority and majority, men and women, secular and devout, we will not be able to remove Assad from power,” Ghadry said. “He has succeeded in dividing us and some still have this naïve notion that agreeing amongst ourselves in a future democracy is not imperative to practicing it today.”