Abdul Halim Khaddam.
(photo credit: AP)
"The Syrian regime cannot respond to what Israel did and is incapable of defending Syria," former Syrian vice president and current opposition member Abdul Halim Khaddam said in an interview published Thursday in the Nazareth-based A-Sinara.
When asked about the recent praise Prime Minister Ehud Olmert gave Syrian President Bashar Assad, Khaddam said that "Olmert's words are an insult to Assad's intelligence. [Olmert] tells him, 'I respect you and your policy,' and at the same time uses force against [Assad's] country. Is this the great respect? This is mockery, and why is Assad so silent in his turn?"
Khaddam went on to say that Assad was "a kid and a joke, and [the Israelis] want to laugh at him."
He added that Assad was incapable of responding: "He is incapable of anything except oppressing the Syrian people."
Khaddam, living in exile since the summer of 2005, heads the Front for Saving the Nation, an exiled Syrian opposition movement. In the interview, given in Berlin on the sidelines of a conference of Syrian opposition members, Khaddam said the alleged Israeli action was an act of aggression against Syria.
"The Syrians are worrying more and more, because the regime does not supply the means to protect Syria in air, sea and land," he said.
Khaddam claimed the Syrian decision to avoid responding was not a consequence of military weakness, but a political decision in line with past decisions to overlook Israeli breaches of Syria's sovereignty.
"The regime has the ability to respond, but not the will to respond ... and it is avoiding making a decision to respond and protect the motherland," he said.
According to Khaddam, Syria could have responded if it had had a democratic government, but "when the regime shakes up national unity and is not dealing with economic crises, the factors that make up the ability to respond to aggression are not there."