Riyadh and Cairo Back Haddam`s Challenge to Assad

debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources report that Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal arrived in Damascus first thing Sunday morning Jan 8 with an royal order for President Bashar Assad to present himself without delay to King Abdullah in Jeddah. The Saudis were racing against time to put Assad on the carpet before the onset of the hajj later that day. From Jeddah, the Syrian president flew to Sharm el-Sheikh where he was severely rapped by Hosni Mubarak.
The day before, Damascus informed the UN team investigating the assassination of the former Lebanese prime minister last February that the president would not surrender to questioning. King Abdullah decided to give Assad a last chance to save himself and his regime.
This week, disaffected former Syrian vice president Abdul Khalim Haddam called for a popular uprising to oust president Assad, whom he called a traitor. Speaking to the BBC from Paris, where he lives under French intelligence protection, Haddam said: “Public opinion is very frustrated” and “There is an opposition in Syria which will find its way to leading the people to overthrow him.”
Haddam said the Syrian president should go to prison for his involvement in Hariri’s assassination. He has set up a headquarters at the Georges V Hotel in Paris for an operation to oust the Assad regime. A French security guard detail is posted there by presidential decree.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources reveal that Haddam has now gained backing not only from the US and France, but also from Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
There are three further important developments in the case.
1. The summons to Assad was preceded by a tete-a-tete in Jeddah Tuesday, Jan. 3, between Abdullah and Mubarak. They decided that since Syrian ruler had reneged on all the promises to them, they would withdraw their support and swing it behind American-French policy on Syria and Lebanon and the UN commission’s effort to bring Hariri’s murderers to justice, including top officials in Damascus. The Saudi and Egyptian rulers concluded the only way to bring Assad round to cooperating fully with the investigation was a taste of shock treatment. If that didn’t work, they would abandon him.
2. To drive the message home, Mubarak flew to Paris Wednesday Jan. 4, to report on the joint Saudi-Egyptian decision to President Jacques Chirac. He then visited Haddam who had been branded a traitor to Syria by the Assad regime.
3. Haddam’s next visitor was Saudi Prince Bandar al Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to Washington who has been appointed King Abdullah’s senior intelligence coordinator. They talked for several hours.
Both those visits were deliberately brought to knowledge of Damascus. But the penny did not drop. Assad still thought he had months to play with and could get away with defying Washington, Paris, Riyadh and Cairo as well as the UN inquiry commission. Hence the final warning delivered him Sunday in Jeddah and Sharm el-Sheikh.

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