Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sakr Tapes: Saad Hariri In the Syrian Battlefield

Hariri personally charged Sakr with the Syrian opposition file from the very start. (Photo: Marwan Tahtah)
Published Monday, December 3, 2012
The Lebanese parliamentarian fears for his safety and information on his role in bombings in Syria is revealed in Al-Akhbar’s third installment of the report on the Sakr-Hariri tapes. These bombings killed dozens of civilians. As Hariri continues to delegate from afar, Saudi Arabia and Qatar intervene to block the release of Lebanese hostages in Syria.

Saad Hariri’s relationship with the Syrian opposition – with those that adopt the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in particular – dates back to 2005. And Okab Sakr was one of the first to open direct lines of communication between Hariri and the opposition.

In the beginning, when Sakr was still in Beirut, he managed “media coordination” and, at times, coordinated ground operations with Syrian opposition members. But the relationship remained in the shadows.
Despite Hariri’s original declarations of dissociation, during the early stages of the uprising in Syria, Sakr was privately working on strengthening Hariri’s ties with members of the Syrian opposition.
According to an Al-Akhbar source, in 2011 Sakr had set up an operations room, with a staff of young Syrians and Lebanese, to coordinate with a similar group in Europe, and another in Syria.

Although the protests had not yet spread far beyond Daraa, the Achrafieh-based war-room was transporting undetectable communications devices into Syria.

Hariri personally charged Sakr with the Syrian opposition file from the very start, and Sakr remained in charge after Hariri left Beirut.

As he took charge, Sakr began calling on the western-backed March 14 alliance to openly declare its position on the crisis in Syria.

And he started to worry about his safety. When his personal computer in Beirut was hacked, he insisted on leaving the country. He discussed the issue with Hariri and [assassinated security chief] Brigadier Wissam al-Hassan.

After consultations, Sakr moved to Belgium, planning to stay only a short while.

As he became more and more entangled with the Syrian opposition, however, and as Hariri remained abroad, he ended up living between Europe and Turkey.

Then, the Saudis decided to support an armed Syrian opposition, and Okab started funneling weapons.

This is the story as it has been exposed by the Hariri-Sakr tapes, which were leaked by a former associate of Sakr’s to Al-Akhbar.

The source of the tapes says that a large number of armed Syrian opposition brigades were being partly financed by Sakr.
Sakr's associate, the source of the tapes who worked alongside Sakr in his revolutionary endeavor for more than a year, said that Sakr was giving Abu Ibrahim, the commander the Northern Storm Brigade, monthly installments of $50,000. This armed group is charged with last May's kidnapping of 11 Lebanese pilgrims.
The source said that Hariri and Sakr tried for the release of the abductees. But when Hariri's plane landed to take them home, Saudi and Qatar intervened to halt the effort.

While the source insisted that the fate of the kidnapped pilgrims is not entirely in the hands of Sakr, as he is certain that the latter cannot go against orders from higher up.

Despite rumors of collaboration, Sakr has always denied his role in arming the rebels.

He often dared people to prove his involvement. During a television appearance on Marcel Ghanem’s LBCI show, Sakr challenged, “If you can prove that I gave any of them a gun, I will go to court.”

He repeated his challenge on Paula Yacoubian’s show, on the Future news channel, declaring: “I stick to my words. Bring forth the evidence and take me to court.”

In yet another interview, this time in the al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper, Sakr said, “Weapons are not our thing,” He asked how they could be sending weapons to Syria, that they did not even use in Lebanon.

“We support the Syrian people with all our abilities, as instructed by [former] prime minister Saad Hariri,” he said. “And from day one,” he added: “I have not done anything without full consultation and direct orders from Saad Hariri.”

Sakr never revealed the secret behind his ability to negotiate with the armed groups, and he continued to deny his involvement in arming rebel Syrians.

He claimed that he was providing humanitarian support and that he went to Turkey to follow up on the abducted Lebanese citizens.

His top-level involvement is clear however, as he was even able to secure the release of the nine Iranians, kidnapped at the start of the Syrian uprising, by “calling in a favor.”

In today’s recording, Sakr receives a phone call from the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) official spokesperson, Louai al-Mokdad.

Sakr asks Mokdad to stay on the line while he finishes with another call.

He tells the man on the other line that the battle will be settled. According to the source of the tape, they were discussing the battle of Maarat al-Numan.

He assures the caller that he is following up on the issue minute by minute, and that the region will not fall. He promises to keep him informed of every detail, and that he will not rest until the battle is won.

Sakr then appears to hang up with the other caller and go back to Mokdad.

He tells Mokdad that the situation is a mess.

Mokdad asks if the man on the other line was Saad Hariri; Sakr tells him that the latter is “going mad”, and that he had wanted to end the battle...

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Recording Transcript: “Sheikh Saad Wants It Settled”

Louai al-Mokdad: ‘Allo

Okab Sakr: ‘Allo

LM: Yes, Okab...

OS: Yes, Louai, stay with me for a minute. Stay with me for a minute.

OS: [Speaking to someone else on the phone] Hello, yes. No. No. It will be resolved...It will be resolved...It will be resolved. We are following it up...I know you did not sleep. I did not sleep.

That too...We are following it up...I know, I know. And in Saudi. They are all following.

No. It will be settled, God willing. This one will be settled...Definitely...Okay, okay, we will talk...Yeah, yeah, I will inform you moment by moment.

OS: [Back to Louai] Hello. Hello. Yes, Louai.

LM: Yes, dear. What’s going on?

OS: It’s a mess. It’s a complete mess.

LM: Who was that? Sheik Saad [Hariri]?

OS: Hariri is mad as hell. He wants to settle it, in any way possible.

LM: Oh man, today I...

OS: You spoke to them? What did they tell you?

LM: They called me today more than ten times. The same needs. The smallest thing they want is medium-caliber ammunition, that is.

OS: Medium-caliber ammunition?

LM: At least. Did you put Sheikh Hariri in the picture?

OS: I did. Believe me, he is not sleeping. He is following up moment by moment and second by second. And he wants to settle it in any way. He was saying, this has to be resolved specifically, and there is no space for failure.

LM: Okab, there is a problem they are facing. Man, the region is falling and if it falls, there will be a domino effect. All the surrounding regions will fall. You know?

OS: Man, I know it is. But I told you. I spoke to his excellence and he said we had to resolve it. We did not go into the details and we will not go into the details. We have a cause we need to resolve and get it over with.
River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian
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