Hezbollah was behind the execution of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri and the assassination was a “shared Syrian-Iranian decision,” Syrian opposition figure Firas Tlass told Al Arabiya.
In a sit-down interview with Al Arabiya, Tlass discussed the assassination of Lebanon’s ex-premier Rafik al-Hariri in a 2005 bombing, which he said “the Syrian regime had a hand and which Hezbollah executed.”
A UN backed tribunal in December convicted a Hezbollah member of conspiring to kill al-Hariri, however Hezbollah has denied any links to the attack.
Tlass said he “loved Rafik al-Hariri as a person,” however, the Syrian regime considered him an enemy.
This, he stressed, was particularly true of Bashar’s father Hafez al-Assad who only nominated al-Hariri as prime minister due to pressures from peers, notably Elias Hrawi, the former President of Lebanon.
However, both Hafez and Bashar al-Assad “strongly believed that al-Hariri was planning to become a Sunni Arab leader over Syria and Lebanon,” according to Tlass.
Tlass told Al Arabiya that “malign intentions intensified” against al-Hariri after Bashar al-Assad saw a video that reportedly depicted the late Lebanese prime minister claiming he would lead both countries.
“This is when malign intentions intensified against Rafik al-Hariri,” said Tlass. The “breaking point” was the occupation of Iraq.
“The Americans came in and complicated the situation,” he said. “Al-Hariri had strong ties with them and that complicated things further.
“From their (the Syrian regime) point of view, al-Hariri was coordinating with the Americans to invade Syria and topple the regime.”
His assassination was “a shared Syrian-Iranian decision,” claimed Tlass. “A Syrian-Iranian decision and a Syrian-Hezbollah execution.”
When asked if he has any credible proof, Tlass said: “There is no information simply because in Syria assassinations are ordered on a piece of paper or in-person, meaning that Bashar al-Assad invites three or four officers, which are all well-known, and he would tell them the name of the person to assassinate.
“The decision was from Iran and Syria and the officers were called in and given the order in Damascus to get the work done.
“They worked with high precision and executed with precision.”
Ties with Hezbollah
According to Tlass, he had an “excellent” relationship with Lebanon’s Hezbollah before it changed at the beginning of the Syrian revolution
Tlass, the son of former defense minister Mustafa, said: “(Hezbollah leader) Hassan Nasrallah used to visit my father at least once or twice a year.”
They both, said Tlass, share common ideals in that “Hezbollah and its project in Lebanon contradict the concept of the State.”
Tlass himself began to have meetings with Nasrallah, either at a hotel or in the Lebanese suburbs, often chatting for “an hour or two hours” at a time.
While many struggled to gain access to the Hezbollah leader, Tlass claims that was not the case for him, “as they considered our relationship to be friendly,” and he debunked media claims that the leader is living in hiding.
“He is not the type of person who would live underground,” said Tlass.
But after the conflicts in Syria erupted, Tlass fled his home country following the start of the civil war in March 2011. This is thought to be around the same time his father left the country too.
Tlass has since severed ties with Hezbollah, he claims, although says he still has contacts with relatives who are part of the group.
“No, not at all. I am completely on the opposite side,” he said when asked about his political ties with the group.
He recalled a message Nasrallah had sent to his father in 2015 on behalf of Bashar al-Assad.
“He stated, “Come back to Syria where you will be treated well and receive whatever you want, but your kids are our enemies”,” said Tlass.
His father responded, saying “I am in Paris and all of us are enemies.”
Tlass also discussed a “demographic change on the Lebanese-Syrian borders,” which he said is for the benefit of Hezbollah and Iran.
“It is commissioned by Iran to cancel the borders in that area. There are no borders and no police checkpoints. As a result, Hezbollah completely manages both Syrian and Lebanese sides.”
Bashar al-Assad’s regime has no presence of power in the area, said Tlass.
This demographic change, he added, is leading to “the more dangerous and more discreet conversion to Shia.”
Iran recruiting children, journalists as ‘weapons of war’
Hezbollah is now targeting children as young as seven in the eastern region of Syria and also media professionals across Damascus and Aleppo as part of new attempts to grow their army and gain control over enemies, Tlass told Al Arabiya.
“They send skilled young journalists to Iran for a training where they are taken care of and spoiled.”
“A lot of people say that they do not care about Bashar al-Assad, Turkey, or Syria All they care about is the winner and being with the winner. Iran is acting like a winner and inviting others to join it.”
“This is where the danger of Iran lies for the entire Arab region. Some people want to be alongside the winner.”