WikiLeaks cables unveiled by a Lebanese daily on Friday revealed that outgoing premier Saad Hariri wanted Syria isolated and its leader replaced with the Muslim Brotherhood and exiled former officials.
The release of the cables by WikiLeaks’ Arabic-language partner Al-Akhbar comes days after Damascus accused a member of Hariri’s Saudi-backed Sunni Future Movement of arming and funding anti-regime protests in Syria that broke out mid-March.
In the cable filed by the US embassy in Lebanon on August 24, 2006 – 10 days after the end of Iranian- and Syrian-backed Hezbollah’s devastating war with Israel – Hariri urged the international community to isolate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hariri also warned US officials of trouble in Lebanon should the international community fail to isolate Assad through sanctions.
When asked who could fill the void in the event of the toppling of the Assad regime, Hariri replied by “talking about sectarian demographics in Syria,” Al-Akhbar said.
He then proposed a partnership between the Muslim Brotherhood – currently banned in Syria – and former Syrian officials such as Abdel Halim Khaddam and Hikmat Shehabi, according to the cable.
Shehabi is a former Syrian army chief of staff.
Khaddam, formerly Syria’s vice president, resigned in 2005 after Syria pulled its troops from Lebanon before going into exile and voicing criticism of Assad’s rule over Beirut.
Al-Akhbar also quoted Hariri as comparing the Muslim Brotherhood to moderate Islamists in Turkey, saying they were open to the participation of Christians and women in power and would support peace with Israel.
Unprecedented protests demanding the end of 48 years of emergency rule and sweeping reforms erupted in Syria mid-March and continue to spread across the Baath-ruled country.
Hariri had sought to move closer to Assad since rising to premiership in 2009 before Shia militant group Hezbollah toppled his cabinet on January 12, 2011.