Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hariri and Sakr Caught Red-Handed
Radwan Mortada, al-Akhbar, Nov 30 2012
The exploits of Future MP Okab Sakr have not been limited to providing arms to Syrian opposition fighters. The recordings obtained by al-Akhbar have also shed light on his pivotal role in closely following up on military operations in Syria, even personally leading military operations rooms spread throughout Turkey and Lebanon. The source who provided al-Akhbar with the incriminating Hariri-Sakr phone recordings, a former associate who worked in one of Sakr’s military centers in Turkey, had one condition for releasing the rest of the recordings:
Publish these and you’ll receive more.
The first batch of recordings contained enough evidence to establish the involvement of former PM Saad Hariri and Future Movement MP Okab Sakr in the ongoing bloody conflict in Syria. As al-Akhbar revealed yesterday, Sakr and Hariri have not only been providing weapons and logistical support to the armed Syrian opposition; they have also been directing military operations remotely, and apparently using the Syrian civil war to pursue their own interests, with little or no thought for the collateral damage. While the source confirmed that he remains in the Syrian opposition camp “fighting against the oppressive regime,” he said:
Now I’m wanted by both sides.
The source backed up his claims of association with Sakr by providing al-Akhbar with private photos of the Future MP taken in several locations, and spoke in detail about events he witnessed over the span of more than a year working with Sakr in the so-called “revolutionary operations rooms” in Turkey. The source explained the nature of these rooms, and the kind of people who are often present there or who oversee them, saying:
Leaders from the armed Syrian opposition meet periodically there with Okab Sakr, as well as with representatives from Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. The representatives often provide input and sometimes even instructions and general guidance. For example, a representative could weigh in on the need to deliver the appropriate type of ammunition to a certain location, especially since many mistakes have been made in this regard. On one occasion, for example, ammunition for Russian-made “Val” assault rifles was sent to combatants who were only equipped with Kalashnikov rifles. For this reason, shipments are now double-checked to ensure that the right consignment goes to the right place, and that the ammunition dispatched matches the weapons sent previously. Later on, instructions were given to rig supply trucks transporting weapons with explosives that can be detonated in the event they are captured or ambushed. The strict measures in place include disciplining anyone responsible for losing a single bullet or shell. There are operations rooms in Lebanon as well, actively involved in the Syrian revolution, directly linked to Turkey. Six Syrians, in addition to a number of Lebanese, run one such room in north Lebanon. Syrian leaders who come to Lebanon are usually received at a villa in the Mount Lebanon area of Faqra. On one of my visits to Lebanon, along with other young men, I stayed there. We all received cash payments, and it was common to say that one was going to or coming back from Faqra each time we were going to get paid a large sum. A retired Lebanese officer who had visited Turkey on a number of occasions is in charge of running this office. He will often contact the operations room in Turkey to inquire about arms shipments dispatched to certain areas in Syria. Okab instructed us to do whatever this officer asked. For wire transfers, Okab uses a money transfer company that conducts most of its transactions illegally and untraceably.
Concerning Sakr’s ties to the Lutfallah II, a ship seized in north Lebanon carrying weapons from Libya, the source confirmed that members from the Syrian National Council were involved in the smuggling in agreement with Libyan figures and Colonel Malik al-Kurdi. He denied any involvement by Sakr or the retired officer mentioned above, however, and said that Sakr was “furious” that day and accused the SNC of having been infiltrated by the Syrian government. The source also distinguished between the head of the Lebanese Internal Security Forces Information Branch, the late Wissam al-Hassan, and Sakr, over the manner in which each man treated others, saying:
Hassan gave so much to the revolution. He often intervened to help and release those who were arrested for smuggling weapons. Hassan sometimes also met with Syrians who were sent to Lebanon, and he had a role in smuggling out the French journalists who were trapped in Homs. But Okab dealt vindictively with those around him. Whenever he got angry with anyone, he would send them to a combat battalion in the front lines, whether in Homs or Aleppo. Three young men who were working with me ended up dying on these missions. Hussam Qaddour, also known as Abu-Fadel, was a young man who acted as an arms procurement officer for rebels in Latakia. Okab asked Abu-Fadel to bring back footage of rockets being fired in the Haffa region, knowing full well that the regime troops in the area had radars and guided missiles and immediately responded to the location of rocket fire. Okab sent him to his death. Ambulances usually arrive within half an hour, but on that day, it took them three hours to arrive. He came back carried on a stretcher, and remains to this day in intensive care.
In today’s installment, al-Akhbar has published the transcript of a phone conversation with an unidentified man who inquires about anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, in addition to requesting the delivery of machine guns, machine gun bullets, and RPG rounds. Audio experts could not confirm the identity of the second person. While one expert affirmed it was Saad Hariri, others disagreed.
Second Recording: We Need Advanced Weapons
Unidentified Voice: Hello.
Okab Sakr: Hello.
UV: Yes, brother.
OS: Yes.
UV: What is required? What do you need?
OS: We need machine guns, bullets, PKC [machine gun] bullets, RPG rounds, and more advanced weapons for Aleppo, the Aleppo countryside, and the Idlib region.
UV: Which areas specifically?
OS: Aleppo and the Aleppo countryside, [and] Azaz and the surrounding regions. There are areas under siege in Idlib; a number of areas are coming under intense attack at present. The order needs to be delivered as quickly as possible.
UV: Okay, but what advanced weapons specifically?
OS: I don’t know. Nothing specific. But the order basically [consists of] anti-aircraft and anti-tank [weapons], along with ordinary or light to medium weapons.
UV: Okay, Okay.
Third Recording: Sakr and Mokdad in the Operations Room
Abu Rashad (in charge of supplies in Hama and environs): Assalamu alaikum.
Louai al-Mokdad (spokesperson for the Higher Council of the Free Syrian Army): Welcome, welcome dear, wa alaikum assalam, how are you?
AR: Mr Louai?
LM: Yes, how are you doing?
AR: How are you?
LM: May Allah bless you and protect you, what’s new at your end?
AR: Where are you people?
LM: Yes, brother, we are in a room, me and Mr Okab and all the men are here. Tell me, how is the situation there?
AR: It’s good that Okab is near you because we are doing very badly. It is very, very urgent, more than you can imagine. [There are] fierce clashes and the shelling against us has intensified a great deal.
LM: Very well. We can all hear you in the room, and here is Mr Okab, he can hear you too.
OS: Did your situation deteriorate more? More than yesterday and the past two days?
AR: By God, the shelling against us intensified a lot [as well as] the clashes. The situation is very urgent. We urgently need help.
OS: Ok, where are you, in Hama? In Idlib?
AR: Hama and Idlib.
OS: Do you need us to increase the quantities? You mean the quantities we sent are not sufficient?
AR: Yes, yes, increase the quantities.
LM (speaking to OS in the room): What do you think, should we increase the quantities?
OS: No, no, let’s [definitely] increase the quantities.
OS (to AR): I, Abu Rashad, have received many reports from inside from a number of the men, all saying the same thing, that the [intensity] of the situation will increase. Now I will instruct the men to increase the quantities by as much as possible, because I am aware of the situation you are in. You are heavily compromised.
LM: I will put you immediately on the lists. Now, immediately, the men will put you on the lists. Don’t worry.
3rd Recording: Hariri in Field, Rebel Battalions Receive Saqr’s Monthly Allowances

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