Hariri and Sakr Caught Red-Handed
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 [what you get] to receive more."
The first batch of recordings contained enough evidence to establish the involvement of former prime minister Saad Hariri and Future Movement MP Okab Sakr in the ongoing bloody conflict in Syria. As Al-Akhbar revealed earlier this week, 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 allegedly 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, "I am now wanted by both sides," referring to both the regime and the opposition.
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, pointing out that leaders from the armed Syrian opposition meet periodically there with Sakr, as well as with representatives from Qatar, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
The representatives, according to the source, 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 were double-checked to ensure that the right consignment went to the right place, and that the ammunition dispatched matched 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.
The source then revealed the presence of operations rooms in Lebanon as well, which he said were "actively involved in the Syrian revolution" and are directly linked to Turkey. He added that six Syrians, in addition to a number of Lebanese, run one such room in north Lebanon.
Syrian leaders who come to Lebanon, the source said, are usually received at a villa in the Mount Lebanon area of Faqra. On one of his visits to Lebanon, along with other young men, the source stayed at the villa in question. They all received cash payments, and, according to the source, it was common to say that one was "going to or coming back from Faqra" each time they were going to get paid a large sum.
He pointed out that a retired Lebanese officer who had visited Turkey on a number of occasions is in charge of running this office. This same officer would often contact the operations room in Turkey to inquire about arms shipments dispatched to certain areas in Syria. Furthermore, the source maintained, MP Sakr "instructed us" to do whatever this officer asked.
For wire transfers, the source told Al-Akhbar, MP Sakr uses S., a money transfer company that conducts most of its transactions in an illegal manner and therefore cannot be tracked.
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 (SNC) 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.Hassan, he said, "gave so much to the revolution," and "often intervened to help and release those who were arrested for smuggling weapons."
Hassan sometimes also met with Syrians who were sent to Lebanon, according to the source, and had a role in smuggling out the French journalists who were trapped in Homs.
Sakr, meanwhile, dealt vindictively with those around him, said the source.
"Whenever he got angry with anyone, he would send them to a combat battalion in the front lines, whether in Homs or Aleppo," two of the most dangerous areas, he said, adding that three young men who were working with him ended up dying on these missions.
Another account he gave to Al-Akhbar involves Hussam Qaddour, also known as Abu-Fadel, a young man who acted as an arms procurement officer for rebels in Latakia. Presumably, the Lebanese MP sent Qaddour to test some rockets, "but he came back carried on a stretcher, and remains to this day in intensive care," the source said.
What happened was that Sakr asked Abu-Fadel to bring back footage of rockets being fired in the Haffa region, "bearing in mind that Okab knew full well that the regime troops in the area had radars and guided missiles and immediately responded to the location of rocket fire," the source insisted, accusing Sakr of "sending the young man to his death."
The source even claimed that Sakr "withheld ambulances which usually respond within half an hour," but on that day, he said, "it took them three hours to arrive."
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. The recording will be broadcast tonight on OTV News at 8 pm and will become available on Al-Akhbar's website at the same time.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.
Second Recording: We Need Advanced Weapons
Unidentified Voice: Hello.
Okab Sakr: Hello.
UV: Yes, brother.
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: [Good], 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.
Tomorrow on Al-Akhbar: All the bullets are at your disposal, Mr. MP.