The West seeks to carry out an unlawful invasion of Syria by funding a “contra-Mujahidin-type surrogate army” to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, an analyst tells Press TV.
The comment comes as the Syrian state TV reported on Thursday that armed men assassinated a local government official in the al-Mazareeb town.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Jeff Steinberg of the Executive Intelligence Review, to further discuss the issue of the Syrian crisis.
The video also offers the opinions of two other guests: Ammar Waqqaf of the Syrian Social Club from London and Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, Robert Naiman, from Urbana, IL.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Jeff Steinberg, Damascus said it reserves the right to respond in kind to any possible attack by armed groups; Russia: more time needed. It accused some Arab and Western countries of dismissing Anan’s plans as a failure.
China welcomed the ceasefire, urged armed groups to honor the truce and then we have the UK: it slammed the initiative as frustrating with the US pessimistic at best- in terms of how they viewed it. It’s almost as if the US and the UK in a way don’t want the ceasefire to work?
Steinberg: I think that’s absolutely the case. You know, I see an absolute continuity here from the time of the invasion and overthrow of Saddam Hussein back in 2003 through the overthrow and assassination while in custody of Gaddafi last year and now on to the situation in Syria.
In all of those instances we’ve seen the British take a very strong point in support of absolute regime change. Remember the whole scandal around the sexed up Downing Street dossier, the white paper that was used as one of the chief propaganda drives for the Iraq war.
There was clearly a decision led by Britain and France that Gaddafi had to go. I think it had a lot to do with successful inroads that China was developing throughout the African continent with Gaddafi as a kind of key figure in that.
And now all of these governments are on the record of saying that the only acceptable outcome in Syria is the removal of Assad and so they’re carrying out an armed illegal invasion.
They’re financing a contra-Mujahidin-type surrogate army to overthrow the regime and this time around Russia and China said absolutely not.
Russia and China were lied to and basically manipulated into abstaining from the UN Security Council resolution that led to the overthrow militarily by foreign forces of Gaddafi in Libya and they just simply said we are not going to do it again.
Russia has strategic interests in Syria that are very well known from the Mediterranean port access Tartus, economic and military ties and for the Chinese the concept of humanitarian interventionism, the new buzzword is responsibility to protect these ideas represent a much broader fundamental assault against national sovereignty.
And so they are opposed on very principal grounds. So you have a fault line internationally and I think it should be obvious to some of the hot-head nations that are pushing this conflict to the edge that they could be mocking around with a much bigger war than simply a limited regime change operation in Syria.
This is very reminiscent and the Russians have warned this is like Europe before the Sarajevo incident that triggered World War I.
Press TV: Unless we look at the situation Jeff Steinberg in terms of how the US for example has reacted to what’s going on in Bahrain, how they reacted to what went on in Yemen.
Analyze that for us because on paper obviously they have different ideas about how all these revolutions should occur in terms of shaping it towards their political objectives. Put that into perspective for us Jeff Steinberg if you can.
Steinberg: Well, you know [retired US Army] General Wesley Clark wrote a book a couple of years ago and he has been interviewed a dozen times in the recent months and he recounted a conversation that he had with one of the leading US neo-conservatives Paul Wolfowitz back in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed.
And Wolfowitz said to him we have a span of about 20 years window before some other major world power emerges to challenge the United States and in that 20 year period there is a whole list of regimes that are going to be changed and he ticked a list of 6 or 7 or 8 countries which obviously included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Somalia.
And he just said all of these countries we have a period of time and every one of these governments they sided with the Soviets during the cold war- we’re going to get rid of all of them.
And what I think is very important to bear in mind, I agree with what the speaker just said about the fault lines and things but I think it’s very important to realize that there were some lessons learned after Libya.
We had the Russia and China veto. They’re not going to give ground for a United Nations Security Council resolution to be interpreted as a green light for regime change. The Syrian government realized that the strategy that was targeting them was identical to the strategy that overthrew Gaddafi.
They wanted to create a Benghazi-type liberated zone on Syrian territory and so you had three areas heavily targeted militarily by the Syrian government. You had Homs which was a short distance from the Lebanese border; you had Idleb in the north near the Turkish border and the Daraa area down in the south near Jordan.
They cut off the prospect of creating liberated zones that would be maybe called humanitarian corridors but would be areas where an alternative government could be installed on Syrian territory, recognized by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, France, Britain- and it’s a whole different ball game.
So militarily the Western alliance along with Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey suffered a substantial military defeat and so I look at this less as fault lines emerging as I see it as a re-groupment because they suffered a major military defeat in what’s fundamentally a military regime change operation.
So I think that the Russia, China actions have set it back substantially because the Russians and Chinese see a danger of a much larger war and for the Russians it’s a war that’s not very far from their borders.
You can’t separate the Syria situation from the Iran situation and now the North Korea situation. You’ve got a global eruption of provoked confrontations that could get very easily out of control.
And you have a world war situation rather than seemingly targeted and limited regime change operations.
‘West, allies anticipate collapse of Annan plan’
Reports from Syria say that anti-government armed groups are violating a ceasefire brokered by the UN-Arab league envoy, Kofi Annan.
Syrian state TV reported on Thursday that armed men had assassinated a local government official in the al-Mazareeb town.
Following the implementation of the truce, armed terrorists also killed an Army officer and injured 24 others, targeting a bus with an explosive device in the country’s second largest city of Aleppo.
In an interview with Press TV, Ammar Waqqaf of Syrian Social Club group in London, shared his thoughts regarding the issue.
The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Jeff Steinberg, senior editor of Executive Intelligence Review newsmagazine based in Leesburg, Virginia, from Washington and the policy director of justforeignpolicy.org independent and non-partisan membership organization, Robert Naiman.
The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: How would you describe the ceasefire, as fragile as it may be for the time being? Will it hold?
Waqqaf: Well, we do not know. I mean there are certain stakeholders who may very well be interested in breaking up this ceasefire; they are countries in the region that have vowed and pledged basically to continue arming the opposition and this obviously flies in the face of this entire peace plan.
There are also issues with regards to the opposition fabrication themselves. These are not coherent groups; these are groups that do not fallow a certain command structure.
So even if their leaderships or supposed leaderships say that are going to follow, they are going to commit to the peace plan, that does not mean at all that the troopers on the ground or the militants on the ground would actually adhere to this.
So we are not so sure that from the position of the militants that they would actually adhere to this and the Syrian army can retaliate at any moment obviously.
Press TV: When you say that they are not going to adhere to this and you talked about some of the countries behind this; I would like you to mention who those countries are. So what is going to happen when those UN monitors are going to be sent into Syria which there has been an agreement on that and they notice what is going on, then what?
Waqqaf: Well, the countries are no secret to anyone. It is Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. These are the countries that publicly vowed and pledged and voiced their interests really in arming the opposition and so on and so forth. And the Syrian government, when they asked for certain guarantees, they did specifically name these three countries.
With regards to the monitors, I think they are based on the hope that this ceasefire is going to hold and if that does happen, then probably they can find themselves in a place where they are actually monitoring who is attacking who.
But if we think within the logic of these countries who are very much bent on changing the regime in Syria and have got nothing to do with the interests of the Syrian people –in my own opinion obviously–, then probably they would want this peace plan to collapse. So let’s just see how it goes.
Press TV: When I asked you the first question, I got the feeling that it is an uphill battle since we have all these countries, the UN countries aside from China and Russia. They are all united in a sense for this not to work indirectly. I am not saying they want deaths but for the ceasefire not to work.
We are looking at two incidents already violated by these armed groups in which there were officials, two violations occurred where a Syrian government official was killed along with military personnel, one officer dead, 24 others injure.
This kind of goes beyond Syria in a sense, doesn’t it? Do you think that the tables are now turning gradually; the media is softening a little bit, even the Guardian reported these to be armed terrorist groups?
So may we see divisions within the UN, all of a sudden start appearing cracks perhaps where all of the countries are now realizing that what Assad is saying is indeed true, especially if these monitors come in the ground and therefore, will then that lead to maybe divisions by the countries who are now united against Syria who want Assad to leave, maybe backtrack a little bit on their views towards what is happening on the ground?
Waqqaf: Indeed. I mean we have seen the first signs of this in the presidential statement of the UN Security Council a few weeks back or three weeks back in itself. That statement in itself is actually backing down from certain high level demands that the “international community” or the West has actually demanded from Syria; you know the stepping down of President Bashar al-Assad and all sorts of issues. But then they have gone back a little bit.
I think the Western countries in general have realized that President Bashar al-Assad and his government command a certain critical mass of Syrian population approval in order to keep going on and on and on. So it is going to be very hard for them to stick to their original objective of toppling of the regime.
Now this message is yet to convince the other parties like the Saudis, the Qataris and the Turks because these three countries have actually crossed the line of low return very early on with their propaganda, with arming these rebels and with making a lot of pressure.
So there is a rift between what Western countries believe to be as realistic expectations of this conflict as an outcome and what the [Persian] Gulf States and Turkey think believe should be which is the full toppling of the regime.
So this is the crack that we are seeing and actually it was interesting today to hear the UN Secretary General saying that all countries of the world should actually work together to make this work and at the face of it, they might think that this is meaning Russia and meaning China but actually if you go deep into it, it may well be those countries who are refusing and they are still in a state of denial about the real position of the Syrian government and they believe that if the international pressure mounts more, then the Syrian government is going to collapse.
So in a sense, yes, there are cracks and I think we are starting to go towards the sort of solution; it is going to take time, in my opinion. And as you have rightly said, we have some incidents today and I think this proves that the opposition is really fragmented.
I am not going to say that they are not really committed to the ceasefire but what I am going to say is that there are certain groups on the ground who do not really follow this hierarchy which makes it even more complicated.
So what we are hoping for is that this would carry on, hopefully. I am not very optimistic, to be honest, but I am hoping that it would carry on and if that is the case, then probably the Western states could tell the [Persian] Gulf states and Turkey, look guy! This is a way out. Let’s just lower our expectations a little bit and see how we can be a little bit more constructive.
Press TV: My next question to you is going to be: where do you see this going? We have seen the positive steps that the Assad government has taken. As a matter of fact, they asked some of the armed groups and its members whether they are the former people of the army, for example, if they do not have blood on their hands to come forward and they will set them free to introduce themselves, in addition to the reforms, in addition to the elections taking place, and host of other efforts, do you foresee a political resolve coming on to the horizon as some are predicting?
Waqqaf: I think it is going to take time actually.
Press TV: How much time? Give us the time from your opinion.
Waqqaf: I think months really but I think it will all go down to how the international community really behaves. So for example in Bahrain we are seeing the international community at the moment scraping all problems under the carpet and saying let’s have this Grand Prix formula one and let’s pretend that is nothing is going on out there.
So in a sense, we do not want that in Syria; we know that there are problems in Syria. We want the international community to incubate instead of inflame the opposition; to incubate the opposition and start cooling their nerves down and tell them that you need to realize that the government is not really going anywhere and you need to sit down with them because there are a lot of people who are afraid, those who fled the country have been fed with information that if the Syrian army catches you, they are going to slaughter you all which is obviously not correct.