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PRESIDENT ASSAD INTERVIEW: ‘WHAT IS HAPPENING IN EGYPT IS THE FALL OF POLITICAL ISLAM’

President al-Assad in interview to al-Thawra newspaper: what is  happening in Egypt is fall of so-called “Political Islam”

Jul 04, 2013

Damascus, (SANA)-President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech to Syrian al-Thawra daily published on Thursday.  

The following is the full text of the speech:  

Interviewer: During this difficult time of crisis, it has often been said that Syria can accommodate everyone, but in reality it has not embraced all of its citizens. What has led us to this point?

President al-Assad: First of all, I would like to welcome you in my office. I am particularly pleased that this interview coincides with the 50th anniversary of Al-Thawra newspaper. This is a momentous occasion for every patriotic Syrian irrespective of their political affiliation.

We often view nations as a group of people occupying a certain territory; whereas in fact a nation is about a sense of belonging and of culture which both ultimately form a collective identity. With a strong sense of belonging, we can ensure a united country that includes everyone. When the colonial powers left Syria, it was not to liberate the country but to reoccupy it through other means.

One of their core strategies was to divide and conquer. By division, I do not mean redrawing national borders but rather fragmentation of identity, which is far more dangerous.

When we live in the same territory but have different identities, we are already a divided country because each group isolates itself from the rest. When this happens, it is right to say that the country does not accommodate everyone.

In this context colonialism has been successful in creating separatist groups that consider their ideologies and values as solely and legitimately representing the country and hence rejecting all other groups. This success has not happened overnight, but rather during several stages.

The first of which was the Omayyad dynasty, where identities were tampered with, chasms created and many common elements destroyed resulting in fragmentation and ultimately the collapse of the Omayyad State. The same also applies for the Abbasid caliphate in ancient history and the fall of Palestine in modern history.

The rifts we have witnessed in modern history have come with the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood and the negative role they have played after the independence of many Arab countries like Syria. They created the first split between Pan-Arabism and Islam, working hard to form a country for Islamists and another for nationalists. These attempts continued when colonist powers in Lebanon attempted to create a country for Muslims and another for Christians. The implications of the Muslim Brotherhood have transpired, the most dangerous of which is the presence of Al Qaeda which was generously supported by the West on the back of the Islamic revolution in Iran. After this revolution, Iran emerged as a firm supporter of the Palestinian cause, the essence of Arab identity. They attempted to incite sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiites and to damage the relationship between Arabs and Persians. After the 9/11 events and the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, these rifts were extended between the takfiris and all other Muslim sects.

The more schism in a country, the less it is able to accommodate its entire people. On the contrary, Syria is still accommodating to all Syrians due to people’s ability to grasp these realities and reject this strife hence preventing it from materializing. Syria remains for all Syrians as long as we can prevent these pockets of extremisms from spreading.

Interviewer: Mr President today is the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Al-Thawra Newspaper. You first stated that what is happening in Syria is not a revolution; certainly you had a conceptual foundation behind these statements. Here let me reference the Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, during his first meeting with the opposition delegation in Moscow when they introduced themselves as revolutionaries; he asked them, “If you are revolutionaries representing a revolution, why do you need the outside world?” There is a historical saying: no state in the world can endure a popular revolution. I personally entirely subscribe to this theory. What made you say that it was not a revolution from the inception?

President al-Assad: From a historical perspective, any genuine revolution is purely internal and cannot be linked externally by any means, as manifested by the Russian, French and even the Iranian revolutions. Real revolutions are intrinsic, spontaneous, and are led by intellectual and ideological elites. What occurred in Syria since the outset of the crisis was flagrant external interference. There were attempts to hide this, but it has become absolutely clear. This is evident by the fact that we continuously hear external extrinsic statements regarding what should and should not be done in Syria.

Secondly, the real revolution of 1963 – which your newspaper is named after – was a revolution that empowered the country, society and human values. It promoted science and knowledge by building thousands of schools, it brought light to the Urban and rural areas of Syria by building electricity lines and networks, it strengthened the economy by providing job opportunities according to competencies. It supported the wider foundations of society including farmers, labourers and skilled-workers. The revolution at the time built an army indoctrinated in national values that fought the fiercest of battles, it stood unwavering in those difficult circumstances and it won in the 1973 war. We are now perhaps enduring the most challenging circumstances in which the army has shown that its revolutionary foundations and ideological values are as strong as ever.

Revolutions are about building countries and societies, not about destroying them; so how can we call what is happening in Syria a revolution? Attempts to package the events on the ground as a part of a revolution have been futile from the beginning.

Interviewer: Mr President, do you not believe that there were some in the country, even a small minority, who believed in the idea of the revolution, and hence contributed to it and embraced it in the beginning?

President al-Assad: Exactly, and this leads us back to the question of identity. What you are depicting happened for one of two reasons, both of which bear extremism. Either because there are some who completely abandoned their identity and embraced a “Western Dream” even with all its flaws or there are those who went in exactly the opposite direction and abandoned their identity and embraced religious extremism, which is inherently more dangerous and potent. Both trends are inflammatory. Without a doubt there are numerous aspects of western civilization and advancements that we should benefit from, but to be dazzled by the West and to drop our own identity, this would just be another category of extremism.

Our original Arab identity represents the amalgamation of civilizations of thousands of years and is hence built on moderation in all aspects: social, cultural, political and religious. When this identity is being torn in any of the two directions I mentioned, the result will be these foci of extremism you mentioned. This is my greatest concern; extremism in following the West is as destructive to our identity as religious extremism and they both lead to turbulence, which is what we are witnessing in Syria and other countries. This is not exclusive to Syria, but perhaps the element of external interference in Syria was stronger than in other countries.

Interviewer: Nonetheless Mr President, do you agree that the concepts and forms of revolutions have changed significantly from previous examples such as the Russian or French Revolution? Is it not possible to consider what is happening in Syria a revolution according to different concepts? Is it necessary for all revolutions in history to follow the same methods and paths?

President al-Assad: Everything in the world changes however, there are fundamental human principles that should remain constant. Religions do not change, although they deal with change. Principles do not change, however mechanisms need to be adjusted to keep up with time.

If for the sake of argument we are to accept the notion that the concept of revolutions change, which would then make what is happening in Syria a revolution, we should then accept that the Israeli acts against Palestinians constitute an Israeli revolution against Palestinian oppression, or that the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan was a revolution. To accept the fact that conditions and circumstances are perpetuated or altered should not mean that principles are fundamentally undermined.

The West and all its propaganda have always attempted to realign the facts upside down to serve their agenda. Rights become wrongs and wrongs become rights that then legitimize their political practices. If they do that, it doesn’t mean that we should sleepwalk with them.

Interviewer: Despite this, Mr President, some outside Syria and even inside Syria have called it – and still do – a revolution. This is a real controversy that needs clarification.

President al-Assad: To correct your question, even the western media and statements by western officials hostile to Syria could not ignore that it was not a revolution. The term “revolution’s is no longer used. They have now shifted towards discussing terrorism, adopting the American notion of differentiating between ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists.’ So if those hostile to Syria have been able to see that this is not a revolution, it is only natural that most Syrians would be able to see this too.

There are of course those who refuse to see the reality because it serves their own agendas. Some embrace the same doctrines as the terrorists – the takfiri extremist ideology, so it is expected that they would believe this to be a revolution. There are others who suffer from ignorance and lack of judgement, who see through their eyes yet have a mental blackout. These groups bear little significance and are gradually shrinking. In any case, we are not significantly concerned by external factors because the events are more relevant to those inside who directly influence the events. The Syrian people are the ones fighting this battle and they are the ones persevering.

Interviewer: With regards to the external factors, it is well known that there are foreign fighters in Syria, possibly up to tens of thousands according to Western estimates. Mr President, why has Syria turned into a land for Jihad, and how has that transpired in such a short period of time?

President al-Assad: Syria has not turned into a land for Jihad. Jihad usually denotes benevolence; it is about construction, development, defending the country and the messages advocated in religion relating to virtuousness, justice and equality. What is happening in Syria is the complete opposite to the concept of jihad; Syria has turned into a land for terrorism.

This is due to several reasons. Chaos is a fertile environment for terrorism to breed. When the state was weakened in Afghanistan, terrorism flourished. The same happened in Iraq after the invasion. As they attempted to weaken Syria, the ensuing chaos transformed into terrorism.

Additionally, there are countries supporting terrorism in Syria in order to erode its historic characteristics of strength and immunity. These characteristics have always been evident in the international arena through our stances and nationally through our culture and intellectual thought. This attempted erosion is targeting our national unity, our infrastructure, our economy and the services that the state has always provided. Those who are hostile to Syria would happily watch its destruction, even in the long run. Another reason for western countries to support terrorism in Syria is their belief that these terrorist groups, which have been a security threat to them for decades, can be killed in Syria, hence shifting the battleground away from their own countries and destroying Syria in the process.

Interviewer: However, Mr President, not all those fighting in Syria are foreign fighters. We have seen a Syrian eating the heart of another Syrian. What has driven us to this phase?

President al-Assad: Often when discussing the Syrian crisis, I start by defining it as a crisis of morals, before discussing extremism, takfiri ideology and external intervention. All of these could never conceivably penetrate our society if it was protected by strong morals. A moral crisis paves the way for foreign interference in our internal affairs, it paves the way for people to be controlled by money and hatred and it paves the way for mercenaries who have lost their national and patriotic principles. When you lose your moral compass, you lose your humanity and turn into another creature, not even into an animal. Animals do not eat their brothers’ flesh out of hatred; they do so out of hunger. When you lose your morals and your principles, you lose the real value of religion. Religions came to reinforce humanity and cannot by any means be the pretext to behead humans and eat human flesh. When we lose the righteousness of religion, as is happening with some of these groups, religion becomes a mere façade. Religion would never instruct human beings to commit such acts.

Interviewer: When you refer to “eating brother’s flesh out of hatred” does this imply an instinct of hatred?

President al-Assad: Contrary to correct social and religious beliefs that are built on reason, distorted beliefs make humans hostile to others when they differ in doctrine. Hatred, not instinct, makes humans lose their sanity and drives them to behead others and eat human flesh. Human instinct is based on virtue as opposed to hostility. Weak morals and principles, and distorted beliefs are what drive humans away from sanity.

Interviewer: Mr President going back to your definition of jihad in its true meaning, we find unfortunately that the more prevalent form is based on fighting and killing. What can be done about this?

President al-Assad: The solution is to seek guidance from the Quran where the clear words of God resonate. Islam is a religion of mercy and forgiveness; the word “mercy” is cited tens of times in the Quran. Islam came to promote human values, enshrine mercy and love, and prevent killing. Did the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) not say in the Hadith al-Sharif: “The demise of the universe is easier for God to condone than the wrongful killing of a believer?” The Quran and the Hadith are both clear in promoting love, forgiveness, justice and humanity. Those who claim to emulate the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) should remember his behaviour as a human being before and after he became a prophet, they will find that his message was primarily based on human morals and principals.

I would like to pose a question to you and your readers: do these Wahabis and Takfiris and their acts resemble in any shape or form our great Prophet’s conduct throughout his life, either before or after he became a prophet? During my meetings with clerics in Syria and the Levant, I have often said that the Prophet Muhammad’s life should be studied in greater depth at all levels, by clerics and students alike, because the Prophet did not only convey the words of God, he embodied their meaning and practiced what he preached. If we go back to the Quran, the Hadith and the life and conduct of the Prophet, we will see the complete opposite of what these terrorists are practicing.

Interviewer: Who is responsible for this call to return to the Quran and the Prophet’s conduct?

President al-Assad:When a criminal, a thief or an extremist emerges from the fold of society, it is a collective social responsibility led by the government since it is responsible for overseeing all aspects, including religion. The government shares this responsibility with various religious institutions, including the Ministry of Religious Endowments, religious schools and institutes including those that have recently been licensed. These bodies are responsible for ensuring that our religious scholars are qualified to promote the correct religious ideology and focus on its essence rather than on the extremism that has infiltrated areas of our public life.

Interviewer: Some argue that the government carries the greatest responsibility in the sense that this extremist religious environment grew before the eyes of the authorities. They cite examples of religious schools that are not subject to oversight and do not have the proper curricula, or the building of mosques to avoid paying taxes.

President al-Assad: I have heard this many times during various meetings with people in the current crisis, that the government should not have encouraged these religious schools and that we are now seeing the consequences of this policy. This is unequivocally incorrect. In fact quite the contrary, throughout the crisis we have not had a single incident caused by any of the official religious bodies. More importantly, they have understood the genuine reasons behind the crisis and have worked effectively to contain it.

In a previous interview, I discussed the role of religious clerics. As for religious institutions, they have not produced any form of chaos or contributed to spreading sectarianism. The majority of those who emanated from mosques at the beginning chanting “Allah Akbar” did so to incite chaos and hatred whilst knowing nothing of religion. Others attended mosques to protest and chant “Allah Akbar” but in reality they did not know how to pray.

On the other hand, the religious institutions have existed for decades and they have been empowered and supported as far back as the1980’s during the Muslim Brotherhood crisis. The crisis at that time highlighted the importance of nurturing religious belief correctly since many Syrians were misled due to misguided religious awareness. The Muslim Brotherhood exploited these weaknesses in religious clerics and in society propagating themselves as strengthening religion in society against an “atheist” state fighting religion. Consequently, and based on the above, I believe that on the backdrop of this crisis, we need to embrace religion and religious institutions, and certainly not the opposite.

Interviewer: Mr President, decades ago sectarian strife afflicted Lebanon as it did in Iraq following the American invasion. Did we not realize that this would inevitably come to us? What have we done to confront it?

President al-Assad: Certainly, had we not feared this we would not have taken a strong stance against western policies that promoted this anarchy. We staunchly rejected the war on Iraq despite the serious American threats and great incentives at the time. We took this position not only because in principle we are against any aggression on Arab or friendly countries, but also because we were aware of the disastrous consequences that would follow.

Similarly we expressed concerns over the war on Afghanistan, especially during my meetings with American officials after 9/11. They expected us to be pleased that they would be attacking terrorists, especially since Syria from 1985 had repeatedly called for a clear definition of terrorism and the need to form an international alliance against it. This was not taken seriously at the time since terrorism had not yet struck within their borders. I have consistently warned American officials that the war on Afghanistan would promote and spread terrorism. Terrorism is like cancer, when you deal with the consequences rather than the root cause, it will only spread faster. Therefore, terrorism has to be rooted out and not just attacked. This cannot be achieved through war alone, but by education, culture, human interaction and prosperity. They did not pay attention to our concerns and we are still suffering from the consequences of Afghanistan. Again, in Iraq we warned that the situation would develop into sectarian tension and head towards partition, which we are slowly seeing. When we got involved in Lebanon in 1976 it was to protect Lebanon and also to safeguard Syria since that war had consequences on us from day one.

Therefore in answer to your question, we saw the dynamics you mentioned emerging, we stood against them and we intervened when it was warranted. However, you cannot completely isolate yourself from your neighbourhood. We endeavoured to prevent the events in Iraq from affecting Syria. It was possible to delay it but it was not possible to prevent it completely. Since 2004, some extremist elements started to emerge and ferment in Syria which at the beginning were non-Syrians and sadly with time a considerable part of them are now Syrian.

Interviewer: There were attempts before and during the crisis to draw Syria into this sectarian tension. More than two years into the crisis, they have been utilizing the example of Hezbollah to bolster the notion that it came to defend a certain sect. What is your view on this?

President al-Assad: They have used all methods in this region: direct and indirect occupation, threats, intimidation, as well attempts to breach our national security and culture. They have tried everything and Syria continues to be a source of hindrance to their objectives. Recent events in Arab countries were seen as an opportunity to strike Syria and undermine and weaken the axis of resistance in the region. The core of their objective now is redefine who is an enemy and who is an ally; Israel becomes the invisible enemy, even an ally for some, whilst the resistance becomes the enemy. Instead of representing a movement and an actor against Israeli occupation, the attempt is to project the resistance as the enemy, transforming it from a resistance movement to sectarian movement. This has not transpired and will not transpire. The Syrian people are not so easily misled or fooled. For us, the resistance and all our allies, our aims are clear and our route well defined. Regardless of what they propagate, we will achieve our goals in terms of our resistance and our internal wellbeing. We shall do this in our own way and without hesitation. Regardless of what they say, we will always act according to what is best for Syria.

Interviewer: Did we require fighters from Hezbollah?

President al-Assad: This is not the first time I have been asked this question and my answer is clear: the Syrian Army is fighting in several parts of the country, had we needed external support we would have been able to attain it. However, what happened in Al-Qseir is linked more to the resistance movement than the internal crisis in Syria. Al-Qseir is not as strategically important as they portrayed it to be.

Interviewer: But in the West it was portrayed as the mother of all battles?

President al-Assad: Precisely, that’s because it has a bearing both on the internal crisis in Syria and on the resistance since it is a border town which is the back garden of the resistance. The resistance cannot be strong without an element of strategic depth to it, which is in Syria. Thus the area bears geo-strategic importance in the connection between Syria and Lebanon and specifically the resistance. That is the fundamental reason why the resistance had to join the battle because it affects them as much as it affects Syria. There involvement was necessary and we were completely transparent about this. We will not hesitate to do it again or shy away from it. However, if we needed the resistance as they tried to portray, why did we need it in Al-Qseir but not in Damascus, Aleppo or other key areas? We have a strong army that is supported by large number of National Defence Forces.

Interviewer: Mr President, despite what you have said, there are some in the opposition, most notably those who are outside Syria, who insist that a sectarian struggle is the core issue and that the government has engineered it to augment its own benefits.

President al-Assad: If the government creates sectarian strife in Syria, it would then be leading the country towards division. Our battles across all of Syria are principally to safeguard the country’s demographic diversity and unity, which essentially discredits this notion. Sectarian strife conspicuously negates the interest of the government. The government has an interest in keeping Syria united, strong and prosperous. A sectarian approach would result in us losing the battle not winning it. A government would be ignorant to adopt such a strategy and the Syrian government is certainly not. If a government works for the best interests of the nation, it does its best to ensure society’s unity and consequently ensures its own strength.

Interviewer: Frankly speaking Mr President, there are western accusations that when the protests erupted you subtly signalled to the minorities that they are under threat which drove them to support you. This notion renders you responsible for the schism in Syrian society?

President al-Assad: If there was any truth to this claim then we would have plunged into a civil war and the state would have collapsed. If for the sake of argument we apply the logic of minorities and majorities in Syria – which we completely reject, no minorities can protect the state. The government is maintained by the majority, not necessarily an ethnic, religious or sectarian majority, but by a popular majority.

Our country and our people have persevered because it is the majority that has supported the government and not the minority; this majority constitutes all sects in Syria. These notions of minorities and majorities are purely Western. How did they divide up Syria under the colonial French occupation? They divided it into sectarian based regions: an Alawite state, a Druze state, Damascus, Aleppo etc. Ninety years ago, our ancestors were vigilant and alert to the dangers of such a plan, it is inconceivable that today we less aware or vigilant. Such an attempt is predestined to fail exactly like it failed all those years ago, even when they tried to print new currency. This particular scenario would never transpire in Syria unless the takfiri or Muslim Brotherhood ideology prevails, which would lead to a division empirically similar to the fate of other Arab countries.

Interviewer: But these accusations that the government created a sectarian struggle, are not only from those bearing an extremist ideology but also from intellectuals who claim to be secularists.

President al-Assad: This is regrettably true. Most of the sectarian discourse today is not only by takfiri extremists, but also by those who claim to be secular. There are two groups that advocate sectarianism: the first regard themselves as secular – we have repeatedly stated that secularism is not against religions but rather a form of freedom of confession. The other group are ignorant people who claim to be religious without understanding the essence of religion.

The common element between the first group, which claims to be cultured and secular, and the second – which claims to understand the true essence of religion is ignorance; ignorance of religion leads to sectarianism. In this instance, I am not referring to religious doctrine, which is based on intellectual thought. The old religious scholars provided us with intellectual schools of thoughts that enriched our understanding of religion and religious practice, but did not promote sectarianism. What is important is that the majority of believers who understand the true essence of religion do not promote sectarianism, because they know as we do that sectarianism is the exact opposite of religion. Those who maintain a poor knowledge of religions adopt the concept of sectarianism parallel to those who boast about secularism without comprehending its true meaning or the true meaning of religion.

Interviewer: Taking into consideration these distorted concepts and perverse practices in our society from beheading and slaughtering to sectarianism and fragmentation, are we beginning to see the defeat of Arab Nationalism to the hands of fanaticism and takfiri ideology?

President al-Assad: Arab identity is endangered by three factors: firstly, an absolute deviation towards the West, secondly, the inclination towards extremism and thirdly, the performance of successive Arab governments which has led some to shift away from the core of Arab nationalism. These three deadly threats have dealt severe blows to Pan-Arabism, but Arab nationalism is still alive and this can be felt in the popular mood. Pan-Arabism will not collapse because it is deeply rooted in our Arab identity.

Interviewer:Mr President, since the inception of the crisis, there have been calls from Turkey to specifically engage with the Muslim Brotherhood, while Syria has categorically rejected dealing with them as a political entity. The Syrian government announced its intention to attend the Geneva talks with no pre-conditions. Will we talk to the Muslim Brotherhood?

President al-Assad: We deal with all parties. In fact, we engaged with the Muslim Brotherhood after they were defeated in Syria in 1982. We believe that dialogue is the method to direct parties onto the right track and national position. If we are to discuss Islam, they should refer back to the correct Islam for all Syrians.

This dialogue has never stopped, and there have been several attempts, but every time we realize that the Muslim Brotherhood have not abandoned their hypocrisy. Their main concern remains power and ruling rather than religion or the interests of the country. We engage with them as individuals and not as a political party, since our constitution and legislations ban political parties based on religious ideology.

This should not be understood as being anti-religion; on the contrary, we support religion. Religion is a calling, a higher calling to teach the word of God and should be elevated to a much higher level than ruling people’s daily lives. Religion is for all humanity and not exclusive to a certain group; it has a higher purpose than the details and nuances of our human lives which encompass wrongdoings, sins, perversities and whims. Religion should not be reduced to a political party. Religion augments moral values, which in turn reinforces politics, parties, the economy and prosperity. It is for these reasons that we do not recognise them as a political party. In terms of their practice, they are terrorists who killed thousands of Syrians under the same leadership that still exists outside Syria – we do not forget this.

So we will engage in dialogue with all parties relying on our existing knowledge of their real ideology and knowing that it is extremely unlikely they will – after close to a century of adopting their ideology – suddenly change and become moderate Muslims with national values.

As I mentioned earlier though, we have engaged with individuals within the Brotherhood and they have returned to Syria. They maintain their religious beliefs, which we respect, and have contributed to building the country rather than destroying it. As I have said before, the potential outcome of any dialogue will be subject to a public referendum, which will ensure that the electorate will decide what is right for the country.

Interviewer: Regarding the Muslim Brotherhood, how are you following the unfolding events in Egypt? What is your view of the situation?

President al-Assad: What is happening in Egypt is essentially the fall of political Islam; the type of governing system which the Muslim Brotherhood attempted to advocate regionally. I reiterate that religion should not be deprecated into a particular political practice. Religious preaching should be an independent process, kept away from the specific dynamics and intricacies of political manoeuvring.

This experience has failed quickly because it was founded on a flawed basis. Our perception of the Muslim Brotherhood extends broadly to developments in Egypt. Using religion for politics or a certain political party is inevitably destined to fail anywhere in the world.

Interviewer: Is it that the Muslim Brotherhood deceived the Egyptian people or have the Egyptians suddenly woken up to the reality of the Muslim Brotherhood?

President al-Assad: Countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria are strategically located and deeply ingrained in the history of the region and have been for thousands of years. Consequently, the peoples of these lands have a rich reservoir of knowledge, awareness, culture and human civilization, which make them immune to deceitful narratives. As the saying goes: you can deceive some people some of the time, but you cannot deceive everybody all of the time. This especially applies to the Egyptians who represent a civilization of thousands of years and a unique Arab nationalist ideology. What happened a year ago was an untestable consequence of the previous ruling party, now the picture has emerged clearer to the Egyptians, and the performance of the Muslim Brotherhood unveiled the lies they expounded at the start of the revolution. The Egyptians are an ancient people and they were able to quickly discover the reality for what it was.

Interviewer: And in record time.

President al-Assad: Yes, thanks to the Muslim Brotherhood!

Interviewer: Is it fair to say that the Muslim Brotherhood’s experience at governing has failed?

President al-Assad: We envisaged its failure before it even started. This type of governance is destined to fail since it is incompatible with human nature. The Muslim Brotherhood adopts hypocrisy and aims in reality to create schism in the Arab world. They were the first to raise the sectarian strife in Syria in the 70’s. At that time, sectarianism was not common discourse or phenomenon in Syria. Their objective is to create conflicts, however this is not resonant in societies that have a high level of public awareness, which is why we knew they would fail.

Interviewer: Some suggest that part of what is occurring in Egypt now is due to the decision taken to sever relationships with Syria. Reuters quoted a military source stating that the army began to change its stance following Morsi’s statements during his meeting with the Syrian opposition.

President al-Assad: I do not wish to speak on behalf of the Egyptians people, but I can tell you that when Muhammad Morsi severed relationships with Syria a few weeks ago, there were attempts by the Egyptians to reach a compromise. Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem revealed these details in his recent press conference. This implies that not everybody in the Egyptian government endorsed Morsi’s decision because it was effectively an incorrect decision. This was further echoed by criticism of the decision from Egyptian intellectuals and journalists who highlighted the strategic and historic nature of the relationship between the two countries.

 The Pharaohs were aware of the strategic importance of military and political relations between Syria and Egypt, hence their battle of Kadesh (near Al-Qseir now) against the Hittites in 1380. The Hittites in Anatolia also realised the importance of their relationships with Syria. The Pharaohs realised that Syria represents Egypt’s strategic depth. The battle ended with no victor, culminating in one of the oldest agreements known to history between the Hittites and the Pharaohs in 1280. Whilst the Pharaohs were aware of the importance of Syria to them then, how could a person living in the 21st century not understand it today? It is shameful ignorance.

Interviewer: We have discussed the dialogue, done the groundwork, initiated the political process and taken some concrete steps, even clarified our position on the Geneva conference. To a large extent all of these measures are part of a wider political process. I would like to touch upon the humanitarian aspect: tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation. Some have asked, Mr President, how can we reconcile both internally and externally?

President al-Assad: Internally speaking – and this is the most important for me – we mistakenly put all our eggs in the same basket. There are those who have killed, those who have vandalised but did not kill, there are those who carried arms but did not kill and those who facilitated the killing of others. So there are many different roles. In all instances that did not result in killing, the state can be lenient on the condition that offenders return to normal civilian life. In the instances of proven homicide, this is tied to the wishes of the victims’ families and the state cannot act on their behalf. However I have heard a significant number of families of martyrs, saying: “if our son’s or brother’s blood leads to a resolution of the problem then we are ready to forgive.” We must all learn from these families who have lost their children and their loved ones.

Forgiveness is essential in solving national crises, provided it is done at a popular level rather than at an official level in order to ensure its sustainability. It is a sign of strength and patriotism when we can put our national public interests above our own personal interests; this concept needs to be adopted by everybody. Like most other families, my family has been affected by the crisis, we have lost loved ones, but ultimately, similar to any other family, we need to put the interests of the country ahead of our personal loss. This needs to be applied both internally and externally.

The external side is more political. Foreign policy is not based on emotions but national interests. There are principles and interests and they are inextricably intertwined. It is unscrupulous for your principles to be against your interests, either your interests are wrong or your principles. Here, forgiveness is viewed positively as a humane and religious value. When forgiveness serves the relationships with a certain country, and therefore the interests of Syrians, there is no reason not to forgive, since the central focus of the state is the interest of its people. This is what we have done; we have received many politicians and met with several countries that were hostile to us. Our primary aim was always the unequivocal interest of the Syrian people.

Interviewer: Mr President, Syrians today have two primary concerns: one is the prevalence of terrorism and bloodshed on the streets, targeting state institutions, factories and other key locations. The second concern is the increasing cost of living. With regards to the economy, the unprecedented rise in the dollar exchange rate and the disastrous consequences? What do you say to the Syrian citizen on issues relating to the economy?

President al-Assad: In order to give an objective assessment, one has to start from the fundamentals. Firstly, for a citizen to be well off, the economy has to be healthy which requires stability and security. The economy can never flourish in turbulent times and in the absence of security.

Therefore our security threats are directly affecting us irrespective of the performance of any government with the best experts. Secondly, we know that certain countries tried to strike Syria, first through the idea of the revolution – which failed because people didn’t embrace it, and then they tried through supporting terrorism – which also failed because it was countered by the armed forces and local communities. Since they failed in both of those areas, their third attempt was the economy to ensure the greatest suffering against Syrians who supported their country. If we take into account these factors, it is inevitable that there is a heavy price to pay. In these circumstances, the best we can do is to limit the damage, either by dealing with the profiteers of the crisis or with the mistakes of officials.

We have to identify policies that are suitable for the present time and circumstance. Some make the mistake of assessing current policies and government performance in the same manner as before the crisis. This is unrealistic. We are in a completely different situation. It is unfeasible to continue in the same level of consumption as before, since this creates pressure on the economy and most significantly the Syrian pound. We need to change our lifestyle in order to alleviate the pressure and adapt to the circumstances until we can reach a solution based on restoring full security. We have to understand that our economic hardships will not ease until we can restore our stability.

This crisis has affected all Syrians irrespective of their political affiliations; even those who initially supported the alleged ‘revolution’ were struck by increased poverty, which was the catalyst for them to realize that they were losing out. It is unfortunate that there was a limited foci that only started to think objectively after they were struck by poverty. However, we must all collaborate to combat terrorism in order to restore the economy to its former strength.

We must identify the beneficiaries of the crisis and deal with them accordingly. It is paramount that the public cooperates with the state and refrain from relying on others to solve the problem. This is a real problem in our society; everyone relies on somebody else to solve their problems.

Similarly, unless our public officials collaborate with each other and with our citizens the hardship will only increase. We must all take the initiative and innovate in finding the best possible economic solutions to deal with these turbulent circumstances; this is where we must be creative in our solutions otherwise the crisis will force choices upon us. Again, the sooner we fight terrorism, the quicker the economy will recover stronger than before because we are a vibrant and intelligent people. We are a country with an indigenous civilization that was not imported from abroad. Regardless of the difficulties in the past, we built our country with our own money and expertise. Therefore, once we restore security, we can at the very minimum re-boost our economy to its former status.

Interviewer: What are the facts behind the oil and gas resources in the Syrian territorial waters, which have been documented and reported by a number of research centres and experts?

President al-Assad: This is correct, whether in our territorial waters or on Syrian soil. Initial studies have reported large gas reserves especially in the sea. We have seen this stretching from Egypt through Palestine along the coast. It is also reported that these resources are richer in the north. There is a notion that one of the reasons behind the crisis was these gas reserves and the fact that they should not be at the disposal of state opposed to Israeli and American policies. This has never been discussed directly with us, but from a logical perspective it cannot be ignored. It is still early to say.

Interviewer: I would like to discuss living conditions from a different angle. The government has increased salaries twice during the crisis. The first pay rise was expected and some thought that it was needed but the second was surprising and unforeseen to some especially since the government was able to accommodate this increase in the current conditions. Despite the difficulties there is hope in what comes after the crisis. Have we taken steps towards this? What are the plans for the future?

President al-Assad: Since we have been affected most by the destruction, the most vital part of the Syrian economy will be reconstruction. We have started to layout plans and where possible started implementation, though the security situation has hindered this. The necessary legislation has been passed, but again implementation requires better security conditions to facilitate the rebuilding process and ensure workers can operate freely.

Another important point you mentioned was the pay rise. For a country in the situation we are in to be able to continue to pay salaries and provide services – albeit of a lower quality than before, is a huge achievement. There are positive elements to gauge, however our aims are bigger and I believe we can collaborate collectively to achieve these.

Interviewer: Some attribute the responsibility of border control to the government, which contributed ultimately to the current economic situation and the absence of state control over markets and prices for instance. Were we taken by surprise in the crisis or was it caused by negligence from the relevant government bodies?

President al-Assad: Certainly there were deficiencies with regards to the performance of certain state institutions before the crisis, which I regularly mentioned, including corruption, negligence, procrastination and the challenge of finding the right and suitable people. The crisis has unveiled and perpetuated these defects, which is not surprising. However it is not realistic to assess the role of the government and its influence without taking into consideration the extrinsic orientations of the crisis, the crisis is not confined to strictly internal issues of corruption, chaos, and lack of security or the presence of gangs as is the case for other countries. Our situation is completely different as we are facing an external war manifested by internal tools and the government is defending the country. So it would be inaccurate to evaluate it in the same way.

The presence of the state, its influence and power is judged by whether the government has changed its principles. The Syrian government has not changed its principles, neither internally nor externally. Our position towards the resistance movement has not changed, our position on Palestine is the same, we remain committed towards the larger sections of society – labourers and farmers, we continue to pay salaries and provide public services despite the widespread destruction, we have launched new projects and have planned for others; all of this has been achieved within our own means. Therefore our government is not absent but rather in a state of war.

Interviewer: Our state institutions are being vandalised and destroyed. Some perceive that these manifestations are the beginning of the collapse of the Syrian state.

President al-Assad: Their objective was to destroy our infrastructure, undermine our security, drain our economy and create chaos that would all lead to a failed state; none of this has materialised. Day to day life continues, albeit with greater challenges. The economy is still functioning despite severe difficulties, which nobody expected us to withstand. Personal safety is a big issue, but workers, employees and business people still go to work. The Syrian people have proven that they have enormous energy and resilience. After explosions, once the casualties have been evacuated and the debris cleared, daily life continues. We haven’t seen this in Syria before and we didn’t know this about ourselves. People go to work despite the risks of a terrorist attacks, suicide bombings or mortar shelling. They go to work and about their daily business with a strong belief in fate and therefore never fall into a state of despair.

All countermeasures have been deployed against us including the use of economic, military and psychological warfare. The only thing they have not tried is direct intervention, which is beyond their means for various reasons; as I have said before, starting a war is different to ending it. No one can end a war, and no one knows where it will end. This has critical and dangerous bearings, which is why there is a lot of reluctance on the part of many countries. If we have overcome all of these stages with a high level of public awareness and solidarity; there is nothing we should fear. That’s why I am not worried.

Interviewer: So, Mr President, you are optimistic?

President al-Assad: If I was not optimistic I would not have been able to endure the difficulties alongside the Syrian people, and if the Syrian people lacked a profound optimism they would not have persevered. Despair is the beginning and essence of defeat and defeat is primarily psychological.

I often meet people and sense their optimism. They all say that the crisis is coming to an end, God willing. They go on to say “Syria is protected by God” or “we have no fears”. They repeat what the martyred Dr Bouti used to say and his belief that the end of the crisis is near.

There is a genuine belief, from a spiritual and national perspective that the crisis will come to an end. Without optimism there is no faith; without faith there is no optimism.

Interviewer: Mr President, in conclusion, our newspaper is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary since releasing its first issue. May I ask you on this occasion to address a few words to my colleagues at the paper? They have been exemplary in their dedication and hard work. There is a printing worker I know who is not driven by political ambitions but by his sense of patriotism and belonging to this institution. This is what keeps him commuting to and from work after midnight, stopping at numerous checkpoints and risking his life.

President al-Assad: The example of your colleague applies to all those working in our national media, and proves the resilience of the Syrian people. Please convey my warm regards to all your staff especially since your newspaper is one of the oldest national papers in Syria. Its fiftieth anniversary corresponds with the 8th of March Revolution which I mentioned earlier with all the benefits it brought to the Syrian people for decades.

Today this anniversary comes as we live another real revolution; not their so-called ‘revolution’ but the real revolution of our people and army against terrorists. I hope that this anniversary will mark a new beginning for the newspaper so that its name will, in the future, symbolize not one revolution, but two: the revolution of 1963 and the revolution of 2013.

Scholars and imams: President al-Assad speech to al-Thawra daily comprehensive

Jul 04, 2013

Damascus, (SANA)-Scholars, imams, directors of religious schools and Sharia institutes in Syria affirmed that President Bashar al-Assad’s speech to al-thawra daily was comprehensive, true and honest which touched upon the feelings and minds of Syrian citizens.

“Your people read today what they have known about you since several years… you have corrected a lot of concepts, particularly regarding the religious work, our Islamic identity and civilization… you have protected our homeland and nation through your words as you instructed to return to the holy Quran and the orders of Prophet Mohammad PBUH,” the scholars said in a cable sent to the President.

They added that he who has this mentality and vision wouldn’t be defeated by enemies.

The imams and scholars pledged that the religious schools with all their cadres will remain committed to the Quran and Sunna to overcome terrorism and takfiri mentality.

Mazen

US RESPONSIBLE FOR CRIMES OF AGGRESSION IN VIOLATION OF ROME STATUTE AND UN CHARTER

US Double-standards in its Appeals to “Geneva I Convention”

By Dr. Robert P. Abele

On May 23, Secretary of State John Kerry threatened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with the following statement concerning U.S. military support of Syrian rebels: “In the event that we can’t find that way forward, in the event that the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate Geneva I in good faith, we will also talk about our continued support and growing support for the opposition in order to permit them to continue to be able to fight for the freedom of their country.” He repeated that threat again yesterday, July 2, using the same appeal to Geneva I.

So the obvious question—one completely unaddressed by mainstream media—is: “What does Geneva I say that Kerry is so resolute in appealing to it?” This article aims only to address this question briefly, and to suggest a few points of discussion for an examination of what the U.S. is doing in Syria that might be applicable to Geneva I, which so animates Kerry’s assertions of Assad’s international legal responsibilities.

As is the case of all U.S. government pronouncements these days, one must examine the consistency, or lack of it, that stands under or behind U.S. decrees. Those seeking consistency from the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria would be disappointed to learn that Geneva I calls for two specific responsibilities of nations involving themselves in military conflicts within other nations. In each of these two cases, the Obama administration outright ignores these laws while holding Assad accountable to the Convention.

Geneva I is entitled “The Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field.” Among other things, it contains the following two prescriptions for “outsider” nations involving itself in the internal violence of another nation:

Art. 11.

Any neutral Power, or any organization invited by the Power concerned or offering itself for these purposes, shall be required to act with a sense of responsibility towards the Party to the conflict on which persons protected by the present Convention depend, and shall be required to furnish sufficient assurances that it is in a position to undertake the appropriate functions and to discharge them impartially.”

Art. 50.

“Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”

Regarding Article 50, we can begin the discussion by noting two things.

First, we know that the rebels being supplied by the U.S. have used chemical weapons supplied by the U.S. Although the U.S. has consistently attempted a propaganda campaign to pin this use on Syrian troops, the fact is the opposite: Last month, Syrian rebels in the Al Nusra Front were arrested on the border of Turkey, literally caught red-handed with chemical weapons materials in their possession—i.e. 4-1/2 pounds of sarin nerve gas. In addition, Carla del Ponte, United Nations Commissioner on the board of inquiry regarding Syria, stated publicly that the bulk of the evidence indicates that the rebels being armed by the U.S. are the ones using chemical weapons.

Second, one need only examine the barrage of news stories that demonstrate the atrocities of the rebel gangs in Syria being militarily supported by the U.S. Even a cursory examination of the stories demonstrates that these gangs are deliberately attacking civilians and causing other injury and destruction “not justified by military necessity” (Article 50). The standard U.S. line in response to this is that President Assad’s army is doing the same thing. However, this excuse is both morally and legally (to say nothing of logically) insufficient to justify one’s own actions.

Regarding Article 11, there likewise are at least two things to be noted to start a discussion about what the U.S. is doing in Syria.

First, even given the vague use of the term “responsible” in the Article, one must ask how “responsible” it is to deliberately attempt to overthrow another government that is not threatening to the interfering nation, and which does not have a legitimate internal humanitarian crisis within its borders. The latter is being created by U.S. support of rebel forces, while the former is the fundamental condition for warring against another nation, both in the Rome Statute (see below) and the U.N. Charter.

Second, it is important to underscore the most glaringly obvious point regarding the U.S. ignoring international conventions, and that is in the crime of aggression, by definition (in the Rome Statute in 1998, Article 5), the use of armed force by one State against another State without the justification of self-defense or authorization by the U.N. Security Council.  It is based on the dual principles of limiting the power of nations to engage in military aggression, with the sole exception of self-defense, and making that proscription apply equally to all nations. Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg Trials, made those principles quite clear, and they were used in the U.N. Charter concerning war.

For our purposes here, it is important to highlight Article 8, Section I of the Rome Statute, which states that the “crime of aggression” means the planning, preparation, initiation or execution, by a person in a position effectively to exercise control over or to direct the political or military action of a State, of an act of aggression which, by its character, gravity and scale, constitutes a manifest violation of the Charter of the United Nations.”

Most critically, note Section 2(g) of the Statute, where the crime of aggression is spelled out most clearly regarding the supply of rebels, such as the U.S. is doing in Syria: “The sending by or on behalf of a State of armed bands, groups, irregulars or mercenaries, which carry out acts of armed force against another State of such gravity as to amount to the acts listed above, or its substantial involvement therein.”

So once again, we have a United States government making proclamations and threats holding another government to the letter of the law, while it egregiously violates the most important parts of the law to which they are holding another nation; in this case, Syria. It is not too much for us to demand that the Obama administration act consistently within the rule of law if it intends to capture the moral high ground with regard to its actions in Syria. But, then again, with all the duplicity and direct violations of international law coming out of the administration, capturing the legal or moral high ground seems not to be Obama’s real concern at all. This is much to the detriment and safety of the entire world, since the sole world superpower is demonstrating itself to be simply a rogue state.

Dr. Robert P. Abele holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Marquette University He is the author of three books: A User’s Guide to the USA PATRIOT Act (2005); The Anatomy of a Deception: A Logical and Ethical Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq (2009); Democracy Gone: A Chronicle of the Last Chapters of the Great American Democratic Experiment (2009). He contributed eleven chapters to the Encyclopedia of Global Justice, from The Hague: Springer Press (October, 2011). Dr. Abele is a professor of philosophy at Diablo Valley College, located in Pleasant Hill, California in the San Francisco Bay area.

ROLAND DUMAS: WEST WAS PREPARING ATTACK ON SYRIA BEFORE CRISIS BEGAN

Roland Dumas to SANA: West was preparing attack on Syria before crisis started

Jul 01, 2013

Paris, (SANA) – Former French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas revealed that there’s a plot which was devised by several western countries – primarily Britain and France – to topple the Syrian the government even before the crisis started in Syria.

In an exclusive interview given to SANA’s correspondent in Paris, Dumas said that while he was in Britain before the crisis began in Syria, he was invited to a party where two people an Englishman and a Frenchman, asked him if he would like to participate in preparations for an attack on Syria to topple the government in it.

He said he refused this offer, but events proved that they were serious about what they said at that evening.

Dumas voiced surprise over the French government’s positions, saying that the paths chosen by the governments of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and current President Francois Holland aren’t the right paths that lead to peace in Syria.

On the west’s goals from toppling the Syrian state, Dumas said that he thinks the current international climate formed around the Syrian situation contentious the policies adopted several years ago to deal with the Arab world, stressing that the west’s policies in such issues aren’t policies of peace but rather of war, and that he personally is against war and supports the path that leads to peace.

Regarding the Syrian opposition, Dumas said that this opposition is multifaceted, and that countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia are involved in the fighting taking place in Syria against the legitimate government.

“A peaceful solution isn’t achieved by letting people fight,” he said, stressing that sending weapons will not solve problems in Syria.

Dumas pointed out that the legitimate government in Syria is reclaiming areas which gunmen seized, which is a good sign, noting that France had been opposing the suggestion of holding an international conference on Syria in a manner contrary to its traditional political creed, but eventually it admitted that the conference must be held as soon as possible and its position on Iran’s participation in the conference was altered.

He said that the most important point is the agreement between Russia and the US on holding this conference, noting that there mustn’t be any preconceptions about the conference.

On the G8 meeting in Ireland, Dumas said that it wasn’t the optimal place for discussing Syria because many countries interested in the Syrian issue weren’t there, which is why the conference due to be held in Geneva is important.

Regarding France sending advanced weapons to terrorist groups in Syria, Dumas said that sending weapons contradicts peaceful solutions because weapons are made for war, adding that it’s unfortunate that some sides want to send one side as this will prompt others to send weapons to the other side.

He noted that there were discussions on the issue of weapons because the west is concerned over who will receive the weapons, pointing out to Libya where weapons disappeared, asserting that sending weapons to Syria will exacerbate the conflict and make it more difficult to resolve.

Dumas said that international laws are only good for achieving peace when its time comes, and that there’s no hope of ending the crisis in Syria without having all countries participate in an international conference for this purpose.

He said that the allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria are very dangerous as they bring to mind the discussions which took place about Iraq in the past, when the US alleged that Iraq possessed chemical weapons but none were found, stressing that in legal terms, evidence is procured through judicial channels, not through journalists carrying small bottles which they claim they procured in Syria, as those individuals aren’t trustworthy.

Dumas went on to note that international law has items on destroying chemical weapons which raises concerns, saying it’s best to have the UN send impartial and reliable experts to look into this matter.

On France’s double standards in combating terrorists in Mali while supporting them in Syria, Dumas said that France says it will arm the “opposition” but it’s unknown what will happen to these weapons, and that there’s no way of knowing that these weapons won’t be turned against France, adding “this is a great risk… when we enter a conflict we know it can spread.”

He said that the traditional relations between Syria and France were good, particularly on the cultural level, but all that was undermined and now the two countries are enemies which doesn’t make sense, adding “it’s time to fix everything.”

Dumas pointed out that some sides have a desire to destroy strong Arab states, like what happened in Iraq and Libya before and what is being attempted in Syria, particularly given Syria’s special relations with Russia.

He said that Israel plays a role in what is happening in Syria, pointing out to the statements of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who said that if an agreement isn’t reached, then Israel will attack and destroy the governments that stand against it.

On the possibility of France and the west changing their position on Syria, Dumas said that this is possible, and that France’s position has shown some development recently which is a positive indicator and a move in the right direction.

Dumas stressed that there’s massive propaganda being spread regarding events in Syria, with all news, reports and images coming from one source, causing the French public which sees these images every day to form a terrible impression that there are “bad guys” represented by the Syrian government who are killing the people as they allege, and on the other side there are “good guys” represented by the armed groups, causing them to think that the bad guys must go and the good guys must stay, adding “but one day, the truth will come out.”

He said that conceptions must be corrected, and then those who support certain policies will see that they are mistaken, and then it’s possible to put an end to these policies.

Dumas concluded by saying that Syria and the Syrian people are great and that they will emerge from this crisis, adding “we must hope that they do not emerge from it too late… we wish that Syria doesn’t suffer many losses in lives and damages.”

H. Sabbagh

ALSO SEE:
THE WAR AGAINST SYRIA WAS PLANNED 2 YEARS BEFORE “ARAB SPRING”
SANA DAILY HEADLINES JULY 1, 2013

SYRIA, LA VOLUTA INTECEZZA SU GINERVA2 E L’ALLEANZA TRA OCCIDENTE E ISLAMISIMO SUNNITA

Siria, la voluta incertezza su Ginevra2 e l’ alleanza tra Occidente e islamismo sunnita.

di Marco Palombo

25 giugno, nessun accordo nell’ incontro tra ONU, Russia e USA su Ginevra2

Nell’ incontro che si è tenuto martedì a Ginevra tra l’ incaricato ONU Brahimi, i viceministri agli esteri russi Bogdanov e Gatilov e la sottosegretario USA per gli affari politici Wendy Sherman non si è raggiunto un accordo su alcuni punti fondamentali della Conferenza di pace prevista, ma non ancora sicura, in Svizzera. Il precedente incontro era avvenuto il 5 giugno e in questo lungo intervallo le novità più rilevanti nella guerra siriana sono state il cambio di strategia degli Stati Uniti, che armeranno alla luce del sole i gruppi antigovernativi, e l’elezione in Iran del nuovo presidente Rohani. I punti di disaccordo tra USA e Russia nell’ incontro del 25 giugno sono stati relativi ai partecipanti siriani alla Conferenza, la presenza dell’ Iran e la data dell’appuntamento. Al vertice di martedì non è stato neanche fissato un nuovo appuntamento per ridiscutere le questioni irrisolte.

Questa settimana si vedranno invece Kerry, segretario di stato USA, e Lavrov, ministro degli esteri russo, per parlare della situazione siriana nel suo complesso non solo della Conferenza. La notizia del prossimo incontro dei massimi responsabili diplomatici russi e statunitensi è giunta a Ginevra nel corso della riunione del 25 giugno e considero un pessimo segnale che il prossimo vertice russo-statunitense non sia dedicato esclusivamente alla Conferenza di pace, anche se come al solito le informazioni sul dialogo diplomatico sono molto scarse ed è sempre difficile sapere e capire cosa stia succedendo.

Il 24 giugno al Consiglio esteri dell’Unione Europea i ministri hanno discusso di Siria alla presenza di Barroso e del segretario della Nato Rasmussen.

Lunedì 24 a Bruxelles al Consiglio esteri dell’UE si è discusso della guerra siriana con la presenza dei ministri degli esteri dei 27 paesi dell’Unione e del commissario Barroso. Ha partecipato ad una parte della riunione anche il segretario Nato Rasmussen. La presenza dei ministri degli esteri a Bruxelles era prevista, è infatti consuetudine che almeno una volta al mese il settimanale Consiglio esteri riunisca i massimi esponenti diplomatici e i ministri europei non si incontravano dal 27 maggio, ma è stato ugualmente un incontro importante anche se al termine della giornata di lavoro è uscito solo un comunicato molto generico che auspica una soluzione politica sostenibile per la guerra siriana. Ricordo che l’Unione non ha una posizione comune sulla Siria e che a fine maggio i 27 paesi UE non hanno trovato un accordo per fornire le armi ai ribelli (e neanche per proseguire l’embargo alle stesse) e ad oggi considero improbabile che l’Unione Europea possa avvallare (sarebbe necessaria l’unanimità) un eventuale intervento militare straniero contro l’attuale governo di Damasco.

Gli USA nelle prossime settimane consegneranno armi alle brigate anti Assad

Secondo il Wall Street Journal entro la metà di luglio la Cia fornirà armi alle milizie anti Assad, scegliendo pochi e fidati gruppi a cui inviare gli aiuti militari. Il Congresso statunitense ha chiesto però ad Obama maggiori dettagli sulle forniture di armi ai gruppi di opposizione e le informazioni date da Kerry al Congresso nelle scorse settimane sono state ritenute insufficienti. Sempre a proposito di forniture di armi, secondo fonti palestinesi (riportate da Russia today) Israele ha aiutato i gruppi armati in Siria a far passare armi dal Golan, L’Unione europea il 27 maggio aveva invece firmato un intesa secondo la quale tutti i paesi UE non forniranno armi fino al primo agosto e dopo la Conferenza ridiscuteranno il tema dell’ appoggio militare ai gruppi anti Assad nel tentativo di trovare nuovamente una posizione comune.

In Egitto nel grande movimento che si oppone a Morsi critiche agli USA per il loro appoggio ai Fratelli Musulmani egiziani, una parte dell’alleanza occidentale con tutto l’ Islam sunnita.

In tutto l’Egitto un grande movimento della opposizione non appartenente all’ islamismo politico ha manifestato domenica per chiedere le dimissioni di Morsi e sono scese in piazza milioni di persone. Nei giorni passati all’ interno della vasta area di opposizione si erano levate più voci critiche verso l’appoggio economico e politico che gli Stati Uniti danno al presidente Morsi bersaglio delle contestazioni di questi giorni. Su un grande striscione in una centrale zona del Cairo è scritto chiaramente: “Obama sostiene il dittatore Morsi”. Gli Stati Uniti hanno evacuato gran parte della loro ambasciata temendo incidenti. Il giornale Al Watan , schierato contro gli integralisti islamici, ha definito l’ambasciatrice USA al Cairo Anne Peterson “Ambasciatrice dei Fratelli Musulmani”.

Gli USA e altri ambienti occidentali, compresa la nostra Bonino, sottolineano, analogamente ai commenti sulla Turchia, il fatto che Morsi sia stato eletto presidente in una libera elezione ma evitano accuratamente di entrare nei dettagli dell’ operato di Morsi che ha portato anche ambienti moderati, come quelli che hanno come riferimento Mousa, ex ministro e ex segretario della Lega Araba, e Al Baradei, ex segretario dell’Agenzia internazionale dell’ energia atomica, a definire autoritario e non democratico il comportamento del presidente Morsi e del suo governo. Farida al Naqqash, femminista e direttore del giornale al Ahali, racconta per esempio al Corriere della Sera che: “La libertà personale in Egitto oggi non è ancora garantita, anzi ci sono stati arresti, censure e torture in carcere come e più che sotto Mubarak o Sadat”

L’Egitto, insieme alla Turchia, Giordania, Qatar, Arabia Saudita, Emirati Arabi Uniti (tutti paesi a prevalenza e guida sunnita) e con USA, Italia, Germania, Gran Bretagna e Francia, forma il gruppo degli undici paesi cosiddetti Amici della Siria che nel 2013 si è riunito quattro volte per discutere della guerra siriana.

Di fatto un’ alleanza, tra il nucleo principale dei paesi Nato e l’islamismo sunnita, che ha operato (ed opera) in Libia e in Siria ma anche in Egitto e Tunisia. Un’ alleanza evidente e pericolosa per la pace e la convivenza delle diverse confessioni religiose che troppi fanno finta di non vedere.

La denuncia della decapitazione di tre frati francescani e la smentita (dell’appartenenza ai francescani non della decapitazione….)

Sul sito “Syrian documents” è stato messo in rete un video ripreso con mezzi amatoriali che mostra una feroce esecuzione di due persone (sulle tre processate) giudicate poco prima da un tribunale islamico per rapporti con il governo siriano. La scritta sul sito accusa:” Esecuzione del vescovo Francois Mourad a Iblid da parte del Fronte al Nusra”. Scrive Avvenire: “Mourad, semplice monaco e non vescovo, amico e collaboratore della Custodia di Terra Santa, ma non frate francescano, in effetti è stato ucciso domenica scorsa a Ghassianeh.” Per Radio France International i due uomini giustiziati sarebbero stati frati francescani. In seguito è arrivata la smentita della Custodia di Terra Santa:”… i frati presenti nella provincia di Iblid stanno bene e padre Maurad, effettivamente assassinato domenica, è stato sepolto e il corpo appariva integro..”. La Coalizione Siriana ipotizza una montatura del governo, definendo “filo Assad” il sito che ha messo in rete il video ma omettendo il suo nome, “Syrian documents”.

Avvenire riporta anche una ricostruzione della Chiesa greco-melchita, ripresa da Fides, di un episodio accaduto giovedì nella città vecchia di Damasco. La Chiesa Melchita sostiene che alcune persone siano state uccise non da un attentatore suicida, come detto in un primo momento, ma da due colpi di mortaio e che l’episodio, avvenuto vicino ad una Cattedrale greco melchita, probabilmente non è stato un attacco mirato ad obiettivi religiosi. Riporto questa precisazione perché la Chiesa Melchita e Fides spesso hanno smentito anche le notizie diffuse dall’ opposizione e per invitare tutti a non credere in modo acritico a quello che viene raccontato sulla guerra siriana, da ogni fonte provenga.

Libano, diciasette militari governativi libanesi uccisi da combattenti sunniti dello sceicco salafita al Assir.

A inizio settimana in Libano si è verificato un durissimo scontro armato tra l’ esercito regolare libanese e milizie armate che fanno capo allo sceicco sunnita salafita Ahmad al Assir, nemico storico di Assad. Gli scontri hanno causato la morte di 17 militari libanesi e 25 miliziani e sono iniziati in seguito all’ arresto ad un posto di blocco di alcuni miliziani di Assyr. Altri miliziani hanno allora attaccato a sorpresa la postazione militare libanese e si è sviluppato un tragico scontro armato raccontato dalla televisione libanese con lunghe dirette. L’ episodio testimonia ancora una volta il coinvolgimento del Libano nella guerra siriana e come l’ impegno degli Hezbollah al fianco di Assad sia solo una parte di questa contaminazione e non l’ unica interferenza dal Libano nello scontro siriano.

La Coalizione Nazionale Siriana aspetta ancora un nuovo leader ed è sempre più evidente l’ influenza dei gruppi armati integralisti nella guerra ad Assad.

L’ opposizione siriana si riunirà il 4 e 5 luglio e chissà se questa volta sarà eletto finalmente il nuovo leader che sostituirà il dimissionario Khatib che ha lasciato l’incarico (ma non l’impegno politico) il primo marzo. Vista l’ importanza dei temi discussi in queste settimane è probabile però che si parlerà d’altro e che proseguirà la gestione provvisoria della Coalizione affidata a Sabra, esponente cristiano del CNS, coordinamento egemonizzato invece dai Fratelli Musulmani,

Intanto è sempre più evidente l’ influenza nell’ opposizione dell’ integralismo religioso. Il Washigton Istitute ha diffuso dei dati, riportati dal quotidiano dei vescovi Avvenire, che testimoniano come il conflitto siriano sia combattuto sempre di più da non siriani e che il 95% degli stranieri uccisi in Siria appartengano ai gruppi jihadisti. Molti miliziani anti Assad sono sauditi, tunisini, libici, giordani, e fanno sfoggio delle abituali tematiche jihadiste come l’odio verso gli sciiti e le donne mal velate.

Il giornale cattolico sottolinea come sia una “…violenza e ignoranza diffusa dal web ma sollecitata dalle tante associazioni islamiche finanziate da certi ambigui “amici” dell’ Occidente, gli sceicchi sunniti del Golfo”.

E aggiunge:”….Per fermare questa spirale di violenza e fanatismo l’ ultima cosa da fare sembra quella di armare gli oppositori di Assad…”.

BAMBINI E RAGAZZI, VITTIME DELLA “GUERRA MONDIALE” IN SIRIA

Bambini e ragazzi, vittime della “guerra mondiale” in Siria

di Pierangela Zanzottera

Da quando, il 19 marzo scorso, è morto il piccolo Jaafar Ghiath Al-Nmra, 10 anni,figlio unico, insieme al diciassettenne Saaed al-Hassan nel quartiere di Al-Zahra a Homs è entrata come una scheggia di follia che ancora non si è placata. La zona è abitata da minoranze religiose e filogovernative ed è spesso colpita dai mortai di questo o quel gruppo dell’opposizione armata. A Jaafar Ghiath Al-Nmra è stata dedicata la scuola del quartiere.

Ma il dolore di quei genitori è solo uno dei tantissimi, in Siria. Tante famiglie si sono visti portare via i loro giovani, le speranze per il futuro.

Dai ragazzi di leva che partono in difesa del Paese e spesso pagano per la loro imperizia contro mercenari di lungo corso a ragazzini massacrati con le motivazioni più assurde. Alcuni di loro rimarranno come un’onta sulle coscienze collettive di quanti preferiscono fingere che quella in Siria sia una “rivolta per la libertà e la democrazia”.

E’ il caso del quattordicenne Mohammad Kattaa, venditore di caffè di Aleppo per le strade del quartiere Sha’ar che ha avuto l’ardire di non offrirlo gratuitamente ai membri delle bande criminali estremiste che glielo chiedevano, rispondendo che non l’avrebbe regalato nemmeno al profeta Mohammed. A quel punto è stato prima sequestrato per qualche ora, torturato, poi riportato alla famiglia e barbaramente giustiziato con due pallottole al volto e alla gola sotto i loro occhi sgomenti dei familiari e quelli increduli dei vicini.

“Scortese blasfemia” è l’accusa per questo ragazzino. Era il 9 giugno.

I testimoni hanno poi raccontato che il gruppo parlava un arabo classico e che di certo non erano siriani.
Qualche giorno dopo il quotidiano Telegraph ha intervistato la madre, Nadia Umm Fuad, che sotto shock ha raccontato gli ultimi momenti di vita del figlio, cui è stata costretta ad assistere impotente. “Sono uscita sul mio balcone e ho detto a suo padre: stanno per sparare a tuo figlio! Vieni! Vieni! Ero sulle scale quando ho sentito il primo colpo. Ero sulla porta quando ho sentito il secondo colpo. Gridavo: è haram! Fermatevi! Fermatevi! State uccidendo un bambino! Mi hanno lanciato un’occhiata e sono risaliti sulla loro auto. Andandosene, hanno calpestato il braccio di mio figlio che giaceva morente”.

Secondo Arabi-Press, un assassinio simile dalla stessa milizia ha avuto luogo in maggio nei confronti di un adolescente della stessa età in una zona vicino a Sha’ar, nel quartiere di Karam Maycar. Il ragazzino aveva accusato le milizie del cosiddetto “libero esercito” di aver ucciso la sorella e ferito un membro della sua famiglia lanciando una granata contro la loro abitazione e aveva lanciato insulti al loro indirizzo per questo. Il suo corpo è stato crivellato di colpi dai miliziani Tawhid e, in aggiunta, sempre in base alle testimonianze raccolte da Arabi-Press, spettato le dita di chi aveva deciso di diffondere le immagini del crimine, pur essendo un elemento affiliato al loro gruppo.

Passano solo pochi giorni e il 22 giugno ad Aleppo, di fronte alla moschea di Al-Furdous (al sud della città) viene assassinato un bambino disabile con una malformazione all’occhio, circondato da una grande massa viene ucciso a sangue freddo da una banda che preda di una cieca superstizione aveva visto nel ragazzino l’immagine dell’Anticristo che, secondo alcune tradizioni, è atteso alla fine dei tempi e anticipa il giorno del Giudizio.

Minori come vittime, e come spettatori di orrori. Come quella bambina di quattro anni che una foto ritrae incatenata a una cancellata. La didascalia che accompagna l’immagine spiega che è stata scattata a Hatla, poco distante da Deir Ezzor, dice che i genitori della bimba, sciiti, sono stati uccisi proprio davanti ai suoi occhi. L’altra barbarie è stata averla incatenata.

Ma non sono solo le minoranze religiose a essere vittime prescelte.

Il 21 giugno, è stata assassinata alle quattro del mattino la giovane Rola Hokouk che viveva nel quartiere Qamiy’a Yabroud, nella campagna di Damasco. Secondo i familiari Rola era stata presa di mira perché gestiva una pagina Facebook anti-opposizione. Un testimone spiega: “Uomini armati e mascherati hanno fatto irruzione e perquisito la casa in cerca di Rola. L’hanno trovata in preghiera. Ma questo non ha impedito che la uccidessero a distanza ravvicinata. … “. Anche la madre e la sorella sono state ferite dai proiettili.
Per mesi, i Comitati di coordinamento della rivoluzione siriana hanno annunciato ricompense a quanti avrebbero denunciato i siriani sostenitori del governo a Yabroud. Le ricompense arrivano anche a un milione di lire siriane in cambio di informazioni sui gestori di pagina pro-Assad su Facebook. Il caso di Rola, purtroppo, non è isolato. In barba alla libertà di espressione, il 2.0 si rivela un’arma letale.

In risposta, poi, alle falsità diffuse dai media di Qatar, Arabia e Turchia (e non solo) che invocano il salvataggio della comunità sunnita siriana dalle ingiustizie alawite, bisogna aggiungere che la giovane Rola era sunnita praticante.

A questo elenco di vittime dovremmo aggiungere – sulla base della denuncia del Sindacato siriano degli insegnanti – i sette insegnanti che un elicottero trasportava a Nubl e Zahraa, due villaggi sciiti da tempo assediati da gruppi dell’opposizione. Portavano documenti per gli esami. L’elicottero è stato abbattuto da missili anti-aerei probabilmente di provenienza qatariota, come denunciato anche dal New York Times, e tutti gli occupanti sono morti.

EYEWITNESS REPORT OF THE BATTLE OF AL-QUASYR

By Syria Report

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Kris Janssen, a Belgian journalist, wrote the following eyewitness account after he visited Al-Qusayr on 22 June during a visit to Syria.

Al-Qusayr is a small city in Homs governate (province). It is located about 35 kilometers from the provincial capital Homs and 15 kilometres from the Lebanese border overlooking a mountainous area.

Although its a small city, it has great strategic importance because of its proximity to Lebanon and it provides a direct gateway to the provincial capital of Homs, the coastal area around Tartous and also to Damascus countryside.

The small city of al-Qusayr grabbed the world’s headline news in the last couple of weeks because of the ferocious battle which took place between the extremist militants and the so called Free Syrian army supported by the international anti-Syrian coalition on the one hand and the Syrian National Army on the other hand. The battle for the liberation of al-Qusayr began on the 19th of May and ended on the 5th of June 2013 resulting in a decisive victory for the Syrian National Army.

Because of its strategic importance, the extremist militants designed a plan to capture al- Qusayr and to use the city as a launching pad for further attacks and terrorist actions. Their operations started in February 2012 and were build around the same tactics used before in other parts of Syria, especially in the city of Daraʼa near the Jordanian border.

qusayr

Like Daraʼa, the city of al-Qusayr is near to a border, in this case the Lebanese border, which made it an easy target to infiltrate. The master plan was to have some rough elements infiltrating the city and making trouble after the Friday prayers as to provoke the security services and police. The extremist elements hoped for a heavy handed intervention of the security services and by doing so provoking violence and conflict between the civilian population and the security services. The local administration, well aware of these attempts, didn’t trap into this provocation and stayed as much as possible on the sidelines. When this provocation failed, some terrorists with a foreign nationality intervened and opened fire from sniper positions killing an innocent civilian hoping that the inhabitants would put the blame on the security services. This started a vicious cycle of violence and while making use of the confusion more terrorists infiltrated the city and began a campaign of sectarian cleansing in which they forced all Christians, Shi’a Muslims and Alawites out of the city or to be killed. When these families fled the city their houses were immediately taken by the terrorists and their belongings looted.

From this moment on they started to terrorise the remaining inhabitants who decided to stay and to attack the local police- and security services gradually taking over full control of al-Qusayr. It should be mentioned that some families refused to flee al-Qusayr and decided to stay whatever the cost and by doing so risking their lives and that of their relatives. One person became a local hero and a symbol for his actions representing others who made similar attempts to defend their streets and neighbourhoods till the last moment sacrificing their lives for the defence of the homeland. His name was Hanna (Arabic for John). Hanna was a Christian from al-Qusayr. When the extremist militants took over the city he refused to give in to the threats and organised with his family, friends and neighbours a self-defence brigade to protect his street and neighbourhood against the sectarian cleansing carried out by the terrorists. For more than four months he managed to defend the neighbourhood although fully surrounded by the extremists and even after the killing of his father and brother he continued his courageous defence efforts. When after four months Hanna himself was killed he became a symbol for the inhabitants of the city and the slogan “We are all Hanna” became a household name along the population of al-Qusayr used not only to honour Hanna but also to honour and remember all the other martyrs who gave their lives in the same circumstances to defend al-Qusayr and its inhabitants against the two barbaric acts of the terrorists. There was not only one Hanna but many Hanna’s who sacrificed their lives for the noble goal of freedom and against extremism.

Once the terrorists took over al-Qusayr, they began implementing their diabolic plan of destroying every possible symbol of peaceful coexistence between the inhabitants of al- Qusayr. They destroyed the local church, mosques and other important places where Shiʼa Muslims, Alawites or Christians used to come together.

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Furthermore, these terrorist elements began to dig tunnels under all public buildings and placed explosives beneath them to blow them up. Especially those building which provided a service to the community as the public hospital that had such an excellent reputation that it even was used extensively by the Lebanese living over the border, but also schools, electricity- and water supply infrastructure were destroyed. The purpose of these destructions was to erase every form of peaceful cohabitation between the citizens of al- Qusayr and make living conditions so harsh as to force the Christian, Shiʼa and Alawite community out of the city or to be killed. It should also be mentioned that in the sick and twisted minds of these extremists the public buildings were not there to provide services to the population but symbolised the authority of the Syrian government. According to their vision the public hospital providing healthcare for the whole population of al-Qusayr and surroundings was “the hospital of Bashar al-Assad”. The schools providing education for the children of al-Qusayr were in analogy “the schools of Bashar al-Assad”, etc… . In this twisted logic every public building or infrastructure providing services to the population had to be destroyed bringing living standards in al-Qusayr back to the stone age.

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On the 19th of May 2013, the Syrian National Army began a massive military operation to liberate al-Qusayr. This resulted in a decisive victory and the Syrian army regained full control of al Qusayr on June 5th. The terrorists, faced with an absolute defeat, began implementing the tactic of the scorched earth. While retreating, they carried out the destruction of the whole city by blowing up the remaining private houses or using them as hiding places to open fire on the advancing Syrian army. At the end of the battle of al- Qusayr, not a single house or building in the centre of the city was spared by the destructive actions of the terrorists. Not a single house or building in al-Qusayr was or demolished or heavily damaged. These destruction didnʼt really have a military tactical purpose but was carried out by these extremist militants for the sake of the destruction itself. To make a return by the inhabitants of al-Qusayr to their homes or what is left of it as difficult as possible and also to let the Syrian authorities face the tremendous task of rebuilding the demolished city from scratch.

The Western media were quick to accuse the Syrian army for the destruction of the city as a result of its military operations but all witness reports from the local inhabitants who were still trapped in the city during the battle point to the coalition of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and the so called Free Syrian Army as the culprits and perpetrators of the destruction of al-Qusayr. Moreover, it would make no sense at all for the Syrian National Army to destroy the city and this for several reasons. First of all, the Syrian National Army is the army for every Syrian independent of their sectarian background. The ultimate goal of liberating al-Qusayr was to make it possible for all its citizens to return to their homes in safety to rebuild and continue their lives. Destruction of the city would make this goal much more
difficult as everything has to be rebuilt and, most importantly, the local population put their
trust in the Syrian army as defenders of the homeland. It would be totally illogical and contradictory to think that the Syrian army, being the liberators of al-Qusayr and defenders of the homeland, providing security to its citizens, would have an interest in destroying al-Qusayr. To underline the positive role of the Syrian army and authorities it must be stressed that the same day the Syrian National Army liberated al-Qusayr the 3 governor of Homs province came to the city to support the citizens and make an account of the destructions perpetrated by the terrorists.

Forthwith a full inventory was made of priority repairs to be done to provide the citizens as soon as possible with all the basic amenities and utilities to facilitate the return to their houses. Just days after the liberation of al-Qusayr workshops were already implementing these repairs restoring water and electricity to some parts of the city, removing debris and clearing streets.

Because of the scale of the destruction new power-lines and pipes for the distribution of electricity and
water have to be rebuild all over the city but engineering units and mobile workshops are working day and night to gradually restore these services in every neighbourhood of al-Qusayr.

Another element of the battle of al-Qusayr which was highlighted in the Western media was the role played by the Hezbollah resistance movement in the liberation of the city. The view put forward by these Western media outlets was that without the direct involvement of Hezbollah the Syrian army would not have succeeded or would not have been able to liberate al-Qusayr and defeat the terrorists and extremists active in the city.

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As an answer to these faulty statements made to influence and misinform the general public it should be underlined that the role of Hezbollah was a supportive role while the liberation of al-Qusayr and the accompanying military operations where fully carried out by the Syrian National Army according to a tactical plan designed and implemented by the command of the Syrian army itself. The main reason of the involvement of Hezbollah was to secure the border areas cutting off supply routes to the extremist militants and by securing the border areas also making sure that the conflict would not spill over to the villages on the Lebanese side of the border. Another aspect, generally not known by the Western public, is that a significant number of Lebanese citizens are living on the Syrian side of the border. These Lebanese civilians are extremely vulnerable as the Lebanese army cannot provide them with security because they are living on the Syrian side of the border and the Syrian army was fully engaged in liberating al-Qusayr and providing security to its own citizens. Because of this precarious situation, the Hezbollah movement had no choice as to intervene and secure the borders to avoid a massacre by the retreating extremists.

NEW VIDEO OF BEHEADING OF SYRIANS LOYAL TO THEIR GOVERNMENT HIGHLIGHTS BRUTALITY OF OPPOSITION

A video purportedly showing an extrajudicial public beheading of two Bashar Assad loyalists has been uploaded onto the internet. Its authenticity has been verified by pro and anti-Assad sources, though it remains unclear who is behind the execution.

In the nine-minute clip, a group of several hundred people, including men, women and children stands around a hill, when the sentenced men, bound with ropes and wearing bags on their heads are led out. As the crowd closes in with shouts of Allah Akbar (“Glory to God!”) the two, who are wearing civilian clothes, are laid on the floor, and a bearded ‘executioner’ methodically saws through the throat of first one, then the other with a knife. The heads of the dead men are then placed on top of their bodies as the crowd continues to bay.

The phone-filmed video was uploaded on Wednesday to video-sharing site YouTube by Syrian Truth, a group that supports President Bashar Assad, which previously uncovered a clip of an anti-government fighter eating what appeared to be a human heart. According to the voices in the footage, it was shot in Khan al-Assal, near the city of Aleppo the north of the country.


The authenticity of the video was also endorsed by resources that have chiefly backed the rebels in the internal conflict that has lasted over two years – such as the UK-based Observatory for Human Rights and all4Syria.info, which moved to condemn its contents.

The identities of all parties involved in the video remain unclear.

A man is heard on the tape charges the two ‘convicted’ men of transporting weapons and ammunition for the regular army.


“I did not transport weapons, brother” cries out the man, writhing on the ground, with his hands tied behind his back.

One of the men in the video shouts out “This is punishment for the Shabiha!”. The Shabiha is a loyalist, semi-official plain-clothes militia that Assad’s opponents say has been used to crack down on dissent in contested areas. The force was implicated by the United Nations in the Houla Massacre last year, in which as many as a hundred people may have died.

Various other media, sympathetic to Assad, claimed the men were Christians, executed for religious reason, with several alleging that one of those executed was a priest. No site supplied possible names of the condemned.

The identity of the executioners is also murky.

The Syrian National Coalition, which represents the mainstream opposition to Assad, said it was still running tests to verify whether the perpetrators were genuine rebel fighters, saying the sound and images may have been tampered with for propaganda purposes. It also insisted that the “rule of law” must be preserved, including the right of anyone captured to a “fair and free trial”.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on its Facebook page that “perpetrators spoke with a classical Arabic accent and did not sound Arabic, they sounded Chechniyan (sic)”. All4Syria also claimed the executioners were fighters from the former Soviet Union, possibly Uzbekistan or Azerbaijan. Snippets of Russian can be heard in the video.

Various local sources said the militia responsible may have been part of Jabhat al Nusra – the Al Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group that has swelled with foreign fighters and local recruits as the conflict has dragged on.

Videos of unconfirmed provenance, depicting atrocities and use of illegal weapons, have become an almost-daily feature of the war that has cost at least 90,000 lives according to the UN. An increasingly common aspect of the footage has been the disproportionate presence of often religiously-motivated paramilitary forces on both sides, as the culprits, suggesting that the conflict may have spiraled out of control of the main warring parties.

RT

THE MYTH OF THE SECULAR, PRO-DEMOCRACY “SYRIAN REBEL”

An image grab taken from a video uploaded on Youtube on June 26, 2013 by user @syrian observatory

Even if there were secular Syrian rebels fighting for liberal democracy (and it’s not clear there are) they’d still be unworthy of support

By Stephen Gowans

Asked to justify his support for what his interlocutor called “Islamo-fascists,” a leftist sympathetic to the Syrian rebellion replied, “I’m not supporting radical Islamists. I support the Free Syrian Army’s fight for democracy.” With al-Qaeda aligned jihadists beheading some of their enemies and eating the organs of others, that’s the best case supporters of the Syrian rebellion can make these days. Unlike the radical Islamists, who dominate the rebellion and want to build a theocracy atop the hoped-for ruins of Syria’s secular Arab nationalist regime, the uprising’s Western leftist supporters are against dictatorship and for democracy. That’s why, they say, they’re backing the FSA.

But much as they believe they’re on the side on the angels, they’re not. The idea that the FSA is the secular, democratic front of a popular uprising ignores a number of problems, from a misunderstanding of what the FSA is, to blindness to the democratic reforms already carried out in Syria, to an unwarranted fondness for a political arrangement that would open the doors to US domination of Syria.

The “moderate” rebels

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Let’s begin with the misunderstanding about the Free Syrian Army. There’s nothing secular about the FSA, and nothing democratic about it, either. The US-backed rebel army exists, according to its leaders, for one reason—to remove Bashar al-Assad as president. [1] Its sole program, then, is negative, without positive (either democratic or secular) aspirations.

You don’t have to be committed to a secular society to belong to the FSA. Indeed, according to Reuters, the organization’s military command is “Islamist dominated”. [2] The Associated Press says that “Many of the participating groups have strong Islamists agendas, and some have fought in ways that could scare away Western backers. They include the Tawheed Brigade, whose ideology is similar to that of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Falcons of Damascus, an ultraconservative Islamist group.” [3] The Wall Street Journal reports that Brig. Gen. Mithkal Albtaish, an FSA leader, says that the organization is “dominated by Islamist groups that are in close coordination with al Nusra,” [4] the al-Qaeda aligned terrorist group. The idea, then, that the FSA is secular is mistaken.

Neither does the FSA have a political program committed to democracy. “Eliminate Assad” does not necessarily mean “create democracy.” It could mean “create theocracy” or “create a US-puppet regime.” Hence, what the FSA wants to replace Assad with, is not defined, but given that the organization is backed, armed, supported and guided by the United States, its European satellites, and Arab royalist dictators (an iconoclast has dubbed the loose alliance of rebel groups the Foreign Supplied Army) we can guess that the answer is: whatever the FSA’s backers, prime among them Washington, say. And let’s be clear. The FSA’s goal isn’t to eliminate Assad per se, but the policies Assad and his allies are committed to: economic nationalism; anti-colonialism; alliance with Iran; and so on, about which more in a moment. It is inconceivable that the United States and its FSA marionette would tolerate a successor to Assad who maintained Assad’s foreign and economic policies.

US foreign policy

The aim of US foreign policy is to defend and promote the interests of that section of the country’s citizens which has the greatest sway over its formation. This is by no means a unique feature of the foreign policy of the United States, but is a universal characteristic of the foreign policies of all countries. French, Russian, Chinese and British foreign policies are no different. For example, the basic priority of foreign policy in Britain—where the country’s business interests have a commanding influence over state policy— “is to aid British companies in getting their hands on other countries’ resources,” according to British foreign policy analyst Mark Curtis. Pointing to the role of one instrument of British foreign policy, the country’s foreign intelligence service, MI6, Curtis observes,

As Lord Mackay, then Lord Chancellor, revealed in the mid-1990s, the role of MI6 is to protect Britain’s ‘economic well-being’ by keeping ‘a particular eye on Britain’s access to key commodities, like oil or metals [and] the profits of Britain’s myriad of international business interests.’ [5]

The aim of US (or British) foreign policy is not to promote a particular kind of political regime in other countries. It, does not, contrary, to its own rhetoric, favour liberal democracies over other political systems, nor promote liberal democracy abroad, except insofar as liberal democratic political arrangements are congenial to the business interests of its most influential citizens. If fascist dictatorship, military autocracy or absolutist monarchy best serves the profit-making interests of preeminent US investors, banks and corporations at a particular time and place, the United States is happy to promote and defend these alternative regimes. For example, royal dictatorships abound among Washington’s Arab allies. Washington is comfortable having Arab dictators as friends because these regimes are congenial to US business, financial and military interests—recycling petro-dollars through US investment banks; cooperating with the US military, and in some case hosting US military bases; purchasing US military equipment; and implementing pro-US foreign investment and trade policies. When Arab dictators have become less accommodating, and more interested in promoting local interests, Washington has turned against them, reviling them as dictators to galvanize support at home for interventions to topple them, and replace them with more congenial (to wealthy US investor) rulers. “Rebel” journalist Wilfred Burchett put it this way: “The truth of the matter is that any country which can guarantee safety for British and American investments, no matter what the color of its regime, is acceptable to Whitehall and the White House, whether it be a personal dictatorship in Santo Domingo, clerical Fascist in Spain, semi Fascist in South Africa, or a gangster regime in a South American republic.” [6]

There are, then, two points—the first about goals and the second about means.

• The goal of US foreign policy is to promote the profit-making interests of its super-wealthy citizens who have goods to export and capital to invest.
• Liberal democracy is sometimes seen as the best way to achieve this goal, but sometimes not. When liberal democracy is understood as the best arrangement, Washington will promote it. When a different political arrangement is understood to best support fundamental US foreign policy aims, Washington will promote that different political arrangement.

Is the United States promoting liberal democracy in Syria?

If it is, it is only doing so incidentally, and we don’t even know if it’s doing that. All we know is that Washington, like the FSA (or more precisely the FSA like Washington) wants to topple the Ba’ath regime and it’s easy to infer why. Damascus pursues too many objectionable policies from Washington’s point of view. First, there’s economic nationalism (subsidies to domestic firms, restrictions on foreign investment, tariffs to protect domestic industry, displacement of free enterprise by state-ownership—all of which limit US profit-making opportunities). Then there’s Syria’s refusal to recognize the Zionist conquest of Palestine (i.e., to recognize Israel.) Syria’s support for Hezbollah and alliance with Iran are also irritants, as is the country’s military cooperation with Russia. So, all we know is that Washington wants Assad gone—because his policies fail to mesh with the US foreign policy goal of making US investors, corporations and financiers richer.

At the moment, we can seriously doubt that the United States is working through the rebels to promote liberal democracy, because (a) the dominant part of the rebellion, the radical Islamists, abhor liberal democracy and are committed to a theocracy, and (b) the FSA is only committed to ousting Assad, and has no commitment to promoting democracy. But suppose the United States is indeed working to promote liberal democracy in Syria. Would a US-imposed liberal democracy be better than what currently exists in the country? Syria is in transition from a political arrangement which defined the Arab nationalist and socialist Ba’ath Party as the country’s lead political organization to a multi-party electoral democratic arrangement in which no party is primus inter pares. A constitutional amendment introduced under pressure of the Syrian revolt, and ratified by referendum, stripped the Ba’athists of their lead role in Syrian society, and scheduled a presidential election for 2014. Anyone who meets basic requirements can stand for election. At the same time, restrictions on civil liberties, implemented because Syria is in a technical state of war with Israel, were lifted. Thus, whoever backs the Syrian rebels on grounds that they’re bringing to birth a new liberal democratic order in Syria (of which we have no evidence that they are or even intend to do so) needs to show how the child that will be delivered through the pain of more war will be any different from the child that has already been delivered through Assad’s reforms.

There’s something else they need to explain. What’s so wonderful about a US-approved liberal democratic order? Liberal democracy appeals to the US’s power elite because it creates an “open society”—one which affords the wealthy elite plenty of room to use their command over their considerable resources to dominate the political process. They use their wealth and connections to place themselves and their representatives in key state decision-making positions; to lobby politicians and regulatory agencies; to bribe politicians with campaign funding and the promise of lucrative post-political jobs; and to hire public relations firms and establish foundations to set media and scholarly agendas. Through these means they concentrate state power in their hands (complementing their considerable economic power); win most political battles; and monopolize the society’s benefits.

An open Syrian society would allow the United States to act in Syria as the US corporate elite acts in the United States. It could buy influence by funding political candidates and parties that are pro-West, pro-US, pro-free-trade, pro-Israel, and pro-foreign-investment. It could allow the State Department to funnel money to local media to promote US positions (openly, through the National Endowment for Democracy, or covertly, if necessary). And Washington could bankroll NGOs, either directly or through private foundations, to garner popular support for policies favorable to US interests. The outcome would be that state power would be concentrated in the hands of US lackeys; US interests would win out in political battles with local interests; and the US corporate elite would monopolize the benefits of the Syrian economy. That’s not democracy. It’s neo-colonialism.

Conclusion

There are two kinds of rebels in Syria. Those who openly promote theocracy. And those whose only public commitment is to eliminate Assad. The military command of the latter includes secular elements but is Islamist-dominated. Their goals, beyond eliminating Assad, are undefined—perhaps concealed. They may want to create a theocracy, or a US-puppet regime, or both, or something else altogether. They are also armed, trained, backed and politically supported by the United States, its European satellites, and Arab royal dictatorships.

The United States supports foreign organizations that can help advance the interests of that section of the US population which holds sway over US foreign policy formation—wealthy bankers, major investors and huge corporations looking for export and investment opportunities abroad. It does not support democratic organizations—those that seek to promote the interests of the people in the countries in which US investors and corporations seek to do business. The belief, then, that there exists a popular uprising in Syria for democracy that, despite its being backed by the United States, can still be an instrument for promoting the interests of Syrians, is found on mistaken ideas about who the rebels are and a misunderstanding of the nature of US foreign policy. To square this circle, one would have to believe that the interests of the US corporate elite are congruent with, and not inimical to, the interests of the vast majority of Syria’s people.

But even if, indeed, we could say that Washington is backing some of the rebels on the ground with the aim of creating a liberal democracy in Syria, we would still have to ask two questions. First, would this political system, which is to be secured at the cost of many more tens of thousands of lives in a continued war, be any better than the one already conceded by the Assad government? Second, would an open society—one affording plenty of room for US forces to dominate Syria’s public and economic life—be preferable to a less open one, whose restrictions guard against foreign domination and allow the state to pursue local interests?

1. Zeina Karam, “In rare public appearance, Syrian president denies role in Houla massacre”, The Associated Press, June 3, 2012.
2. “Syrian rebels elect head of new military command,” Reuters, December 8, 2012.
3. Bassem Mroue and Benn Hubbard, “Syria rebels create new unified military command,” Associated Press, December 8, 2012.
4. Inti Landauro and Stacy Meichtry, “Rebels in Syria move to show moderation”, The Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2013
5. Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit: Britain’s Real Role in the World, Vintage, 2003, pp.210-211.
6. Wilfred Burchett, excerpt from People’s Democracies, in George Burchett and Nick Shimmin (eds.), Rebel Journalism: The Writings of Wilfred Burchett, Cambridge University Press, 2007, p. 45.

US SENDS PLANELOAD OF EQUIPMENT, OFFICERS, TO SYRIA VIA TURKEY

SEE >> THE ROLE OF TURKEY IN THE US-NATO-ISRAELI WAR ON SYRIA

TEHRAN (FNA)- Tens of retired US Army officers accompanied by a military cargo infiltrated into Syria through Turkey’s Hatay province on Sunday, informed sources unveiled, adding that the American militaries and the cargo had arrived in Hatay just this morning.

“An American C-130 plane carrying a cargo of hi-tech telecommunications equipment and devices and 57 retired US officers landed in Turkey’s Hatay province this morning,” an informed source, who asked to remain unnamed for the sensitivity of his information, told FNA on Sunday.

“The US officers crossed the border with Syria via Reyhanli (in Hatay province) and their goal is to take charge of the central command of all military activities of armed rebels in Syria,” added the source.

He mentioned that the military cargo, containing the telecommunications equipment, left Reyhanli for the border crossing after the US officers arrived at their destination in Northern Syria.

Earlier this month, a report said that the US spy agency was gearing up to send weapons to insurgent groups in Syria through secret bases in Turkey and Jordan.

“The bases are expected to begin conveying shipments of weapons and ammunition within weeks,” the US daily, The Washington Post, reported Saturday, quoting unnamed American officials as saying.

“We have relationships today in Syria that we didn’t have six months ago,” US President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser Benjamin J. Rhodes said during a White House briefing.

US officials announced on Thursday that Obama had authorized sending weapons to the militants in Syria ‘for the first time.’

In mid-June, American newspaper USA Today quoted Christopher Harmer, an analyst with the Institute for the Study of War, as saying that the US is vetting to use Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base, which is technically a NATO air base, as a hub for supplying militants in Syria with weapons.

Early in March, a ranking member of the US marine troops deployed in Afghanistan told FNA that the Pentagon made the decision to send a major part of its light and semi-heavy weapons systems and military equipment to the Syrian rebels along with its pullout from Afghanistan when the former US Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta, was still in office.

“The decision to send our arms and weapons systems in Afghanistan to the rebel groups in Syria was originally made when the former US Secretary of Defense was in his final days of office, yet the Pentagon has also received the approval of the new Secretary, Chuck Hagel, as well,” said the source who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of his information.

“One of these cargos consists of the light and semi-heavy military tools, equipment and weapons that the US army has gathered and piled up in Kandahar Base and plans to send them to the rebels in Syria in the form of several air and sea cargos and through Turkey and specially Jordan,” he explained.

Reports had also earlier revealed that Turkey’s national air carrier, Turkish Air, has been transiting Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants from North Waziristan in Pakistan to the Turkish borders with Syria.

“The Turkish intelligence agency sent 93 Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists from Waziristan to Hatay province near the border with Syria on a Turkish Air Airbus flight No. 709 on September 10, 2012 and via the Karachi-Istanbul flight route,” the source told FNA in September, adding that the flight had a short stop in Istanbul.

The 93 terrorists transited to the Turkish border with Syria included Al-Qaeda militants from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and a group of Arabs residing in Waziristan, he added.

FNA dispatches from Pakistan said new al-Qaeda members were trained in North Waziristan until a few days ago and then sent to Syria, but now they are transferring their command center to the borders between Turkey and Syria as a first step to be followed by a last move directly into the restive parts of Syria on the other side of the border.

The al-Qaeda, backed by Turkey, the US and its regional Arab allies, had set up a new camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Salafi and Jihadi terrorists and dispatched them to Syria via Turkish borders.

“A new Al-Qaeda has been created in the region through the financial and logistical backup of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and a number of western states, specially the US,” a source told FNA in September.

Ali Mahdian told FNA that the US and the British governments have been playing with the al-Qaeda through their Arab proxy regimes in the region in a bid to materialize their goals, specially in Syria.

He said the Saudi and Qatari regimes serve as interlocutors to facilitate the CIA and MI6 plans in Syria through instigating terrorist operations by Salafi and Arab Jihadi groups, adding that the terrorists do not know that they actually exercise the US plans.

“Turkey has also been misusing extremist Salafis and Al-Qaeda terrorists to intensify the crisis in Syria and it has recently augmented its efforts in this regard by helping the new Al-Qaeda branch set up a camp in Northern Waziristan in Pakistan to train Al-Qaeda and Taliban members as well as Turkish Salafis and Arab Jihadis who are later sent to Syria for terrorist operations,” said the source.

He said the camp in Waziristan is not just a training center, but a command center for terrorist operations against Syria.

Yet, the source said the US and Britain are looking at the new Al-Qaeda force as an instrument to attain their goals and do not intend to support them to ascend to power, “because if Salafi elements in Syria ascend to power, they will create many problems for the US, the Western states and Turkey in future”.

“Thus, the US, Britain and Turkey are looking at the Al-Qaeda as a tactical instrument,” he said, and warned of the regional and global repercussions of the US and Turkish aid to the Al-Qaeda and Salafi groups.

“Unfortunately, these group of countries have just focused on the short-term benefits that the Salafis and the Al-Qaeda can provide for them and ignore the perils of this support in the long run,” he said.

“At present, the western countries, specially Britain which hosts and controls the Jihadi Salafi groups throughout the world are paving the ground for these extremists to leave their homes – mostly in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as those who live in Europe and the US – for Waziristan,” the source added.

AT “FRIENDS OF SYRIA” MEETING, AL-NUSRAH DEMANDS INCREASE IN WEAPONS SUPPLIES

Al-Nusrah Warns 'Friends of Syria' Meeting about Distribution of Arms Supplies

TEHRAN (FNA)- The al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusrah Front threatened the participating countries in the so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ conference in Doha on Saturday that it should be the recipient of half of arms supplies to Syria, diplomatic sources revealed on Sunday.

The foreign ministers of the so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ countries held a meeting in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday to discuss the volume and recepiants of arms supplies to the rebels in Syria. The US and other western states allege that they intend to funnel arms into the hands of the Free Syrian Army to avoid equipment of terrorist groups with advanced weapons.

But, diplomatic sources present at the meeting told FNA that both the FSA and the al-Nusrah Front had sent separate letters to the meeting to warn the participants about the destination of the arms supplies.

“The commander of the al-Nusrah Front in a letter to the Doha conference called on the countries which took part in the meeting to supply the group with 50% of the weapons decided to be sent to the rebel groups in Syria,” a diplomat present at the meeting said on the condition of anonymity for fear of his life.

According to the diplomat the letter warned the participants that “they should wait for dire consequences if they refrain from complying with the al-Nusrah request”.

“Also, the ringleader of the ‘Free Syrian Army’ Salim Idriss in a separate letter to the conference demanded that FSA be the only recepiant of any future arms supplies to be sent by the participants to Syria,” added the diplomat.

Qatari Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani announced that 9 of the countries attending the ‘Friends of Syria’ conference agreed on providing the Syrian militant groups with military aids.

“The Syrian militants need military support, not a moral one,” he said in a joint press conference with the US Secretary of State John Kerry after the meeting.
The al-Nusra Front has been behind many of the deadly bombings targeting both civilians and government institutions across Syria since the outbreak of violence in March 2011.

On May 10, Syria’s Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Jaafari said the al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for carrying out at least 600 acts of terror in the past year. Jaafari also slammed the group for attacking hospitals and schools, desecrating holy places, assassinating religious figures, and abducting UN personnel in Syria.

The West has been widely criticized for its double standard when it comes to dealing with terrorist groups.

Over two years of foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria has taken its toll on the lives of many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011 with organized attacks by well-armed gangs against Syrian police forces and border guards being reported across the country.

In October 2011, calm was eventually restored in the Arab state after President Assad started a reform initiative in the country, but Israel, the US and its Arab allies are seeking hard to bring the country into chaos through any possible means. Tel Aviv, Washington and some Arab capitals have been staging various plots in the hope of stirring unrests in Syria once again.

The US and its western and regional allies have long sought to topple Bashar al-Assad and his ruling system. Media reports said that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.

The US daily, Washington Post, reported in May 2012 that the Syrian rebels and terrorist groups battling the President Bashar al-Assad’s government have received significantly more and better weapons in recent weeks, a crime paid for by the Persian Gulf Arab states and coordinated by the United States.

The newspaper, quoting opposition activists and US and foreign officials, reported that Obama administration officials emphasized the administration has expanded contacts with opposition military forces to provide the Persian Gulf nations with assessments of rebel credibility and command-and-control infrastructure.

Opposition activists who had earlier complained that the rebels were running out of ammunition said in May 2012 that the flow of weapons – most bought on the black market in neighboring countries or from elements of the Syrian military in the past – has significantly increased after a decision by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Persian Gulf states to provide millions of dollars in funding each month.

SYRIA: THE VIEW FROM THE OTHER SIDE


PRESIDENT ASSAD’S FULL INTERVIEW WITH JURGEN TODENHOFER
PRESIDENT BASHAR AL-ASSAD


By Stephen Gowans

His security forces used live ammunition to mow down peaceful pro-democracy protesters, forcing them to take up arms to try to topple his brutal dictatorship. He has killed tens of thousands of his own people, using tanks, heavy artillery and even chemical weapons. He’s a blood-thirsty tyrant whose rule has lost its legitimacy and must step down to make way for a peaceful democratic transition.

That’s the view of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, cultivated by Western politicians and their media stenographers. If there’s another side to the story, you’re unlikely to hear it. Western mass media are not keen on presenting the world from the point of view of governments that find themselves the target of Western regime change operations. On the contrary, their concern is to present the point of view of the big business interests that own them and the Western imperialism that defends and promotes big business interests. They accept as beyond dispute all pronouncements by Western leaders on matters of foreign affairs, and accept without qualification that the official enemies of US imperialism are as nasty as the US president and secretary of state say they are.

What follows is the largely hidden story from the other side, based on two interviews with Assad, the first conducted by Clarin newspaper and Telam news agency on May 19, 2013, and the second carried out on June 17, 2013 by Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Both were translated into English by the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Peaceful protests?

Ba’athist Syria is no stranger to civil unrest, having experienced wave after wave of uprisings by Sunni religious fanatics embittered by their country being ruled by a secular state whose highest offices are occupied by Alawite ‘heretics’. [1] The latest round of uprisings, the opening salvos in another chapter of what Glen E. Robinson calls “Syria’s Long Civil War,” began in March, 2011. The first press reports were of a few small protests, dwarfed by the far more numerous and substantial protests that erupt every day in the United States, Britain and France. A March 16, 2011 New York Times report noted that “In Syria, demonstrations are few and brief.” These early demonstrations—a few quixotic young men declaring that “the revolution has started!”, relatives of prisoners protesting outside the Interior Ministry—seem disconnected from the radical Islamist rebellion that would soon develop.

Within days, larger demonstrations were underway in Dara, where citizens were said to have been “outraged by the arrest of more than a dozen schoolchildren.” Contrary to a myth that has since taken hold, these demonstrations were hardly peaceful. Protesters set fire to the local Ba’ath Party headquarters, as well as to the town’s main courthouse and a branch of SyriaTel. Some protesters shot at the police, who returned fire. [2] One can imagine the reaction of the New York City Police to protesters in Manhattan setting fire to the federal court building, firebombing the Verizon building and opening fire on police. A foreign broadcaster with an agenda to depict the United States in the worst possible light might describe the protest as peaceful, and the police response as brutal, but it’s doubtful anyone in the United States would see it that way.

From “the first weeks of the protests we had policemen killed, so how could such protests have been peaceful?” asks Assad. “How could those who claim that the protests were peaceful explain the death of these policemen in the first week?” Assad doesn’t deny that most protesters demonstrated peacefully, but notes that “there were armed militants infiltrating protesters and shooting at the police.”

Was the reaction of Syrian security forces to the unrest heavy-handed? Syria has a long history of Islamist uprisings against its secular state. With anti-government revolts erupting in surrounding countries, there was an acute danger that Syria’s Muslim Brothers—long at war with the Syrian state—would be inspired to return to jihad. What’s more, Syria is technically at war with Israel. As other countries in similar circumstances, Syria had an emergency law in place, restricting certain civil liberties in the interest of defending national security. Among the restrictions was a ban on unauthorized public assembly. The demonstrations were a flagrant challenge to the law, at a time of growing instability and danger to the survival of the Syrian secular project. Moreover, to expect Syrian authorities to react with restraint to gunfire from protesters is to hold Syria to a higher standard than any other country.

Meanwhile, as protesters in Syria were shooting at police and setting fire to buildings, Bahrain’s royal dictatorship was crushing a popular uprising with the assistance of Saudi tanks and US equipment. New York Times’ columnist Nicholas D. Kristof lamented that “America’s ally, Bahrain” was using “American tanks, guns and tear gas as well as foreign mercenaries to crush a pro-democracy movement” as Washington remained “mostly silent.” [3] Kristof said he had “seen corpses of protesters who were shot at close range, seen a teenage girl writhing in pain after being clubbed, seen ambulance workers beaten for trying to rescue protesters.” He didn’t explain why the United States would have a dictator as an ally, much less one who crushed a pro-democracy movement. All he could offer was the weak excuse that the United States was “in a vice—caught between its allies and its values,” as if Washington didn’t chose its allies, and that they were a force of nature, like an earthquake or a hurricane, that you had to live with and endure. The United States was indeed in a vice—though not of the sort Kristof described. It was caught between Washington’s empty rhetoric on democracy and the profit-making interests of the country’s weighty citizens, the true engine of US foreign policy. The dilemma was readily resolved. Profits prevailed, as they always do.

Bahrain’s accommodating attitude to US imperialism—it is home to the US Fifth Fleet—and its emphasis on indulging owners and investors at the expense of wage- and salary-earners, are unimpeachably friendly to US corporate and financial interests. Practically the entire stable of US allies in the Middle East is comprised of royal dictators whose attitude to democracy is unremittingly hostile, but whose attitude to helping US oil companies and titans of finance rake in fabulous profits is tremendously accommodating. And so the United States is on good terms with them, despite their violent allergic reaction to democracy. Aware of whose interests really matter in US foreign policy, Kristof wrote of Bahrain, “We’re not going to pull out our naval base.” Democracy is one thing, but a military base half way around the world (i.e., imperialism) is quite another.

That Bahrain’s version of the Arab Spring failed to grow into a civil war has much to do with US tanks, guns and tear gas, foreign mercenaries, and the silence of the US government. The Bahraini authorities used the repressive apparatus of the state more vigorously than Syrian authorities did, and yet virtually escaped the negative attention of responsibility-to-protect advocates, the US State Department, “serious” political commentators, and anarchists and many (though not all) Trots who, in line with their savaging of Gadhafi, preferred to vent their spleen on another official enemy of Western imperialism, rather than waste their bile execrating a US ally. What’s more, the ‘international community’ did much to fan the flames of the Syrian rebellion, linking up once again with their old friends Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brothers to destabilize yet another left nationalist secular regime, whose devotion to sovereignty and self-management was an affront to Wall Street. [4] Without naming him specifically, Assad says Khalifa is among the leaders who stand in relation to the United States, France and Britain as “puppets and dummies [who] do their bidding and serve their interests without question.”

Anti-imperialism

If Khalifa is the model of the Arab dictator Washington embraces, Assad fits the matrix of the Arab leader whose insistence on independence rubs the US State Department the wrong way. “The primary aim of the West,” Assad says, “is to ensure that they have ‘loyal’ governments at their disposal…which facilitate the exploitation and consumption of a country’s national resources.” Khalifa comes to mind.

In contrast, Assad insists that a “country like Syria is not by any means a satellite state to the West.” It hasn’t turned over its territory to US military bases, nor made over its economy to accommodate Western investors, banks and corporations. “Syria,” he says, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”

It’s not his attitude to multi-party democracy or the actions of Syria’s security forces that have aroused Western enmity, asserts Assad, but his insistence on steering an independent course for Syria. “It is only normal that they would not want us to play a role (in managing our own affairs), preferring instead a puppet government serving their interests and creating projects that would benefit their peoples and economies.” Normal or not, the Syrian president says, “We have consistently rejected this. We will always be independent and free,” adding that the United States and its satellites are using the conflict in Syria “to get rid of Syria—this insubordinate state, and replace the president with a ‘yes’ man.”

Foreign agenda

Assad challenges the characterization of the conflict as a civil war. The rebel side, he points out, is overwhelmingly dominated by foreign jihadists and foreign-based opposition elements (heavily dominated by the Muslim Brothers) backed by hostile imperialist powers. Some of Assad’s opponents, he observes, “are far from autonomous independent decision makers,” receiving money, weapons, logistical support and intelligence from foreign powers. “Their decisions,” he says, “are not self-governing.”

The conflict is more aptly characterized as a predatory war on Syrian sovereignty carried out by Western powers and their reactionary Arab satellite states using radical Islamists to topple Assad’s government (but who will not be allowed to take power) “to impose a puppet government loyal to them which (will) ardently implement their policies.” These policies would almost certainly involve Damascus endorsing the Zionist conquest of Palestine as legitimate (i.e., recognizing Israel), as well as opening the country to the US military and turning over Syrian markets, labor and resources to exploitation by Western investors, banks and corporations on terms favourable to Western capital and unfavourable to Syrians.

Russia and Iran

Criticism of the intervention of a number of reactionary Arab states in the conflict, and the participation of Western imperialist powers, is often countered by pointing to Russia’s and Iran’s role in furnishing Syria with weapons. Assad argues that intervention of the side of the jihadists (‘terrorists’ in his vocabulary) is unlawful and illegitimate. By furnishing rebels with arms, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey and the United States “meddle in Syria’s internal affairs” Assad says, “which is a flagrant violation of international law and our national sovereignty.” On the other hand, Russia and Iran, which have supplied Syria with arms, have engaged in lawful trade with Syria, and have not infringed its independence.

Hezbollah

According to Assad, Hezbollah has been active in towns on the border with Lebanon, but its involvement in the Syrian conflict has, otherwise, been limited. “There are no brigades (of Hezbollah fighters in Syria.) They have sent fighters who have aided the Syrian army in cleaning areas on the Lebanese borders that were infiltrated with terrorists.”

Assad points out that if Hezbollah’s assistance was needed, he would have asked for deployment of the resistance organization’s fighters to Damascus and Aleppo which are “more important than al-Quseir,” the border town that was cleared of rebel fighters with Hezbollah’s help.

Stories about Hezbollah fighters pouring over the border to prop up the Syrian government are a “frenzy…to reflect an image of Hezbollah as the main fighting force” in order “to provoke Western and international public opinion,” Assad says. The aim, he continues, is to create “this notion that Hezbollah and Iran are also fighting in Syria as a counterweight” to the “presence of foreign jihadists” in Syria.

Democracy?

The Assad government has implemented a number of reforms in response to the uprising.

First, it cancelled the long-standing abridgment of civil liberties that had been authorized by the emergency law. This law, invoked because Syria is in a technical state of war with Israel, gave Damascus powers it needed to safeguard the security of the state in wartime. Many Syrians, however, chaffed at the law, and regarded it as unduly restrictive. Bowing to popular pressure, the security measures were suspended.

Second, the government proposed a new constitution to accommodate protesters’ demands to strip the Ba’ath Party of its lead role in Syrian society. The constitution was put to a referendum and ratified. Additionally, the presidency would be open to anyone meeting basic residency, age and citizenship requirements. Presidential elections would be held by secret vote every seven years under a system of universal suffrage, with the next election scheduled for 2014. “I don’t know if (US secretary of state) Kerry or others like him have a mandate from the Syrian people to speak on their behalf as to who stays and who leaves,” Assad observes, noting that Syrians themselves can decide whether he stays or leaves when they go to the polls next year.

Despite Assad’s lifting the emergency law and amending the constitution to accommodate demands for a multi-party electoral democracy, the conflict continues. Instead of accepting these changes, the rebels summarily rejected them. Washington, London and Paris also dismissed Assad’s concessions, denigrating them as “meaningless,” without explanation. [5] Given the immediate and total rejection of the reforms, Assad can hardly be blamed for concluding that “democracy was not the driving force of the revolt.”

Elaborating, he notes:

It was seemingly apparent at the beginning that demands were for reforms. It was utilized to appear as if the crisis was a matter of political reform. Indeed, we pursued a policy of wide scale reforms from changing the constitution to many of the legislations and laws, including lifting the state of emergency law, and embarking on a national dialogue with all political opposition groups. It was striking that with every step we took in the reform process, the level of terrorism escalated.

The reality that the armed rebellion is dominated by Islamists [6] also militates against the conclusion that thirst for democracy lies at its core. Many radical Islamists reject democracy because they see it as a system for creating man-made laws and, as a corollary, for rejecting God’s law. Reportedly hundreds of jihadists [7]—members of a sort of Islamist International—have travelled from abroad to fight for a Levantine society in which God’s law, and not that of men and women, rules. Assad asks, “What interest does an internationally listed terrorist from Chechnya or Afghanistan have with the internal political reform process in Syria?” Or in democracy?

Good terrorists and bad terrorists

Syria’s jihadists have resorted to terrorist tactics, and appear to have little fear that they will ever be held to account for these or other war crimes. They are not mistaken. Their summary executions of prisoners, indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas, terrorist car bombings, rapes, torture, hostage taking and pillage—documented by the UN human rights commission [8]—will very likely be swept into a dark, murky corner, to be forgotten and never acted upon, while imperialist powers use their sway over international courts to shine a bright line upon war crimes committed by Syrian forces. While their ranks include the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra front, the jihadists have been depicted as heroes by Western governments and their media stenographers, a “good Al-Qaeda,” says Assad. Cat’s paws of the West, radical Islamists are good terrorists when they fight to bring down independent governments, like the leftist pro-Soviet government in Afghanistan, and the anti-imperialist governments in Libya and Syria, but are bad terrorists when they attack the US homeland and threaten to take power in Mali.

Chemical weapons

Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor, announced that Syrian forces have “used chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, on a small scale against the opposition multiple times in the last year” killing “100 to 150 people.” [9]

Assad says the White House’s claim doesn’t add up. The point of using nerve gas, a weapon of mass destruction, is to kill “thousands of people at one given time.” The 150 people Washington says Syrian forces took 365 days to kill with chemical weapons could have been easily killed in one day using conventional weapons.

Why, then, wonders Assad, would the Syrian army use a weapon of mass destruction sub-optimally to kill a limited number of rebels when in a year it could kill hundreds of times more with rifles, tanks and artillery? “It is counterintuitive,” says the Syrian president, “to use chemical weapons to create a death toll that you could potentially reach by using conventional weapons.”

There is some evidence pointing to the use of chemical weapons by the rebels. Carla Del Ponte, a member of the United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria—a body created by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate alleged violations of human rights law in Syria—says that the commission has “concrete suspicions” of the use of sarin gas by the rebels” but no evidence government forces have used them. [10]

Assad says he asked the United Nations to launch a formal investigation into suspected use of chemical weapons by rebel forces in Aleppo, but that the UN demanded unconditional access to the country. If Assad acceded to the demand, the inspection regime could be used as a cover to gather military intelligence for use against Syrian forces. “We are a sovereign state; we have an army and all matters considered classified will never be accessible neither to the UN, nor Britain, nor France,” says Assad. If he rejected the demand, it could be said—as it indeed it was by the White House [11]—that the ‘international community’ had been prevented by Damascus from undertaking a comprehensive investigation, thereby releasing the UN from any obligation to investigate the use of chemical weapons by the jihadists. At the same time, by rejecting the UN’s demand, the Syrian government would create the impression it had something to hide. This could be countered by Damascus explaining its reasons for turning down the UN conditions, but the Western media give little time to the Syrian perspective, preferring saturation coverage of the pronouncements of Western officials. In terms of Western public opinion, whatever US officials say about Syria is decisive. Whatever Syrian officials say is drowned out, if presented at all.

It should be noted that no permanent member of the UN Security Council, including the United States and Britain—indeed, no country of any standing—would willingly grant an outside organization or country unrestricted access to its military and government facilities. The reasons for denying UN inspectors untrammelled access to Syria are all the stronger in Syria’s case, given that major players on the Security Council are overtly backing the rebels, and could be expected to try to use UN inspectors—as indeed the US did in Iraq—to gather military intelligence to be used against the host country.

It would also do well to remember that the United States evinced no interest in investigating the use of chemical weapons by the rebels, immediately dismissing the allegations as unfounded. Following up on the allegations wasn’t an option.

Finally, Assad points out that the chemical weapons charges call to mind the ‘sexed up’ WMD evidence used by the United States and Britain as a pretext to invade and conquer Iraq: “It is common knowledge” he says, “that Western administrations lie continuously and manufacture stories as a pretext for war.”

Conclusion

The purpose of the foregoing is to offer a glimpse into the conflict in Syria from the other side, a side which the Western media are institutionally incapable of presenting, except in passing, and only if overwhelmed by the competing imperialist narrative.

Assad’s analysis and values are very much in the anti-imperialist vein. He speaks of Western powers seeking “dummies” and “yes men” who will pursue policies that are favourable to the West. The United States does indeed maintain a collection of “yes men” in the Middle East. Khalifa, the royal dictator of Bahrain, who used US tanks, guns, tear gas and Saudi mercenaries to crush a popular rebellion, is a model Arab “yes man” and a dictator, as many of Washington’s “yes men” are, and have always been.

Assad, in contrast, has none of Khalifa’s readiness to kowtow to an imperialist master. Instead, his government’s insistence on working for the interests of Syrians, rather than making Syrians work for the interests of the West, has provoked the hostility of the United States, France and Britain, and their determination to overthrow his government. That Assad’s commitment to local interests goes beyond rhetoric is clear in the character of Syria’s economic policy. It features the state-owned enterprises, tariffs, subsidies to domestic firms, and restrictions on foreign investment that Wall Street and its State Department handmaiden vehemently oppose for restricting the profit-making opportunities of wealthy US investors, bankers and corporations [12]. On foreign policy, Syria has steered a course sensitive to local interests, refusing to abandon the Arab national project, whose success would threaten US domination of the Middle East, while allying with Iran and Hezbollah in a resistance (to US imperialism) front.

For his refusal to become their “puppet,” the United States and its imperialist allies intend to topple Assad through accustomed means: an opportunistic alliance with radical Islamists who hate Assad as much as Washington does, though for reasons of religion rather than economics and imperialism.


Notes:

1. Syria’s post-colonial history is punctuated by Islamist uprisings. The Muslim Brotherhood organized riots against the government in 1964, 1965, 1967 and 1969. It called for a Jihad against then president Hafiz al-Assad, the current president’s father, denigrating him as “the enemy of Allah.” By 1977, the Mujahedeen were engaged in a guerrilla struggle against the Syrian army and its Soviet advisers, culminating in the 1982 occupation of the city of Hama. The Syrian army quelled the occupation, killing 20,000 to 30,000. Islamists have since remained a perennial source of instability in Syria and the government has been on continual guard against “a resurgence of Sunni Islamic fundamentalists,” according to the US Library of Congress Country Study of Syria. http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/sytoc.html
2. “Officers fire on crowd as Syria protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011.
3. Nicholas D. Kristof, “Bahrain pulls a Qaddafi”, The New York Times, March 16, 2011.
4. For the West’s opportunistic alliances with political Islam see Mark Curtis, Secret Affairs: Britain’s Collusion with Radical Islam, Serpent’s Tail, 2011.
5. David M. Herszenhorn, “For Syria, Reliant on Russia for weapons and food, old bonds run deep”, The New York Times, February 18, 2012.
6. Adam Entous, “White House readies new aid for Syrian rebels”, The Wall Street Journal, April 10, 2013; Anne Barnard, “Syria campaigns to persuade U.S. to change sides”, The New York Times, April 24, 2013; 3. Gerald F. Seib, “The risks holding back Obama on Syria”, The Wall Street journal, May 6, 2013.
7. According to Russian president Vladimir Putin “at least 600 Russians and Europeans are fighting alongside the opposition.” “Putin: President al-Assad confronts foreign gunmen, not Syrian people,” Syrian Arab News Agency, June 22, 2013.
8. Damien Mcelroy, “Syrian rebels face war crime accusation”, The Ottawa Citizen, August 11, 2012; Sam Dagher and Nour Malas, “Lebanon militia kidnaps Syrians”, The Wall Street Journal, August 15, 2012; Hwaida Saad and Nick Cumming-Bruce, “Civilian attacks rise in Syria, U.N. says”, The New York Times, September 17, 2012; Stacy Meichtry, “Sarin detected in samples from Syria, France says”, The Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2013; Sam Dagher, “Violence spirals as Assad gains”, The Wall Street Journal, June 10, 2013.
9. Statement by Ben Rhodes, the US deputy national security advisor for strategic communications, on chemical weapons. The Guardian (UK), June 13, 2013.
10. “UN: ‘Strong suspicions’ that Syrian rebels have used sarin nerve gas,” Euronews, May 6, 2013; “UN’s Del Ponte says evidence Syria rebels ‘used sarin’”, BBC News, May 6, 2013.
11. Rhodes.
12. For Syria’s economic policies and the US ruling class reaction to them see the Syria sections of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom http://www.heritage.org/index/country/syria and the CIA Factbook https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sy.html .

JUNE 22 “FRIENDS OF SYRIA” MEETING IN DOHA: 110 OUT OF 121 MEMBERS ABSENT


Photo: There were 121 States attending the Paris summit of the Friends of Syria. It was July 6, 2012. There was talk of an imminent collapse of Syria and its wealth was already being divided up.

The “Friends of Syria” are scheduled to meet on 22 June 2013 in Doha (Qatar). Discussions will focus on arms shipments to the “Free Syrian Army,” in the presence of its “chief of staff” General Salim Idriss.

The 11 participants, to whom General Salim Idriss already submitted his list of grievances on 14 June, regard him as an eminent interlocutor. However, despite his title, there is no such thing as an “FSA joint chiefs of staff,” but merely a coordination by NATO of groups fighting under this label.

For all of that, out of 121 Member States, only 11 will take part in the meeting (Germany, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, United States, France, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, United Kingdom and Turkey). The other 110 members will keep a safe distance.

Indeed, during the G8 summit in Lough Erne, President Vladimir V. Putin recalled that the delivery of weapons to armed groups in Syria constitutes a violation of international law and exposes the guilty parties to prosecution in international courts.

Voltaire Network

ISRAELI WEAPONS IN QUASYR, EASTERN BOUWAYDA AND THE DESECRATION OF CHURCHES


Israeli Weapons Used by FSA Discovered in Qusayr & Eastern Bouwayda

Eretz Zen

Published on 9 Jun 2013

The Syrian Army discovered several Israeli-made weaponry with Hebrew writings on them in Qusayr and the neighboring town of Eastern Bouwayda. Those weapons included mortar shells, Uzi submachine guns, RPGs, gas masks, and communication devices.

Sources: al-Manar TV (Lebanon), Syrian Official TV


Post-Liberation Qusayr & FSA’s Desecration of Qusayr’s Churches

Eretz Zen

Published on 7 Jun 2013

This two-part report from Lebanese OTV channel shows how the city of Qusayr looks like after the Syrian Army’s liberation of the city from the “Free Syrian Army” (FSA). Homes got occupied and sandbagged by the FSA terrorists, tunnels were dug throughout the city, people were tortured and killed for not being with them, and roadblocks were everywhere.

Qusayr and its countryside are also home to several thousands of Christians whose places of worship have been desecrated by the FSA and used as military barracks.

Source: OTV (Lebanon)


Qussayr Aftermath, Mass Graveyard, IEDs and Tunnels

Arabi Souri

Published on 8 Jun 2013

NATO experts were working hard in Qussayr, Homs..

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