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Bashar al-Assad Interview on Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose interviewed President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus this week. The interview was broadcast on Thursday, 27 may 2010. This is the transcript copied below.

Charlie Rose: I am not the only American who has been here recently.  Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee was here on Saturday and recently as well.  Is something happening in the relationship between Syria and the United States?

Bashar al-Assad: When President Obama came to power, there’s some improvement, at least in the atmosphere.  Obviously there are a lot of concrete things happening, moving forward slowly, but the main interest of this administration now and of Senator Kerry is about how can we re-launch the peace process?  President Obama is interested in the peace process in general, but the talk with Senator Kerry was about the Syrian track.  And I think the main — the crux of the problems in this region is the lack of peace.

Charlie Rose: It is also said that he came here, in a sense, as an emissary of the president. What is it you want to say to the president of the United States about your view of the region, your own strategic sense of what’s possible?

Bashar al-Assad: If I’m going to talk about the region — and you know this region is the heart of the world geographically, politically — you have to talk about the role of a great power, and first of all, the United States. I think the main issue in this region is the occupation, or when you talk about conflict, you have to go to the reason. The reason we have that we have occupied land. At the same time you have Security Council resolutions that mention very clearly the need of Israel to withdraw from these lands. This is the way peace is taught. I think, if I’m going to talk to him, I’ll explain to him all the details in our region, but I will urge him to move faster in order to reach peace in the region.

Charlie Rose: But you have said in an interview recently with Italia newspaper that you have a strategic vision.  But it seems that America is engaged in a trial and error.  What did you mean?

Bashar al-Assad: We are wondering about what strategy the United States has towards the different conflicts, whether Iraq, Afghanistan, peace process, and any other main conflict.  I’m talking about different administrations, not only this administration.  The question we ask to many officials is, “What’s your strategy?”  They only put the title of stability.  Stability is the final — it is the goal of all of — the final stage or the final angle solving all the other problems.  So, the United States administrations have been failing, failing, and failing in solving the problems.  Why?  And this is related to what I said that the region has changed.  They have to adopt a different approach to our region.  They cannot adopt the same approach.

Charlie Rose: With respect to U.S.-Syria, what would you like to see the United States do?

Bashar al-Assad: In the peace process?

Charlie Rose: In the relationship with Syria.

Bashar al-Assad: You cannot separate the two things because if they want to play the role of the arbiter, they cannot play that role while they are sided with the Israelis.  They have to be an impartial arbiter.   They’re not, and they were never impartial arbiters since the beginning of the peace process.   They have to gain the trust of the different players.  If you don’t have good relations with Syria, how can Syria depend on you as an arbiter?  So, you have to improve the relations.  So, I told the American offshoot that we have to start from improving relations.  If you talk about putting Syria on the terrorism act — terrorism list, they have the Syrian Accountability Act in the Congress.

Charlie Rose: Which they just reconfirmed.

Bashar al-Assad: Exactly.

Charlie Rose: With some modification.

Bashar al-Assad: There was the veto of Syria joining the WTO, but it was lifted, so that’s why I said — there are some improvements , but there are still very, very — we have a long way to go in that regard.  So, I would like the United States to be fair and to be unbiased in order to achieve —

Charlie Rose: Senator Kerry — has said that Syria is a high priority for this administration.  Have they convinced you of that?

Bashar al-Assad: Well, we’re waiting for the results.  Without the results — I trust Senator Kerry to start with.  I talked with Senator Kerry, and I think he’s genuine, and I met him five times.  Not the first meeting or the second meeting.  I met him five times under very difficult circumstances, so what he said — he said what he meant — what he means.  But, at the end, he’s not the one who’s going to implement.  You have the administration and you have the Congress; anyone could put obstacles.  So, I think we are looking for the results.  Today, I’m convinced about what he said, but I’m convinced that President Obama wants to do something positive in that regard, but I’m not confident that the institution will allow President Obama to do what he wants to do with Syria and in other subjects and issues.

Charlie Rose: You seem to be saying that President Obama has the right ideas, but you’re not sure that he can act on them.

Bashar al-Assad: Not because he cannot but because you have institutions in the United States, you have your political system.  It’s not only the president.  If it’s only the president, we could blame the president.  We say that he didn’t do what he had to do.  But you have the institutions and you have the Congress, so it’s not only the ambassador to Syria.  He was about to come, but the Congress, the Republican in the Congress, opposed it recently, so the president has to stop.  So, that’s why I said it’s not that the president doesn’t want to or he cannot do something.  It’s about the whole political system that you have in the United States, and you know more than me about it.

Charlie Rose: But you consider it an act of respect for Syria that they confirm a Syrian ambassador from the United States.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah, but the ambassador is to help your country, not to help my country; I have my ambassadors do that.   So, this is not to help the Syrians.  This is help to the United States.  They have ambassadors anywhere in the world.  I’m saying that this is something to deliver to Syria, but I’m just giving an example about a step he wanted to take to improve the relation but somebody opposed it because of the political system that you have.

Charlie Rose: How do you see Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, the northern tier in —

Bashar al-Assad: The northern tier of Iran and Iraq.  Normally you should have good relations with your neighbors, something we’ve learned from our experience in the last decades.  We’ve been in conflict, Syria and Turkey, Iraq and Turkey, and other countries.  What did we get?  Nothing.  We’ve been losing for decades.  We have learned here in the last decade that we have to turn the tide, so everybody is going for good relations with the other, even if it doesn’t have the same vision or they — even if they disagree about most of the things, not some things.  So, this relation, Syria/Iraq, we are neighbors.  Syria/Turkey, we are neighbors.  We’ll affect each other directly.  Iran is not my neighbor, but at the end, Iran is one of the big countries in the Middle East, and it’s an important country, and it plays a role and affects different issues in the region.  So, if you want to play a role and help yourself and save your interests, you should have good relations with all these influential countries.  That’s why this relation, I think, is very normal.

Charlie Rose: There are those in America that would like to believe America can do something that will put some distance between you and Iran, that they can make you less close.

Bashar al-Assad: They contradict themselves.  They talk about stability in the region.  Stability starts with good relations.  You cannot have stability and have bad relations.  This is — second, what is the argument? Why do they need to have Syria be away from Iran?  They have conflict Iran so what does it mean to put Syria away from Iran?  Sometime they talk about the relation between Syrian and Iranian relation and the peace.  That’s not true.  That’s not realistic because Iran supported our efforts to achieve, to get back our land through the peace negotiations in 2008 when we had indirect negotiations in Turkey.

Charlie Rose: Let me underline that.  You believe that Iran, even though it says that it does not recognize Israel’s right to exist, when you, through Turkey, were trying to negotiate with the Israelis, the Iranians were supportive of that.

Bashar al-Assad: Exactly.

Charlie Rose: And so you’re saying actions speak louder than words.

Bashar al-Assad: Exactly.  That’s what I mean.  I feel that they said it inwards, they say publicly we support you.  They said it twice during negotiations informally.  So you cannot see with one eye.

Charlie Rose: Yes.

Bashar al-Assad: So that’s what’s happening.  They see only want to, they hear only what they want to.  They ignore the other stand, the same government.

Charlie Rose: Do you think America misunderstands Iran?

Bashar al-Assad: They misunderstand the region definitely.  And that’s sometimes normal because it’s different culture very far from me.  But after the 11th of September, at least after the 11th of September, we should learn what’s happening behind the ocean.  It’s not about what you think.   It’s about what we think.  You have to understand the society, the culture in this region and in the rest of the world, but this region because it’s complicated more than before.

Charlie Rose: What is it we don’t understand, those in Washington, about the region, about the culture, about Syria’s role, about Iran?

Bashar al-Assad: They don’t understand that we want peace.  But if you want peace, doesn’t mean to — if you want to sign a peace treaty doesn’t mean that we accept to sign capitulation agreement.  That’s what they don’t understand, the difference between capitulation agreement.  That’s how I’m talking about the perception in our region, how we see it, and peace treaty.  Peace treaty means having all your rights.  This is the second about Iran very clear issue, nuclear issue.  It’s about Iran having the right to have peaceful nuclear reactor.  You cannot deal with Iran through the Security Council through threats and the evidence that they didn’t understand is the recent agreement between Turkey, Brazil and Iran.  And I told the official that I met recently from Europe after that agreement that this is going to be the proof that they didn’t understand this region because Turkey and Brazil succeeded in getting what the world has been asking for during the last year in a few weeks because they understand this region and they adopted different approach which is direct, not strict, not imposing.

Charlie Rose: Their interpretation of what happened between Iran and Turkey and Iran and Brazil is that it’s just another effort by Iran to delay sanctions —

Bashar al-Assad: We disagree.

Charlie Rose: — so they can get on with building nuclear capacity.

Bashar al-Assad: You mean about the 1,200 kilogram?

Charlie Rose: Yeah.

Bashar al-Assad: The whole part agreement.  Actually —

Charlie Rose: This agreement was intended to delay sanctions and nothing more.

Bashar al-Assad: Iran didn’t talk about sending or making agreement, sending uranium abroad.  The five countries as one asked for this and so that’s what Iran did.  You can keep saying whatever they do, whatever Iran does, you have suspicion about Iran but the international relation is about, it’s not about trusting, it’s about mechanism.  You have mechanism and this mechanism is in the agency, IAEA agency, and you have the NPT treaty, Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Charlie Rose: Right.

Bashar al-Assad: That’s what you can depend, not the trust.  You do not have to trust.  Trust is something personal. But if you talk about relation, international relation, it’s about mechanism and you have the mechanism.  So whether it trusts Iran or doesn’t trust Iran, it’s not the issue.

Charlie Rose: But it is the issue that if Iran had nuclear ability or a nuclear weapon, it would destabilize the region.

Bashar al-Assad: That’s why we need the mechanism of the EAIA.  Their role is to make sure that this is civil, not military program.

Charlie Rose: But they say that the Iranians have misled them.  The IAEA says Iran has misled us and did not give us the information we needed.

Bashar al-Assad: That happened when they moved the file from the EAIA to the Security Council.  But before that, at the very beginning of the issue, remember, there was camera, cameras by the EAIA was set up inside nuclear reactors.  So when the problem started politically because of Bush’s intentions, bad intention toward Iran, this is where the problem started.  Now I think they have to do two things to take it away from the Security Council because if you treat Iran — if you take any action against Iran, there will be no solution.  I think it’s going to be more —

Charlie Rose: The Security Council imposes sanctions, you think what?

Bashar al-Assad: Iran said publicly a few days ago that if they don’t accept this agreement and they go to the Security Council, they will withdraw from the agreement.  And if they withdraw from the agreement, this means the problem will be more complicated, and that there means there will be no solution.

Charlie Rose: So therefore we should be supportive, not engage in sanctions from the UN Security Council.

Bashar al-Assad: Of course.

Charlie Rose: Do you believe Iran wants nuclear weapons?

Bashar al-Assad: No, I don’t.  No.

Charlie Rose: Why not?

Bashar al-Assad: Because what do you do when you have nuclear bomb?  Can you use it?  You cannot.  Is it deterrent?  No, it’s not.

Charlie Rose: Is that what they said to you?

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah, definitely.

Charlie Rose: President Ahmadinejad says to you, the president of Syria, “I do not want nuclear weapons”?

Bashar al-Assad: Every official in Iran said that.

Charlie Rose: And you believe them.

Bashar al-Assad: Of course I believe, because would they do with it?  They cannot leave.  I mean, what they aim to have it.

Charlie Rose: Then why are they engaged in sort of — in the appearance of some, the IAEA, deception?  And they discover these centrifuges inside mountains that they didn’t know about.

Bashar al-Assad: It’s not deception.  That’s how you define it in the West.  Actually, the five plus one country weren’t — they didn’t come, didn’t come to Iran with good intention.  They started with saying you have to stop your program.  I have the right to have secret program.  Why to stop it?  You say you are suspicious, doesn’t matter if you’re suspicious or not, what the mechanism.  You should adopt the EAIA.  They started making political pressure.  And this is where it started — the problem started, not because Iran started to deceive.  If they wanted to deceive, they wouldn’t have allowed them to have cameras inside the reactor.

Charlie Rose: But you do believe that if Iran had a nuclear weapon, it would destabilize the region.

Bashar al-Assad: We are against any nuclear weapons in the region.  We have Syrian draft in the Security Council since 2003, about freeing the Middle East from any WMDs, of course, including Israel.  But we cannot talk about Iran destabilizing the region if they have — if you presume they’re going to have nuclear bomb, something I don’t believe in.  Why ignoring Israel?  Israel started this problem — Israel is the only country who has nuclear bomb in the region, not Iran.

Charlie Rose: If Israel has nuclear weapons, everybody else has not rushed in to have nuclear weapons in the region.

Bashar al-Assad: I don’t know.  I mean, when you have — actually, you have reaction.  But in Syria, we don’t believe that you should have nuclear weapons in order to deter Israel because I don’t think it’s easy for anyone to say that I’m going to use nuclear weapons.

Charlie Rose: If the United States says to you, we do not approve of your support of Hamas and especially Hezbollah, and we want you to reduce that level of support, what do you say?

Bashar al-Assad: Well, the argument, they only want.  Doesn’t matter if they want, what the reason.  How can they convince me that I should decree the support?  First of all, our support is political because Hamas is a Palestinian organization.  The Palestinians have occupied land.  They have the right to have their own state.  They don’t have.  They have the right to have their own land back after ’67, something they haven’t had yet.  The same for Hezbollah.  The Israeli airplanes are violating the air space of Lebanon on daily basis every few hours, not every day, every few hours.  So they have the right to defend their country.  Back my answer because they asked me that question many times, that instead of adopting this cherry picking approach, once you talk about Hamas, once you talk about Hezbollah, why do you have the room — the elephant in the room.  So let’s talk about the peace.  This elephant is the occupation and the Israeli aggression.  When you don’t have Israeli aggression, when you don’t have occupation, forget about all these problems.  It will be solved ultimately.

Charlie Rose:

But are you saying that if in fact there was an agreement teen the Palestinians, if they were unified, and there was an agreement, that you would be less supportive of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Bashar al-Assad: We support cause, what the cause, the cause that they have occupied land.  If they don’t have occupied land, what is support?  I don’t have anything to support.  They have their own right.  I support somebody who has the right, but it doesn’t — I mean he has a right, but they don’t give it back to him.  So that’s what we support.  We support their cause.  When they have states, maybe they have another cause.  At that time, we’ll talk about something different.  But today, we support their right to have their own independent state.

Charlie Rose: But you were saying you support Hezbollah and Hamas at the level you do because there is no Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

Bashar al-Assad: Israel should have stopped violating the air space, should stop launching aggression from time to time against Lebanon or against Syria.  That’s their right.  That’s what we support.

Charlie Rose: The United States, it is said that Senator Kerry believes that you and Syria have supplied scud missiles to Hezbollah.

Bashar al-Assad: This is very good story, anecdotal story by Israeli.  They are very good in making —

Charlie Rose: The story came from the Israelis.

Bashar al-Assad: From the Israelis, yeah.

Charlie Rose: And is it true?

Bashar al-Assad: We told them, what evidence do you have?  If you want to say that you have smuggled — because they’ve been repeating this story from time to time, for years, not for a month.  And everyone we say, you are scanning the borders between Syria and Lebanon every hour for 24 hours.  And you cannot catch any big, big missile, scud or any other one, this is not realistic.  This is Israeli allegations.  These are for pretenses, national statement.  That’s what you can call it, Israeli.

Charlie Rose: But my impression is that Senator Kerry came here on Saturday to say the United States believes this to be true, and the United States believes, according to its own intelligence source that’s weapons have gone.  New scud missiles have gone to Hezbollah from you.

Bashar al-Assad: We can only talk about this and discuss it with them when they came to us with the evidence.  Why to base your debate on rumors.  U.S. took the time.  So say do you have evidence, or you only heard?  Well, if it’s you only heard, we don’t have to waste our time.  You have evidence, you say it to your intelligence, you say the Israeli intelligence, bring these evidences, bring me the pictures, bring me all the information to discuss.  Why, if you’re telling me that we believe this is your problem if you believe.  I don’t have to waste my time with what you believe or not.  We’re not reality.  Hezbollah is a strong organization.  It’s not weak at all.  They have missiles — everybody knows —

Charlie Rose: In fact, they have said that their missiles, they have better and more advanced missiles than they’ve had before.

Bashar al-Assad: How did they know?  When Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, they didn’t know about the bunkers that they have in the south of Lebanon just few kilometers away from the Israeli forces.  How could they know about the advancement that they have?  These are rumors.  They are afraid and worried about what Hezbollah is doing.  Hezbollah, like any other organization, it’s a war.  When you have a war, everybody will make his position better and stronger.  That’s normal.  But I have politician.  We don’t waste our time with condemning or blaming or saying that Hezbollah having this and having that.  This is reality.  You have this reality; you have to deal with it.  How do deal with it, go toward the peace.  That’s the solution, not waste the time talking about what kind of missile and how many missiles.  This is just waste of time.  Realistically, solve the problem through the peace process.  That’s why we are talking about peace and we are working for peace in order for all these problems.  And Israel should know only peace can protect Israel, not creating this propaganda and making up false stories or divisive stories.

Charlie Rose: May I just make sure that I understand this?  If Senator Kerry suggested that he believes and the United States believes that you were supplying weapons to Hezbollah, new scud missiles, you are saying, “Absolutely not. We are not doing that.”

Bashar al-Assad: I said no, but at the same time I told him we waste our time with this.  When you have evidence, come to us.  If they have evidence, we can discuss that, but we don’t discuss it.

Charlie Rose: Do you think it would be the wrong thing to do, that it would be destabilizing to do that, supply weapons to Hezbollah?

Bashar al-Assad: I think what is destabilizing is the Israeli aggression on our region.  They attacked Syria many times; they attacked Lebanon.  They’ve been attacking the Israeli — sorry, the Palestinians on a daily basis.  That’s what destabilized the region. They don’t withdraw from the occupied land; that’s what destabilizing the region, not Hezbollah and any other organization that defends themselves.

Charlie Rose: If the United States comes to you and says, “We want to do things in the region. We want to be a positive force, and we’re prepared to do this.  We’re prepared to encourage it and we’ll do this,” and we ask you to stop being so supportive of Hezbollah and Hamas, because we believe that they’re engaged in certain terrorist activities; we ask you to stop supporting them.  You are saying that’s not going to happen.

Bashar al-Assad: It’s like if you talk about a chapter in a book. You tell me to read that chapter. I have to read the whole book to understand this chapter. So, in the meantime until peace, I would say of course we’ll be ready to — we would like to see this region free of armament, free of conflict, free of everything, but that will not happen only through talking about one factor while you have the main important factor, which is the occupation, is in place.  So we have to solve it as a package, and this package should be peace.  There’s no other way.  It’s just a waste of time, so we have to go in this way, through the peace.

Charlie Rose: There is this whole sense of Syria and its identification and its relationship to the aforementioned Iran Hezbollah/Hamas, that it is — it’s part of this resistance that gives Syria power and legitimacy.

Bashar al-Assad: You can have this legitimacy as long as you adhere to your rights and to your principles. That’s the political legitimacy you can have.  While supporting the resistance, they have the perfect support anyway, whether we support it as a government or not.  They have the support of the public in this region.  That’s why they are strong, not by the government.

Charlie Rose: Some find it interesting that your allies are Islamist, in one case of theocracy, and yet Syria is a secular state.

Bashar al-Assad: That’s true.  And that’s what they don’t understand.  This is one of the things that they don’t understand in the West, especially in the United States, because if I support you, it doesn’t mean I’m like you or I agree with you.  That means I believe in your cause.  There’s a difference.  Maybe if we don’t have this cause, we have different debate with them or different relations.  While now they have a cause and support the cause, we don’t support organization.  We support the Palestinian cause, and Hamas is working for that cause, and the same for Hezbollah.  Hezbollah is working for the Lebanese cause, so we support that cause, not Hezbollah, but Hezbollah is one of the means.  So, that’s what they have to understand in the West.

Charlie Rose: Speaking of Lebanon and Hezbollah, the withdrawal of Syrian troops, tell me how you felt about that.

Bashar al-Assad: At that time, of course, it wasn’t, let’s say, positive feelings. I’ll put it in that word, because of the reaction in Lebanon after the Hariri assassination and they accused Syria. Today that Syria is different. We were very cooperative with the different delegation that came for the investigation of the Hariri assassination, and it was proven today that there’s nothing to do with Syria. And that changed —

Charlie Rose: The investigation is not over, or it has not been —

Bashar al-Assad: No, no, not over, but from the very beginning we were very sure about — but now the [unintelligible] people know this reality, that Syria has nothing to do with this assassination.  I’ve believe Syria’s influence in Lebanon has always been strong because of the geo-political position, not because of the army.  The army in Lebanon didn’t do anything, wasn’t involved in politics.  Few politicians, few officers and civilians to be involved.  The Syrian influence and the Syrian clout feels as strong as it was so we don’t have problem.  We don’t look at it as it undermined Syria.

Charlie Rose: So you do not feel like you need to reintroduce Syrian troops to Lebanon?

Bashar al-Assad: No, no.  Well, actually we had been withdrawing our troops before the conflict, since 2000.

Charlie Rose: So no Syrian troops in Lebanon.

Bashar al-Assad: We withdrew 63 percent of our troops before the conflict started in Lebanon.  That was our intention.

Charlie Rose: Mr. Harari the prime minister has been here a number of times.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: You have a very good relationship.  You’ve exchanged ambassadors.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: What do you say to him about his father when he comes?

Bashar al-Assad: The first meeting I told him we have to be as frank as you can even if you think that we were behind the assassination.  That’s it.  But we didn’t talk about the issue.  That was —

Charlie Rose: You basically said you’ve got to be frank and tell me what you think even if you think that Syria was behind it.

Bashar al-Assad: Yes, exactly.  If you want to build the relation you have to be fully frank with each other.

Charlie Rose: The relationship with Turkey is very good.  Turkey was serving as an intermediary between negotiations between you and the Israelis.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: It came that close in which you would get back the Golan Heights, yes?

Bashar al-Assad: This is very important.  What we have now as reference is mainly the United Nations or Security Council resolution.  It’s very important reference but it’s not defined.  It talks about the land occupied in ’67 but how can you define this land?  Israel talking about a different line, how can you define this line, I mean?  We wanted in that inquisition to define the line through one point and Israel wanted to define its security requirements.  So if we define these two things and we move to the direct negotiation, whenever you have arbiter this arbiter can play its role only through this paper, not like what happened in the ‘90’s when some politicians, some of them with a good will spoiled the process with good will but with enthusiasm but less with a lack of knowledge.  And others, self-serving politicians, spoiled it for their own interests.  Now we had this paper, anyone who wants to play a role, any mediator, any official, any arbiter, should play it through this paper and this is where we can succeed, not to have 19 wasteful years.

Charlie Rose: You’re prepared to start those negotiations over.

Bashar al-Assad: Of course we are ready.  We don’t think it’s time for peace.  It’s always time for peace.  We don’t say it’s now time or it’s not time for peace.  It’s always time for peace.

Charlie Rose: You broke the negotiations off because of the Gaza invasion.

Bashar al-Assad: Syria and Turkey — because Olmert deceived Prime Minister Erdogan four days before the invasion.  Prime Minister Erdogan called me on the phone and Olmert was in the other room having dinner and we started talking about the final deals of that paper.  And after one hour or actually more than one hour of discussion with Prime Minister Erdogan and even discussions with Olmert, he told me, Prime Minister Olmert told Erdogan that I’m going back to Israel and I will let you know about my final answer in a few days.  And the answer was attacking Gaza.  That’s where the Turks felt deceived and we felt the same.

Charlie Rose: But you’re prepared to start over?

Bashar al-Assad: Of course.

Charlie Rose: Through Turkey.

Bashar al-Assad: Through Turkey.

Charlie Rose: And is the goal a Syrian-Israeli agreement?  Or have you now said it has to be a larger agreement for the Middle East?

Bashar al-Assad: It has to be comprehensive.  The Syrian-Israeli agreement could be important step, but it’s not the final step because there is big difference between talking about peace treaty and peace.  Peace treaty is like a permanent ceasefire.  It’s not comprehensive.  There’s no maybe you have embassy, but you actually won’t have the trade.  You won’t have normal relations because people will not be sympathetic to this relation as long as they are sympathetic with the Palestinians: half a million who live in Syria and half a million in Lebanon and another few millions in other Arab countries.  So comprehensive peace on the Syrian-Lebanese and Palestinian tribe this is going to be the real peace where you have normal relations.  This is where we can bury the hatchet, not only to have peace treaty.  So that’s how we see it.

Charlie Rose: Do you think it will happen soon?

Bashar al-Assad: From our point of view, it could happen soon if you have another partner because this is about — actually the peace process about two parties.  And if you ask me, I will say yes.  If you have partner, it will happen soon. But today, we don’t have this partner so far.  At this moment, we don’t have a partner.

Charlie Rose: You don’t think Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to make a deal.

Bashar al-Assad: Again, it’s not about him.  It’s about the whole government.  Can he lead the government toward peace?  Is he strong enough to lead this government toward peace?  Because you know, it’s a coalition now.  It’s coalition.  You do not have — he doesn’t have the majority to say I’m going in that direction.  So in reality, nothing is happening yet.  So why do we waste the time expecting.  He’s been for now in his position for a year and nearly a year and a half, something like this.  And he couldn’t do anything in peace.  So I don’t know if you have the will or he has the power.  We don’t know.

Charlie Rose: On the other side of the Palestinians, and they are not unified.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah.

Charlie Rose: There’s Fatah, Hamas.  Can they be unified?

Bashar al-Assad: Of course they can.  If you help them, they can be unified.  And they have to be unified.  Without unification in the Palestinian really you cannot have peace.  You need this unification.  It’s not about who is going to sign the treaty.  At the end if you want to implement the treaty, you need unification.  You need unified policy.

Charlie Rose: And what do you think the possibilities are that Hamas, if there is unification, will support, will support a recognition of Israel and an agreement between the Palestinians so that they will no longer say we refuse the right of Israel to exist.

Bashar al-Assad: And they said that in very clear way when they talked about two-state solution, Hamas.

Charlie Rose: So Hamas is —

Bashar al-Assad: And they —

Charlie Rose: But are they prepared to renounce their charter?

Bashar al-Assad: I wouldn’t answer on their behalf.  But what I know publicly now that they talked about the two-state solution, and they talked about the line of ’67.  What do you conclude?  We can conclude that they are ready.  But how, is that the question.  Maybe in different ways than what the authority is it doing today.  Maybe they have their own way.

Charlie Rose: Do you believe Israel wants peace?

Bashar al-Assad: I think people who elect such extremist government, they don’t want peace.  But as in politics, I will say let me see what’s going to happen in reality.  I don’t believe, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop working for peace.  If I don’t believe that they want peace, we have to help them believe in peace.  They have to learn that only peace can protect their country.

Charlie Rose: What is the biggest thing that’s necessary to make a breakthrough in your judgment?

Bashar al-Assad: You should ask yourself what happened first.  Occupation, occupation happened first before the aggression, not vice versa.  After — in ’48, after ’48, ’67, in different stages.  So definitely, the one who occupied the land should withdraw because my land is like my property.  And if you have a thief who takes your property, you don’t make compromise.  You tell him first give me back my property, my things.  Then we can discuss any compromise.  You are don’t discuss the compromise with the thief before having your things returned.  So that’s how we see it.  So the beginning is to end the occupation.  Then you will have [unintelligible] technically.

Charlie Rose: But in the conversations, everything should be on the table, and there should be no preconditions at all.

Bashar al-Assad: We don’t have any conditions.  There is only one condition which is international condition, which is the Security Council resolution on which the whole peace process based in 1991.  So we don’t have any condition, but we have rights.  And rights we don’t discuss.  It will go back.

Charlie Rose: Do you believe this region is going to a place where it does not need to look for solutions from the West?

Bashar al-Assad: In the past, we used to think that everything will happen in the West and to be implemented here.  Then you will have the solution ready.  And you won’t have any conflict.  This is really delusional.  Actually the reality is that you have to do your own job.  But you need the support from the West.  But if you don’t have the support, we don’t wait for the West.  We are going to go.  This is our problem.  We are going to go forward to solve our own, but we are not going to wait for the West.  But if they support us, that will make the solution better and faster.

Charlie Rose: Is that what you’re saying to Senator Kerry, we cannot wait for you to get involved?  We have to move on our own to try to figure out a way to find —

Bashar al-Assad: I don’t remember if I talked about this with Senator Kerry.  But I said it everywhere.  Whenever we talk about this, this is our position.  We said it very clearly that we don’t want.

Charlie Rose: Let me focus again on the dynamic of this region. There is Egypt, which has traditionally had the largest army and the most powerful force. There’s Iran, which has emerged as a regional power after 1979. There is now Syria and Turkey having a very interesting relationship. Some say Syria’s moving more to the East. How do you see the new forces shaping the region?

Bashar al-Assad: The criteria has changed in the positive. They used to say Egypt is a big country, Syria is a small country, but it’s playing a role which is bigger than your size. Of course —

[speaking simultaneously]

Charlie Rose: — beyond its weight.

Bashar al-Assad: Yeah, exactly. Qatar is a very small country. Nobody put it on the political map for inclusion. Actually the criteria has changed. Now we have the will, the vision, and the geopolitical position. We have these three.  Qatar has will and has vision. Turkey has the three criteria, the geopolitical position, big country, strong economy, will and vision. It was a strong and it was big 10 years ago, but they didn’t have the will and same vision, so it didn’t play that role, Turkey. So, the criteria have changed. Today you have Iran, you have Turkey, you have Syria, and you have Qatar.    If you want to talk about cooperation, for example, regarding the peace, we had a meeting in Istanbul, me and Erdogan and the prince of Qatar, and it was about the peace, because Turkey and Qatar are partners with Syria in the peace issue. So you have a different map regarding different issues. We had a meeting with Iran regarding defending our rights regarding the Israeli aggression, regarding the issue in Iraq. Regarding Iraq, there’s cooperation between Syria, Turkey, and Iran. So you have different [unintelligible]. But all of them in the same region, so this is the new dynamic that we have that depends on every subject.

Charlie Rose: And Russia, where does Russia fit in?

Bashar al-Assad: I cannot tell now because this is the first visit by any president, Soviet or Russian, to Syria during the last 66 years, since the start of the Revolution with Russia.  It seems to me that Russia is working to regain its own position but in different way, not like the Cold War during the ‘60’s, ‘70’s and ‘80’s.  I think in a new way through having new allies, good relations, strong relations.  After he left Syria, he went to Turkey.  He signed the [unintelligible] treaty to open the borders between the two countries.  Now if you want to look at the space from our perspective, Syria-Turkey, then Turkey-Russia so the relations, strong relations between Russia and Turkey will influence, directly and indirectly, the relation between Syria and Russia in parallel with the direct relation between Syria and Russia.  So this is your graphic space.  You have to look at it as a map that will affect each other.  What about — the effect of these Russian relations recently is too early to judge.  I don’t know yet.  Economically it will definitely affect the region very soon and the economy will affect the politics.  How much?  This is something we will have to wait to see.  But it will tell you about a new map being created and forged in this region.  As you call it, a new dynamic.

Charlie Rose: The United States has always believed that Syria did not do enough to prevent foreigners from coming through your border with Iraq and that it was a huge issue for them.

Bashar al-Assad: The borders are not envelopes to be sealed.  You can control, you can monitor something like this so they’re not realistic.  This is the second time they’ve mentioned Syria smuggling or helping terrorists to be smuggled inside Iraq.  It’s like shooting yourself in the foot because when you help the terrorists in Iraq, they will attack you from in Syria.

Charlie Rose: Exactly.

Bashar al-Assad: It’s known that Syria was the first country, maybe in the world, before all the Arab and Middle Eastern countries and before Europe definitely and before the United States that started fighting with the terrorists and the extremists in the ‘70’s.  Actually that started before, in the ‘50’s, but it wasn’t, I mean, the main conflict and when we defeated them was in the ‘70’s and early ‘80’s.  And so we’re not that stupid to go and support terrorists anywhere in the world because terrorists work like the Internet.  You cannot control them.  They don’t recognize borders.  If you have terrorists in Iraq, it’s like having them in Syria.  If you have them in Lebanon or in Turkey or in Jordan, it’s like having them in Syria.  So it cannot.  This is not realistic.  Second, I think terrorists — I mean third.  Helping terrorists in Iraq means helping the chaos.  And chaos is contagious.  When you have chaos in Iraq means you are going to have chaos in Syria.  It’s going to become more violent, more sectarian, division later.  And this division is going to be like going — will affect the region from Morocco in the West to Indonesia in the East.

Charlie Rose: So if I would talk to the Americans today, they would say to me there were many things that could you have done that you didn’t do.  Yes, you can’t close your border, but you allowed too many —

Bashar al-Assad: Let me give you the other example.  In 2004, or maybe ‘5, I’m not sure, a delegation, big delegation, from the Pentagon from the State Department, from the army and the intelligence came to Syria to ask for cooperation.  And we told them, send us delegation to see what kind of cooperation we can have on the borders, the same delegation, that delegation left Syria, and they didn’t come back again.  We have the same issue recently in the autumn, last autumn.

Charlie Rose: Yes.

Bashar al-Assad: When they asked for cooperation and I said we are ready to have cooperation to control or to monitor the border in Iraq, until today, we haven’t received delegation.  And I think — did I say Senator Kerry about, and I told Senator Kerry about this.

Charlie Rose: What did he say?

Bashar al-Assad: He cannot answer because he had to go back to see what’s happening.  So that’s not true that we are not ready.  We would like to have this monitoring.  But monitoring the border needs two sides, need the Syrians and the Iraqi side.  And the prime minister of Iraq came to Syria, and he asked me for this cooperation.  Said we are ready to start, try to do it –Syria and Iraq, including the United States.  But if you go to the border, and if you look at the Iraqi side, you won’t see any soldier, any police, anybody.  It’s empty.  So if they want to control the border, they have to do their job with the Americans or Iraqis.

Charlie Rose: Do you think that the American withdrawal from Iraq will go well and on time?

Bashar al-Assad: This is not our debate.  This is wrong debate that has been circulating in the media during the last two years, especially in the United States, whether to leave or not to leave.  Actually the question is how to leave, how to leave with the political process.  The answer will be through what political process are you going to launch and support in Iraq?  Then when you leave, it’s going to be better.  The situation will be better at that time.  You can be committed.  Now, any time — of course we support the idea and the principle that the United States should leave Iraq.  But that doesn’t mean we make it better or worse.  It’s worse.  It’s going to be bad if you leave.  So what we are worried about, if the United States is going to support or launch a good political process where they can reconcile all the Iraqis, then they will have constitutions and the new institutions.  And this is where we’re going to say thank you.

Charlie Rose: But they would like to have your help in doing that.

Bashar al-Assad: We are ready.  We are helping the Iraqis now.  We told the Iraqis already to — for any help.  But there is not a real dialogue between Syria and the United States regarding Iraq.

Charlie Rose: There is no dialogue between Syria —

Bashar al-Assad: Between Syria and the United States regarding Iraq.  They only talk about borders, and they only talk about terrorists, because they deal with the terrorists like playing a game on the computer where you have terrorists, and they have to shoot him.  That’s how they deal with the terrorist issue.  They don’t understand that terrorism fighting means having the atmosphere, the normal situation, fighting the chaos.  You cannot fight the chaos while you have political anarchy.  You should have normal government with the police, with the army, with the normal situation, normal political situation.  This is where you don’t have chaos, this is where terrorists fail.  They cannot do anything.

Charlie Rose: So what is your big challenge today?

Bashar al-Assad: The biggest challenge is how can we keep our society as secular as it is today.

Charlie Rose: As secular.

Bashar al-Assad: Secular — the society, not the government.  It is secular.  You have diversity, very rich diversity in Syria we are proud of.  But at the end, you are part of this region.  You cannot stay unrelated to the conflicts from the conflicts surrounding you.  If you have sectarian Lebanon on our west and sectarian Iraq on our east, and you don’t have the peace process solved on our southern border, and you have the terrorists dominating the region, and let’s say growing with leaps and bounds, you will be affected some day.  You will be — you will pay the price.  So it’s not about being passive and saying I’m going to protect myself.  How can you be active and expand what you have to the other?  So the challenge is the extremism in this region.

Charlie Rose: But the extremism some people believe — those people who are never secular, who in fact find in religion a cause.

Bashar al-Assad: They always use religions to assume — to assume the mantle of religions or Islam, whatever, in order to have followers.  They only assume it.  I don’t think they are convinced about what they are doing.  Some of them, they are ignorant.  They believe it.  They think they are helping the religion this way.  But at the end, it’s not about those, about — it’s about the others.  How can they influence because, I mean, you always have extremists in everything.  In politics, in religions, in Christianity, in Islam, in Judaism, in every religion, you have extremism.  But it’s about how much can they influence the society.  As long as we have open-minded people, you don’t worry about them, they are going to be isolated.  So I’m not worried about what meant to be the few to convince the other, only about how much the other can protect himself from them.

Charlie Rose: But as I listen to you say that, it seems an incongruity between saying that and looking at who you have great relations with and who you support in the region.

Bashar al-Assad: That’s why I say it’s not about who is like you and who is not.  It’s about the cause.  They have cause they have to support.  And this is the second — there’s not extremist if you —

Charlie Rose: Hezbollah is not extremist?

Bashar al-Assad: No, it’s not.  They support peace.  If you want peace, they support peace.  They believe in Islam as — to be the government in their country.  This is their freedom of — this is — I mean, they are free to think whatever they want.  But they never try to implement it by force.  This is where you cannot blame a rebel as an extremist.  The extremist wants to force you to go in certain way.  And sometimes they attack you, and sometime they kill you.  This is extremism, not to have your idea, your idea, of course we’re going to have different ideas, different currents, political currents and treaty currents.  That’s normal.  And this is the diversity that we have.  But they are not extremists because they never try to implement by force their doctrine.

Charlie Rose: If Israel would retreat to its ’67 boundaries, would you encourage Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah to recognize their right to exist and reach a full agreement with them?

Bashar al-Assad: If you talk about a treaty, part of the treaty will be this recognition and signing the treating are the governments. And when you talk about the peace, you talk about Syrian track/Lebanese track means Syria and Lebanese governments, and Palestinian track, Palestinian government. When the governments recognize Israel and Israel is committed to the treaty, I think the whole mood, the whole atmosphere on the popular level will change, for everybody will go in that direction.  But the recognition that you’re talking about will come from the government, not from the people.  The people will reflect their recognition by normal relations, by trade, by tourism, as I said, and any other kind of relation.  If Israel is committed, I’m sure the people will be very positive in that action. That takes time. To be realistic, that will not happen overnight. Conflict for 60 years, a treaty is not enough to change it overnight.  It takes time. It needs procedures.  You start building the trust after the treaty, so, how to win the trust, that will take time.  But I’m sure normal relations will be dominating between Israel and neighboring countries. There’s no doubt about this. Whether Hezbollah, Hamas, or any other one.  At the end, they are organizations; they have people, they have grassroots.  The grassroots part of this society will be affected, so of course it will.  And we’ll encourage it. Of course we’ll encourage it, because we always ask for peace.

Charlie Rose: People say, and this is about you over the presidency, you are your father’s son. That today you have emerged as your own person.  Do you feel that?

Bashar al-Assad: In my house, I’m the son of my father, but in this position, from the very first time, I should be the president who has taken the responsibility of everything.  And if I was the son of my father in the way they mean it, I wouldn’t have succeeded in dealing with the very difficult circumstances.  So, I wouldn’t look at myself in either way. I look at myself as somebody who has a responsibility, who did what he’s convinced about, and is convinced that this is for the sake of his people.

Charlie Rose: Do you believe you have consolidated your power so that you can take more risks now?

Bashar al-Assad: No, I didn’t consolidate my power. I have more support by the public. That’s what I have during the last few years.

Charlie Rose: And how do you think you gained that?

Bashar al-Assad: I think because they believe that I work according to a national agenda. That doesn’t mean I was fully right. I’ve made mistakes, I’ve made mistakes. But if you made mistakes according to a good will and based on national agenda, nobody will blame you. They will support you because you are human and you’re going to make mistakes. So, that’s how I, again — because I said everything — every decision we have to take should be 100 percent Syrian; not 90 percent: 100 percent. And that’s what did it. That’s how I gained the support. That doesn’t mean that they agree with me in everything. Support is different from agreeing with. They don’t agree. We agree about different issues, but they support means the trust. Even if you go towards peace when we started negotiations in Turkey, doesn’t mean everybody supported that negotiation. Maybe this time, maybe the wait, maybe the timing; you have different point of view. But at the end, they trusted you that you are going for a good thing, whether you fail or not, but at the end you have good will and they trust you. That’s how you get it.

Charlie Rose: It’s a pleasure to see you in Damascus. Thank you very much, as always.

Bashar al-Assad: Thank you.

Charlie Rose: All right, thank you.

Comments (40)


1. Mahjool said:

i am disappointed that they did not touch on internal matters. this has been the case for several years now.

Reforms transform Syrian economy, but not politics
By HAMZA HENDAWI (AP) – 2 days ago
DAMASCUS,Syria — After delivering a lecture on the increasing role of private banks in Syria, economist Mohammed Ayman al-Maydani got an uncomfortable request from members of the audience to elaborate on a brief reference he made to corruption in the country’s private and public sectors.
“If I answer this question I may not get to spend the night at home,” he quipped, alluding to the possibility he could be arrested. There was nervous laughter from the room.
The tense moment at the Damascus lecture earlier this month underscored how much and how little has changed in Syria under President Bashar Assad in recent years. The Syrian leader has slowly moved to lift Soviet-style economic restrictions his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, left him.
He opened up the country for foreign banks, threw its doors wide open for imports, authorized private higher education and empowered the private sector.
But the lanky, former eye doctor who came to power 10 years ago this summer has not matched his liberal economic policies with any political reforms. None, in fact, and his powerful security services are in constant watch for criticism of the regime.
In the process, Assad has changed the Syrian regime’s basis of legitimacy. He has depended less on his father’s old anti-Israeli, Arab nationalism rhetoric, basing his power instead on promises of stability, modernization, economic openness and ending Syria’s international isolation.
After 10 years of Assad’s rule, the Damascus that once looked like a grim little place now smells of money, gripped by a consumer boom sustained by a clique of nouveau riche and businessmen living it up in what’s essentially a “money talks” society.
Foreign tourists crowd the old city’s storied bazaar, hotels boast full occupancy and trendy restaurants are so busy that advance booking is always recommended. The latest car models from Japan and Europe are a common sight on the city’s congested streets and boutiques selling designer clothes seem to multiply.
Opening up a country economically while denying the populace democracy and freedoms is perhaps the Arab world’s most popular formula of governance. Close U.S. allies Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan have been pioneers in the field.
It is not entirely risk-free. The free market economy often makes political reform the next logical step in people’s minds. Moreover, some Syrian economists warn that the changes have widened the gap between rich and poor and send prices soaring beyond the reach of most — making the regime vulnerable to popular grumbling or even unrest.
“The real challenge … is managing the switch from a socialist to a free market economy without increasing poverty,” said economist Jihad Yazigi. “But the government has not managed this as well as it should.”
Reform, he said, is desperately needed to root out corruption in the bloated government sector and to make the judiciary more efficient in dealing with trade disputes, if the regime is serious about boosting the economy.
Still, Assad has been strong enough to weather a difficult past few years, as Syria was forced to withdraw its military from neighboring Lebanon in 2005 and endured heavy international isolation that is only now beginning to ease. Assad has so far been able to withstand U.S. pressure that Syria break its alliances with Iran and militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
“Consolidating his power-base has been a trying process, but his grip on power today is undeniable,” said Bilal Saab, a Middle East expert from the University of Maryland at College Park who regularly briefs U.S. officials on Lebanon and Syria.
Assad’s image as a modernizer, helped by the appeal and sophistication of his attractive, British-born wife Asmaa, have helped him increase his popularity among Syria’s 20 million people.
Meanwhile, his family and its trusted associates keep a tight grip on the armed forces, security and intelligence. They and the new business clique that owes its deep pockets to the regime control the biggest and most lucrative businesses like mobile phone line providers and franchises for anything from cars to computers.
Unlike his father, the younger Assad has not responded to political dissent by jailing thousands without trial or by razing entire neighborhoods to the ground — steps that would worsen Syria’s isolation.
Still, after a short-lived accommodation with opponents soon after coming to power in 2000, he has followed the same uncompromising intolerance for dissent.
Haitham al-Maleh is a good example — the prominent 79-year-old reform activist is currently standing trial before a military court on charges of “disseminating false news that could weaken the nation’s morale.”
His crime was criticizing arrests and the emergency law in a TV interview and in Web articles.
In an April 22 court appearance, al-Maleh pleaded to no avail to be released while on trial because of his deteriorating health. He complains of diabetes and arthritis.
Assad’s feared security agencies also keep a close watch on everyone, carefully combing Internet postings for criticism of the regime and any sign of religious militancy. Syrians say they are back to whispering again just as they were when they wanted to talk politics under the rule of the late Assad.
U.S.-based Syria expert Joshua M. Landis said Assad’s claim to legitimacy is no longer rooted in Syria’s conflict with Israel, as it was under his father.
“It is based on the fear of chaos and the promise of stability,” he said.
Still, the younger Assad uses the formal state of war with Israel to his advantage, with his regime citing it to explain away economic woes, emergency laws and harsh treatment of critics.
“Insisting on the idea that we are in a state of war with Israel since 1973 is no longer acceptable,” said Aref Dalilah, a leading economist who in 2008 completed serving a seven-year sentence after criticizing business monopolies awarded by the government.
“It’s being used to justify everything.”
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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May 28th, 2010, 2:52 pm

 

2. Majhool said:

i am disappointed that they did not touch on internal matters. this has been the case for several years now.

Reforms transform Syrian economy, but not politics
By HAMZA HENDAWI (AP) – 2 days ago
DAMASCUS,Syria — After delivering a lecture on the increasing role of private banks in Syria, economist Mohammed Ayman al-Maydani got an uncomfortable request from members of the audience to elaborate on a brief reference he made to corruption in the country’s private and public sectors.
“If I answer this question I may not get to spend the night at home,” he quipped, alluding to the possibility he could be arrested. There was nervous laughter from the room.
The tense moment at the Damascus lecture earlier this month underscored how much and how little has changed in Syria under President Bashar Assad in recent years. The Syrian leader has slowly moved to lift Soviet-style economic restrictions his father and predecessor, Hafez Assad, left him.
He opened up the country for foreign banks, threw its doors wide open for imports, authorized private higher education and empowered the private sector.
But the lanky, former eye doctor who came to power 10 years ago this summer has not matched his liberal economic policies with any political reforms. None, in fact, and his powerful security services are in constant watch for criticism of the regime.
In the process, Assad has changed the Syrian regime’s basis of legitimacy. He has depended less on his father’s old anti-Israeli, Arab nationalism rhetoric, basing his power instead on promises of stability, modernization, economic openness and ending Syria’s international isolation.
After 10 years of Assad’s rule, the Damascus that once looked like a grim little place now smells of money, gripped by a consumer boom sustained by a clique of nouveau riche and businessmen living it up in what’s essentially a “money talks” society.
Foreign tourists crowd the old city’s storied bazaar, hotels boast full occupancy and trendy restaurants are so busy that advance booking is always recommended. The latest car models from Japan and Europe are a common sight on the city’s congested streets and boutiques selling designer clothes seem to multiply.
Opening up a country economically while denying the populace democracy and freedoms is perhaps the Arab world’s most popular formula of governance. Close U.S. allies Egypt, Tunisia and Jordan have been pioneers in the field.
It is not entirely risk-free. The free market economy often makes political reform the next logical step in people’s minds. Moreover, some Syrian economists warn that the changes have widened the gap between rich and poor and send prices soaring beyond the reach of most — making the regime vulnerable to popular grumbling or even unrest.
“The real challenge … is managing the switch from a socialist to a free market economy without increasing poverty,” said economist Jihad Yazigi. “But the government has not managed this as well as it should.”
Reform, he said, is desperately needed to root out corruption in the bloated government sector and to make the judiciary more efficient in dealing with trade disputes, if the regime is serious about boosting the economy.
Still, Assad has been strong enough to weather a difficult past few years, as Syria was forced to withdraw its military from neighboring Lebanon in 2005 and endured heavy international isolation that is only now beginning to ease. Assad has so far been able to withstand U.S. pressure that Syria break its alliances with Iran and militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.
“Consolidating his power-base has been a trying process, but his grip on power today is undeniable,” said Bilal Saab, a Middle East expert from the University of Maryland at College Park who regularly briefs U.S. officials on Lebanon and Syria.
Assad’s image as a modernizer, helped by the appeal and sophistication of his attractive, British-born wife Asmaa, have helped him increase his popularity among Syria’s 20 million people.
Meanwhile, his family and its trusted associates keep a tight grip on the armed forces, security and intelligence. They and the new business clique that owes its deep pockets to the regime control the biggest and most lucrative businesses like mobile phone line providers and franchises for anything from cars to computers.
Unlike his father, the younger Assad has not responded to political dissent by jailing thousands without trial or by razing entire neighborhoods to the ground — steps that would worsen Syria’s isolation.
Still, after a short-lived accommodation with opponents soon after coming to power in 2000, he has followed the same uncompromising intolerance for dissent.
Haitham al-Maleh is a good example — the prominent 79-year-old reform activist is currently standing trial before a military court on charges of “disseminating false news that could weaken the nation’s morale.”
His crime was criticizing arrests and the emergency law in a TV interview and in Web articles.
In an April 22 court appearance, al-Maleh pleaded to no avail to be released while on trial because of his deteriorating health. He complains of diabetes and arthritis.
Assad’s feared security agencies also keep a close watch on everyone, carefully combing Internet postings for criticism of the regime and any sign of religious militancy. Syrians say they are back to whispering again just as they were when they wanted to talk politics under the rule of the late Assad.
U.S.-based Syria expert Joshua M. Landis said Assad’s claim to legitimacy is no longer rooted in Syria’s conflict with Israel, as it was under his father.
“It is based on the fear of chaos and the promise of stability,” he said.
Still, the younger Assad uses the formal state of war with Israel to his advantage, with his regime citing it to explain away economic woes, emergency laws and harsh treatment of critics.
“Insisting on the idea that we are in a state of war with Israel since 1973 is no longer acceptable,” said Aref Dalilah, a leading economist who in 2008 completed serving a seven-year sentence after criticizing business monopolies awarded by the government.
“It’s being used to justify everything.”
Copyright © 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

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May 28th, 2010, 2:58 pm

 

3. Ghat Albird said:

Its common knowledge that “The Associated Press” in not neutral in its reporting about the Arab World in general.

When and if the AP reports on who really controls America that would be the real news.

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May 28th, 2010, 3:41 pm

 

4. almasri said:

GHAT,
Do you think that the acronym (AP) of he Associated Press has anything to do with what you say in your comment?

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May 28th, 2010, 3:52 pm

 

5. why-discuss said:

Majhoul

“Assad’s feared security agencies also keep a close watch on everyone, carefully combing Internet postings for criticism of the regime and any sign of religious militancy. Syrians say they are back to whispering again just as they were when they wanted to talk politics under the rule of the late Assad.”

Religious militancy is also combed in the US and other European countries and in view of the dangers it may pose to Syria, it is justified.
Syria is a country with occupied land. It has been demonized by the west and many attempts of regime change were made. It is surrounded by “friendly” neighbours such as Israel who probably has networks of spies in Syria ( as it has in Lebanon) and by Iraq who has hordes of CIA, Israeli Mossad and Moslem extremist operatives waiting for the moment to destabilize Syria according to the agenda of their respective master.
Therefore watching and silencing “dissidents” who may be associated with the above and could disrupt the fragile equilibrium is completely understandable. Of course some innocents intellectuals will pay the price.

Once these threats are removed, then we can have clearer picture of Syria’ political system. Now, it is impossible to come to any conclusions or criticism.

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May 28th, 2010, 3:59 pm

 

6. Akbar Palace said:

“Who really controls” Syria?

Ghat,

The people that control America is Americans. To wit: The “Tea Party” movement…

If only the same could be said of Syria.

It is surrounded by “friendly” neighbours such as Israel who probably has networks of spies in Syria ( as it has in Lebanon) and by Iraq who has hordes of CIA, Israeli Mossad and Moslem extremist operatives waiting for the moment to destabilize Syria according to the agenda of their respective master.

Why-Discuss,

Why do you excuse an oppressive police-state like Syria? Methinks you’re knee-deep into a double-standard.

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May 28th, 2010, 4:06 pm

 

7. Ghat Albird said:

Syria is controlled by Syrians. Not individuals born in Moldavia, Rumania, Georgie and others.

The people that control America are well known throughout the world. Even by the Jerusalem Post who published the names of the top 50 individuals that are influential in the world.

Leave it to you to guess where most of them live? Even the lesbian that Obama nominated to be on the US Supreme court is already among the top10.

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May 28th, 2010, 4:41 pm

 

8. Amir in Tel Aviv said:

Surprise 1: no threats of war. Surprise 2: the ultra optimistic tone.
Surprise 3: the “biggest challenge, is the extremism in this region”.
No surprise: not a single word about what’s going on inside Syria.
.

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May 28th, 2010, 5:13 pm

 

9. Majhool said:

Why-Discuss,

I respectfully disagree. There is large body of evidence suggesting that authoritarian states fail to deliver to its citizens. There is no excuse for jailing non-Islamist militants. Also, the president seems reluctant to discuss internal issues in the media. It defies logic to suggest that you could build a prosperous and vibrant society with lack of transparency and accountability.

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May 28th, 2010, 5:14 pm

 

10. almasri said:

Majhool,

You should listen to WD. Things have to be done in order of priority. First occupation of Arab land must end and the refugees must go back to their homes.

Besides, democracy is not necessarily a noble goal to be pursued, particularly when it is used by the imperialists in order to subvert the goals as above.

You should think in terms of Resistance because this is what our societies need most. They do not need western democracy or anything of that sort.

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May 28th, 2010, 5:38 pm

 

11. Majhool said:

Almasri,

Transparency and accountability don’t necessary mean “western democracy”. is resistance always at odds with transparency? I am trying to adhere to logic not ideology. Plus your always do more when you work in parallel. I still don’t see why intellects need to go jail.

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May 28th, 2010, 6:26 pm

 

12. Nas said:

Almasri,

I have to agree with Majhool. There is no reason things can’t be done in parallel; civil freedoms and liberation do not conflict.

All there is that we as Syrians are being held hostage by the regime until Golan is returned to Syria and a peace deal is struck with Israel. With the way things are. I dare argue that the regime is benefiting from the occupation by oppressing freedoms under the rule of martial law and has no real motive to end this state of “peace is war” that’s been going on for decades now.

Threats to national security are averted by politicians working with citizens, not against them.

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May 28th, 2010, 7:25 pm

 

13. Ghat Albird said:

Those enamored with “western” socalled civil freedoms that they claim are not present in Syria must not befully aware of such legislation as the Patriot Act in the US; the efforts of the French Government to police how and what women wear; the civil freedoms enjoyed by the Palestenians in the West Bank and in Gaza.

Those individuals incarcerated in Guantanamo and in Abu Ghraib are well versed in the civil freedoms they enjoyed and some still enjoy. Recently the President of the USA authorized the assassination of American citizens whereever they may be in the world.

So get off these farcical and childish inanities about the “there is no freedom in Syria”.. No society is as pure as the driven snow. For all the brainwashing done on behalf of Israel it is still considered by some freedom civil lovers to be a fascist apartheid state.

Maybe if Syria received $3/4 billion dollars a year it could be freer in spending money on its infrastructures.

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May 28th, 2010, 8:18 pm

 

14. almasri said:

MAJHOOL,

Resistance is not an ideology. It is a practical and heroic act that has proven its worth when almost all the Arab governments went down practically on their knees. It is the only glimmer of hope that will allow you as a Syrian to live with honor and dignity. You cannot deny that some intellectuals are actually paid by their western benefactors in order to subvert the most important causes Arabs have. That doesn’t mean every intellectual should go to jail. Some are honest. But I do not understand your exclusion of the islamist from those you would like to see freed. That is double standard.
Look at Egypt. Egypt surrendered. Does the West care less about civil liberties in Egypt? They just offer lip service. Why? Because they took from Egypt what the zionists want – surrender. Again look at Iraq. What kind of democracy and civil liberties did Bush bring to that country? If you know any Iraqis you should find out from them what their opinions are regarding the dictatorship of Saddam and the so-called western freedoms and liberties that they were promised in return for betraying Iraq. This is what the West want from you. The West want you to speak as you speak and forget about Palestine. Once you become conditioned, then they don’t give a damn about your freedom and liberty. You know that Egypt is still governed by emergency laws, don’t you?

Nas,

Is that all you want? Just the Golan? That is very cheap, man! What about Palestine and those who were driven out of their homes? Should they be sacrificed so that you can enjoy some freedom?
You should read Ghat’s comment and think carefully. There is no such thing as complete freedom and liberty especially when national issues are at stake.

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May 28th, 2010, 10:13 pm

 

15. almasri said:

Even when the world agrees on a document which expresses the obvious, America feels obliged to criticize the World in support of the zionist entity which behaves contrary to all the nations who signed a treaty no one should have signed if signing it means what we see happening in Iraq and Iran

http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/05/29/109889.html

It is obvious that America cannot be an arbiter in the Middle East. Was Bashar stating anything but the obvious?

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May 28th, 2010, 10:34 pm

 

16. norman said:

I just want all American to know that they can not even borrow president Assad to fix the US he is only for Syria, he is loved by his people and not for his religious association but because of his achievements and that drives his critics crazy , like some people here ,

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May 28th, 2010, 11:00 pm

 

17. Akbar Palace said:

The World’s Best Leader

I just want all American to know that they can not even borrow president Assad to fix the US he is only for Syria, he is loved by his people and not for his religious association but because of his achievements…

Norman,

1.) What makes you think he can “fix the US”?

2.) How do you know “he is loved by his people”?

3.) What are his “achievements”?

NAS,

Please “get with the program”. You’re on Syria Comment now…

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May 29th, 2010, 12:02 am

 

18. why-discuss said:

Mahjoul

It is totaly idealistic to think that intellectuals are immune from been corrupted, bought, mislead or used by subversive entities, especially in countries that are under siege such as Iran and Syria because they refuse to bend to the diktat of the few western powers, most of them not long time ago colonizing powers.

It is also totally idealistic to think that free expression is always good. Do you think the US has free expression?
Israel has free expression? The last example of Noah Chomsky banned from entering the palestinian occupied territory talks by itself. Do you think the Israeli press dare to talk about the abuses of the settlers, no.. they minimize it for the sake of stability.
Israel and the US as most ‘democratic’ countries practice autocensorship because if they know that if they don’t, it may create violence and internal rifts they want to avoid. In the arab world, where the umbrella of democracy does not exist, dissidents feel alienated so they may get carried away by their ideas and disregard the consequences of their ideas on the community.
If the legitimacy of the ruler is in doubt ( as it was in Iran), some may argue that these intellectuals are the seed of a ‘revolution’ . The trouble is that this movement is usually soon inflitred by subversive entities who under the cover of a change of regime are carrying the agenda of the US and Israel as in the past the British and Soviet agenda. ( Mossadeq expulsion appeared to be a popular movement, but it was a CIA coup)
In the middle east where most countries are exposed to the CIA and Mossad plots because of the oil wealth and the necessity to protect and impose the jewish entity, it is very difficult to determine the purity and relevance of the ideas and criticism proclaimed by the intellectuals.
Therefore right or wrong, censorship is imposed. It is sad but seems necessary.

During the algerian war of independence, was France practising censorship?
The cold war is still present in the middle east, let’s us not be mislead in believing the middle east countries are like any other western country at peace with their neighbours and expect the same criteria of freedom of expression..

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May 29th, 2010, 1:04 am

 

19. Husam said:

Mahjool:

While I understand where you are coming from, I am surprised that you seem unaware that all interviews done anywhere in the world with heads of state and high government officials have a clear predefined agenda. The topic is pre-arranged and the parameters are set in advance.

What you are asking is the same as if Obama was asked what he thought of the Zionist Pro-Israeli Lobby hand over congress or if he attended the Bilderberg group meeting; or asking the Queen of England about her family and heirs benefiting of a liftime crown and money; or asking Dick Cheney if he intenionally shot his hunting friend point blank.

Doing so will be the end of any journalist’s career.

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May 29th, 2010, 1:18 am

 

20. Nas said:

Al Masri & Ghat AlBird,

You’re not answering what I said in my comment. Can you please explain how jailing a 19 y-o Syrian blogger helps the Palestinians or Syrians get their rights from Israel? I’m really baffled here. I’m not railing against Syria for the sake of railing against it and siding with the enemy; All I’m doing is relay what many people I know dare not say out loud.

Norman,
No one is above criticism no matter how much of a good job they’re doing.

Everyone, it’s not a zero sum game. You can still be with Syria’s rights and criticize some of the regime’s practices. It does not make you any less patriotic.

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May 29th, 2010, 1:23 am

 

21. Husam said:

Why Discuss:

I couldn’t have said it any better, not only you presented historical facts but logical expectations.

Cheers

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May 29th, 2010, 1:25 am

 

22. Majhool said:

Almasri,

I asked if resistance was at odds with transparency, not weather or not it was an ideology. I can tell you with confidence that whatever we did in the last 50 years just did not work.
WD,
I am using the intellectuals because they are the last bunch not branded with the treason charge. For me, unless you violated a law, you are free to do and say whatever you want. You got dishonest people of all kinds, and one cannot kill civic life because some maybe agents of foreign powers. We saw this movie before. I just want Syria to be better. I want an accountable government, I want a PM that is not known to be a thief. I want free press. How is that western? This as Islamic as it gets.

Husam,

I am very aware of the fact that these interviews have prepared agendas. But why is the talk of internal affairs embarrassing? Why does our head of state does not address his country’s internal issues in the media, even in the Syrian media? When was his last speech/talk? 4 years ago? I wish the guy well, but I don’t think the authoritarian way will get us what we want.

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May 29th, 2010, 1:54 am

 

23. norman said:

Nas ,
To criticize is welcomed if you have better ideas so

What are the positions that Syria has you disagree with , Palestine , Iraq, Lebanon , the Economy , health care , or education and what you like Syria to change ,

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May 29th, 2010, 2:24 am

 

24. almasri said:

“Can you please explain how jailing a 19 y-o Syrian blogger helps the Palestinians or Syrians get their rights from Israel?”

Nas,

Sysriacomment has no means of verifying such claims as you’re making. If you ask this question in a different context, you would probably receive a reasonable answer. However, posing the question as you did raises doubts about your motives. No matter what the pretexts of the CR interview, you surely wouldn’t expect an American channel to be dealing with such Syrian issues. We all know what the American agenda is with respect to Syria. Civil liberties are definitely not on this agenda. But having Syria surrender to zionism is very much on their minds if they can achieve that.

“You can still be with Syria’s rights and criticize some of the regime’s practices. It does not make you any less patriotic.”

No one accused you of being less patriotic. Actually, we do not have means to verify who you really are. But let’s look at your other statement:

“With the way things are. I dare argue that the regime is benefiting from the occupation by oppressing freedoms under the rule of martial law and has no real motive to end this state of “peace is war” that’s been going on for decades now.”

You seem to be actually accusing the regime of having ulterior motives without offering any evidence or proof. What we know for sure is that this regime and the previous regime have consistently shown adherence to certain principles that do not compromise national and Arab rights in Palestine given the means that they have at their disposal.

And this is for you and Majhool and is actually a repetition of things already mentioned in 5, 10, 13 and 14. Priorities are the most important when you have a situation as we have in the Middle East. Our region is subject to an invasion by criminal thugs supported by a criminal so-called super power. The Vietnemese did not ask for their liberties when they fought two colonial powers in succession. Instead they offered blood for the FREEDOM of their country. So did the Algerians and many others who put the FREEDOM of their homeland ahead of all other freedoms. Are you content with having half your country (i.e. Golan plus Palestine) under occupation and you’re left with the only mission in life which is to achieve personal liberty? Are you happy that millions are deprived of their homes unjustly? Are you ready to offer blood to save your country like the Vietnamese, the Algerians and every other nation did? Or is FREEDOM of modern day blogging of more importance to you? This is where priorities come into play and the choices are yours to make. What did the Vietnamese gain from their struggle? And why did they bother to struggle in the first place, and pay a heavy price? You think about it.

If you do not like the Vietnamese example for some reason, and you are still enamored by the American way of life, then I suggest you also study the American war of independence in order to understand how the Americans came to enjoy the way of life that seems to dazzle you. This way of life did not come for free. The early Americans too had to go through a similar struggle as the Vietnamese struggle, and they too paid a heavy price. You may also want to explore the history of the French revolution, and I can go on citing countless examples from history all have one and the same thing in common – prioritizing goals. The desired outcomes were only possible by prioritizing goals as we humans are almost always plagued with the curse of having access to limited resources.

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May 29th, 2010, 6:33 am

 

25. Shai said:

Al Masri says: “Are you ready to offer blood to save your country like the Vietnamese, the Algerians and every other nation did? Or is FREEDOM of modern day blogging of more importance to you?”

Maybe the angry Egyptian (“we do not have means to verify who you really are”) should blog-preach a little less, and go “offer blood” a little more, to save “his country” from the criminal thugs and their criminal super-power supporter?

Does his pontification and courage end with a dot-com? I love those couch potato generals. They’ll liberate your land and your people at any moment, and they’re always behind you. Way, way, behind you.

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May 29th, 2010, 9:48 am

 

26. almasri said:

“Maybe the angry Egyptian (“we do not have means to verify who you really are”) should blog-preach a little less, and go “offer blood” a little more, to save “his country” from the criminal thugs and their criminal super-power supporter?”

I said: “Our region is subject to an invasion by criminal thugs supported by a criminal so-called super power”

So apparently, the person who responded (which we have no means of verifying whether he/she is or is not a Mossad-funded raider of blogs frequented by Arabs) to me may have had a sensitive nerve activated. Usually we ignore each other (right, Mr. 25?). We definitely know that he/she is participating in the invasion of our Arab lands while constantly pontificating to Arab bloggers about the so-called benefits of befriending zionists and how to transform so-called Israel into a non-apartheid utopia, where a Moldavian zionist invader would hug his Arab neighbor on a daily basis, once in the morning and once in the evening, while robbing him of his house with the help of money provided by the thuggish super power.

Nas, the Assad government may after all have a very good reason to ban the young Syrians from using the blogosphere. Personally, I would prefer education on its proper use. But in the meantime banning is probably the best answer.

Appreciate the feedback even from an enemy invader sometimes.

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May 29th, 2010, 10:17 am

 

27. Shai said:

I wonder… if the Zionist Entity wanted to employ blog-raiders who’d advance her goal of dominating the region, would she choose an advocate of peace, or one of war? 😉

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May 29th, 2010, 10:29 am

 

28. almasri said:

At the risk of breaking my policy of non-interaction with zionists even on blog media, I may have to say the following:

A zionist is a zionist PERIOD. In essence, he or she is a thuggish invader of Arab lands. The term thuggish follows from the fact that he or she originates from Poland, Moldovia, US, Russia or somewhere else and even though had a home and country decides to deprive the Palestinians of their homes and claim Palestine as a misfit zionist enclave!!!

He or she (the zionist) may use any camouflage in order to atone himself or herself of his or her guilt and advance the thuggish zionist agenda.

The issue is not that of peace or war. These things usually happen between real nations and are concepts beyond the comprehension of thugs. The issue falls under the jurisdiction of criminal law. A thuggish band of land grabbers (usually called settlers) cannot sue for such concept unknown to their thuggish characters which normal nations call peace. Thuggish bands rely on the support of thuggish so-called superpower which provides them with means for terrorizing men, women and children. But the thuggish bands mistakenly believe they are waging war which it too can only happen between real nations.

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May 29th, 2010, 12:01 pm

 

29. Shai said:

To the great risk-taker,

Funny how your own leaders don’t call Israel a “band of thugs”. Funny how the Syrian president himself, in just that fresh interview up above which I’m sure you’ve listened to, not only refers to us as “Israel”, but even suggests making Peace with us. Even suggests that all in the region will recognize us, normalize relations with us, etc., once the Palestinian issue is resolved. He did not once suggest this band-of-thugs should go back to where they came from. He did not suggest that the Palestine you so courageously “cyber-defend” should be borne on its pre-1948 borders, but rather on its 1967 borders, creating two separate states in the region, one called Palestine, the other Israel.

So who is it that doesn’t understand “the issue” here? Why are the leaders of 26 Arab nations repeatedly, for the 4th time now since 2002, offer Israel the “3 Yes’s”, instead of Khartoum’s “3 No’s”? What is it they (your leaders) do not see, that you do?

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May 29th, 2010, 12:46 pm

 

30. norman said:

Shai,
You should take from the above exchange that the more Israel refuses peace and refuses giving the Palestinians their rights as defined by president Assad the more people will side with Almasri and chose all or nothing approach and that is not good for the Middle East , president Assad put forward his vision , the question is, are there brave men in Israel , I doubt it , !.

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May 29th, 2010, 1:45 pm

 

31. Shai said:

Norman,

Peace in the region will not be had between Israelis and Al Masri-types. They will be had between brave men & women in Israel, and brave leaders like Bashar Assad.

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May 29th, 2010, 2:04 pm

 

32. Akbar Palace said:

The Life of the Intolerant

Shai,

I enjoyed your last exchange. You’ve shown that Al-Masri is more “Arab” than the “once esteeemed” Bashar Assad;)

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May 29th, 2010, 2:14 pm

 

33. why-discuss said:

Shai

The continuous stubbornness, agressity and ruthlessness of Israel is leading many moderates to adhere to Al_Masri position.
In addition, the ‘special’ relation with the US is also affecting the perception of many. Seeing Obama’s just ideas been despised by your leaders and seeing the pro-israeli congress following almost blindly the recommendations of the rich jewish lobby only make obvious the intimacy between Israel and the US neo-cons who are deeply hated in the arab countries after the chaos and misery they have created with the Iraq war.
So don’t be surprised to see an increase of extremist positions towards your country. You can’t expect the voice of reason on one side when the other voice is one of deception.

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May 29th, 2010, 2:32 pm

 

34. Akbar Palace said:

More news from the evil “Apartheid State”:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/world/middle_east/10175907.stm

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May 29th, 2010, 2:32 pm

 

35. trustquest said:

I would like to ask Almasri not tell us the Syrians how we feel about our problems and we promise him not question his feeling about his country problems. But I would like to extend a little and ask him if he approves the emergency law in Syria does he approve it also in Egypt?
Emergency law = defer to the real legal system

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May 29th, 2010, 3:31 pm

 

36. Akbar Palace said:

I would like to ask Almasri not tell us the Syrians how we feel about our problems and we promise him not question his feeling about his country problems.

Truthquest,

cc: Al Masri

If I may, I would like to go one step further. I would like to ask Almasri to CONTINUE to tell us about the terrible injustices going on inside the Apartheid State and how terribly they treat their non-Jewish population.

It makes me feel better as a human being.

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May 29th, 2010, 4:00 pm

 

37. Shai said:

WD,

“You can’t expect the voice of reason on one side when the other voice is one of deception.”

The “other voice” isn’t one of deception – it is very clear – it isn’t interested in peace. Just today our deputy-dawg foreign minister threatened the Lebanese PM in the “next conflict”. Danny Ayalon isn’t deceiving anyone – he’s making it very plain and simple. But fortunately, if Netanyahu has a plan in mind, Ayalon is the last person he’ll share it with.

The problem I have at the moment, is that in both cases, Bibi-interested and Bibi-not-interested, the behavior might be the same. In other words, if he’s not ready to withdraw to 1967, then clearly Israel’s words and actions support this. But if he is, then since he is surrounded by a “neoconish” coalition, he must slowly manipulate it to reach his starting point the right way. He cannot suddenly announce his readiness to withdraw from the Golan, for example.

Maybe it is wishful thinking on my part, but I have a suspicion that this might be the situation. That this whole victory-dance with the U.S. (“Israel Won”) is one more significant step in Netanyahu’s plan. The one thing I am certain about – is that Bibi knows that only Bibi can… He knows there is no other Israeli PM today or in the foreseeable future that can deliver peace with the Arab world (including the Palestinians). He knows he’s the only one. And the way I see it, that’s just too much historic-power to not use. He also knows Israeli governments don’t last forever. Most don’t even last 3 or 4 years.

As for moderate Arabs adopting Al Masri-like attitudes, I can’t blame them. I don’t expect most people to remain courageous and optimistic, when faced with this reality. But I do hope a few will remain strong, oppose the calls for confrontation the results of which none of us can imagine, and that in the end, cooler minds will prevail.

And I’m saying this not as some courageous cyber-warrior with wisdom to share with the world, but as a person who will have to suffer the consequences of whatever mistakes we make.

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May 29th, 2010, 6:41 pm

 

38. Assad, Al-Aswany, and Aichaaa… « champollion st. said:

[…] Assad’s interview with Charlie Rose – read read read it’s really interesting […]

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May 30th, 2010, 12:18 am

 

39. Bashar al-Assad « The Archangel Michael, Seventh Angel Sounding said:

[…] speeches, interviews, press releases Appearances on C-SPAN Bashar al-Assad on Charlie Rose Transcript of 2010 conversation Bashar al-Assad at the Internet Movie Database Works by or about Bashar al-Assad in […]

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August 18th, 2012, 7:14 pm

 
 

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