Assad BBC Interview: Syria Wants Peace

Bashar al Assad interview with BBC’s John Simpson tonight – Monday 9.10.06 at 07.30pm GMT BBC World or 11.30pm GMT BBC News 24

The SANA version (abridged)

Syria is prepared to hold talks with Israel and wants a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, President Bashar al-Assad has said.

In an interview with the BBC’s John Simpson, President Assad said Syria and Israel could live side-by-side in peace accepting each other’s existence.

However, he said “we do not know whether this [Israeli] government is strong enough to move towards peace”.

He also said support from Washington was integral to any peace deal.

The current US administration has said Syria is a member of what it has called an axis of evil. Washington has also accused Syria of backing

Hezbollah in Lebanon, an organisation it views as a terrorist group.

Following the repercussions of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, Mr Assad said officials in the West had accused Syria of supporting terrorism to try to make it “a scapegoat” and to “absolve themselves from any responsibility”.

The Syrian leader condemned attacks in Iraq against “civilians and innocents” but said that “resistance is the right of the people”.

“The insurgency is against the law – we don’t support it. Resistance we adopt as a concept, that does not mean we support it with money or armaments,” President Assad said.

MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies has come out today with a special issue on the Lebanon war.  
For full and free access:

GUEST EDITORS: Reinoud Leenders, Amal Ghazal, Jens Hanssen
 
INTRODUCTION 6
 
ISRAEL ‘S 2006 W R ON LEBANON:
REFLECTIONS ON THE INTERNATIONAL LAW OF FORCE
Karim Makdisi 9
 
WILL WE WIN?
CONVERGENCE AND ISRAEL’S LATEST LEBANON WAR
Robert Blecher 27
 
HOW THE REBEL REGAINED HIS CAUSE
HIZBULLAH & THE SIXTH ARAB-ISRAELI WAR
Reinoud Leenders 38
 
THE REFUGEES WHO GIVE REFUGE
Laleh Khalili 57
 
HIZBULLAH AND THE IDF:
ACCEPTING NEW REALITIES ALONG THE BLUE LINE
Nicholas Blanford 68
 
THE PEACEKEEPING CHALLENGE IN LEBANON
Augustus Richard Norton 76
 
POLITICS AND BUSINESS, STATE AND CITIZENRY:
PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS ON THE RESPONSE TO
LEBANON’S HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
Jim Quilty 80
 
THE OUTLOOK FOR ECONOMIC RECONSTRUCTION IN
LEBANON AFTER THE 2006 WAR
Bassam Fattouh and Joachim Kolb 96
 
DECONSTRUCTING A “HIZBULLAH STRONGHOLD ”
Lara Deeb 115
 
MEDIA IS THE CONTINUATION OF WAR WITH OTHER
MEANS: THE NEW YORK T IM E S. C O V E R A G E O F T HE
ISRAELI WAR ON LEBANON
Yasser Munif 126
 
GREAT EXPECTATIONS, LIMITED MEANS:
FRANCE AND THE 2006 ISRAELI-LEBANESE WAR
Elizabeth Picard 141
 
ISRAEL IN LEBANON:
THE FOREIGN POLICY LOGICS OF JEWISH STATEHOOD
Virginia Tilley 152
 
SIZE DOES NOT MATTER:
THE SHEBAA FARMS IN HISTORY AND CONTEMPORARY
POLITICS
Asher Kaufman 163
 
EXPORTING DEATH AS DEMOCRACY:
AN ESSAY ON U.S. FOREIGN POLICY IN LEBANON
Irene Gendzier 177
 
REVIEWS
 
REVIEW ESSAYS
 
L ebanon.s P olitical E conom y: A fter S yria, an E conom ic T a.if?
Reviewed by Reinoud Leenders 188
 
Hizbullah: Iranian Surrogate or Independent Actor?
Reviewed by Rola el-Husseini 204
 
Making Sense of Al Qaeda
Review Essay by John A. McCurdy 210
 
BOOK REVIEWS
 
David Cook
Understanding Jihad
Reviewed by Amir Asmar 220
 
Fawaz A. Gerges
The Far Enemy: Why Jihad Went Global
Reviewed by Mohamed Yousry 223
http://web.mit.edu/cis/www/mitejmes/
 
Paul A. Silverstein
Algeria in France. Transpolitics, Race, and Nation
Reviewed by Margaret A. Majumdar 225
 
Lisa Pollard
Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing and
Liberating Egypt, 1805-1923
Reviewed by Omnia El Shakry 227

Comments (15)


1. ugarit said:

Assad should just declare that he’s flying to Tel Aviv on such on such day to begin negotiations. This would be best for the the whole region. The extremist US and Israeli goverments will not be able to stop it if he takes that approach.

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October 9th, 2006, 4:17 pm

 

2. Ehsani2 said:

Bashar is involved in a record setting interview pace like we have never seen before. He must hold the world record at the present time. Hardly a day passes by without him granting an interview. What is also clear is that “begging” for a peace deal with Israel has become a common theme to all such interviews.

One must ask why?

Could it be related to the fact that the international tribunal for the Hariri murder is fast approaching?

Since the recent victories of Hamas and Hezbollah, Bashar should have been emboldened. He should have been waiting for Israel and the U.S. to come to him asking for a deal following his recent victories. What we see instead, however, is the opposite.

Many on this forum have dismissed the Hariri murder and the upcoming trial. Time will tell if they are right. They have offered many theories as to why they believe this way. I must profess that I find most of them to be highly unconvincing.

My explanation and answer for the question that I posed is the following:

Bashar always knew that he has the trump card in his pocket should the Harriri investigation proceed negatively for him. That trump card was an offer for a peace treaty with Israel. He has long thought that no matter what problems he faced, once an offer to deal with Israel was presented, the world will rush to his capital and celebrate this landmark event hence forgetting all other matters in the meantime.

Clearly, my theory is a minority opinion on this forum, which is customary practice.

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October 9th, 2006, 5:06 pm

 

3. Innocent_Criminal said:

Josh

you said its 19:30 GMT on top but BBC World website says its at 1830 GMT

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October 9th, 2006, 5:12 pm

 

4. rabee said:

Peace with Syria is becoming a partisan political issue in Israel.
But, the debate is not public.

There is an opportunity to invite non-Arab MK’s to Damascus.
In fact, I know of at least one non-Arab MK who is not in Meretz, who would be willing to go, if the situation is setup in the correct way and not in the usual way of fawda and du7ok 3a d’un. (chaos and “propaganda”)

The usual Arab MK’s can help in this regard.

A delegation of Arab and Jewish MKs in Damascus, even if the visit is discreet, will bring the Olmert Government down within months.

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October 9th, 2006, 6:03 pm

 

5. annie said:

Simpson is a very likeable character.
Bashar was convincing and gave all the right answers.
I have never believed he had anything to do with Hariri’s murder; the deed was too detrimental to Syria and it was easy to see that beforehand.
It is just that the time is ripe for pressing for peace. Everyone is tired of constant war and struggle.

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October 9th, 2006, 7:48 pm

 

6. omar said:

I always believed Bashar is quite more flexible than his deceased president father, but I hope he didn’t soften under any pressure. He messed up in his speech, I got mad, but never the less he’s a president of a country I personally respect it’s people.

It’s a pitty how people actually believe that Arabs and Israelis can coexist, Arabs are barely coexisting with each others, and one nation have to give up a big chunk of it’s identity for the sake of living ‘peacefully’.

omar

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October 10th, 2006, 2:44 am

 

7. ivanka said:

Ehsani this is a logical theory you are offering. Peace in order to run away from the Hariri murder trial. However, there is another explaination. What is the goal of Syria : A deal with Israel and the West. Since Syria as you said is emboldened, it is pressing for this deal. So there are other ways of looking at this. Although I think you are right that we should not forget the investigation. Independently of the truth, John Bolton can still bully people at the UN into changing the judge or bully the judge himself.

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October 10th, 2006, 2:45 pm

 

8. ivanka said:

Ugarit, that is very interesting. I think if Pres. Bashar does fly to Israel he would make Dubya one very angry person. I mean imagine that, a peace deal behind the back of the US.

But if we connect this to Ehsani’s comment. Maybe if he were afraid of the investigation then he would not call for peace, he would take a plane to Tel Aviv.

Personally I am like Annie, no one can convince me Syria had anything to do with Hariri’s murder. I mean unless you show me physical uncontestable proof, I will NEVER beleive this.

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October 10th, 2006, 2:54 pm

 

9. Philip 1 said:

Strategically, we all know that the best option for Syria and the region is a lasting peace with Israel. However, no peace can last without a fair resolution of the Palestinian problem. All the parties involved know this but Israel is not willing to pay the price and the US simply does not want to reward Assad. Both Israel and the US can see that, by bidding for peace, Assad saves his regime from an impending economic disaster, extricates himself from the clutches of Iran and, as Ihsani2 said, avoids international isolation or sanctions as a result of the Hariri investigation. He knows Israel cannot deliver, so he has nothing to lose by pleading for peace. He in fact gains if he can at least divide Israeli and international opinion, which might ease his isolation. It is a win win situation for the REGION if Isreal does respond positively to his peace offer AND changes its atittude toward the Palestinians (a very low probability). It is a win win situation for HIS REGIME if Isreal calls his bluff and talks peace without involving the Palestinians (a reasonably high probability). By refusing to go it alone, he improves his standing in the Arab world.

So, all in all, it is a smart move which, I suspect will only buy him more time in office. In the meantime Syria continues to go downhill for lack of serious reforms.

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October 10th, 2006, 7:49 pm

 

10. Akbar Palace said:

“I think if Pres. Bashar does fly to Israel he would make Dubya one very angry person.”

Ivanka –

Don’t worry, the honorable, esteemed and dearly beloved Bashar will not(I’m sorry to say) be flying to Israel.

I know this comes as a shock to you and good Dr. Landis.

And now that you mention it, if Bush got angry at a hypothetical Bashar trip to the Zionist Entity, how angry do you suppose the Islamic extremists would get??

I’m thinking an Assad meeting with the Joos would cause a big semtex party in Damascus.

Oh well, the “Big Assad Peace Initiative” didn’t seem to have much of a half-life this time.;)

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/773882.html

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October 12th, 2006, 4:07 pm

 

11. ausamaa said:

President Assad Bashar Al Assad is now -encouraged, invited or expected- to FLY TO Israel, so as “to embarrass Israel and the US”, and so as to prove to the “realists” of the world that he is a peacemaker!!!!

And there, at the Israeli Knesset, the State of Israel will be “so embarrassed”, and enthusiastically encouraged by the equally shy and peace loving Bush, that it will return to Syria the annexed/occupied Syrian Golan Heights, withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem,leave Lebanon alone, and shed up for forever its expansionist, racist and colonial skin. And peace shall reign forever over the Promised Land.

Or maybe the purpose of the visit will be to get over the personality clash, or expand communicatioons channels, sort of a problem. Or?? Maybe to “sell the rest of Syria” to Israel, declare that he is abandoning Hezbollah, the Palestinians and Arabism, and that he will be the good boy in the neighborhood.

Fine, except for two decimal facts:

1) Assad believes -and rightly so in my thinking- that the US, Israel and their camp have suffered multiple defeats (tactical and strategic), and are confused, disoriented, and in a precariously week position, with promises of more of the same to follow. So “they”, not “him” are the ones who can be expected to make the “peace offerings” if any are in the cards.

2)Was it not Tlass who once said that the Syrian Command discussed the idea of shooting down his plane, or of arresting Sadat when he visited Damascus prior to his “historic” visit to Israel to prevent him from completing such a visit thirty years ago? I mean the so-called “mentality-barrier” breaking visit which has “proved” to be the Nobel Award Winning idea as it was marketed then, and which has brought “all this peace” we live in now to the whole region!!! Has Syria’s ideology changed so much during the past years? I doubt it!

So its a no-go. But life is nothing without hope. For losers at least. So it is always nice to read such superb political analysis and moving thoughts and rosey expectations.

By the way, and since Assad is now “criticized for giving many interviews”, is it the presidential palace operator in Damascuse who rings up BBC and AL Anba’a or whoever and say: would you please come over the President wants to be interviewed by you, or does it usually work the other way round.

And what exactly is bothering some people? The fact that interviews are taking place and Syria is out of its marketed/publicized Solitary Confinement, or the fact that Assad is repeating Syria’s thirty year-old basic position, or the fact that he is still around, en force????

You guessed right! The last of course.

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October 13th, 2006, 12:59 pm

 

12. Akbar Palace said:

“And what exactly is bothering some people?”

Ausamaa –

What bothers me is the fantastic bullshit the BBC continues to spread (on a weekly basis) as “news”:

“Syria is prepared to hold talks with Israel and wants a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict, President Bashar al-Assad has said.”

What bothers you?

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October 13th, 2006, 5:58 pm

 

13. ausamaa said:

Well, this is news to me: The BBC is spreading fatastic B.S. on weekly basis -you say- (for the benifit of Syria..??). Good, the Syrian Mukhabarat has a new recruite now, namely the BBC !

And why should you think that Assad does not mean it when he says that he is ready to hold peace talks with Israel. He is. If in doubt refere to Bill Clinton’s recount of the Syria/Israel peace talks.

And what is bothering me if you you want to know, is that sooner or later those negotiations will be held, the Golan and the rest would be returned, including the just solution for Palestinan problem, but until that happens, time is being wasted, and democracy, full civil liberties, economic development, and overall progress in the whole region will have to stay on hold. So, all the “goodies” the kind hearted and enlightened people say they are seeking for the area and its people, would not down on us until Israel is forced to budge on those issues. You simply can not ask a homeowner to imrove the situation in his house while more than one room is on fire. That is too simplistic, missleading and Utopian, I think. You put up the fire first then you tend to the task of improving the other rooms. As simple as A comes before B, and One comes before Two. Asking for an opposit sequence of events is either hypocracy or stupidity.

And to make a small correction, Assad is seeking, and should be expected to seek, either a “peacefull” or a “violent” solution to the middle east problem. Not as violent and barbaric as the US solution to the Iraq “problem??” was, but a military one of course. For when all peacefull options are closed to you, you can, and must, try other ones sooner or later. And if the US (which happens to be located thousands of miles away from the area) gives itelf the right to come over and interfere so forcefully in the area’s affairs underwhatver sels-erving pretext it chooses, than Assad has a greater natural right to interfere in matters relating to the neighberhood he lives in. Or did you think that terms like “National Interst”, “National Security” and “Patriotic Act” are trade marks execlusively reserved for the US and Israel????

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October 14th, 2006, 1:22 pm

 

14. Akbar Palace said:

“Good, the Syrian Mukhabarat has a new recruite now, namely the BBC!”

We agree! Liberalism and Leftists have always sided with forces opposed to democracy.

“And why should you think that Assad does not mean it when he says that he is ready to hold peace talks with Israel.”

Just Assad himself. Read the link I posted above.

“…the Golan and the rest would be returned, including the just solution for Palestinan problem…”

Don’t forget a few other “little” issues: recognition of the State of Israel, addressing their security concerns, and a handful of peace treaties.

I hope this doesn’t upset Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, or Nasrallah.

Meantime, the rejections will continue to slit throats, lobs missiles, and sextex themselves to Allah.

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October 15th, 2006, 6:40 pm

 

15. Akbar Palace said:

Ausamaa, Professor Landis,

Here’s an article backing up my claim (hard to believe, huh?):

BBC mounts court fight to keep ‘critical’ report secret
By Chris Hastings and Beth Jones:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/10/15/nbeeb15.xml

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October 16th, 2006, 4:21 pm

 

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