Q & A with President Assad in Dubai

Posted by Alex. 

Our own IDAF sent this summary of a question and answer session with President Bashar el-Assad that he, and about thirty other participants invited by the Emir of Dubai, attended this week. The meeting took place at Dubai's School of Government.


Q. How can Arab relations be mended?

I personally see that the points of disagreement between Syria on one side and Egypt and Saudi on the other are few. What you hear in the media is that the reasons for the deteriorating relations are Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq and Iran. Now that the “excuse” for Lebanon is removed from the discussion we look to move closer.  


On Iraq and Iran, we should not blame Iran for our failure as Arabs to provide solutions in Iraq. They are serving there interest from their own perspective on how a solution should be implemented in Iraq. We as Arabs should do the same instead of blaming them.


Q. We heard a lot from officials and media sources about the “constructive role” of Syria in the Doha accord between the Lebanese. Can you give us more details on this role?


We have a strong relationship with Qatar. The solution in Qatar reached a dead end after few days. Then Syria was contacted to suggest ideas for alternative solution. The ideas we provided were the exact same ideas we provided the French last year when they were mediating. However, the French then did not comprehend or did not implement the ideas correctly. The Syrian French differences back then were because the French wanted the Syrians to “replace” some the Lebanese fractions in the discussions and solutions. This is why the French initiative failed. We wanted to help through ideas and solutions but not replace any Lebanese party in the mediation.


In Doha, we provided solutions to the Qataris and the Lebanese. The Qataris then played the crucial role in making our ideas and proposed solutions accepted by the different parties. The Syrian role in Doha was that of a rescuer. During the first 3 days, we did know what was happening in Doha other than information through news sources. When all parties reached a dead end and wanted to pack and go home, Syria was contacted and we were successful in providing a compromise for all parties.


Q. Will you visit and congratulate Gen. Suleiman in Beirut?

There is no reason for not going. However, we prefer to play a positive role without making noise in the media. Currently the case in the Lebanese media is that Syria is blamed for anything that happens in Lebanon. We prefer to play the same role without the fueling negative media coverage. For example, in the nineties when President Hafez Al-Assad visited Lebanon, he drove there by car. The whole coverage in the media then was that he avoided to go by plain to avoid the protocol of saluting the Lebanese flag. This is why in 2002 I decided to go by plain. This was not enough though. Anyhow, you must know that Gen. Sleiman is known for his friendship with Syria.


Q. What is the nature of the Syrian-Israeli indirect negotiation?

Let me explain. In an earlier peace process, James Baker used to fly between Syria and Israel to facilitate negotiations. This time, there’s a Syrian delegate hosted in one Hotel in Turkey and another Israeli delegate hosted in another hotel in the same city. The Turkish mediators are moving from one hotel to the other instead of flying from one country to another until a solution is reached.


In the Madrid process there was nothing in agreement. Now we have something in agreement. Olmert has agreed to return the Golan and this was the basis to start the negotiation. After we reach this infrastructure for peace a direct negotiation will start, we will then need the sponsorship of the USA as a superpower that can ensure the delivery of each party’s commitments.


Q. What is your assessment of the impact of US negative statements on Syria?

Asad: In the early days of such statements people used to base their decisions on them, either politically or even economically. Now, the US administration has lost all credibility and is viewed as illogical.


The US weapons are not that effective on the political terrain. We keep explaining to unofficial US visitors this lack of credibility problem in the region. John F. Kennedy in the sixties sent a delegation to the French president with an envelope including photos of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba. The French president refused to see the photos and said that the credibility of the US president is enough for him to make a decision accordingly. The current impact of these negative statements is non-existent. On the contrary in 2000 the growth rate in Syria was almost 0 percent. It increased to more than 6 percent today despite these statements.


Q. How can Syria use its good relations with Iran to minimize the potential risk of any Sunni-Shii “Fitna”? What about the talk on Shiitization of Sunnis?


Asad: Our good relationship with Iran has never stopped us from telling them in every venue that we stand firmly with the UAE on the islands issue. Our problem with the current rhetoric on Iran is that no one is able to point to any evidence on the dangers presented by Iran to us Arabs. Why would Iran destroy its strong economic relationships with the Gulf and Dubai for example?


Regarding Shiitaization, we should make a clear distinction between state policies and independent personal or group actions. For example, in Lebanon we had a good strategy and policies in theory but with bad implementation in which individuals and groups caused many errors which we admitted. If these shiitization attempts exist on personal or group levels then we should deal with them as such. We have never seen any evidence on state policies or actions on this regard. This accusation has been used in the media as a tool of inciting for political reasons against Iran. It would be necessary to stop using inflammatory terminology in the Arab media for political exploitation.


Regarding the Sunni-Shii “Fitna”, let’s take Iraq as an example. Few days ago I met with an Iraqi Sunni leader who is known for his extreme anti-Iran stands. He was convinced and showed me compelling evidence on how US players in Iraq are fueling Sunni-Shii strife in the country for political exploitation. In Syria we have 1.5 million Iraqis from all sects, backgrounds and economic status and we did not witness a single sectarian conflict.


Q. Practically, what should be the Arab role in Iraq to help the fractions?

First there should be a pure Iraqi solution with Arab support, as was the case of the solution in Lebanon in Doha. Second, there should be sectarian-free constitution in Iraq. A sectarian quota system of political participation will lead to conflicts as we’ve seen in Lebanon. Sectarian Zua’ama usually live on these institutionalized sectarian divides by continuously inflaming the public to continue to extract political benefits from them. Third, there should be a political process parallel with a scheduled withdrawal of the US troops with an agreed time-line, for example 2 or 3 years. Then there should be an Arab league initiative or mediation that takes place in Baghdad to nurture and pin-down the final details. The later we start implementing this strategy the harder it would be to reach a solution.



Comments (13)

offended said:

Masha’allah! what else one should wish for in one photo?
President Bashar Al Assad, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashed Almaktoom, Foriegn Minister Waleed Al Mu’alem, Sheikha Luba Al Kasimi, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohamed Bin Rashed Almaktoom, Sheikh Maktoom Bin Mohamed Bin Rashed Al Maktoom, and Sheikh IDAF!

June 4th, 2008, 7:48 pm


sam said:

Bashar is the man!!!!!!!!! He’s going to be president when my grandkids are born. and my kids now are only 6-8

June 4th, 2008, 8:11 pm


Joshua said:

Sheikh Idaf – Shukran. Can we add a Hajj Idaf? How about Sharif? Are you a decendant of the Prophet as well?
Best and thanks for this interesting addition, Joshua

June 4th, 2008, 8:34 pm


Qifa Nabki said:

Free advice on how President Sleiman can achieve a lasting legacy
By The Daily Star

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Like all Lebanese, President Michel Sleiman cannot look on the long list of challenges facing this country without some degree of trepidation. The new head of state has more capacity to shape Lebanon’s future than do his compatriots, but he also will bear more of the responsibility if he is perceived to have failed. The only sure thing is that he will not accomplish all that needs to be done, principally because no one could, so a question of priorities needs to be answered: What change might he institute that would make the greatest positive difference for the people of Lebanon and help ease the passage of additional reforms in the future?

If Sleiman and his advisers examine the situation carefully, they can come to only one conclusion on this score: Nothing else they might do would approach the singular utility of equipping this troubled country with an independent judiciary. If Sleiman resolves to make that the cornerstone of his presidency, he will have taken several first steps all at once, many of them crucial for the national welfare. And if he succeeds, he will have accomplished more in his six-year term than all of his predecessors combined.

This advance verdict is not nearly so sweeping as it might seem, for while the immediate benefits of unshackling a society’s judges are many and marvelous, the long-term value of such a step is inestimable. When justice is administered – and seen to be administered – in an apolitical and competent manner, good things start to happen. Victims of criminal acts feel less compelled to seek revenge because they trust in the authorities to administer justice. Foreign investors are freer with their money because they rely on the courts to protect them against unscrupulous business practices. Banks get looser with credit because they feel more confident in their ability to collect if a loan goes sour. In every way, society becomes more orderly because human beings and groups thereof are more apt to follow the rules when they think their neighbors are doing the same – or can be compelled to do so by a court of law.

The best effects of an independent judiciary, though, lie in its capacity to make democracy more than a word to be pronounced or a ballot to be cast. Without reliable jurists, in fact, the most ingenious constitution is a worthless trinket – and the holding of free and fair elections an exercise in daydreaming. It is not grand documents and the appearance of gaining the consent of the governed that determine how democratic a country is: It is the degree of likelihood that the humblest citizen can obtain redress from the rich and powerful, or even from the state itself, when he or she has been wronged. Where judiciaries are not independent, not even the determined jurist who refuses to be bought, bribed or bullied can make much difference: Decisions can be overturned on appeal, closed cases can be summarily reopened in other venues, and new ones can be steered to more pliant benches. The result is institutionalized caprice, which cannot be reconciled with justice because it renders meaningless the rights (theoretically) accorded to all citizens in a democratic society.

If Lebanon is to live up to its population’s aspirations to democracy, therefore, its judges must be empowered to render and enforce their verdicts without regard to any consideration but the law. So if Sleiman wants to leave a lasting legacy, he will find no better place to start. He would not be the first to try: President Fouad Chehab pursued the goal in the 1950s and ’60s but was unable to overcome a congenitally corrupt political class that closed ranks to protect its various lines of “business.” The Lebanese people, though, are more aware than ever of the need to flesh out the “democracy” promised by their Constitution, so Sleiman will have more allies than Chehab did. He might even find some politicians to go along.

June 4th, 2008, 9:15 pm


ausamaa said:

Before worrying about acheiving a Lasting Legacy, let President Sulieman have a draft list for a proposed Government from Harriri & Company after they finish slicing he ministrial cake, then he can start worrying about other issues.

He really needs to give the Feb 14 enough times to internalize how they screwed up royaly and what to do about it, then he has to worry about the brotherly Feb 14 battles to subside as the Feb 14 bubble had finally burst wide open, and then he has to wait for the Government proposed Ministrial Declaration and how get it passed through the Parliment, and then…oh, then, something else will sure come up..

The gentelmen knows Lebanon well for sure, but he seems to be discovering how really selfish, shallow and dirty the traditional politicians are. So, the Daily Star Free Advice article is a bit pre-mature.

Anyway, who has ever heared of anything offered for Free? Be it Advice or Loyalty??!!

June 4th, 2008, 9:43 pm


Alex said:


Did Bashar try to be politically correct when talking about Syria’s problems with Egypt and Saudi Arabia? .. did he feel comfortable talking about hte real differences?

Do your friends in Dubai feel competitive with Qatar? … do they in Kuwait?

Are these three Gulf Arab countries in a competition like Syria/Egypt/Saudi Arabia are?

June 4th, 2008, 9:52 pm


EHSANI2 said:


Great job on all fronts!

June 4th, 2008, 10:17 pm


ausamaa said:


We should not judge the man so early yet. No matter what he says.First he needs the VOTES to WIN, then he needs the Congressional Approval for his Appointees. Until then, we have to turn a deaf ear to what he says publically, and bear it with a grin. America is still living in the disarray of the BUSH shockwave, and Obama is facing the eager beaver lunatic McCain who is ideal opportunity is trying to impersonate and promise a Regan type presidsncy.

So examin the guy’s political history and give him the benefit of the doubt at least. Dont try to scare people by giving up on him so early…

Let him get through first, then we shall see..

June 4th, 2008, 10:17 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

A very valuable post. Many thanks to IDAF.

BTW, Syria stole the headlines at today’s BBC News site for the 6,014-seat Damascus Gate restaurant ->The scale and decor are reminiscent of a Hollywood epic film set

Another coup…Bashar Assad has been invited to Paris on 13 July (in time for the Bastille Day celebration, too, I might add) by President Sarkozy to attend a Mediterranean summit.

June 4th, 2008, 10:21 pm


Majhool said:

وحول صحة ما يثار في شأن وجود ما سمي بمخطط سعودي للتأثير على النظام العام في سورية قال الرئيس الأسد أن “ذلك كله كذب, ولم اسمع بهذا المخطط إلا في وسائل الإعلام”.

I say SC should consider blocking Mr President from this forum as many have elaborated on the Saudi plans to “hurt Syria”

Sorry, but this made me laugh. Al Raja2 El Nasher and please take my comments with a grain of salt.

June 4th, 2008, 11:24 pm


Atassi said:

Good work for working on thie post Sir IDAF… form what I read, other then following the new course of soft PR to portray himself as a peace loving born again moderate!!!, he didn’t say anything new with any compiling face value. Sorry
You may have noticed he is starting to use a historical event with relation to present issues “wise man techniques”. Change of course in the horizon!! Maybe

June 5th, 2008, 12:09 am


idaf said:

I prefer Sayyed IDAF.. and no my turban is white not black, so I’m not descendant of the Prophet 😉

Alex you asked,
-Did Bashar try to be politically correct when talking about Syria’s problems with Egypt and Saudi Arabia? .. did he feel comfortable talking about the real differences?

No, he was very diplomatic as shown in the first question. I think this is has been Syria’s strategy since becoming the president of the Arab League.

-Do your friends in Dubai feel competitive with Qatar? … do they in Kuwait?

I think they have passed this phase in Dubai. By now, everyone in the Gulf realized that they have no chance competing with Dubai on business. The Qataris and other gulf countries and emirates are trying to position their sheikhdoms differently now (cultural, educational.. etc.).

-Are these three Gulf Arab countries in a competition like Syria/Egypt/Saudi Arabia are?

Yes they are, but they compete for the title who’s most developed (economically), not like the case of Egypt/Saudi/Syria who compete on “who is the leader” title in the region, through a combination of extracting legitimacy from outside powers and exercising regional policies.

June 5th, 2008, 2:03 pm


Majhool said:


I thought Ashraf wore green turbans?

June 6th, 2008, 3:50 am


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