Syria”s Civil War Is Almost Over… And Assad Has Won

Syria’s Civil War Is Almost Over… And Assad Has Won

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 10.03.2017

Syria’s Civil War Is Almost Over… And Assad Has Won

Patrick COCKBURN

Winners and losers are emerging in what may be the final phase of the Syrian civil war as anti-Isis forces prepare for an attack aimed at capturing Raqqa, the de facto Isis capital in Syria. Kurdish-led Syrian fighters say they have seized part of the road south of Raqqa, cutting Isis off from other its territory further east.

Isis is confronting an array of enemies approaching Raqqa, but these are divided, with competing agendas and ambitions. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), whose main fighting force is the Syrian Kurdish Popular Mobilisation Units (YPG), backed by the devastating firepower of the US-led air coalition, are now getting close to Raqqa and are likely to receive additional US support. The US currently has 500 Special Operations troops in north-east Syria and may move in American-operated heavy artillery to reinforce the attack on Raqqa.

This is bad news for Turkey, whose military foray into northern Syria called Operation Euphrates Shield began last August, as it is being squeezed from all sides. In particular, an elaborate political and military chess game is being played around the town of Manbij, captured by the SDF last year, with the aim of excluding Turkey, which had declared it to be its next target. The Turkish priority in Syria is to contain and if possible reduce or eliminate the power of Syrian Kurds whom Ankara sees as supporting the Kurdish insurrection in Turkey.

Turkey will find it very difficult to attack Manbij, which the SDF captured from Isis after ferocious fighting last year, because the SDF said on Sunday that it is now under the protection of the US-led coalition. Earlier last week, the Manbij Military Council appeared to have outmanoeuvred the Turks by handing over villages west of Manbij – beginning to come under attack from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) militia backed by Turkey – to the Syrian Army which is advancing from the south with Russian air support.

Isis looks as if it is coming under more military pressure than it can withstand as it faces attacks on every side though its fighters continue to resist strongly. It finally lost al-Bab, a strategically placed town north east of Aleppo, to the Turks on 23 February, but only after it had killed some 60 Turkish soldiers along with 469 FSA dead and 1,700 wounded. The long defence of al-Bab by Isis turned what had been planned as a show of strength by Turkey in northern Syria into a demonstration of weakness. The Turkish-backed FSA was unable to advance without direct support from the Turkish military and the fall of the town was so long delayed that Turkey could play only a limited role in the final battle for nearby east Aleppo in December.

Turkey had hoped that President Trump might abandon President Obama’s close cooperation with the Syrian Kurds as America’s main ally on the ground in Syria. There is little sign of this happening so far and pictures of US military vehicles entering Manbij from the east underline American determination to fend off a Turkish-Kurdish clash which would delay the offensive against Raqqa. The US has shown no objection to Syrian Army and Russian “humanitarian convoys” driving into Manbij from the south.

There are other signs that the traditional mix of rivalry and cooperation that has characterised relations between the US and Russia in Syria is shifting towards greater cooperation. The Syrian Army, with support from Russia and Hezbollah, recaptured Palmyra from Isis last Thursday with help from American air strikes. Previously, US aircraft had generally not attacked Isis when it was fighting Syrian government forces. Seizing Palmyra for the second time three months ago was the only significant advance by Isis since 2015.

Turkey could strike at Raqqa from the north, hoping to slice through Syrian Kurdish territory, but this would be a very risky venture likely to be resisted by YPG and opposed by the US and Russia. Otherwise, Turkey and the two other big supporters of the Syrian armed opposition, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, are seeing their influence over events in Syria swiftly diminish. Iran and Hezbollah of Lebanon, who were the main foreign support of President Bashar al-Assad before 2015, do not have quite same leverage in Damascus since Russian military intervention in that year.

American and British ambitions to see Mr Assad removed from power have been effectively abandoned and the Syrian government shows every sign of wanting to retake all of Syria. If Isis loses Mosul and Raqqa in the next few months there will be little left of the Caliphate declared in June 2014 as a territorial entity.

The remaining big issue still undecided in both Syria and Iraq is the future relations between the central governments in Baghdad and Damascus and their Kurdish minorities. These have become much more important as allies of the US than they were before the rise of Isis. But they may not be able to hold on to their expanded territories in post-Isis times – and in opposition to reinvigorated Syrian and Iraqi governments.

counterpunch.org

لماذا لا تنفي السعودية؟

فبراير 22, 2017

روزانا رمّال

تتزاحم الملفات والانتقادات الموجّهة لإيران من مؤتمرات دولية وإقليمية آخرها مؤتمر ميونخ للأمن الذي أجمع فيه «الإسرائيليون» والسعوديون على مبدئية الصراع في المنطقة وتحديد وجهة المخاطر التي تتهدّد الطرفين والمتمثلة بإيران. وهو الأمر الذي تجهد «إسرائيل» لتكريسه صراحة، وقد نجحت فيه منذ رحيل الملك عبدالله، حيث أرخت الإدارة الحالية للملك سلمان مساحة مقبولة للكشف عن هامش من الاستعداد للتعاطي مع تصريحات «إسرائيلية» تطالب العرب بالتحالف او الصداقة الواضحة لتكون أمراً طبيعياً أو حاجة في صيرورة العملية السياسية بالمنطقة.

يؤكد رئيس الوزراء «الإسرائيلي» من قلب البيت الأبيض منذ أيام أن «الدول العربية لم تعد ترى إسرائيل كعدوّ بل كحليف». وهو أساسي في إدارة العملية السياسية في المنطقة أو هو منطلق لتزخيم فكرة عدم الاستسلام الأميركي لجهة الصراع العربي «الإسرائيلي» الذي لم يعد يعتبر صراعاً أصلاً، بالنسبة للحكومة «الإسرائيلية». وهو الأمر الذي يساعد كثيراً في ركنية الصراع وعموده الفقري المنبثق عن اعتبار «إسرائيل» كياناً أو جسماً غريباً في مجتمع عربي يرفضه ولا يزال يحاربه حتى يتخلص منه، كما يُفترض.

هذا الأمر يأخذ نحو المتغير الأساسي الذي طرأ منذ ست سنوات تقريباً، وهي المرحلة التي ازدادت فيها نسبة تقدّم العلاقات بين العرب و»الإسرائيليين» بشكل ملحوظ، بوقت لم تكن القدرة على إطلاق تصاريح من هذا القبيل أو حتى التلميح بإمكانية طرحها بالكواليس أمراً ممكناً. بالتالي يقع على عاتق هذا المتغيّر «الحدث» مسؤولية ما جرى وفي الوقت نفسه يؤكد على اليد التي عبثت وصوّبت تجاه الهدف بشكل دقيق ليتّضح أن الأحداث كلها تتعلق بحرب «التكفير» التي حجبت الضوء بالكامل عن الحرب على إسرائيل، حتى عند أهل القضية الفلسطينية حيث تموضع ركن أساسي تمثله حركة حماس في خندق الصراع العقائدي الذي نتج عن حرب التكفيريين المتداخلة وتداعياتها على المذاهب بين سنة وشيعة والاصطفاف وراء تركيا.

تقدّم العلاقة بين «الإسرائيليين» والعرب تكشف اليد «الإسرائيلية» وراء الحرب الدائرة في المنطقة بين قوات الجيوش النظامية والميليشيات المسلحة التكفيرية التي استطاعت استنزاف الحكومات أولاً، وإعادة جدولة الأولويّات، فلم يعد العداء لـ«إسرائيل» إحداها.

نجحت تل أبيب بتطور مجريات الحرب على دمشق بخلق اصطفاف محاور سني – شيعي في المنطقة سيطر على هاجس الدول الخليجية، فرفعت من خلالها وتيرة العداء لإيران تلقائياً وفي الوقت نفسه نجحت الإدارة الأميركية في جعل توقيع الاتفاق النووي الإيراني مع الغرب «فزاعة» تجعل الخليجيين أقرب إلى «إسرائيل» وليس العكس، بل قدّمت أرضية تبرير أراحت الخليجيين في شرح غايات التقارب.

السؤال الأساس هو لماذا لا تنفي المملكة العربية السعودية بالتحديد الشبهات الدائرة حول علاقاتها بـ«إسرائيل» أو قبول هذه العلاقة بالمبدأ؟ لماذا أيضاً لا تصدر قرارات رسمية عن المملكة العربية السعودية بالعمل السياسي تطلب فيها من ممثليها بالمؤتمرات الدولية على مستوى وزراء خارجية أو مسؤولين سعوديين سابقين وحاليين الخروج من أية قاعة او حفل يجمعهم بـ«الإسرائيليين» كالذي جرى في مؤتمر ميونيخ مثلاً بحديث ليبرمان على مسمع الجبير؟

هل هي رسائل قبول وتطمينات من الرياض لتل أبيب لتطبيع العلاقات نهائياً، خصوصاً بعد أن أثبت جزء هام من الرأي العام السعودي عدم ممانعة هذه العلاقة فلم تخرج انتقادات لاذعة أو مواقف منتقدة إعلامياً أو على شبكات التواصل، بل طغت فكرة اللجوء للعدو في مواجهة إيران أياً يكن على قاعدة التحالف مع الشيطان عند الضرورة.

كل هذا يؤكد نجاح «إسرائيل» في خطتها في سورية، تحديداً وانعكاس أزمتها على المنطقة كلها وعلى طريقة تفكير شعوبها.

الأساسي في العلاقة هو التوقيت فقط، لأن الأحداث الأساسية تؤكد على أن التطبيع الحاصل بين دولة خليجية ولو كانت واحدة على سبيل المثال مع إسرائيل مثل «قطر» يعني قبول سعودي رسمي بهذه العلاقة كمسيطرة على مجلس التعاون الخليجي التي نشأت قبل الخلافات مع المملكة بخصوص سورية، وهو خلاف مستجدّ لا يعني عدم التوافق بين الدولتين بما يخصّ العلاقة مع «إسرائيل» وباقي الملفات.

يتحدّث ديبلوماسي عربي لـ«البناء» عن «مخاطر هذه الإشارات في العمل السياسي والديبلوماسي وما تطلبه البروتوكولات والثوابت العربية بين الطرفين. فعدم التحرّك السعودي، خصوصاً في مسألة الاجتماع ضمن القاعة الواحدة مع العدو التاريخي للعرب وفلسطين، مع ما تمثله المملكة العربية السعودية من احتواء لرمز الإسلام الأكبر واعتبارها محجّة المسلمين الأولى يرفع صفارة الإنذار باتجاه الصراع «الإسرائيلي» – الفلسطيني أولاً وباتجاه التوجه التدريجي نحو علاقات سياسية أو ديبلوماسية رسمية مع دول الخليج».

الرسائل السعودية التي لم تعد موضوعة ضمن شكوك أو تأويلات بظهورها في المحافل الدولية بشكل طبيعي، تلعب دوراً خطيراً على مساحة الصراع الفلسطيني مع فكرة «المحتل»، فتُحبط الآمال المؤيدة في داخل الأراضي المحتلة لدعم حركات الشبان والشابات الفلسطينيين الذين وجدوا أن الدعم العربي لقضيتهم بات معدوماً جراء هذه التوجهات. الأمر الذي يضرب صميم المواجهة مع «إسرائيل» وقد يكون أخطر عوامل ضرب الحركات المقاومة الفلسطينية المتمركز بعضها اليوم ضمن خانة انتظار التسويات في المنطقة من دون القدرة على فصل الحلول فيها عن مبدئية الصراع مع الاحتلال. وعلى هذا الأساس تفتح هذه النافذة مجدداً أمام إيران «غير العربية» القدرة على الحضور في الأرض المحتلة من جديد لتعبئة الفراغ العربي الكبير, مع ما يُلفت في فرادتها بعقد مؤتمرات داعمة لفلسطين كالذي يدور في طهران اليوم.

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Russia Now Runs the Peace Process to End Syria’s War (III)

Russia Now Runs the Peace Process to End Syria’s War (III)
ERIC ZUESSE | 17.02.2017 | WORLD

Russia Now Runs the Peace Process to End Syria’s War (III)

Part Three of Three Parts

(Part Two is here.)

AFTER RUSSIA TOOK OVER THE NEGOTIATIONS

The conclusion of the first round of post-U.S.-involvement Syrian peace talks took place in Astana Kazakhstan and ended on January 24th, and included, as governmental participants, Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Neither the Sauds (who had selected and organized the delegation that supposedly represented ‘the rebels’ in the previous, America-led, talks) nor the United States government (which is the main international representative of the Sauds) participated. (However, America’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan was allowed to be one of the «observers»; America’s master, the Sauds, weren’t granted even this recognition.) The Syrian announcement noted that «Regarding the omission of the reference to Syria’s secularism in the statement, al-Jaafari [Syria’s Foreign Minister] said that this was upon the request of Turkey and the armed groups [these ones not having been selected by the Saud family, but by the four governmental participants], which is odd since the Turkish government claims that Turkey is secular, but when it comes to Syria, it stands against secularism».

Both the U.S. government and the Saudi government — and their respective allies — were totally excluded from any decision-making in the post-U.S. talks. Turkey had been a U.S.-Saudi ally (except against them on Kurdish independence) until the failed 15 July 2016 CIA-backed coup-attempt to replace Turkey’s President Erdogan by a U.S.-Gulen junta that would allow the U.S. aristocracy’s aim of creating a Kurdish nation so as to weaken Syria, Iraq, and Turkey and so allow even more Saudi dominance of the region. Russian intelligence had learned of the coup-plan in advance; and, hours before the coup started, Russian President Putin informed Erdogan that it was about to happen, which saved Erdogan’s life and his regime. This is why Turkey was now cooperating with Russia. (However, Turkey still hasn’t yet left NATO; so, Turkey is now the first and only nation that’s allied with both the U.S. and Russia, at least for the time being. Erdogan, after the coup, is «on the fence». Formerly, he had been pro-U.S., anti-Russia, reliably pro-NATO.)

There was a separate announcement, from Al Jazeera, on January 24th«Astana joint statement by Iran, Russia, Turkey: in Full». It said that the parties:

Reaffirm their commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, non-sectarian and democratic State, as confirmed by the UN Security Council;

Express their conviction that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict and that it can only be solved through a political process based on the implementation of the UN Security Council resolution 2254 in its entirety; …

Reiterate their determination to fight jointly against ISIL/DAESH and Al-Nusra and to separate them from armed opposition groups; …

Support the willingness of the armed opposition groups to participate in the next round of negotiations to be held between the government and the opposition under the UN auspices in Geneva as of February 8, 2017

The resistance, by some religious Muslims, to the Russian delegation’s proposed new Constitution for Syria, which is even more secular than the existing one, caused the February 8th resumption-date in Geneva to be moved back to February 20th.

Here are some provisions of that proposed Russian draft:

* * *

Chapter 1. Basic Principles

Article 1

• The Syrian Republic is an independent sovereign state, based on the principle of the rule of the people by the people and for the people, the rule of law, equality of all before the law, social solidarity, respect for rights and freedoms and equality of rights and duties of all citizens regardless of any differences and privileges. …

Article 2

• The sole source of power in Syria shall be its multinational and multi faith people. … The People of Syria shall exercise their sovereignty in accordance with the Constitution directly by means of a referendum, and through their representatives elected on the basis of universal, equal, direct suffrage by free, secret and personal ballot. …

• No person carrying another nationality, in addition to the nationality of Syria, may occupy the position of a member of the People’s Assembly, a member of the Constituent Assembly, President of the Republic, Prime Minister, a deputy prime minister, a minister, or a member of the Supreme Constitutional Court. …

Article 3

The State shall respect all religions and religious organizations, and ensure the freedom to perform all the rituals that do not prejudice public order. Religious organizations shall be equal before the law. …

Article 5

• The political system of the state shall be based on the principle of political pluralism, and exercising power democratically by secret ballot. …

Article 6

• Ideological diversity shall be recognized in Syria. No ideology shall be proclaimed as State ideology or as obligatory. Public associations shall be equal before the law.

• The State shall ensure security and protect the rights and freedoms of national and religious minorities.

• The establishment and activities of political parties and other public associations whose goals and activities are aimed at the forcible changing of the basis of the constitutional order and at violating the integrity of the State, at undermining its security, at engaging in terrorism, at creating armed units, at instigating religious, social, racial, national, and tribal strife; and that are based on sectarian, regional, class, professional discrimination, or on discrimination by gender or origin, may not be undertaken. Such organizations may not be part of the social and political system in Syria. …

Article 7

• Laws and other legal acts, which are adopted in Syria, must not contradict the Constitution.

• Universally recognized principles and norms of international law as well as international agreements of Syria shall be an integral part of its legal system. …

• Syria shall maintain good neighborly relations with other countries based on cooperation, mutual security and other principles stipulated by international legal rules.

• Syria denounces war as an infringement on other countries’ sovereignty and a means to resolve international conflicts.

Article 10

• The army and other armed forces shall be under public oversight and shall defend Syria and its territorial integrity; they may not be used as an instrument of suppression of the people; they may not interfere in politics or participate in the transfer of power. …

Article 11

• In Syria the freedom of economic activity is guaranteed, and private, State, municipal and other forms of property shall be recognized. Property may not be used to infringe on human and civil rights and freedoms, public and State interests, and human dignity.

• Developing the economy on the basis of different forms of property is aimed at improving the people’s wellbeing. The State shall use market principles to bolster economic development, guarantee freedom of entrepreneurship and prevent monopolization and unfair competition in economic relations. …

• Natural resources shall be publicly owned. The law shall regulate how utilization rights for natural resources or concessions are granted. …

• No discrimination by gender, origin, language or faith shall be allowed. …

• The State shall provide women with all opportunities enabling them to effectively and fully contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural life, and the State shall work on removing the restrictions that prevent their development and participation in building society. …

Article 14

• Protection of the environment shall be the responsibility of the state and society and it shall be the duty of every citizen. …

• The National Bank of Syria is owned exclusively by the State. …

Article 18

• Everyone shall have the right to life, security and freedom and the State shall guarantee these rights. No right can be restricted or denied to a person unless otherwise provided by law and following the decision by the appropriate judicial authority.

• All persons shall be equal before the law without discrimination among them on grounds of gender, race, nationality, origin, color, religion, personal convictions, beliefs or views, and economic and social status. …

Article 20

• Everyone shall have the right freely to seek, receive, transmit, produce and disseminate information by any legal means. In accordance with the law the State ensures freedom of the press and mass media.

• Propaganda or agitation, which incites social, racial, national or religious hatred and hostility, and propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy, shall be prohibited. …

Article 22

• Everyone shall have the right to the inviolability of his (her) person, home, personal and family privacy.

• Collecting, keeping, using and disseminating information about the private life of a person shall not be permitted without his (her) consent.

• The State shall guarantee a person’s right to privacy of correspondence, of telephone conversations and of postal, telegraph and other communications. This right may be limited by law to prevent a crime or to uncover the truth when investigating a crime.

• Except when the law says otherwise or when following a court’s order, nobody may enter a home against the will of its occupants. …

Article 23

• Everyone shall have the right to work in conditions, which meet safety and hygiene requirements, and to receive remuneration for labor without any discrimination whatsoever. …

• The law shall regulate employer-employee relations based on economic principles and the norms of social justice.

• The State shall guarantee the right of its people to lawfully form labor associations and unions and to join them. …

Article 26

• Everyone shall be guaranteed social security payments for legal retirement age, in case of illness, disability, loss of breadwinner, incapacitation, unemployment, and in other cases specified by law. Minimum state pensions and social benefits shall be established by law. …

• Everyone has the right to health protection and medical care in state and municipal health institutions. …

• Everyone shall have the right to education. The State shall guarantee free secondary education. …

• Punishment shall be personal; no crime and no punishment except by a law.

• Anyone shall be considered innocent until his (her) guilt is proven and confirmed by a court sentence. …

• No one may be investigated or arrested, except under an order or decision issued by the competent judicial authority. …

• No one may be tortured or treated in a humiliating manner, and the law shall define the punishment for those who do so.

• Any person who is arrested must be informed of the reasons for his arrest and his rights, and may not be incarcerated except by an order of the competent judicial authority.

• Any person sentenced by a final ruling, who has carried out his sentence and the ruling proved wrong shall have the right to ask the state for compensation for the damage he suffered. …

Article 35

• Members of the People’s Assembly shall be elected by the public, secret, direct and equal vote. They shall represent the whole people of Syria. …

Article 49

• The President of the Republic is elected for the term of 7 years by citizens of Syria on the basis of universal, equal, and direct suffrage by secret ballot.

• No person can hold the office of the President of the republic for more than two consecutive terms.

• The candidate who wins the election for the President of the Republic is the one who gets more than one half of votes of those who take part in the elections. If no candidate receives such majority, a rerun is carried out between the two candidates who receive the largest number of votes. …

Article 51

3) the candidacy application shall not be accepted unless the applicant has acquired the support of at least 35 members of the People’s Assembly and (or) the Constituent Assembly. No member of the Assemblies can support more than one candidate. …

Article 59

The President of the Republic might call for a referendum on important issues which affect the higher interests of the country. The result of the referendum shall be binding and come into force as of the date of its announcement by the President of the Republic. …

Article 82

The term in office of the current President of the Republic shall be 7 years from the swearing-in date. He has the right to run again for President of the Republic. The President’s term in office as stated in this Constitution shall apply to him as of the next presidential elections. …

* * *

The U.S. had demanded that the Syrian public be prohibited from being allowed to vote for Bashar al-Assad when elections for Syria’s Presidency will next be held. The U.S. government and its allies had held polls throughout Syria, all of which showed that Assad is by far the preferred person, among all Syrians, to lead the nation. The declaration in Astana commits Syria unqualifiedly to democracy, and also opposes the breaking-up of Syria into ethnic enclaves — Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish — which the U.S. regime (such as in a recent Rand Corporation commentary, but actually ever since at least 1957) had striven for (as the likeliest way to enable the American aristocracy’s allies, the royal families of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to pipeline their oil and gas through Syria into Europe, and so undercut Russia’s prices in the world’s largest oil-and-gas market — it’s economic war against Russia). (And its being a «Pipeline War» was confirmed in a 3 September 2016 news report from German Economic News, «Energy war over Syria: Fight only along future pipelines».)

Iran, though itself a theocratic-Shiite regime (after the 1953 fascist U.S.-British-installed regime was overthrown in 1979), has never objected to Assad’s secularism. Of course, Russia, a secular nation after having abandoned the Marxist faith in 1990, has no problem at all with a secular ally. Turkey under Erdogan did, however, have a problem with it, until the U.S. tried to overthrow him to help the Sauds and Thanis. But the increased secularism that’s in the Russian-proposed constitutional draft would be especially unacceptable to the jihadists who have been trying to overthrow Assad. Perhaps those jihadists — many if not most of whom have been imported into Syria by the U.S.-Saudi-Qatari alliance — will need to be either killed or expelled from Syria before any such document will be able to be seriously considered. Russia has there, in its proposed draft constitution for Syria, laid down the gauntlet to The West, to decide whose side The West is really on.

Is it on the Sauds’ side, or on Russia’s side?

Thank you for Supporting Al Qaeda: CIA Honors Major Terrorist Financier for Successful Cooperation

Global Research, February 13, 2017
Moon of Alabama 11 February 2017
CIA

Seymour Hersh – The Redirection:

[T]he Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Former Vice President Biden explaining who finances Takfiri terrorism (video):

Mr Biden said that “our biggest problem is our allies” who are engaged in a proxy Sunni-Shiite war against Syrian President Bashar Assad. He specifically named Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were (Jabhat) Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world,” Mr Biden said.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explaining who finances Takfiri terrorism (original):

… we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback:

Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

CIA honors Saudi Crown Prince for efforts against terrorism

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security.

The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

President Assad: US Only Way to Defeat Terrorism in Syria is through Cooperation with Syrian Government

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

February 10, 2017

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave interview to Yahoo News in which he stressed that the US needs to be genuine regarding the fight against terrorism if it wants to really defeat terrorism in Syria, adding that this aim requires a clear political position on the part of the US towards the sovereignty and unity of Syria and cooperation with its government and people.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Question 1: Mr. President, thanks for giving us the opportunity. This is your first interview with American media since President Trump has taken office. Have you had any communications with President Trump directly or indirectly, or anybody in his administration?

President Assad:  No, not yet.

Question 2: This is an opportunity for you to convey a message to President Trump, if you have one. What would you like to say to him?

President Assad:  wouldn’t convey the message through the media, I would send it through a different channel, maybe diplomatic channels. But any message for us is the public one, we don’t have two messages; we have one stand, one position toward what’s happening in Syria, and it’s about fighting terrorism.

Question 3: You said yesterday, I believe, that what you have heard from the new administration is promising. Explain what you meant.

President Assad: The position of President Trump since he started his campaign for presidency till this moment is that the priority is to fight terrorism, and we agree about this priority, that’s our position in Syria, the priority is to fight terrorism, and that’s what I meant by promising.

Question 4: You indicated that you thought there was some way for cooperation between the United States and Syria, but you didn’t explain what that would be. What sort of cooperation can you envision?

 President Assad:  Against terrorists, and against terrorism. That’s self-evident for us. This is beside having cooperation between any two nations, but in the meantime, in these circumstances, the priority is to have cooperation in fighting terrorism between the different nations, including Russia, Iran and Syria, of course.

Question 5: The President has tasked his Secretary of Defense with developing plans for defeating ISIS or Daesh. Among the proposals they are reportedly considering is using more special forces and even military assets such as Apache helicopters inside Syria, and arming Kurdish fighters who are fighting Daesh in the north. If such moves would defeat ISIS, would you welcome them?

President Assad:  Could the American prowess defeat the terrorists in Afghanistan or in other places? No, you cannot… it’s not enough to have this Apache or F-16 or F-35, whatever you want to label it, to defeat terrorists. There has to be a more comprehensive way of dealing with that complicated issue. So, if you want to start genuinely, as United States, to do so, it must be through the Syrian government. We are here, we are the Syrians, we own this country as Syrians, nobody else, nobody would understand it like us. So, you cannot defeat the terrorism without cooperation with the people and the government of any country.

Question 6: But you have welcomed Russian troops into your country. Would you welcome American troops into your country?

President Assad:  We invited the Russians, and the Russians were genuine regarding this issue. If the Americans are genuine, of course they are welcome, like any other country that wants to defeat and to fight with the terrorists. Of course, with no hesitation we can say that.

Question 7: So, you want American troops to come into Syria to help fight ISIS?

President Assad: Troops is part of the cooperation. Again, let’s go back to the comprehensive, you cannot talk about sending troops if you’re not genuine, if you don’t have a clear political position toward not only the terrorism; toward the sovereignty of Syria, toward the unity of Syria. All these factors would lead to trust, where you can send your troops. That’s what happened with the Russians; they didn’t only send their troops. First of all, there’s a clear political position regarding those factors. This is where the Russians could come and succeed in fighting the terrorists in Syria.

Question 8: Do you see cooperation between the United States and Russia to attack ISIS in Syria?

President Assad:  It is essential. Any cooperation in any conflict around the world, it needs the, let’s say, the rapprochement, between the Russians and the Americans. It’s very essential, not only for Syria.

Question 9: Well, you talk to the Russians all the time, don’t you?

President Assad:  Of course.

Question 10: Yeah? When’s the last time you spoke to President Putin.

President Assad:  A few weeks ago.

Question 11: What’d you talk about?

President Assad:  About the problem in Syria, about the advancement of the Syrian Army in Syria.

Question 12: Right. Are you going to try to broker some sort of arrangement between the United States and Russia in this fight?

President Assad: There’s direct contact between them, and President Putin had a telephone call with President Trump a week or so, and they talked about different issues including Syria, so they don’t need my role to do so, and we don’t have any contact with the Americans to help the Russians make contact or improve their relation. We’re not in that position.

Question 13: President Trump recently said he absolutely wants to create “safe zones” inside Syria to protect refugees, and possibly allow many of them to return. If such a move would help protect your country’s endangered citizens, would you support that?

President Assad:  But actually, it won’t. It won’t. Safe zones for the Syrians could only happen when you have stability and security, where you don’t have terrorists, where you don’t have flow and support of those terrorists by the neighboring countries or by Western countries. This is where you can have a natural safe zone, which is our country. They don’t need safe zones at all. It’s much more viable, much more practical and less costly to have stability than to create safe zones. It’s not a realistic idea at all.

Question 14: Upwards of half of your country’s population has been displaced. How can you say that safe zones to protect them from bombardment would not be helpful?

President Assad:  The first thing you have to ask: why were they displaced? If you don’t answer that question, you cannot answer the rest. They were displaced for two reasons: first of all, the terrorist acts and the support from the outside. Second, the embargo on Syria. Many people didn’t only leave Syria because of the security issues. As you see, Damascus is safe today, it’s nearly normal life, not completely. But they don’t find a way for life in Syria, so they have to travel abroad in order to find their living. So, if you lift the embargo, and if you stop supporting the terrorists – I’m not talking about the United States, I’m talking about everyone who supported terrorists including the United States during Obama’s administration – if you stop all these acts, most of those people will go back to their country.

Question 15: There are, what, 4.8 million Syrian refugees since this crisis began. Just as way of comparison, that is more than 4 times the total number of Palestinian refugees from the events of 1947 and 48. Do you accept that this is a humanitarian disaster?

President Assad:  It is a humanitarian disaster created by the Western support of those terrorists, of course, and the regional support by Turkey and Qatar and Saudi Arabia. It didn’t happen just like this.

Question 16: And you bear any responsibility at all for this disaster?

President Assad: As president?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad:  Regarding the policies that I undertake since the beginning of the crisis, they were supporting the dialogue between the Syrians, fighting terrorists, and supporting reconciliation, and they succeeded. So, no, regarding these policies, I think we were correct, and we are continuing on these pillars for the future of Syria regarding this crisis.

Question 17: As you know, President Trump has signed a very controversial executive order barring refugees, immigrants, from predominantly Muslim countries, but specifically all Syrian refugees, saying that their entry into the country would be detrimental to the interests of the United States. The premise is that some of them are terrorists.

President Assad:  Yeah.

Journalist: Do you agree with President Trump on this?

President Assad:  This question has two aspects: the first one is American, this is an American issue and it’s related to the sovereignty of the American nation. Every country has the right to put any regulations to enter their country. We can disagree or agree, but if you ask me as president, as official in the Syrian state, my responsibility is not to go and ask any president to allow the Syrians to go there and to have refuge in that country. My responsibility is to restore the stability, in order to bring them back to Syria and find refuge in their country. So, I’m not going to discuss that this is right or wrong; this is American issue.

Question 18: But the question was: are some of these refugees, in your view, aligned with terrorists?

President Assad:  Oh, definitely.

Journalist: Definitely?

President Assad:  Definitely. You can find it on the net; the same picture that you saw them – in some cases, of course – in some instances, those terrorists in Syria, holding the machinegun or killing people, they are peaceful refugees in Europe or in the West in general. Yeah, that’s true.

Question 19: So, how many terrorists do you believe are among the 4.8 million Syrian refugees?

President Assad: No one has any number, nobody knows, because nobody knows all the terrorists to give a percentage, no one at all.

Question 20: Do you believe it’s a significant number?

President Assad:  It’s not about significant, because you don’t need a significant number to commit atrocities. 11th of September, it happened by only 15 terrorists out of maybe millions of immigrants in the United States, so it’s not about the number; it’s about the quality, it’s about the intentions.

Question 21: So, if what you’re saying is correct, then President Trump would be justified in keeping them out of the United States?

President Assad:  I’m not American to justify it; only American people would say this is against the interests of the United States or with the interests. From the outside, we can discuss it as value; this is with the values of the humanitarian situation in the world or not, that’s how we can discuss it. But again, I can only speak as president; for me the priority is to bring those citizens to their country, not to help them immigrate. That’s the natural duty according to the constitution and to the law.

Question 22: Would you welcome all of Syria’s refugees back into your country?

President Assad: Definitely, definitely.

Journalist: Definitely? Even the terrorists?

President Assad: I don’t have to welcome them as president; I don’t own the country, it’s not my house, it’s not my company, it’s not my farm. This is country to every Syrian.

Question 23: But if you believe that some of them are terrorists, what would you do with them when they return to Syria?

President Assad:  It doesn’t matter what I believe, what matters is what the law would say about every person who committed any act against his country, taking into consideration that we gave amnesty in Syria to thousands of people who committed actions or acts against their country as part of the reconciliation.

Question 24: How do you expect them to return? What is your vision or plan for bringing Syria’s refugees back into Syria?

President Assad: Already many of them, not a huge number, but many of them came back to Syria, many of them, in spite of the security issues and the embargo. So, the majority of Syrians would like to come back to their country. This is natural for every citizen. They will come back when there’s security and when there’s no embargo.

Question 25: Your military, just last month, drove the rebels from eastern Aleppo. Do you see this as a turning point in Syria’s civil war, and do you believe you’ve now won this war?

President Assad: No, it’s not a turning point. The turning point was when we took the decision to fight terrorism in spite all the propaganda against us abroad, especially in the West, and against every pressure. That was the turning point. Aleppo is an important step against terrorists, in the fight against terrorism, but I cannot say it is a turning point, because we’re still going in the same way, in the same direction, we haven’t changed our direction. Maybe for the terrorists it’s a turning point? They better answer. Maybe for their masters in the West and in the region, it could be, but they have to answer, I cannot answer on their behalf.

Question 26: I was asking you before about potential cooperation between the United States and Syria, but the problem that many would have with that is the continued allegations of human rights abuses by your government. Now, just today, we have a new report from Amnesty International about Sednaya prison, “human slaughterhouse” they call it, 5,000 to 13,000 detainees hanged in mass hangings there, horrific conditions, trials of blindfolded prisoners, one to three minutes in length, no lawyers, secret, all in secret. This would, on its face, be contrary to every aspect of international law. What do you know about what’s going on in that prison?

President Assad:  Let’s first of all talk about the first part of your question, which is the problem how to – for the United States – to open relations with Syria, regarding the human rights. I will ask you: how could you have this close, very close relation, intimate relation, with Saudi Arabia? Do you consider beheading as human right criteria?

Journalist: But I’m not interviewing the King of Saudi Arabia right, I’m interviewing you.

President Assad: Yeah, I know. Yeah, of course.

Journalist: I’m asking you about reports of human rights abuses in your prison, in your country.

President Assad: You own the question, I own the answers, so that’s my answer. So, when you answer about Saudi Arabia and your relation, you can put yourself in that position. Second, the United States is in no position to talk about human rights; since Vietnam war till this moment, they killed millions of civilians, if you don’t want to talk about 1.5 million in Iraq, without any assignment by the Security Council. So, the United States is in no position to say “I don’t open relations because of human rights,” and they have to use one standard. This is first.

The second part now. Now I can move to the other part, that report, like many other reports published by Amnesty International, put into question the credibility of Amnesty International, and we never look at it as unbiased. It’s always biased and politicized, and it’s a shame for such an organization to publish a report without a shred of evidence. They said it’s based on interviews, on interviews.

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: What about the documents? What about the concrete evidence? Not a single concrete…

Journalist: Interviews with four former prison officials and guards, three former Syrian judges, three doctors…

President Assad: It means nothing.

Journalist: It means nothing?

President Assad:  It’s interview… no, no, when you need to make a report, you need co st year. They paid money for such a report, and they brought their own witnesses, and they ncrete evidence. You can make any report, you can pay money to anyone like Qatar did la made a report.

Question 27: I wanna just read you something from the report… “the process of hanging is authorized by officials at the highest levels of the government. Death sentences are approved by the Grand Mufti of Syria, and by either the Minister of Defense or the Chief of Staff of the Army, who are deputized to act on behalf of President Bashar al-Assad.”

President Assad: First of all, what’s the evidence? This is first. Second…

Journalist: Is it true or not?

President Assad: No, no, it’s not true, definitely not true.

Journalist: How do you know? Do you know what goes on in that prison? Have you been there?

President Assad: No, I haven’t been, I’ve been in the Presidential Palace, not in the prison.

Journalist: So here you have a very disturbing report about something going on in one of your prisons, are you going to investigate?

President Assad: So, Amnesty International knows more about Syria than me, according to you. No, that’s not true. No, they haven’t been to Syria, they only base their reports on allegation, they can bring anyone, doesn’t matter what’s his title, you can forge anything these days, and we’re living in a fake news era, as you know, everybody knows this. So, we don’t have to depend on this. Second, you have to talk about the reality, they said in their report that we made serial executions, is that correct?

Journalist: Yes. Mass hangings.

President Assad:  First of all, execution is part of the Syrian law. If the Syrian government or institution wants to do it, they can make it legally, because it’s been there for decades.

Journalist: Secret trials, no lawyers?

President Assad: Why do they need it, if they can make it legally? They don’t need anything secret.

Journalist: Is that legal, in your country?

President Assad: Yeah, yeah, of course, it’s legal, for decades, since the independence. The execution, according to the law, after trial, is a legal action, like any other court in many countries in this region.

Question 28: Will you allow international monitors to visit that prison and inspect and investigate these reports?

President Assad:  It depends on the credibility of that organization, not anyone, because they’re going to use this visit just to demonize the Syrian government more and more and more, like what’s happening.

Question 29: This is not the first time that very serious human rights allegations have been made. Just last week, a woman in Spain, Syrian, filed a lawsuit accusing nine of your senior government intelligence and security officials of human rights abuses. Her brother had disappeared in one of your prisons. You asked about documents, the lawyers who have filed this, accusing your government of human rights abuses, have collected 3,000 pages of evidence and over 50,000 photographs taken by one of your former government’s photographers showing emaciated, tortured bodies in your prisons.

President Assad: Who verified the pictures? Who verified that they’re not edited and photoshopped and so on?

Journalist: Have you seen the photos?

President Assad: No, I didn’t.

Journalist: Have you seen the photos?

President Assad:  No, no, I saw some photos in previous reports. But it’s not about the photo. How can you verify the photo?

Journalist: You have said that the…

President Assad: Do you have a photo?

Journalist: I do have the photos.

President Assad: Can you show it to me?

Journalist: Yes, I’ll be happy to. here.

President Assad: This photo… have you verified who are those?

Journalist: I… can tell you…

President Assad: Because you have it, and because you mention it in front of your audience…

Journalist: There’s a number of photos…

President Assad:  You have to convince your audiences, you cannot mention such a picture without verifying who are those and where and everything about, just to put it in front of the audience, tell them “they’ve been killed by the Syrian soldiers.”

Journalist: The woman who filed the lawsuit, the Syrian woman who filed the lawsuit said she saw her brother in those photographs.

President Assad: At the end, these are allegations. We have to talk about concrete evidence, at the end. That’s how you can base your judgment. Anyone can say whatever he wants.

Question 30: The US State Department gave these photos to the American FBI crime lab, digital lab. They examined these photos, and said the bodies and scenes depicted – these are 242 of these images – the bodies and scenes depicted exhibit no artifacts or inconsistencies that would indicate they have manipulated. As a result of the above observations, all of these 242 images appear to depict real people and events.

President Assad: Who said that?

Journalist: The FBI. Have you seen their report?

President Assad: No. When was that?

Journalist: That was 2015.

President Assad: The question is when your institutions were honest about what’s happening in Syria? That’s the question. Never. For us, never, so we don’t have to rely on what they say, if the FBI say something, it’s not evidence for anyone, especially for us. The most important thing: if you take these photos to any court in your country, could they convict any criminal regarding this? Could they tell you what this crime is, who committed it? If you don’t have this full picture, you cannot make judgement, it’s just propaganda, it’s just fake news, they want to demonize the Syrian government. In every war, you can have any individual crime, it happened here, all over the world, anywhere, but it’s not a policy.

Question 31: But let me just… If I hear what you’re saying, the FBI is just forwarding… propagating propaganda, Amnesty International is propagating propaganda, everybody is conspiring against the Syrian government. Why?

President Assad: Ask them, we’re not…

Journalist: You’re the one making the allegation.

President Assad: No, no, I’m not making an allegation, they supported the terrorists, and you go back to what they said… John Kerry, a few months ago, said and by his voice that “we were watching ISIS advancing, and we expected the Syrian president to make concessions.” What does it mean? Obama said it in one of his speeches, that the war on Iraq created ISIS. So, who supported ISIS? We didn’t create it, you created it, the United States created all this mess. Who supported the rebels and called them “moderate rebels” while they became ISIS and al-Nusra in Syria? We didn’t. So, it’s not a conspiracy, these are facts, this is reality. We didn’t give money, we didn’t support these terrorists. Your country supported them, UK, France, publicly, and they said they sent armaments, we didn’t. So, it’s not my allegation, it’s your official allegation, including Joe Biden, the Vice President of Obama. He said, about Saudi Arabia and other countries supporting the extremists…

Journalist: That’s Saudi Arabia, but the United States…

President Assad: So, this allegation is their allegation, it’s American allegation before it’s been Syrian allegation.

Question 32: The United States and its coalition partners have been bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria, it’s supporting the Iraqi army in its efforts to liberate Mosul from ISIS. How can you say that the United States is supporting ISIS?

President Assad: Can you explain to me how could they defeat ISIS in Iraq, and ISIS was expanding since the American coalition started attacking in Syria?

Journalist: Is it expanding now?

President Assad:  It’s been expanding, no, it’s…

Journalist: Is it expanding now?

President Assad:  It started shrinking after the Russian intervention, not the American one. How could they use our oil fields and export with thousands of barrel trucks to Turkey without being seen by your drones and by your satellites while the Russians could be able to do so and attack them and destroy them. destroy all their facilities? How? This is cosmetic campaign against ISIS.

Question 33: Just to be clear; I have shown you the FBI report, I have shown the photographs, I have shown you the Amnesty International report. Will you cooperate in investigations to determine if these very serious reports are in fact true?

 

President Assad:  You showed me many things, but you didn’t show me a single evidence.

Journalist: I showed you an FBI report.

President Assad: No, no, it’s not evidence at all. It’s actually the contrary; any American institution for us during the Syrian crisis was against the reality, it was the opposite of the truth. That’s how we look at it. So, it’s not a Syrian institution, we don’t care about what they say. For me, what I care about is what reports I have from Syrian people, and we had investigations, because we have many claims regarding not mass crimes, actually, more individual acts and we’ve been investigating many, and many people were punished, but that happened in every war.

Question 34: Do you… are you disturbed enough about any of this to try to determine the truth yourself?

President Assad:  I think you should show it to Western officials to ask them that question: are they disturbed to see what’s happening since they started supporting the terrorists in Syria? This killing and this destruction? That’s the question. Of course I’m disturbed; I am Syrian.

Journalist: You are disturbed about this? About these reports?

President Assad:  About what’s happening in Syria. No, no, not about the report. I don’t care about the report.

Journalist: Not about this.

President Assad: No, no, I’m disturbed about what’s happening in Syria. It’s my country, it’s being destroyed by proxy terrorists, of course.

Question 35: You have acknowledged that your troops in this war have committed mistakes in its prosecution against the rebels, and that anyone could be punished. So, how many mistakes are we talking about?

President Assad:  No, I didn’t say that. I never said that. I said there are always mistakes in any action; that’s a human…

Journalist: How many mistakes are we talking about? How many innocent civilians have been killed by your government’s mistakes?

President Assad:  Nobody knows, because thousands and thousands of those are missing people; nobody knows anything about their fate, nobody at all. So, you cannot tell till the end of this war.

Question 36: Was it a mistake to bomb hospitals in Aleppo?

President Assad: We never bombed hospitals in Aleppo. Why to bomb a hospital? Can you convince your audience that we have interest in bombing hospitals? Actually, this is against our interest. This is against our interest to bomb a hospital if it’s used as hospital, and the proof that it was a lie, every time they talk about bombing hospitals, every time they say this is the last hospital in eastern part of Aleppo, and the second time they talk about another hospital and they say the same; “they bombed the last hospital.” So, it’s lies and lies and lies. We can spend the whole interview talking about lies, and we can talk about the truth and reality. I have to talk about the reality.

Question 37: Is it a mistake to use barrel bombs and chlorine gas?

President Assad: You have to choose which part of the narrative is correct. Once they said we are using indiscriminate bombs and they called it barrel bombs. The other day, they said we targeted hospitals and schools and convoys. We either have precise armaments or we have indiscriminate armaments. So, which one do you choose?

Question 38: Well, you do acknowledge though that innocent civilians… there have been civilian casualties in this war?

President Assad: Of course, every war is a bad war, every war is a bad war. You cannot talk about good war. Let’s agree about this. Every war has causalities; every war has innocent people to pay the price. This is the bad thing about war. That’s why we need to end that war, but having casualties doesn’t mean not to defend our country against the terrorists and against the invasion from abroad through those proxies by foreign countries like the Western countries and the regional ones. This is self-evident.

Question 39: President Obama gave a speech in 2013 about US counter-terrorism efforts, including drone strikes, and he says while defending those strikes, nevertheless it is a hard fact that US strikes have resulted in civilian casualties from me and those in my chain of command, those deaths will haunt us as long as we live. Are you haunted by the deaths of innocent civilians caused by your government’s military actions?

President Assad: That’s an important example about the armament, it’s not about what bomb do you use, whether you call it barrel or any other name; it’s not about that. It’s about the way you use and your intentions. That’s why the state of the art drones with their missiles, the American ones, killed much more civilians than terrorists. So, it’s not about the drone, it’s not about the armaments; it’s about your intentions. In our case in Syria, of course we have to avoid the civilians, not only because they are our people and this is a moral issue; it’s actually because it’s going to play into the hands of the terrorists. If we kill the civilians intentionally, it means we are helping the terrorists. So, why would we do it, why we are defending the civilians and killing the civilians? It doesn’t work; this is contradiction. If we are killing the civilians, who are we defending in Syria? Against who and for who?

Question 40: You were asked just yesterday: are all means justified in this war, and you said, your answer was yes, it’s a duty. So, you can use every mean in order to defend the Syrian people.

President Assad: Exactly.

Journalist: Every mean?

President Assad: Every mean.

Journalist: Including torture?

President Assad: No, it’s not a defense; torture is not a defense. Why to use torture? What’s the relation between torture and defending your country?

Journalist: So, where you draw the line?

President Assad: You have rules, you have very clear rules like any army; when you want to defend your country, you use your armaments against the terrorists. This is the only rule that I’m talking about. This is all the means that you can use in order to defend your country militarily, if I’m talking about military. Of course, you have to defend it politically, economically, in every sense of the word. But if you talk militarily, torture is not part of defending your country.

Question 41: Last question: can you just give us your vision of a settlement of this conflict, and can it… under any circumstances, will you be willing to step aside if it can end this disaster of a war for the Syrian people?

President Assad: Definitely, for me, whenever the Syrian people don’t want me to be in that position, I will leave right away, this is a very simple answer for me and I don’t have to think about it, and I’m not worried about this. What I would worry about is if I’m in that position and I don’t have the public support; this is going to be a big problem for me and I can’t bear it, and I cannot produce anyway. Regarding the first part, how would I see the solution, two pillars: the first one is fighting terrorism; without fighting terrorism and defeating the terrorists, no other solution would be fruitful at all, at all, any kind of solution. In parallel, dialogue between the Syrians about the future of Syria, that will include anything, everything, regarding the whole political system, the whole Syria in every sense of the word, then when we can get elections, and you can have national unity government, then you can have parliamentarian elections, then if the Syrian people think about early presidential elections or any kind of presidential elections, that will be viable.

Journalist: So, earlier than the completion of your term, which I believe, is in 2021?

President Assad:  If there is public consensus about this.

Question 42: How would you determine whether there’s public consensus or not?

President Assad: We can discuss it at that time; it’s still early to talk about it. We haven’t finished any of the stages that I’m talking about. So, we never thought about how because we don’t know what circumstances are we going to face that time. But at the end, when you live in a country, you can sense; Syria is not a continent, it’s a small country, we can deal with each other, we can know each other as society. You can sense, you can feel if there is public consensus, and then if you want to do something documented, you can have referendum, that’s very clear.

Question 43: Do you have any cause for optimism?

President Assad: Of course, without that optimism we wouldn’t fight for six years. The only… the main optimism that we’ve had is that we’re going to defeat those terrorists and their masters, and we’re going to restore stability in Syria, and more important than my optimism is the determination of the Syrian people; this is very important source for optimism. Without that determination, you wouldn’t see Syria in these very difficult and exceptional circumstances still living the minimum life, let’s say, if not the normal life, but the minimum life, to survive, and for the government to offer different services and subsidies, and so on.

Journalist: Thank you Mr. President.

President Assad: Thank you very much.

What will Turkey do and what will US do? ماذا ستفعل تركيا وماذا ستفعل أميركا؟

What will Turkey do and what will US do?

يناير 29, 2017

Written by Nasser Kandil,

The Turks were almost end their celebration of the end of Astana Conference by devoting the legitimacy of the factions which affiliate to them as a partner in the Syrian political process till Al Nusra front started to snatch these factions one after the other, so the cost paid by the Turks in Aleppo for Astana’s process was in vain. Today they are in the worst situation compared if they accepted two years ago the classification of Al Nusra as terrorism and lifting the coverage off it, and if they gave the choice to the factions affiliated to them between Ankara and Al Nusra, however they have gambled on playing with bets hoping that Al Nusra and the factions would win in the war of Aleppo, and thus they would insert it into their project publically, while if they lost, they would negotiate on its cost. Now they have lost the capital with which they sat on the table of bets and started to borrow from the lenders in order to find what can face-saving, after they witnessed with Al Nusra what has happened to them with ISIS which started as Turkish powerful card that threatened the world under the slogan of either ISIS or Al Nusra, ISIS has hit in Turkey and the Turkish army, but it was unable at the gates of Al Bab city for three months, so it found itself in a great challenge after the invasion of Al Nusra of the areas of the Turkish factions.

Therefore, the Turks have to accept the reality of the loss and the serious positioning in the war on Al Nusra and ISIS , and the humility in accepting that the Kurdish formations are more serious and bold in confronting ISIS and Al Nusra from the groups which were bred from the Wahhabi Muslim Brotherhood thought, and which are unable to fight the groups which are older in that thought, so they have to accept the Kurdish formations as opposition armed factions that integrate in the political process, although these formations  maybe the only groups which still carry weapons among the opposition, and to accept the fact that the fight against ISIS and Al Nusra with Syrians will not be useful only if they are affiliated in an alliance with the Syrian army and under its banner, furthermore they have to accept that the ceiling of what the American can do is what he did in Al Raqqa against ISIS despite the fiery cover which presented by the Americans, and that the secret of the victory of the Syrian army and the allies is not the Russian air cover which becomes important when there is a ground force in the field that can reap the outcomes of the fiery cover, otherwise the Russian aircraft becomes as the US aircraft.

The new US President Donald Trump is no less confused regarding the Syrian scene despite the clarity of his desire to avoid the continuation of the wars and the bets of the administration of the Former President Barack Obama, so he announced his decision of forming a safe zone under the slogan of finding solution for the displacement crisis and addressing the Europeans that he is a guarantor of solutions, and that the title of the safe zone is old but now it is renewed, so Turkey which is  the owner of the original idea which its center is the embargo of the aircraft of the Syrian army from approaching from an area that is settled for the armed opposition and considered good for accommodating the Syrian refugees instead of heading to Turkey and across it to Europe felt with satisfaction toward this decision. And because the immediate question is what will Trump who refuses to get involved in a war with Russia and Syria do, knowing that Obama who was ready for half of an involvement was not able to do so?

The answer came after hours from Washington about the clarification of Trump’s decision by calling his ministers to study the idea and how to implement it in addition to its costs and consequences. The answer is known, the safe zone in the formula which we heard repeatedly is a war project and an involvement in a war that does not stop at the borders, so the one who does not want to involve in a war has to redefine the safe zone as areas that are far from the fighting areas and close to the Syrian borders with the neighboring countries and can be reached safely by the returned refugees, moreover the UN organizations can serve them, so the way to set it up as huge cities that accommodate hundreds of thousands of the returnees or the newly displaced is the coordination with the Syrian government and the neighboring countries, in addition to the presence of fund in order to finance the needs of its forming and its services, and providing security control for it that prevents its turning into a shelter for the militants by units of local police that are related to the Syrian state, and  be tolerate with the identities of the opponents as long as there is no weapons, this safe zone will be  sponsored by a partnership of international organizations in guarantees and aids. This is a project that Trump can adopt as a prelude to search it with Russia in preparation for an understanding with the Syrian state without the complexities of Obama, and a way to go to the Security Council through a decision accepted by the Syrian state, and thus it will be as a beginning for US Syrian dialogue to cooperate in ending the crisis and the war in Syria according to a bilateral of a political solution and a war on terrorism

The margins of the maneuvers got narrow.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

 

ماذا ستفعل تركيا وماذا ستفعل أميركا؟

ناصر قنديل

– لم يكد الأتراك ينهون احتفالهم بانتهاء مؤتمر أستانة بتكريس شرعية الفصائل التابعة لهم كشريك في العملية السياسية السورية، حتى بدأت جبهة النصرة بالتهام هذه الفصائل الواحد تلو الآخر، فذهب الثمن الذي دفعه الأتراك في حلب للترسمل لعملية أستانة أدراج الرياح، وصاروا اليوم بحال أسوأ بكثير مما لو أنهم قبلوا من قبل سنتين بتصنيف النصرة إرهاباً ورفعوا الغطاء عنها وخيّروا الفصائل التابعة لمرجعيتهم بين أنقرة والنصرة، لكنهم راهنوا على اللعب على حبل المراهنات، أملاً بأن تكسب النصرة والفصائل حرب حلب فيتمّ دمجها في مشروعهم علناً، وإنْ خسرت يفاوضوا على ثمن رأسها. وها هم قد خسروا الرأسمال الذي دخلوا به طاولة المراهنات وبدأوا بالاستلاف من المرابين، علهم يجدون من ينقذ ماء الوجه، بعدما تكرّر معهم في تجربة النصرة ما حدث في تجربة داعش التي بدأت ورقة قوة تركية تلوّح بها للعالم تحت شعار داعش أم النصرة، فإذ بداعش يضرب في تركيا وبالجيش التركي يعجز على أبواب مدينة الباب لثلاثة شهور ويجد نفسه اليوم في تحدٍّ أكبر مع اكتساح النصرة مناطق الفصائل التركية.

– ليس أمام الأتراك سوى القبول بحقيقة الخسارة، والتموضع الجدي في خط الحرب على النصرة وداعش، والتواضع في قبول أنّ التشكيلات الكردية أشدّ جسارة وجدية في مواجهة داعش والنصرة من الجماعات التي تربّت في مزارع الفكر الإخواني والوهابي وتعجز عن مقاتلة الأشدّ عراقة منها في هذه المزارع، وارتضاء القبول بالتشكيلات الكردية كفصائل معارضة مسلحة تدمج بالعملية السياسية قد لا يبقى سواها من المعارضين الذين يحملون السلاح، وأن يرتضوا بحقيقة أنّ القتال ضدّ داعش والنصرة مع سوريين لن يستقيم إلا عندما يكون هؤلاء السوريون منضوين بالتحالف مع الجيش السوري وتحت لوائه، وأن يتقبّلوا أنّ ما يستطيعه الأميركي سقفه ما استطاعه في الرقة بوجه داعش، رغم كثافة الغطاء الناري التي يقدّمها الأميركيون، وأن سرّ نصر الجيش السوري والحلفاء ليس الغطاء الجوي الروسي الذي يصير مهمّاً عندما توجد في الميدان قوة برية تقدر على قطف ثمار الغطاء الناري وإلا صار فعل الطيران الروسي كفعل الطيران الأميركي.

– الرئيس الأميركي الجديد دونالد ترامب لا يقلّ ارتباكاً في المشهد السوري رغم وضوح رغبته بتفادي مواصلة حروب ورهانات إدارة الرئيس السابق باراك أوباما، فيعلن قراره بتشكيل منطقة آمنة تحت شعار حلّ أزمة النزوح ومخاطبة الأوروبيين بأنه ضامن للحلول، وعنوان المنطقة الآمنة قديم يتجدّد فتهلّل تركيا صاحبة الفكرة الأصلية ومحورها حظر طيران الجيش السوري من الاقتراب من منطقة تفتح للمعارضة المسلحة وتعتبر صالحة لاستيعاب السوريين النازحين بدلاً من توجّههم إلى تركيا وعبرها إلى أوروبا، ولأنّ السؤال الفوري هو كيف سيفعل ترامب الرافض للتورّط بحرب مع روسيا وسورية، وهو ما لم يقدر أوباما على فعله وهو المستعدّ لقدر من نصف تورّط؟

– يأتي الجواب بعد ساعات من واشنطن بالحديث عن توضيح لقرار ترامب بدعوة وزاراته لدراسة الفكرة وكيفية تنفيذها وأكلافها وتبعاتها، والجواب معلوم، المنطقة الآمنة بالصيغة التي سمعناها مراراً مشروع حرب وتورّط في حرب لا تتوقف عند حدود، ومَن لا يريد التورّط في حرب عليه إعادة تعريف المنطقة الآمنة بصفتها مناطق بعيدة عن مناطق القتال وقريبة من الحدود السورية مع دول الجوار ويمكن الوصول إليها بأمان للنازحين العائدين، ويمكن للمنظمات الأممية تخديمها، والطريق لإقامتها كمدن ضخمة تتسع لمئات الآلاف من العائدين أو من النازحين الجدد، وهو التنسيق مع الحكومة السورية، وبينها وبين دول الجوار، وصندوق مالي لتمويل حاجات إقامتها وخدماتها، وتوفير ضبط أمني لها يمنع تحوّلها ملاذاً للمسلحين، عبر وحدات شرطة محلية ترتبط بالدولة السورية وتتسامح مع هويات المعارضين، طالما لا سلاح لديهم، وترعاها شراكة من منظمات دولية في الضمانات والمساعدات. وهذا مشروع يستطيع ترامب اتخاذه بداية لبحث مع روسيا تمهيداً للتفاهم مع الدولة السورية بلا عقد وتعقيدات أوباما، والذهاب إلى مجلس الأمن بقرار ترتضيه الدولة السورية، ويكون بداية حوار أميركي سوري للتعاون في إنهاء الأزمة والحرب في سورية وفقاً لثنائي حلّ سياسي وحرب على الإرهاب.

– ضاقت هوامش المناورات.

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Donald Trump’s foreign policy proposals have been somewhat of a mystery & his call for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, in order to help refugees fleeing war, does not provide much clarity. Turkey & Qatar, both supporters of no-fly/buffer zones in Syria, have cautiously welcomed President Trump’s call, while Russia has called for Trump to properly study the consequences of such action. The biggest unanswered question remains as to if this is proof that Trump is now reneging on his promise to work with Russia to defeat terrorism in places like Syria.

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Trump’s Safe-Zone Mandate: The Blind Leading the Blind into More Blindness in Syria

Trump’s Safe-Zone Mandate: The Blind Leading the Blind into More Blindness in Syria

Big mouth, small ears

Thu Jan 26, 2017 9:29

TEHRAN (FNA)- The man who has been called by psychologists and clinical psychologists “a narcissist with multiple sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies,” has just ordered the State Department and Pentagon to prepare for the establishment of what he calls “safe zones” in Syria.

The safe-zone mandate was included in the text of a draft executive order by President Donald Trump that puts harsh restrictions on people traveling from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Sudan to the United States.

The new Republican president, who wants to bring back waterboarding and believes “torture works and would help,” claims the long anticipated move is “on humanitarian grounds,” giving the State Department and Pentagon 90 days to provide a full blueprint for how they would go about it.

It’s the darkest of lies. He cannot hide such fabrications from hardcore thinkers. They get more aggravated and more provoked by his half-truths and “alternative facts” than the most painful truths:

1- Safe zones would be meaningless without a de-facto no fly zone. It would mean war with Syria and Russia. Even Trump agrees. During the campaign, he had endorsed the idea of safe zones, but also scorned Hillary Clinton for supporting the no-fly zone aspect, citing the concerns about starting such huge new wars. He said, “It would lead to World War III.”

2- The executive order is more than just an attempt at quietly considering potential safe zone options. The US flew no-fly zones over Iraq for more than a decade before the 2003 invasion. Now, it is planning to launch something similar over northern Syria. So it’s not a safe zone. Much as in Iraq and Libya, the de-facto no-fly zones often become precursors to additional military involvement at a later date.

3- This is not about humanitarianism. Washington is resisting use of the term no-fly zone, preferring the more innocuous safe zone. But after initially ignoring Turkish media reports that a deal was struck long before Trump’s presidency, war-party Washington said a protected area could soon be a reality. They say the evolving plan envisages occupation of the zone by their Al-Qaeda-linked proxy forces.

4- The scheme has no UN mandate and suggests the War Party hasn’t given up on the idea of regime change. They seek to eliminate air defenses so they can launch airstrikes against the Syrian military and free up a launching pad for their proxies to conduct attacks deeper into Syria.

5- Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey once said, “The no-fly zone seeks to deny the Syrian military the ability to launch airstrikes against terrorist groups therein.” European sources also told Kuwait’s al-Rai Daily last year, “The plan is to back moderate rebels and cripple the country’s military forces. The no-fly zone would include a ban on the movement of Syrian military forces, designed to neutralize Syria’s ability to carry out airstrikes.”

It’s a dramatic escalation and Trump’s arguing of semantics doesn’t mean much of anything here. Every indication is that the US occupying troops are not content to leave northern Syria. They are there to help terrorists keep the fighting going.

The whole idea is to derail the ongoing peace talks that has already led to an all-Syria ceasefire. It seeks to hinder the use of military power by Iran, Syria, Russia and Hezbollah against the terrorist groups of ISIL and Al-Qaeda that are not part of the ceasefire agreement.

Further still, the clandestine project is intended to provide more arms to US-backed “moderates,” help them use it to recruit and recover, operate out of the zone, deepen US military intervention, and revive the initial military objective, as happened with no-fly zones in Iraq and Libya: regime decapitation.

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Donald Trump’s foreign policy proposals have been somewhat of a mystery & his call for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, in order to help refugees fleeing war, does not provide much clarity. Turkey & Qatar, both supporters of no-fly/buffer zones in Syria, have cautiously welcomed President Trump’s call, while Russia has called for Trump to properly study the consequences of such action. The biggest unanswered question remains as to if this is proof that Trump is now reneging on his promise to work with Russia to defeat terrorism in places like Syria.

Published on Jan 26, 2017

The United States is in the “death grip” of the Jewish Zionists who are completely obsessed in pursuing the interests of Israel, says Kevin Barrett, an American author and political commentator.

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