Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Syria's battle against US-Zionist-Saudi colonialism" (IRIB Radio-Iran)

In which the Syrian Vice-President informs us “If the Syrian Army did what the armed groups are doing, we could have crushed them a long time ago.”
On the real situation in Syria we present you excerpts of an interview given by Syrian Vice-President Mrs Najah al-Attar to a group of Indian journalists in Damascus, during which she said that her country was once again waging a battle against colonialism.

She said the conspiracy against Syria had started with the redrawing of maps during the colonial era, noting that the former colonial powers were unhappy with the principled foreign policy the country had adopted since independence in 1948.

Mrs Najah al-Attar said: “They (that is, the US, France, Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar) want us to change our position. They have a project for the Middle East that aims to put an end to our unity and encourage sectarianism,” she added, noting Libya was a graphic illustration in this regard. She pointed out that the West along with its supporters in the region showed absolutely no remorse for the killing of 150,000 Libyan people, most of them civilians, in the conflict. In Iraq, more than a million people perished as a result of the US invasion in 2003 and the sanctions imposed on that country. She said President Assad could not implement his reform package at a faster pace because of the catastrophic events that shook the region after he took over. First, there was the US invasion of Iraq, which led to an upsurge in terrorism in the region and resulted in the influx of more than two million refugees into Syria. Then there were the two wars waged by Israel, against Lebanon and Gaza. Both the wars had briefly threatened to engulf the entire region. Najah al-Attar wondered why the West was silent about the casualties that Israel had inflicted in the two wars on hapless civilians. “Israeli atrocities do not make the West unhappy,” she added. She charged Washington and its allies with funding and training rebel groups in Syria even while hypocritically calling for a peaceful dialogue to end the crisis. “They [the West] are calling it a revolution of the people. Our people want normalcy. They believe in the President.” She emphasised that the reform process would be implemented carefully. “The new Constitution will guarantee a new life for the citizens. There will be more media freedom.” The government plans to set up an independent media body. The opposition parties already publish weekly papers.

Najah al-Attar said her country was the only one in the region to oppose US hegemony. “Syria is facing hardship but it has the courage to keep on supporting the resistance,” she said. Syria is the main backer of the resistance, Hizbollah and Hamas in the region, and has been uncompromising in its stance against Israel. The Syrian leader revealed that Washington had conveyed to Damascus that Syria could have stability if it “cut off support to Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran”. According to Najah al-Attar, the Syrian government bent over backwards to accommodate the demands of the international community and the opposition. “Our offer for dialogue has been rejected. The opposition wants only change of the government.” The Syrian Army was withdrawn from Homs, Dera'a and Idlib so that the Arab League Observers Mission could carry out its work unimpeded. She noted that the report prepared by the head of the Mission was ignored by the Arab League as it did not fit the League's game plan. “The Persian Gulf states are acting like puppies of the Americans,” she observed. The senior Syrian leader conceded that there were “some good people” in the opposition and that the government had kept the door for negotiations open. “Russia's mediation efforts were rejected by the opposition. We are sad but not afraid.” President Assad reiterated his offer of talks when Kofi Annan, the newly appointed United Nations/Arab League envoy to Syria, visited Damascus in the second week of March.

Najah al-Attar dismissed reports of defections from the Syrian Army. She said only a small number had defected. “Our Army will never be divided. We are protecting not only ourselves but the entire Arab nation.” She defended the Army's human rights record, asserting that it is doing its best to protect civilians. “If the Syrian Army did what the armed groups are doing, we could have crushed them a long time ago.” She was especially scathing about the interference of neighbouring Turkey in the internal affairs of Syria. “Turkey has been acting as an agent of the US There have been protests inside Turkey against the role of the government there. The Turkish people don't want their government to take sides.” She said Libyans, al-Qa'eda, and Turkish and French military officers were operating inside Syria. She also revealed that some of the weapons came from Israel. Najah al-Attar said Syria was being subjected to “information warfare”. Reports in the Western and Arab satellite channels, she said, were not based on the facts on the ground and the threat posed by terrorism was being downplayed deliberately. She said 90 per cent of the Syrian people had stopped watching Qatar's al-Jazeera and Saudi Arabia's al-Arabiya. “They are seen as partners of the armed terrorist groups.” There is no denying the fact that al-Qaeda is very much active in Syria. The suicide bomb attacks in Damascus and Aleppo in recent months are illustrations. In fact, the presence of militant groups has helped galvanise public opinion in favour of the government. The Syrian people do not want their country to become another Iraq or for that matter a new Libya, where armed militias are today ruling the roost after the country was supposedly “liberated” with the help of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

“The US, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are spokesmen of and partners in fostering terrorism,” Najah al-Attar said. She said that besides civilians, the militant groups had targeted communication centres and gas pipelines. Syria today suffers from a shortage of electricity as a result of acts of sabotage against its energy grid. The Vice-President is confident that her country will soldier on despite the odds stacked against it. “Syria is self-sufficient and it has no external debts,” she explained. Diplomats in Damascus are of the view that Syria can rough it out as it has been used to decades of sanctions. But the latest set of sanctions has had a debilitating effect. For some months, Syria has not been able to export its oil, a key source of foreign exchange. Syria's oil is refined in western Europe and sold in the domestic markets. Traditional friends such as Iran are bound to help Syria in times of need. Venezuela has already dispatched a consignment of refined oil to Syria. Many Syrians outside the government say that the government can survive another 10 years being unaffected by the sanctions. “Sanctions will affect the common man but nobody is going to starve,” a resident of Damascus observed. He said the unemployment rate was rising alarmingly. The West and the Arab monarchies are promising a bonanza for the Syrian people if there is a regime change. At the Tunis Conference, $20 billion was on offer for a new government in Syria. But, he said, the Syrian people were aware that the West was using the country as a pawn.

A well-placed Syrian technocrat, who is ambivalent about the government on certain issues, told the Indian journalists that the attacks by the Western media and al-Jazeera became shriller whenever the government introduced more reforms. The opposition, he said, was aware of the “media game” and was willing “to sleep with the devil” to achieve its goal. He described the anti-Assad insurgency as one that “does not have a road map and which excludes the minorities and other groups”. He said many of the rebel fighters were “Salafists”. He, for one, would prefer a “civil war” rather than allow the country to be run by Salafists.

Ahmad Hussain, the Grand Mufti of Damascus who lost his son to the bullets of terrorists a few months ago, said Dr. Bashar al-Assad – an ophthalmologist by profession – would like nothing better than to practise medicine again but circumstances had forced him to stay on in power. The spiritual head of Syrian Sunnis said the President “is neither sectarian nor has a military background”. He said under Assad Syria would become a shining example for the rest of the Arab world, but the Persian Gulf countries and some of Syria's immediate neighbours were working overtime to sabotage Assad's plans to build a strong nation. “The unfolding situation in Syria does not suit the West,” the Grand Mufti said.
So sad--Assad can't pursue his beloved opthamology . . .

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