In Turkey, Erdoğan fans an Islamic nationalism to build Ottoman-style influence



SHIFT IN THOUGHT: Fifteen years into his rule, Erdoğan has gradually turned his country away from the secular tradition of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He has also moved away from democratic norms, complicating ties with the West.






FEBRUARY 22, 2017 ISTANBUL, TURKEY—They portray themselves as the “average Joes” of Turkish politics: a builder-handyman and his fiancée, a cleaner, who both work for the same small Istanbul company that has been going through tough times.

Harun Demir, whose hands bear the signs of hard work, wears a small beard and an easy smile; Seniz Kaya’s long thick curls are fashionably dyed, and very visible since she doesn’t wear a headscarf.

The couple could not look less religious, or less political. Yet they are the face of a new politics in Turkey, a staunchly held view of Islamic nationalism deliberately and painstakingly carved by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). 


They believe – like many of their fellow Turks – that Mr. Erdoğan’s heavy hand on everything from press freedom to engineering unprecedented presidential power is justified as the best path to solve Turkey’s constellation of problems. The country was convulsed by 30 attacks last year, faces a struggling economy, and is at war in southeast Turkey, Syria, and Iraq.

They also echo officials when they say that Turkey is in the process of restoring its historical Ottoman influence as a leader of the Islamic world. Those references point to a moderate, inclusive form of Islam, but also authoritarian rule in the form of a sultan.

Indeed, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım last month portrayed Erdoğan as a descendant of a well-regarded Ottoman-era sultan. Last fall, a local AKP official controversially posted on his Facebook page that Erdoğan “will be the Caliph of the Presidency,” and that in 2023 – when the Turkish republic reaches its 100th birthday – “Allah will finish the light.”

“Now there seems to be a new pattern of leadership: Erdoğan, Russian President [Vladimir] Putin, and Trump. They are not dictators, they are strongmen,” says Mr. Demir, approvingly. Erdoğan “is talking to people, he is doing it for the people. Maybe he is twisting some arms, but it is for a good cause."

Turks should be patient and have faith in the changes, says Ms. Kaya: “For it to work, you must have trust [in Erdoğan]. It’s our role as Turkish citizens to trust our leader.” 

That is a perspective Erdoğan is happy to feed. While critics charge that his largely unfettered rule has dragged Turkey into a domestic quagmire of social division, anti-Western sentiment, financial troubles, and multiple conflicts abroad, the president has promoted a much more flattering narrative, casting even the escalating attacks by the so-called Islamic State and Kurdish militants as a response to his country’s resurgent greatness.

Fifteen years into his rule, Erdoğan has gradually turned his country away from the secular tradition of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who founded the modern state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire in 1923. And there is little room for any competing views as the once ardently secular eastern anchor of NATO, which has aspired to membership in the European Union, weakens once-promising linkages with the West, promotes the role of religion in public life, clamps down on opponents and the media, and moves ever more firmly away from democratic norms. 

“Turkey is under very serious attack both inside and outside,” Erdoğan said on Jan. 10. “It is not because we are a weak country, but because we are a stronger and stronger country.”
Religious majority

Demir and Kara could not agree more. And recent polls indicate that Turkey’s conservative, religious political bloc, to which they belong, is a majority that will shape Turkish politics for the foreseeable future.

“They think that Turkey is facing big troubles – and they are correct on that – but they think those troubles are created by malicious forces conspiring against Turkey. That’s Erdoğan’s narrative, they buy into that,” says Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish analyst of politics and culture, and author of the new book “The Islamic Jesus.”

“They think this conspiracy will only be undone by a very powerful, defiant leader, which is of course Erdoğan himself,” says Mr. Akyol, currently a senior fellow of the Freedom Project at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

“That political propaganda is in your face every day, every single moment. If you turn on TV, if you open newspapers, 70 to 80 percent of them almost will be telling that to you,” says Akyol, noting that Erdoğan’s opponents have been “marginalized, silenced, jailed, exiled.”

For decades, the military served as a self-declared bulwark of Turkish secularism – mounting four coups since 1960 to block Islamists from governing – but AKP rule has since neutered the military’s role in politics, and made many changes in Turkish society in the name of religion.

On Wednesday, for example, female Army officers and cadets were officially allowed to wear headscarves as part of their uniforms. The move is the culmination of years of AKP chipping away at a decades-long headscarf ban that saw a similar ruling for policewomen last year, and in 2013 for civil servants and in schools.

In another sign of AKP reshaping, last week ground was broken on a new mosque on the edge of Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square, after years of controversy.

There has “always been a xenophobic, paranoid nationalism, but since it was based on Atatürk, it was also a secular nationalism and maybe didn’t [sit well] with the conservative Islamic camp,” adds Akyol. “But now it is nationalism [with] a heavy dose of Islam, so it appeals to religious conservatives very strongly.” 

Ruling party operatives have sometimes pushed too hard, as did an AKP youth leader in the southern coastal city of Mersin. Last week, he tweeted that, “if only [Atatürk] did not exist,” and suggested that the father of the nation should not be considered a Turk because he was born in Ottoman-era Thessaloniki, in modern-day Greece, and “doesn’t look Turkish.”

“History is being written,” tweeted Hasan Baki. “It’s not a revolution of enlightenment or wannabe Westernization, it is the revolution of the Islamic case.” The AKP asked him to resign, and opposition party officials are taking him to court for “insulting Atatürk.” 

Post-coup nationalism

The trend of Islamic nationalism has only accelerated since an attempted coup last July, in which Erdoğan’s call to loyalists to take to the streets to stop putchist soldiers brought the coup attempt to a swift end. Nightly rallies across the country for a month organized by the AKP blended nationalist and Islamist imagery with strident messages of unity. 

A state of emergency has been renewed twice so far, and some 125,000 people have been purged and nearly 50,000 arrested, according to some estimates, for suspected links to the coup attempt. In the political whirlwind, the AKP has convinced one opposition party to join it in rewriting the Constitution to realize Erdoğan’s dream of creating an unassailable executive presidency – to its critics, the post of a modern-day sultan.

Ahead of a national referendum in April, an annual poll by Kadir Has University found a deeply divided society, but one with an ever-coalescing majority.

“The facts are very obvious,” Hasan Bülent Kahraman, the vice president of Kadir Has, told Hürriyet Daily News. “There is a 70 percent majority in Turkey and it is their way of thinking, their ideological thinking, that is already dominating and will dominate in the future.” 

Giving religion a higher profile has been part of the Islamist-rooted AKP’s agenda from the start, and signs have taken hold everywhere, from the increase in the number of women wearing headscarves – in concert with gradual lifting of the ban in government institutions – to the build-up of mosques in the country from 78,608 in 2006 to 86,762 in 2015, according to the Directorate of Religious Affairs.

It has also been manifest in a national campaign by the directorate. “Mosque Week” was declared the first week of last October, and slogans for the year-long campaign include: “We are going to the mosques, we are reading [the Quran]”; and “Let the voice that echoes in your heart be found in the mosque.”

“We are trying to make religion more in social life, to be practiced in homes and make it a more vital part of life,” says Aydin Yiğman, the mufti of the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul, a ranking official expert in the Turkish state religious authority. He wears a suit and tie, not religious garb, and is clean-shaven, in keeping with Turkey’s secular custom for officials since the 1920s. 

“We don’t want people to think of the mosque only on Friday,” says Mr. Yiğman. “We want to spread awareness of religion, so when people hear the call to prayer they are more aware…. It is not something bad or under pressure. We want to build this upon love, so people are receptive to God’s call, because it is God’s call.”

He suggests these days there is no greater religiosity among Turks, yet the scene appears different from years past, as the faithful these days spill onto the streets around mosques in some Istanbul districts during Friday prayers. The new Sunday morning prayer meetings for youth attract up to 250 people a time, though even if there were one-tenth the number, he says, “we would be happy with that.”

He notes that the number is small, in a district with 100 mosques and 250,000 residents, but says progress is being made. “The goal of this education is so people learn the correct Islam,” says Yiğman.

Anecdotally, such efforts are visible. In recent weeks, for example, as frigid cold gripped Istanbul, a van drove through one district announcing free tea at a local mosque, and a program about Ottoman history with a reading of the Quran. And overheard on a bridge crossing the Golden Horn, one headscarf-wearing woman suggested to her mixed group of young men and women that they “hang out at the local mosque.” 
'A different kind of Turkey'

That would be no surprise to Demir and Kaya, who shy away from the term “Islamic nationalism,” but say that “Turkey is more diverse and needs religion to tie everyone together.

“Some people think he is more authoritarian, that he is more dictatorial. But look at where Erdoğan has brought us,” Demir says. “It’s a different kind of Turkey.”

For Demir, Turkey under Erdoğan can shape an Islamic form of government that differs from the austere practices that Saudi Arabia promotes, through money and funding religious schools and mosques, to Muslim countries around the world.

“Our hope for 2023 is that we want to be educated, cultured, and Muslim. We are redefining Islam, and what it is today,” says Demir. “It’s in our genes. The Islam that has been exported from Saudi Arabia and northern Africa failed to work, because of lack of education. We have Ottoman culture to be open and moderate.”

Former AKP Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said in 2015 that Turkey “will re-found the Ottoman state,” in just one example of officials portraying themselves as rightful heirs of the Ottoman legacy.

“Turkish religious conservatives have always had this feeling that Turkey was the standard-bearer of Islamic civilization,” says author Akyol. They say, “‘Turks were the leaders, and that unfortunately collapsed…and that has to be corrected. Turks once again should lead the ummah [Islamic community] as the new Ottomans.’”

“That’s a dream in the religious conservative camp for decades, that is not something new,” he says. “Erdoğan is now giving the message: ‘I am now realizing this.’ That creates a big sentiment around him, from people with Islamic conservative leanings.” 

“The problem is we are not living in Ottoman times, we are not living in the era of sultans,” says Akyol. “We’re living in the era of liberal democracy, and Turkey’s not heading there.”

Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution


by CJ HOPKINS  | FEBRUARY 21, 2017


Berlin.

So the global capitalist ruling classes’ neutralization of the Trumpian uprising seems to be off to a pretty good start. It’s barely been a month since his inauguration, and the corporate media, liberal celebrities, and their millions of faithful fans and followers are already shrieking for his summary impeachment, or his removal by … well, whatever means necessary, including some sort of “deep state” coup. Words like “treason” are being bandied about, treason being ground for impeachment (not to mention being punishable by death), which appears to be where we’re headed at this point.

In any event, the nation is now officially in a state of “crisis.” The editors of The New York Times are demanding congressional investigations to root out the Russian infiltrators who have assumed control of the executive branch. According to prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, “a foreign dictator intervened on behalf of a US presidential candidate” … “we are being governed by people who take their cues from Moscow,” or some such nonsense. The Washington Post, CNN, MSNBC, The Guardian, The New Yorker, Politico, Mother Jones, et al. (in other words virtually every organ of the Western neoliberal media) are robotically repeating this propaganda like the Project Mayhem cultists in Fight Club.

The fact that there is not one shred of actual evidence to support these claims makes absolutely no difference whatsoever. As I wrote about in these pages previously, such official propaganda is not designed to be credible; it is designed to bludgeon people into submission through sheer relentless repetition and fear of social ostracization … which, once again, is working perfectly. Like the “Iraq has WMDs” narrative before it, the “Putin Hacked the Election” narrative has now become official “reality,” an unchallengeable axiomatic “fact” that can be cited as background to pretend to bolster additional ridiculous propaganda.

This “Russia Hacked the Election” narrative, let’s remember, was generated by a series of stories that it turned out were either completely fabricated or based on “anonymous intelligence sources” that could provide no evidence “for reasons of security.” Who could forget The Washington Post‘s “Russian Propagandist Blacklist” story (which was based on the claims of some anonymous’ blog and a third rate neo-McCarthyite think tank), or their “Russians Hacked the Vermont Power Grid” story (which, it turned out later, was totally made up), or CNN’s “Golden Showers Dossier” story (which was the work of some ex-MI6 spook-for-hire the Never Trump folks had on their payroll), or Slate‘s “Trump’s Russian Server” story (a half-assed smear piece by Franklin Foer, who is now pretending to have been vindicated by the hysteria over the Flynn resignation), or (and this is my personal favorite) The Washington Post‘s “Clinton Poisoned by Putin” story? Who could possibly forget these examples of courageous journalists speaking truth to power?

Well, OK, a lot of people, apparently, because there’s been a new twist in the official narrative. It seems the capitalist ruling classes now need us to defend the corporate media from the tyrannical criticism of Donald Trump, or else, well, you know, end of democracy. Which millions of people are actually doing. Seriously, absurd as it obviously is, millions of Americans are now rushing to defend the most fearsome propaganda machine in the history of fearsome propaganda machines from one inarticulate, populist boogeyman who can’t maintain his train of thought for more than fifteen or twenty seconds.

All joking aside, the prevailing mindset of the ruling classes, and those aspiring thereto, is more frightening than at any time I can remember. “The Resistance” is exhibiting precisely the type of mindlessly fascistic, herd-like behavior it purports to be trying to save us from. Yes, the mood in Resistance quarters has turned quite openly authoritarian. William Kristol captured it succinctly: “Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, [I] prefer the deep state to the Trump state.” Neoliberal Rob Reiner put it this way: “The incompetent lying narcissistic fool is going down. Intelligence community will not let DT destroy democracy.” Subcommandante Micheal Moore went to the caps lock to drive the point home: “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what was going on: TRUMP COLLUDING WITH THE RUSSIANS TO THROW THE ELECTION TO HIM,” and demanded that Trump be immediately detained and renditioned to a secure facility: “Let’s be VERY clear: Flynn DID NOT make that Russian call on his own. He was INSTRUCTED to do so. He was TOLD to reassure them. Arrest Trump.”

These a just a few of the more sickening examples. The point is, millions of American citizens (as well as citizens of other countries) are prepared to support a deep state coup to remove the elected president from office … and it doesn’t get much more fascistic than that.

Now I want to be clear about this “deep state” thing, as the mainstream media is already labeling anyone who uses the term a hopelessly paranoid conspiracy theorist. The deep state, of course, is not a conspiracy. It is simply the interdependent network of structures where actual power resides (i.e., the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, Wall Street, the corporate media, and so on). Its purpose is to maintain the stability of the system regardless of which party controls the government. These are the folks, when a president takes office, who show up and brief him on what is and isn’t “possible” given economic and political “realities.” Despite what Alex Jones may tell you, it is not George Soros and roomful of Jews. It is a collection of military and intelligence officers, CEOs, corporate lobbyists, lawyers, bankers, politicians, power brokers, aides, advisers, and assorted other permanent members of the government and the corporate and financial classes. Just as presidents come and go, so do the individuals comprising the deep state, albeit on a longer rotation schedule. And, thus, it is not a monolithic entity. Like any other decentralized network, it contains contradictions, conflicts of interest. However, what remains a constant is the deep state’s commitment to preserving the system … which, in our case, that system is global Capitalism.

I’m going to repeat and italicize that to hopefully avoid any misunderstanding. The system the deep state primarily serves is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism. The United States, the nation state itself, while obviously a crucial element of the system, is not the deep state’s primary concern. If it were, Americans would all have healthcare, affordable education, and a right to basic housing, like more or less every other developed nation.

And this is the essence of the present conflict. The Trump regime (whether they’re sincere or not) has capitalized on people’s discontent with globalized neoliberal Capitalism, which is doing away with outmoded concepts like the nation state and national sovereignty and restructuring the world into one big marketplace where “Chinese” investors own “American” companies that manufacture goods for “European” markets by paying “Thai” workers three dollars a day to enrich “American” hedge fund crooks whose “British” bankers stash their loot in numbered accounts in the Cayman Islands while “American” workers pay their taxes so that the “United States” can give billions of dollars to “Israelis” and assorted terrorist outfits that are destabilizing the Middle East to open up markets for the capitalist ruling classes, who have no allegiance to any country, and who couldn’t possibly care any less about the common people who have to live there. Trump supporters, rubes that they are, don’t quite follow the logic of all that, or see how it benefits them or their families.

But whatever … they’re all just fascists, right? And we’re in a state of crisis, aren’t we? This is not the time to sit around and analyze political and historical dynamics. No, this is a time for all loyal Americans to set aside their critical thinking and support democracy, the corporate media, and the NSA, and CIA, and the rest of the deep state (which doesn’t exist) as they take whatever measures are necessary to defend us from Putin’s diabolical plot to Nazify the United States and reenact the Holocaust for no discernible reason. The way things are going, it’s just a matter of time until they either impeach his puppet, Trump, or, you know, remove him by other means. I imagine, once we get to that point, Official State Satirist Stephen Colbert will cover the proceedings live on the “Late Show,” whipping his studio audience up into a frenzy of mindless patriotic merriment, as he did in the wake of the Flynn fiasco (accusing the ruling classes’ enemies of treason being the essence of satire, of course). After he’s convicted and dying in jail, triumphant Americans will pour out onto the lawn of Lafayette Square again, waving huge flags and hooting vuvuzelas, like they did when Obama killed Osama bin Laden. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t attend. Flying home may be a little complicated, as according to The Washington Post, I’m some kind of Russian propagandist now. And, also, I have this problem with authority, which I don’t imagine will go over very well with whatever provisional government is installed to oversee the Restoration of Normality, and Love, of course, throughout the nation.


C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (US). He can reached at his website, cjhopkins.com, or at consentfactory.org.

SOURCEhttp://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/21/goose-stepping-our-way-toward-pink-revolution/

Geneva talks doomed: Turkey’s changing position in Syria is pushing Russia into more aggression


By Elijah J. Magnier  | 23 Feb 2017

The US- Russia relationship over Syria will be blown apart and pushed into opposition
Erdogan is hiding behind Saudi Arabia and mimics the US hostility towards Iran
The Sukhoi return is expected more aggressive than ever



After the collapse of 9 months of peace negotiations, Geneva hosts today a meeting about Syria amid differences between the main regional influential players and an unclear US stance, which will inevitably be reflected in the results of the talks. The main player, Turkey, with troops on the ground in northern Syria, is constantly changing position and plans, creating not only confusion but renewing hostility in the country: a warning of the pessimistic outcome to come.


The US stand:

President Donald Trump’s foreign policy is still unclear, and towards Syria in particular. The US administration has expressed its will to fight terrorism, but mentions only the “Islamic State” (ISIS) group in Syria, and disregarding al-Qaida who are represented by “Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (ex-Nusra). Moreover, Trump is expressing his wish to form “safe zones” in the north, asking the Gulf countries to pay for these “zones”. He is also sending military equipment and special forces support for training and guidance to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). His aim is to push the Kurds, working alongside and leading the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), towards the ISIS Syrian capital in north-east Syria: Raqqah. Nevertheless, the US plan is unclear and doomed for several reasons:
Declaring “war on terrorism” can’t be limited to ISIS. Al-Qaida is well-established and announced its presence in all the Syrian fronts with two-thirds of the forces on each front. The group is against democracy or any election run by the UN or any other establishment. It is also against any peace talks and has already attacked and split the Syrian rebels, leaving these no choice but to join its ranks or join Ahrar al-Sham, the second biggest rebel groups in Syria.

The US can’t combine a support for the YPG and the Turkish forces and an interest in Syria at the same time, specially in relation to the forthcoming attack against Raqqah. Turkey considers the YPG to be a Syrian affiliation of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). This organisation (not the YPG) is considered terrorist by Turkey as well. The PKK is waging a ruthless military campaign against Ankara, claiming the right to a Kurdish autonomous state within Turkey.

The US plan to “liberate” Raqqah with 10.000 or 20.000 Kurds and Arabs is not a feasible plan. In Mosul, Iraq is pushing forces between 50.000 to 60.000 strong, supported by Iraqi and coalition helicopters and jets to retake Mosul. The battle for Mosul is far from being a piece of cake, any more than Raqqah, even if that Syrian ISIS city is much smaller than the Iraqi one and holds less than half a million civilians.

The US is promoting “safe zones” for immigrants to stay in Syria and refrain from travelling to Europe or the US. Actually, there is no need for a safe zone or zones because the number of displaced Syrians is no longer increasing and quite static at the moment, following the battle of Aleppo. Any safe zone is considered to be part of an American plot to occupy the north-east of Syria and to establish military bases in the country. Such a step will be faced with a harsh response from Damascus and its allies who would be more than happy to revive the 1983 Beirut barracks and attack the American forces, similar to the 2003-2011 Iraq occupation.


Turkey:


Several months ago, the key for the success of any political talks in Syria was the Turkish involvement, due to Ankara’s influence over rebels and jihadists. This is what pushed Iran and Russia to restore their relationship with Ankara and bring it into the Asatan (Kazakhstan) negotiation. Nevertheless, Turkey was unable to bring to the table one of the biggest rebel groups in northern Syria, Ahrar al-Sham.

Following the coup of al-Qaida against groups who participated in the Astana talks, the rebels are more divided than ever, afraid of any move that could increase their partition and make them easy to overwhelm by the Syrian Army and its allies. Nevertheless, Turkey continues its attack on al-Bab (the ISIS stronghold), unable to get a quick victory. But Turkey is changing position and turning its political guns against yesterday’s allies. Ankara understands today that Trump is aggressive toward Iran and gave his blessing to Saudi Arabia. Therefore Erdogan is taking a new position: hiding behind Saudi Arabia, mimicking the US hostility towards Iran and, in consequences, declaring himself once more against the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Turkey has harshly attacked Iran, considering it to be the source of terrorism in the region. This shows a real u-turn in Turkish policy that will definitely be reflected in the situation on the ground in Syria. In fact, Damascus and Iran, along with their allies, are pushing forces to counter al-Bab and prevent any expansion of territory of the Turkish forces toward Raqqah.

Turkey is applauding the US plan of “safe zone(s)” only to offer its forces inside the US Trojan horse. This upsets Russia and Damascus, confirming that Turkey, no longer a partner, is disrespectful of the previous commitment to keep Syrian away from partition. Establishing safe zone(s) can only lead to dividing Syria and disrupting the Russian plan to establish itself in a stable united country. Such a move will have serious practical repercussions on the advance of the Turkish forces and their allies in Syria.

The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that his forces “will liberate the Syrian town of Manbij”, already liberated from ISIS by the US-backed SDF and YPG Kurdish forces last year. Erdogan’s verbal intention is considered “a pipe dream” by the Syrian government and Russia. Russia considers the Syrian Kurds as potential allies and Damascus is certain that, once the war is over, it will be possible to reach a win-win deal with the Syrian Kurds, keeping the country safe from partition. Damascus will, not only oppose Turkey in this manoeuvre, but is ready to fight back any force advancing towards its army in the north of Syria, particularly the Turkish forces and their proxies at this moment since, as we have seen, Turkey is shifting its policy, veering towards the unknown.

Turkey offered to the US to go to Raqqah: such a plan is far from being possible. The distance between al-Bab and Raqqah is over 200km, and the territory is controlled by the Syrian Army, ISIS and the Kurds (who are considered by Ankara to be terrorists). The performance of the Turkish forces and their proxies in al-Bab is far from being encouraging. Therefore, the Turkish offer to go to Raqqah is unrealistic and unrealisable.


Syria:

The Syrian Army and its allies considered the Astana talks premature but went along with Russia, believing it was possible to reach a global cease-fire and split al-Qaida from other rebels who will join the peace talks. Turkey was unable to bring Ahrar al-Sham around the negotiation table and al-Qaida turned the table on everybody, forcing a return to the combat.

The Syrian Army is moving today on several fronts:

  • from al-Bab toward deir-Hafer, to create a demarcation line with Turkey and its proxies and cutting the road toward Raqqah, preventing Turkey and its proxies from occupying further land in northern Syria;

  • Palmyra (Tadmur) to regain control of the ancient city and push toward Deir-ezzour and Raqqah from the east. Again, the aim is to prevent any force from reducing the geographic seize of Syria as its is known today;

  • Gathering forces on the rural Aleppo fronts to enlarge the control of its forces toward tel el-Eiss and Fua/Kefraya and move toward Idlib, the al-Qaida stronghold.

All this indicates that Russia will find itself engaged in a broad combat before forcing the rebels to sit at the negotiation table and shift Turkey out of its unrealistic “multi-front dream”. Turkey is showing that it is not an adequate partner for Russia and Damascus. It is unstable in its strategy in Syria and its shifting alliance making it untrustworthy. Therefore, a more aggressive Syrian Army will be seen in the coming months on several fronts with the return of the Sukhoi more active than ever. Russia is waiting to see how Trump’s policy materialises in Syria. The Kremlin is refraining from being the initiator of further hostilities so as to avoid a rapid US blow back.

The US policy in Syria seems frantic and far-fetched without efficient powerful allies on the ground, and is unable to retake cities from ISIS with its Kurdish proxies alone. And the “honeymoon” between Washington and Riyadh will certainly have a substantial negative effect on the war in Syria. This will increase the closeness between Russia and Iran, but the tension between US and Russia is also expected to increase: one side (the US) wants the partition and the other (Russia) wants a unified Syria without al-Qaida and ISIS, and without Turkey occupying the north of Syria and a Saudi Arabia return to the Bilad al-Sham. At this stage one can only speculate on what this clash of incompatible objectives will produce on the ground in Syria.

A list of videos exposing the armed and dangerous 'White Helmets'.

Sarah Abed:

I've compiled a list of videos exposing the armed and dangerous #WhiteHelmets.
They are sectarian, armed, western backed #AlQaeda terrorists. Make sure everyone knows they are well paid actors!
I'll be adding more video links to this post as I review more videos.
10. https://www.youtube.com/shared?ci=PxhNqnztQpY this one I found very interesting. Isreali News Live Steven Ben-Nun mentioned both Vanessa Beeley and Eva Karene Bartlett and was telling the truth, I'm a little surprised honestly. Kinda unexpected :-/.

SOURCE | Sarah Abed Facebook post - 9 Jan 2017:
-


End. 

Syrian President dismisses 'cosmetic' anti-IS campaign

10 February 2017 

The humanitarian disaster affecting millions of Syrian refugees was caused by the policy of Western countries as well as regional powers, which supported terrorists in Syria, country’s President Bashar Assad said in an interview with the Yahoo News media outlet
.


Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview released on Friday that the United States is welcome to join the battle against terrorists in Syria - as long as it is in cooperation with his government and respects the country's sovereignty. In an exclusive interview with Yahoo News at a presidential office in Damascus, Assad said that some of the refugees are definitely terrorists. President Assad lashed out a report of "torture and mass killings in a Syrian military prison" as a product of a fake news era. 

The humanitarian disaster affecting millions of Syrian refugees was caused by the policy of Western countries as well as regional powers, which supported terrorists in Syria, President Assad said in the interview.

"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," Assad said. The Syrian government is ready to accept all refugees that had earlier left Syria, the Syrian president pointed out.

"HOW COULD IS EXPORT OUR OIL WITH TRUCKS TO TURKEY?"

The United States and its allies sported terrorist in Syria, Assad said. The United States conducts a "cosmetic" military campaign against the outlawed Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which suffered losses in the wake of Russia's involvement, Syrian President added.

"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 the 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…" Assad said.

"It started shrinking after the Russian intervention, not the American one," he was quoted as saying.

"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 the cosmetic campaign against IS" he added.

"US TROOPS WELCOME IN SYRIA TO FIGHT TERRORISM"

The Syrian leader appeared to make a gesture to the new U.S. President Donal Trump in the interview, saying he welcomes Trump's declaration that he will make it a priority to fight terrorism - a goal Assad said he also shares.

"We agree about this priority," Assad said of Trump. "That's our position in Syria, the priority is to fight terrorism." Assad also told Yahoo News that his country would welcome U.S. "participation" in the fight against terrorism but it has to be in cooperation with the Syrian government.

"If you want to start genuinely, as the United States ... 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 Syria. 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," he said.

Assad added that sending troops is not enough - a genuine political position on respecting Syria's sovereignty and unity is also needed.

"PRODUCT OF FAKE NEWS AREA"

Assad also blasted a report released this week by Amnesty International in which the group claimed as many as 13,000 prisoners were hanged in over four years in one of Syria's prisons and later buried in mass graves.

"It's always biased and politicised, and it's a shame for such an organisation to publish a report without a shred of evidence," Assad said.

He said the photos have been photoshopped and dismissed a Federal Bureau of Investigation report that stated the photos were real and not doctored.

"If the FBI say something, it's not evidence for anyone, especially for us," he said. "The most important thing: If you take these photos to any court in our 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 a judgment. It's just propaganda."

He added that the United States talking about human rights is hypocritical due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and American support for Saudi Arabia.

"The United States is in no position to talk about human rights," he said.

SAFE ZONE

He also rejected an initiative that calls for creating "safe zones" in Syria for refugees, an idea also been floated by Trump as a substitute for resettling Syrian refugees in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"Safe zones for Syrians could only happen when you have stability and security," Assad said. "It's much more practical and less costly to have stability than to create safe zones. It's not a realistic idea at all."

Assad further noted that safe zones in Syria, long favoured by terrorist backers such as Turkey and Qatar, and said a political settlement to end the war should be the way to bring Syrians back to their homes.

'SOME TERRORISTS FLEEING SYRIA APPEAR AS PEACEFUL REFUGEES IN EUROPE'

Some of the terrorists that fought in Syria later fled to Europe and live there as "innocent" refugees, Bashar Assad said.

"You can find it on the Net … Those terrorists in Syria, holding the machine gun or killing people, they are peaceful refugees in Europe or in the West. There may not be many terrorists in Syria, but Assad warned it doesn't take many to do damage. "You don't need a significant number to commit atrocities," he added.

Speaking of the US President Donald Trump’s decree banning immigrants from certain countries to enter the United States, Assad stated that it was "an American issue," but added that as for the peaceful refugees from Syria, his priority as president was to bring them back home, "not help them immigrate."

ASSAD SAID TO STEP DOWN IF SYRIANS WANT HIM TO DO SO

Assad told the Yahoo News, he would step aside as soon as Syrians wanted him to do so. "Definitely, for me whenever Syrian people don’t want me to be in that position I would leave right away," Assad said. He also did not rule out holding early presidential elections if "the Syrian people think about early presidential elections or any kind of presidential elections."


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President Bashar al-Assad interview given to Yahoo News


10 Feb 2017

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 its 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: I 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?

Americans’ only way to defeat terrorism in Syria is through cooperation with Syria’s government and people

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?

Sending troops is not enough for fighting terrorism, a genuine political position on respecting Syria’s sovereignty and unity is needed

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?

Any cooperation in any conflict around the world needs rapprochement between the Russians and the Americans

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?

The idea of safe zones is not realistic….It’s much more viable, practical and less costly to have stability than to create safe zones

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?

The refugee crisis was created due to Western, Turkish, Qatari and Saudi support to terrorists

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?

US ban of refugee entry is an American issue..my responsibility as Syria’s President ti to restore stability to help Syrian refugees go back home

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?

Aleppo is an important step in the fight against terrorism, but the turning point was taking the decision to fight terrorism in spite of propaganda

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.

The US is in no position to say “I don’t open relations [with Syria] because of human rights, as it has killed millions of civilians since Vietnam war till this moment

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 concrete evidence. You can make any report, you can pay money to anyone like Qatar did last year. They paid money for such a report, and they brought their own witnesses, and they 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?

ISIS started shrinking after Russian intervention not the American intervention

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.


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