The USG Open Source Center translates broadcasts from Arabic satellite television concerning the speech on Sunday of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which he again dismissed his opposition as terrorists and blamed outside hands at the same time as he called for a vague political process. The revolutionaries were scathing in their responses.
Pan-Arab TVs Al-Jazirah, Al-Arabiyah Air Reaction to Al-Asad Speech, Initiative
Monday, January 7, 2013
Document Type: OSC Summary …
Al-Arabiyah, within its 1300 GMT newscast
, carries excerpts of the Syrian president’s speech and interviews with the following people to comment on these excerpts:
Brigadier Salim Idris, chief of staff of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), by telephone from the Syrian-Turkish border,
and Saudi media man Jamal Khashuqji, via satellite from Jeddah
— by anchorwoman Suhayr al-Qaysi.
Al-Qaysi states that Syrian President Bashar al-Asad described the rebels in his speech as terrorists, and she asks Idris to comment.
Idris says: “Actually, this man read what had been written for him. We are not terrorists. He is the leader of the criminal and terrorist gang in Syria, who came to address the Syrians today, while he is the one who has been killing them.”
He adds: “He repeated today what he said in his first speech, that is, he leveled pre-arranged accusations against the rebels of being terrorists coming from abroad.” He says: This man does not see what is taking place around him.
Idris asks, then, if all the Syrian people are terrorists.
He adds: “I wonder how this man continues to level such accusations while he has been setting the entire country on fire, as witnessed by the world’s TV channels and media outlets as well as the international community, which has been watching without taking any action.”
Asked to explain how he can say that the international community is only watching at a time when Al-Asad has been claiming that the rebels are supported from abroad, Idris says: “This is not true. His claim is based on the fact that he does not want to admit that the Syrian people, after 40 years of the Al-Asad family’s rule, staged peaceful demonstrations to demand reforms, which were confronted by his murderous security gangs and shabbihah (pro-regime militia) who opened fire on the people, killed them, and set their houses on fire.”
He adds: “Al-Asad claimed that the revolution lacks intellectuals and leaders, as if he is one of the brightest intellectuals. We have not noticed any thought from him other than the mentality of killing and slaughtering.”
He reiterates his view that he brought sectarian gangsters from Iran to slaughter the Syrian people. He wonders: “Why did he and his father remain in power for 40 years? Does Syria lack anybody else capable of replacing them? He and his regime do not admit this fact. He is a tyrant like all other tyrants.”
Asked whether this speech is similar to the speeches made by the leaders of other countries prior to their fall, Idris expresses hope that Al-Asad will face the same fate as Al-Qadhafi soon, saying that the terms he used in all his speeches were the same, particularly his claims about foreign support for the rebels.
He adds: “Iran can do anything it wants in Syria and has been preventing him from departing the country. He has never been a decisioinmaker, and we, the Syrians, know very well that he is a puppet in the hands of the security people surrounding him.”
Asked whether the rebels will begin to use new tactics in this phase, Idris confirms that the rebels will surprise him soon, particularly as he will not depart Syria except by force. He says: “We reject his presence and the presence of all criminal gangs in Syria and we will not negotiate with them. We also reject any initiative or plan of which he, his gangs, all his security and non-security apparatuses, and everybody linked to this murderous regime are a part.”
Turning to Khashuqji in Jeddah, Al-Qaysi asks him whether new things have been noted in the speech.
Khashuqji says: “This speech should be treated on the regional level as if it has not been delivered,” stating that some leaks preceded the speech about an international deal for a peaceful settlement, as noted by the Saudi and Egyptian foreign ministers yesterday — a settlement that is accepted by the Syrian people — and also the statements made by Lakhdar Brahimi in this regard.
He adds: “Everybody expected Bashar to refer to this solution, but he did not and proved that he was detached from reality.”
He expresses belief that [UN Special Envoy Lakhdar] Brahimi is frustrated now, “because there was nothing in the speech that referred to reaching such a solution, which paves the way for a transitional period and the formation of an expanded government, based on the Geneva Declaration, which is supported by the Russians.”
He adds: “The only solution can be achieved through international intervention to put an end to the Syrian tragedy, because the Syrian regime looks identical to the Libyan regime during its last days.”
Asked whether the FSA has forced the regime’s army to apply defensive plans in the field, Khashuqji says that one should not be too optimistic and believe that this is true, explaining that the fighting in Syria has turned into a war between militias and that the regime’s militia enjoys air power and receives aid from Russia and other sides.
Concerning a conspiracy to partition Syria, he emphasizes that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey are strongly against the partition of Syria, stating that “the only side that accepts such a partition is the sectarian [i.e. ruling Alawite Shiite] side. This means that if a particular sect cannot rule all Syria, that side is ready to accept this sect to rule one part of Syria in order to guarantee Hizballah’s future and its unnatural expansion against history and politics.”
He calls on regional countries to intervene in order to prevent a civil war in Syria that might extend for two or three years. Asked to explain the form of this intervention, Khashuqji says that it will be similar to that which took place in Bosnia.
(… The pan-Arab TV channels, Dubai Al-Arabiyah Television in Arabic — Influential pan-Arab news channel espousing pro-Saudi Government views, social reform, and liberal values; member of MBC Group, owned by Saudi media tycoon Walid Al Ibrahim…)
Al-Jazirah, within its 1200 GMT newscast
, carries a report and interviews with Walid al-Bunni, spokesman for the opposition Syrian National Coalition, via Skype from Budapest, and Hamzah Mustafa, a researcher at the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, in the Doha studio, conducted by anchors Maryam Bil’aliyah and Tawfiq Taha.
Bil’aliyah begins by saying: “In an initial reaction to Al-Asad’s speech, the opposition Syrian National Coalition says that the speech aims to abort the diplomatic solution to the crisis.”
Asked whether the coalition has noticed anything new in the speech, Al-Bunni says that there was nothing new and that what was said was expected, adding: “However, what is new is that he (Al-Asad) wanted, through its timing and content, to abort any initiative for a political solution, whether made by the friends of the Syrian people or by some of the regime’s friends, such as the Russian Federation, which is preparing for a meeting with Brahimi and William Burns shortly. He wanted to say that any solution that does not call for the stability of his regime, restoring stability to it, or excluding the rebels from any dialogue would not be accepted.”
He adds that several Arab, regional, and international parties expressed a desire recently to reach a political solution that excludes Al-Asad from it, explaining that this why he announced his initiative, after consulting with the Iranians in order to convey a message that he is remaining in power and that stability should be restored to his regime.
Bil’aliyah states that Al-Asad invited the opposition inside and outside Syria to a dialogue. Al-Bunni denies that Al-Asad invited the opposition.
Asked if the opposition has an alternative to present, he says: “It is high time for the international community and the brothers and friends of the Syrian people to announce that this regime has no future and that they should support the Syrian opposition and provide it with weapons to enable it to overthrow this regime with the hands of the FSA. It is also high time for the international community to provide clear support for refugees inside and outside Syria; for the Russian Federation to tell Bashar al-Asad that he should not be part of the solution; and for the United States, the UN Security Council, and the Arab League to make sufficient efforts to stop the acts of killing and destruction against Syria and its citizens.”
Taha then asks Mustafa about the timing and objective of the speech, which coincides with some moves taken by his allies toward a political solution.
Mustafa says: “The timing of the speech comes to show Al-Asad’s false self-confidence, resulting from two main factors: One, it is because the international community has given him the green light to use all the means he has to crack down on the Syrian people, including the most deadly weapons. Two, it is because of the international community’s reservations about providing full support for the rebels on the ground, on both the military and political opposition levels. In this regard, we have seen complete reluctance by world powers, including the friends of Syria countries, while there are particular countries that are providing support for the regime by all means of survival. Accordingly, the regime has found within these current circumstances the opportunity to show higher morale and more self-confidence to prolong its stay in power.”
Asked whether Al-Asad wanted to abort the current diplomatic moves, even those led by his allies, or whether, by taking such a stand, he would give his allies stronger cards for negotiation, Mustafa says that Al-Asad’s initiative was designed to fit his own stand, in light of his description of the Geneva Declaration “as a secondary initiative, which he might use if it could match his own vision.” He adds that this initiative conforms to the Iranian initiative and that the ability of Russia to influence the Syrian regime is limited.
At 1504 GMT, Al-Jazirah
, within its 1500 GMT newscast, carries a statement by Suhayr al-Atasi, deputy head of the Syrian National Coalition, and an interview with Syrian writer and journalist Ahmad al-Haj Ali, by telephone from Damascus, by anchorwoman Rula Ibrahim.
Ibrahim says: “In an initial reaction to Al-Asad’s speech, the opposition Syrian National Coalition says that the speech aims to abort the diplomatic solution to the crisis. Suhayr al-Atasi, deputy head of the Syrian National Coalition, says that the opposition supports the political solution, but without Al-Asad, adding that the FSA will remain until the Syrians achieve freedom.”
Al-Atasi is then shown making a statement, saying: “He is now talking about takfiris (those who hold other Muslims to be infidels) and puppets. In the beginning, he described the rebels as germs and now he is describing them as puppets. We, in the National Coalition, expressed support for a political solution in Syria, but such a solution would not take place unless Al-Asad steps down from power, and emphasized that no solution would be achieved if Al-Asad were part of it. He claims that he is really concerned about Syria and the lives of the youth, while at the same time he is reassuring his aides, shabbihah, and killers that he will continue to fight until he finishes off the last terrorist, by which he means the last freedom-seeker.”
Turning to Al-Haj Ali in Damascus, Ibrahim asks him whether Al-Asad’s initiative will be appropriate to resolve the crisis in light of its rejection by the National Coalition. Al-Haj Ali says: “We should not give weight to this rhetoric, which promotes the continuation of terrorist acts and the setting of terms. They (opposition figures) talk as if they are gods.” He says that this goes unnoticed by everybody in the world.
He adds that “the solution is present and the invitation for a dialogue includes internal and external opposition, as well as those who are carrying weapons and those who are seeking to find a national solution.” He adds that the National Coalition represents a small number of members only, while the forces on the ground represent Al-Qa’ida, takfiris, and other terrorist groups. Ibrahim asks Al-Haj Ali whether the invitation is selective. He denies that it is selective, emphasizing that the homeland is for all Syrians and all are invited, except terrorists, who should be confronted.
(… Doha Al-Jazirah Satellite Channel Television in Arabic — Influential Qatari Government-funded pan-Arab news channel; generally critical of US Middle East policy; provides platform to opponents of some Arab governments; promotes human rights and political and social reforms)