In an interview with German TV broadcast Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "accused the U.S. of fueling the uprising, saying that Washington ultimately bears responsibility for the deaths of innocent civilians in the Middle Eastern nation," the Associated Press reported. -- He denied that the character of the situation in Syria had anything in common with the situations in Libya and Egypt, where Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak were overthrown by popular uprisings last year. -- Assad said the U.S. "is partnering with those 'terrorists . . . with weapons, money, or public and political support at the United Nations. They offer the umbrella and political support to those gangs to . . . destabilize Syria." -- "The interview, the third Assad has given to a Western news organization since last year, was conducted Thursday in a government guest house in Damascus and recorded by Syria's state television, according to ARD [which stands for Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, a joint organization of Germany's regional public-service broadcasters]." -- In reporting on the interview, Voice of America noted that "[i]nfluential Republican U.S. Senator John McCain . . . told CBS television Sunday that the Obama administration should arm the opposition trying to topple President Assad so there can be what he called a balanced fair fight." -- In its report on McCain's Sunday-TV intevention, AFP suggested that McCain's attack was in the nature of a political attack on the Obama administration. -- "It is shameful, the total lack of leadership that the United States has displayed for the last 14 months," McCain exclaimed, hyperbolically. -- "McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a leading voice in Congress on military and security matters, has argued for months that Washington should deliver weapons to aid rebel forces in Syria seeking to oust Assad," AFP said. -- Pulling out the stops, McCain said that "Russian arms are pouring in, Iranians are on the ground, and people are being massacred, tortured, raped, and murdered as a matter of policy by Bashar al-Assad." -- COMMENT: The fire-breathing McCain might as well have been scripted by some of the chapter titles of Norman Solomon's War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death (John Wiley & Sons, 2005), such as "America Is a Fair and Noble Superpower," "This Guy Is a Modern-Day Hitler," "This Is about Human Rights," "They Are the Agressors, Not Us," and "Our Soldiers Are Heroes, Theirs Are Inhuman." ...
IN TV INTERVIEW, ASSAD ACCUSES U.S. OF FUELING SYRIAN UPRISING, SAYS NO COMPARISON TO LIBYA
July 8, 2012
Syrian President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he is not afraid of meeting the same fate as the deposed and disgraced leaders of Libya and Egypt, saying he has nothing in common with them.
In one of his rare interviews with Western media since the deadly uprising in Syria erupted last year, Assad brushed off a question about whether he feared for his family, including his wife and three children.
"It's a completely different situation," he told German broadcaster ARD. "What's happening in Egypt is different from what is happening in Syria . . . You cannot compare," he said.
He also rejected any comparisons with Libya, where rebels helped by NATO air strikes toppled the regime. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi was killed while fleeing advancing opposition fighters.
"Describing what happened to Qaddafi, this is savage, this is crime," he said in the interview which was conducted in English.
The 16 months of upheaval in Syria, spurred by the Arab Spring's pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, have left well over 14,000 people dead, according to activists. They accuse the autocratic ruler of crushing legitimate protests seeking reforms by waging a war against his own people.
But in the interview, the 46-year-old Assad who has ruled Syria since taking over from his father in 2000, accused the U.S. of fueling the uprising, saying that Washington ultimately bears responsibility for the deaths of innocent civilians in the Middle Eastern nation.
The U.S. is partnering with those "terrorists ... with weapons, money or public and political support at the United Nations," Assad said. "They offer the umbrella and political support to those gangs to ... destabilize Syria."
Assad rejected responsibility of his security forces for the violence, claiming that "supporters of the government, the victims from the security and the army" far outnumber those among civilians.
Instead, he told ARD that an opposition made up of terrorists, gangs, "a mixture, an amalgam of Al Qaeda (and) other extremists" is responsible for the violence.
When asked directly about the killing of more than 100 civilians in the Syrian village of Houla in May, he blamed it on gangs who "came in hundreds from outside the city."
The massacre caused an international outcry, and U.N. investigators have since concluded that Syrian government troops could be behind the killings.
Assad said a "majority of the people ask for reforms, political reforms (but) not freedom." He stressed that he still had the overall support of Syria's people, firmly ruling out stepping down.
"The president shouldn't run away from challenge and we have a national challenge now in Syria," he said.
While he said he was ready for political dialogue with the opposition, Assad left no doubt that he would fight those his government perceives as terrorists.
"But as long as you have terrorism and as long as the dialogue didn't work, you have to fight the terrorism. You cannot keep just making dialogue while they are killing your people and your army," he said.
The main obstacles to a peaceful solution to the conflict are the nations supporting the opposition, namely Saudi Arabia and Qatar who send armaments, Turkey which helps with logistics and smuggling across the border and, finally, U.S. political support, he said.
The interview, the third Assad has given to a Western news organization since last year, was conducted Thursday in a government guest house in Damascus and recorded by Syria's state television, according to ARD.
The interview for ARD's foreign policy program "Weltspiegel" was conducted by Juergen Todenhoefer, a former media executive and lawmaker for Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative party. He has published a number of books and essays on Islam, the war against terror in the years since the Sept. 11 attacks, and on Iraq and Afghanistan.
When Todenhoefer asked Assad how Syria would react to a military intervention, the Syrian leader vowed to stand up to the attackers.
"Whether you're prepared or not, you've got to defend your country, but you have to be prepared," he said.
In a show of force, Syria began large-scale military exercises Sunday to simulate defending the country against outside "aggression."
Some in Syria's fractured opposition have appealed to the West for foreign forces to step in to stop the bloodshed, but Western nations are reluctant to intervene in Syria in part because unlike the military intervention that helped bring down Gadhafi in Libya, the Syrian conflict has the potential to quickly escalate.
Damascus has a web of allegiances to powerful forces including Shiite powerhouse Iran and Lebanon's Hezbollah and there are concerns that a military campaign could pull them into a wider conflagration.
Damascus' staunchest ally, Iran, meanwhile, warned Sunday of a "catastrophe" in the region if no political solution to the Syrian conflict is found.
And Syria's other main partner, Russia, has over the past months prevented the U.N. Security Council from adopting tougher measures.
U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan, who is the architect of an international plan to end the crisis, acknowledged in an interview published Saturday that the international community's efforts to find a political solution to the escalating violence in Syria have failed. [NOTE: For a translation of Annan's remarks to Le Monde, which are mischaracterized in this article, see here. --R.T.] Annan arrived in the Syrian capital Sunday for talks with Assad, his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said.
ASSAD: U.S. HINDERING PEACE IN SYRIA
Voice of America
July 8, 2012
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says outside supporters of those he calls terrorists -- including the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar -- are hindering peace in Syria.
In an interview with German television Sunday, Mr. Assad accused the United States of being partially responsible for the deaths of civilians by partnering with the rebels.
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay has urged Syria to let independent investigators look into Mr. Assad's charges that terrorists and not the Syrian government are behind the violence. He has not replied.
U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan is in Damascus for talks with President Assad, after admitting that international efforts to stem the bloodshed in Syria have failed. [NOTE: For a translation of Annan's remarks to Le Monde, which are mischaracterized in this article, see here. --R.T.] His plan calls for an immediate halt to the violence and talks between the opposition and government.
Influential Republican U.S. Senator John McCain is calling the U.S. response to the calamity in Syria so far “shameful and disgraceful.” McCain told CBS television Sunday that the Obama administration should arm the opposition trying to topple President Assad so there can be what he called a balanced fair fight.
McCain noted that Russia is sending arms to the Syrian government and Iranian forces are on the ground.
The United States has been reluctant to send the Syrian opposition anything more than logistical support, mainly because it says the opposition is not unified and has no clear leadership.
Also Sunday, Syrian state media announced the start of large-scale military drills along the country's coast, to practice repelling an attack by sea.
More than 14,000 people, including thousands of civilians, have been killed in the 16 months since the start of the anti-Assad uprising.
Rebels accuse Mr. Assad of being a murderous dictator. Human rights groups say his forces target civilians and are responsible for rape and torture.
McCAIN SLAMS 'SHAMEFUL' U.S. INACTION ON SYRIA
July 8, 2012
WASHINGTON -- Senator John McCain accused President Barack Obama and his administration on Sunday of leading a "shameful and disgraceful" U.S. response to the carnage in Syria.
"The fact is, the United States has played no leadership role," the influential senator and former Republican presidential candidate told CBS television, referring to efforts to halt the brutal 16-month crackdown.
"Now 14,000 people have been massacred by Bashar al-Assad. The United States of America, its performance so far has been shameful and disgraceful."
McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and a leading voice in Congress on military and security matters, has argued for months that Washington should deliver weapons to aid rebel forces in Syria seeking to oust Assad.
Obama has demanded that Assad stand down and offered logistical support to the opposition, but his administration -- which is seeking to wind down a decade of war in Afghanistan after ending the controversial Iraq mission -- has ruled out using force in Syria.
International efforts to squeeze by isolating Assad and seeking sanctions against his regime have been frustrated by Russian and Chinese opposition at the U.N. Security Council.
"It is shameful, the total lack of leadership that the United States has displayed for the last 14 months," McCain said. "The president of the United States should be speaking out for the people of Syria."
McCain renewed his call for military aid as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, an international envoy on the Syria crisis, conceded Sunday that his efforts so far have failed to end nearly 16 months of bloodshed.
"We should get arms to them so that we can balance the forces," he said. "It is not a fair fight. Russian arms are pouring in, Iranians are on the ground, and people are being massacred, tortured, raped, and murdered as a matter of policy by Bashar al-Assad."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that time was running out for Assad and his regime and it needed to start a political transition to save the country from a "catastrophic assault."
"It should be abundantly clear to those who support the Assad regime their days are numbered," Clinton told reporters on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo.
Clinton was speaking after attending talks in Paris on Friday in which countries pledged to increase pressure on Assad to step down by seeking a tough U.N. resolution backed by a threat of sanctions.
But McCain urged faster more concrete action.
"We need to establish a sanctuary so that they can organize, they can resist, and the can prevail," he said.
"I believe that some day he, Bashar al-Assad will go, my question is to the secretary of state and the president of the United States is, how many more have to die before we take action to help these people with other nations?"
Kofi Annan, the U.N. and Arab League envoy on the Syrian crisis, arrived in Damascus Sunday for talks with Assad but, by his own admission, his peace plan is failing to stop the bloodshed.
More than 17,000 people have now died since the uprising began in March last year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
On Sunday at least 46 people, including 20 civilians, were killed across Syria as Assad's forces attempted to storm the rebel strongholds of Qusayr and Rastan in the central province of Homs, the Observatory said.
|< Prev||Next >|