NCF daily Report on Syrian Issue – The Government – Report dated 21 June 2012 (evening)
This report, as will be the case every Thursday whilst this crisis continues, is on the perspective of the Syrian Government. Again, stating the obvious – what we are giving here in today’s report is NOT the Next Century Foundation’s view. It is the Syrian Government’s view (or rather, to be precise, elements of the Syrian government).
It is subdivided into four sections:
1. What the Government is thinking
2. What the government is saying
3. What the government is doing
4. An alternative Syrian establishment view
What the Government is Thinking
The following is a perspective given privately to the Next Century Foundation by an individual close to the inner circle in Syria’s government. It represents just one inner circle perspective. However, the point of this important perspective which we give in its entirety, the view, indeed the hope, being expressed to the NCF here, is that America and Russia may start to sing from the same hymnbook. But lest you misunderstand, the hope being expressed here is that America may move towards the Russian perspective, not vice-versa:
“Today, the second generation of the Assad Dynasty leads Syria. Hafez al-Assad became a master at balancing his relationships between Russia and the United States (especially during the Cold War). Which is one reason why the United States is reluctant to take part in a Syrian intervention today.
“The close relationship between Syria and Russia is demonstrated by their military and financial alliances. Russia’s only military base in the Mediterranean is on the Syrian coast. This strategic coordination between both nations is what has helped the Russia-Syria relationship to stay as strong. The Russian Government will never let go of their only Arab ally. Russia remains the Syrian Government’s strongest supporter despite the uprising. Hafez al-Assad’s agreement to assist the United States during the Gulf War in August 1990 also put Syria into the United States’ list of friends. Syria has a perfect geopolitical location and in safer days before the uprising, both the United States and the Syrian Government made sure to keep a solid bond.
“After the death of Hafez al-Assad in 2,000, his son inherited his father’s position as head of State. A reformer led the country and the constitution was changed. The Syrian Government could never have predicted that an uprising would happen. Bashar al-Assad had close ties with powerful political figures such as Nicolas Sarkozy. Bashar al-Assad even attended the July 14th 2008 Bastille Day ceremony as the French president’s guest of honor.
“Then came the Arab Spring and the Syrian Government decided to stay on the right side of politics by continuing its aid to groups like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah. By doing that, the Government thought that they could stay sheltered from the Arab spring. We all know that it was not the case. The Syrian Government knew that something had gone horribly wrong for us after the protests in March last year.
“The Syrian Government underestimated the Gulf countries’ power in the uprising. Nations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar were angrily surprised at the Syrian Government for not having dropped its ties with Iran. This is manifested by the Gulf’s frontal attack on the Syrian Government (via the opposition in Syria). The Syrian Government has been confronted by an increasingly well organized movement (the Gulf, Turkey and the Syrian revolutionists). Syria’s supporters are nevertheless close at hand (Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Russia). The Syrian Government knows how to keep its allies if it wants to see its own political survival in the future.
“The Assad Government accepts the UN’s presence in Syria and the Kofi Annan five-point plan. Bashar al-Assad knows that the only way he could stay in power is if he cooperates with the opposition and changes the constitution. This is exactly what he did. The Syrian Government had organized elections and set a new constitution. The only problem being the cooperation with the opposition, which believes that the whole thing is fraudulent. Bashar al-Assad knows that Syria has reached a point of no return due to the amplitude of the situation in Syria.
“The Syrian Government knows that its fate remains in the hand of external factors. Since the uprising is highly influenced by powerful countries, the regaining of political stability is a stony path. The Syrian opposition is playing the role of the spoiler in the uprising therefore the Syrian Government should not really be expected to abide with a treaty. The verdict from the Los Cabos reunion in Mexico on June 19th between the United States and Russia will help determine the next step in resolving the Syrian crisis.”
What the Government is saying
Over the past week, the Syrian government has been unusually quiet, with its newsagency (SANA), issuing statements that appear less and less substantive. An example is a story regarding the evacuation of civilians from the City of Homs (where the fighting is currently most intense). Whilst the UN and other aid agencies have been declaring that they wish to make attempts to evacuate civilians (especially women, children and the sick), the government has repeatedly refused to stop their shelling of Homs (though it has agreed to a two-hour ceasefire but that has not been unilateral but subject to rebel agreement to reciprocate). SANA claims that the government have been trying to evacuate civilians from Homs, but that their attempts have been hindered by various ‘terrorist groups’, therefore, the statement concludes, the government has complied with the UN peace plan.
Other statements issued during the week include:
- Many accounts of ‘eyewitnesses’ falsifying evidence they have provided to the outside world.
- Declarations by parliament that reforms have been made. The reforms include establishing four permanent committees on public freedoms, human rights, youth, family, children and press. Some members of parliament have also been discussing the reinstatement of a temporary ‘state of emergency’.
Jihad Makdissi the spokesman for the Syrian Foreign Ministry has also been unusually quiet during the past week. He has not updated his twitter posts since last Saturday. His last posts include reassurances to the public that the UN observer mission will not abandon Syria, and that Putin still firmly backs the Syrian president Bashar Al Assad. If you are an analyst, the original tweets can be viewed on @Makdissi
Jihad Makdissi's Tweets (15th and 16th of June 2012):
Jihad Makdissi (15 June): Commenting on French statement that Russia is discussing Exit for Syrian President. Jihad reports that Lavrov said to him: "If that was really said, it's not true". In a subsequent tweet, Jihad comments that Lavrov added: "Such discussions R not being held & cannot be held, because 2 decide for the Syrian people contradicts our position completely”.
Jihad Makdissi (15 June): UN Gen. Robert Mood said: "Different armed groups R not unified. When we go into hotspots I am seeing that control of the area is not growing”.
Jihad Makdissi: (16 June) UN: “Suspension will be reviewed on daily basis. Operations will resume when we see fit 4 us 2 carry out our mandated activities”.
Jihad Makdissi: (16 June) asked whether the UN had left Syria: they [UN] suspended their patrols only, and will review it every day. Nobody will leave. We need 2 support their mission
Jihad Makdissi: (16 June) asked whether the UN was impartial: “We need to differentiate between the Plan and the performance of a few observers”.
What the Government is doing
Government Actions. June 21 2012
The Syrian government has continued its shelling campaign around the country. Homs remains the centre of the violence, and as of 14.30 BST, an intense crackdown in the city has stopped civilian evacuation missions by the International Committee of the Red Cross from taking place. The government continues to receive Russian arms, as was confirmed earlier in the week when the MV Alaed was stopped on its way to Syria, carrying military helicopters.
Efforts are now being concentrated on understanding who has defected from the government, and where they have fled. A growing number of junior and even mid-ranking civil service, police and military figures are abandoning the Syrian government and either joining the Free Syrian Army or seeking asylum abroad. The majority of those from the armed forces to defect have thus far been conscripts. However, today (June 21), a colonel in the Syrian air force flew his MiG-21 jet to Jordan and asked for asylum. King Abdullah is reluctant to get involved in the Syrian crisis, but if the number of defectors fleeing to his country increases, then a more definitive policy may have to be established.
Despite The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights stating that 15,000 had been killed since the beginning of the uprising, it seems as though the government’s policy of sustained shelling, raids and checkpoints – in the hope of identifying and eliminating ‘terrorists’ – will continue for the foreseeable future.
The Syrian Establishment view
The perspective of a Christian Syrian intellectual
Our intention here is to give you a feeling for what some Syrians who are men and women of stature are thinking. This time we give you a Syrian Christian voice. It will remind you, like the first voice in today’s series, of the importance placed by many Syrians on Russia.
“Given the coldness at the G20 summit, I predict that the next few years will prove very interesting.
“I feel Syria although insignificant in world affairs is now the starting point to test whether the US and Europe have the stomach for action.
“In my personal opinion, Syria is now being used as a 'test bed' to see how far the US will go to protect its interests.
“China and Russia have smelt blood. They know that financially the US are 'broke' as China sits on a trillion dollar reserve and Europe face internal banking troubles.
“So, Militarily the 'Old Cold war comrades' have begun to use 'odd' military manoeuvres to stretch the US Defence dept. pushing US borrowing costs further.
“The recent Russian Military ship anchoring near North Sea, China and Russia Frigates being deployed to Tartous (Syria) and China 'knocking' near Australasian waters prove that they are starting to flex their muscles after their recent rise. Never before have China and Russia expanded militarily outside their 'safe zones' until now.
“I sense this is to do to the US that which was done unto Russia during the Cold War . . . i.e. the tables are turning.
“This may be a turning point in our history where the emergence of those with physical resources i.e. Oil, Gas, Minerals etc. now actually value resources more than paper currency.
“We may be looking at a new era of exchange as the Euro collapses and the US dollar will possibly be worthless in some time to come. Nevertheless . . . the next few months/years will be interesting and I'm sure we will all be following this with every breath as it unfolds.
“Just a Political Analysis with a sense of awareness . . . Frightening maybe . . . but an impending reality . . . we have entered another cold war.”