This report is on the perspective of the Syrian Government. 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). At the time of writing, we were not able to obtain our usual, “What the government is thinking” report.
The current report is subdivided into four sections:
1. What Bashar al Assad is saying
2. What Jihad Makdissi is saying
3. What Walid Muallem is saying
4. What the government is doing:
What President Bashar al Assad is saying
The Syrian Arab News Agency reported (yesterday 5 July in part three of a long interview given by President Bashar al Assad to the Cumhurieyt Turkish daily) that the crisis in Syria was “mostly external”. For Assad, this is proven by the presence of Arab and extremist Islamist militants now fighting in Syria as well as the advanced weapons that are being smuggled across the border and the flow of money from the outside.
When asked about a UN human rights report blaming the Syrian army for much of the bloodshedthroughout Syria, Assad responded that the UN “only express the balance of international powers; and the objective in the end is to put more pressure on Syria” and so “it would be stupid to consider what these international organizations say a point of reference about reality.”
President Assad attended a meeting with Directors of the Religious Endowments (Awqaf) Departmentsfrom the Syrian provinces and stressed the role that religious institutions could play in spreading “awareness of moderate values” in the place of the extremist views of the rebels which remain “alien to Syrian society”.
President Bashar al-Assad said he regretted the recent downing of the Turkish military plane strongly. President Assad said that his priority was to “to work hard in Syria so that things do not reach the stage of confrontation.”
What Government spokesman Jihad Makdissi is saying
Jihad Makdissi has been back in the public eye this week, lured out partly by events on the Turkey-Syria border, mainly the shooting down of the Turkish phantom jet last week. Makdissi stated that the incident was an “accident, not an attack”, further explaining that the aircraft was unidentifiable, therefore shot down. The fact that it was a Turkish plane was only discovered later.
The Turkish foreign ministry declared the plane to have been in International air space, however Makdissi claimed the plane to have “violated Syrian airspace”, and therefore the shooting of the plane was a defensive measure, contrary to what he said about it being an accident. (NCF Note: The plane has since been proved to have been in Syrian airspace when shot down – there are a number of independent sources that confirm this including the US Defense Department – however the discovery of the bodies of the pilots 8.6 miles off the Syrian coast by a secret mission by the Nautilus submarine used to find the wreckage of the Titanic makes it almost irrefutable).
Tensions were thought to have increased between Makdissi and the Turkish foreign minister when Makdissi un-followed him on Twitter. Makdissi later said it was not a big deal, and was only because the twitter account was in Turkish.
Makdissi has also issued statements regarding the Annan peace plan. On Syria’s behalf, Makdissi states that Syria is optimistic about the peace plan, and that Syria greatly appreciates the Arab Leagues’ stance on disarmament and plans to establish a multi-party democratic state.
What Foreign Minister Walid al Muallem is saying
Walid al Muallem, the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, has been quiet since his meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, last week. There have, however, been various statements issued by the Foreign Ministry. It stated that it was satisfied with the outcome of the Geneva Conference, which took place on Saturday June 30:
"Syria welcomes the final statement issued at the end of the conference, especially the substantial points that talked about commitment to the sovereignty, independence, safety and unity of the Syrian territories.”
It was, however, keen to stress that there were several aspects of the statement that needed clarifying, but it did not mention these specifically.
The publication of almost 2.5 million emails relating to the Syria situation by Wikileaks, including emails sent by the Syrian government to its external allies, will put the Foreign Ministry, and Walid al Muallem, at the centre of international media focus in the coming weeks.
What the Syrian government is doing
Government Actions. Week ending July 05 2012
The government has increased shelling offensive in parts of Damascus controlled by rebels as fighting spreads towards the capital. The towns of Misraba and Rihan near Douma have been relentlessly targeted. Douma and Zamalka have become virtual ghost towns. Mutilated corpses were discovered by residents, who said 11 people had been killed and blamed pro-government militiamen for the atrocity which they said took place after the army had shelled the towns.
In the past week attacks by the government have been reported in Dera’a, Zamaka, Idlib, Aleppo and Homs.
The shooting down of the Turkish plane last week by Syrian forces has been followed by a serious escalation of tension between the two countries, with Turkey sending military convoys to the Syrian border. Turkish officials claim Syrian forces have deliberately set brush fires alight along the Syrian border.
The Free Syrian Army reported that the Syrian government has moved 170 tanks to Aleppo in response to Turkey moving troops to the border.
Meanwhile Human Rights Watch has documented more than 20 torture methods used systematically by the government. “Evidence of 27 torture centres points to a state policy,” the international human rights group said in a report.
In another development, the Syrian government will reverse the decision to remove subsidies on essentials such as petrol, electricity and foodstuffs. The initial decision was taken before the uprisings began at the start of 2011, but the continuing crisis has crippled the economy and put pressure on the business class of Damascus. According to the 2012 budget, the subsidies will account for at least 30 percent of the $27 billion that the government plans to spend this year.