Friday, October 03, 2014

Siwar al Assad addresses Tory Party Conference Fringe Meeting

Siwar al Assad, Director, ANN Satellite Television, was one of the speakers at a fringe meeting discussing the fault line dividing the Sunni and Shiite World held at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham

Introducing the event, chair Shree Wood, chief research officer, The Next Century Foundation, explained that the current wave of violence in the Middle East had been triggered by the invasion of Iraq by the US in 2003 but the original Shi’a-Sunni political conflict, which had now become religious, dated back to the seventh century. The structure that had contained Shi’a-Sunni tension had “cracked” in the Arab Spring, Wood explained.

Siwar Al Assad, said that in its 9,000 year history, Syria had passed through many disasters and wars but “this war seems to be one of the most difficult” because sophisticated weapons were being used and “many people were dying.” Nor could anyone have “any clear picture” as to how it was going to end, he said.

There had just been seven hours of debate in the UK parliament over the  airstrikes in Iraq. I heard that Parliament could have a meeting on Syria soon. How many hours will they need to talk about Syria?

The international community was not coordinating or trying to find a solution, said Siwar Al Assad. The great powers need to mount a joint effort, or else the chaos in Syria would spread further, he warned.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had the last local Al-Qaeda franchise in Iraq. He was killed in 2006. After his death, a Revolutionary Council led by Abu Omar Al Bagdadi was created. This Council was infiltrated by 16 ex officers of the Iraq Baath Party loyal to Saddam Hussein. This Council declared the Establishment of a  Islamic State (I.S.). Then Abu Omar Al Bagdadi was killed. Abubaker Al Bagdadi (Ibrahim Awad), encouraged by the Baathist officers, took over.

Meanwhile Al Nusra merged in 2012 with ISIS and the two factions had been squabbling with each other ever since until now that they have come under attack from America and the two factions have reached a fresh decision to shelve their differences and no longer fight each other.

The radical Islamist groups, linked to Al Qaeda, posed the most serious problems said Al Assad. The ideology of the Ba’ath party was to join all the Arabic countries together and had almost succeeded when the party had been ruling in Syria and Iraq. The outcome of the US-led airstrikes was being closely watched.

The regime existed in Damascus and did control most of Syria, said Al Assad. The regime does exist. The world has decided to ignore that fact. The world had to include the regime in a solution. Manufactured opposition had not known how to operate on the ground: they had sold the weapons that were donated to them by the West to the extremists. Reportedly, ISIS now earned £3-6m per day and no longer needed to be given weapons, said Al Assad. Bashar al-Assad was “as involved” in fighting ISIS insofar that the Syrian regime was “hitting the same targets”, and knew ISIS “better than anyone else”.

Syrians should sit around the table. Dialogue needed to begin in Syria, monitored by regional and world powers, without pre-conditions.

It was important to note that ISIS “had imperialist ideology”, warned al-Assad. The planet was “the planet of God” and they were “God’s people on Earth”. They would “never stop”, he said.

Question and answer

  1. Thelma Matuk, Conservative Sutton Coldfield, asked where American and British foreign policy went “so horribly wrong”. Al Assad agreed that the West did not understand the slow processes of the region, which was 500 years behind. “You are 500 years ahead of us”. It was important “to support gradual and peaceful change”.  We have to be patient. You have to support us.
  2. Gary Kent, Kurdistan Regional Government, said that he agreed that a key priority was to win over moderate Sunnis but asked how this could be reconciled with collaboration with Basher al-Assad or Iran. Also he felt that Iraq should amend rather than stop the policy of de-Baathification. He further stressed the need for Iraq to become a “confederation” as a further step towards Kurdish independence. The Sunni-Shia problem “was a very old problem”, said Al Assad, that today “did not exist”. It had been manufactured, he said. 90 per cent of Damascus were Sunni and still under regime control. Aleppo had been destroyed because the people had not joined the Revolution. It was the same in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Iraq: Sunni and Shia “did not hate each other”. The problem was between the Muslims and the Islamists, he said.
  3. Peter Goodwin (Conservative) asked about Russia’s role in the region. Al Assad said that it had mainly acted in Syria It sought to support governments to tackle terrorism, not a particular party or faction. Russia was still providing the Syrian regime with weapons, he said. Russia was encouraging dialogue without precondition and had engaged with all opposition parties, which would be the path toward a solution. The US had excluded some groups, he observed.
  4. Responding to a question from Councillor Karl Cole, Conservative South Leicestershire, on the “weakness” of the United Nations, al Assad said that ultimately the UN constituted individual nations. Nonetheless, it had been proven “inefficient” in many conflicts over the preceding 20 years, he said, and had started to lose credibility. This was dangerous because the Charter was “a guarantee for world stability and peace”. 

Shree Wood thanked delegates for attending, summed up, and closed the meeting.

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