Monday 22 April 2013

Assad on Black Sunday: “U.S. remains pragmatic”

Syrian president tells visiting Lebanese group:
  • Americans have been pragmatic throughout the crisis
  • Europe is confused
  • For Russia, defending Damascus is defending Moscow’s status
  • The Arab League is blind as a bat
  • Lebanon is not in Africa to dissociate itself from Syria
  • The Aoun-Franjieh-Ra’i triplet is Lebanon’s godsend
  • The FSA is undone and we’re fighting al-Qaeda
  • The battle will be long and our sole choice is to win it

The Local Coordination Committees of Syria say government forces and militiamen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed a record 566 people, many of them women and children, across the country on Black Sunday.

At least 85 of the fatalities were in the town of Jdaidet al-Fadl near Damascus, which the army retook from opposition forces (see my April 16 post “Syrian army secures Damascus with ‘four walls’”).

At the same time, Assad was talking his fill on the Syria war to a deputation of supporters from Lebanon.
According to Beirut’s pro-regime daily al-Safir today, the Syrian president told his Lebanese loyalists at al-Muhajereen palace in Damascus the following:
Lebanon is not in Africa to dissociate itself from Syria
“Lebanon’s official policy of dissociation from the Syria war is misplaced. One cannot dissociate himself when he is in the line of fire and when the flames are approaching. I don’t understand! What does this policy mean exactly? Does it mean transposing Lebanon into Africa pending an end of the Syria crisis, when Lebanon would revert to its natural spot?”
The Aoun-Franjieh-Ra’i triplet is Lebanon’s godsend
Three Assad apologists -- Hezbollah ally Michel Aoun, the one-time Lebanese Army Commander who now leads the Free Patriotic Movement, MP and Marada Movement leader Suleiman Franjieh, and Maronite Cardinal Bechara Boutros al-Ra’i – are “farsighted, nationalist and insightful leaders…
“To Aoun’s credit, he tussled then made peace with us honorably. His position on the Syria crisis is so much more credible because he was not our friend in the past -- on the contrary, he was a vicious adversary. That’s why we recognize the value of his stance.
“As for MP Suleiman Franjieh, I can’t say more than he is my friend and my brother.
“Cardinal Ra’i is a guiding light.
“Aoun and Franjieh consolidate the Christians’ Eastern dimension and consecrate the Christians’ enrichment of the region’s social fabric.
“The same can be said of the Armenians who did not turn their back on Lebanon during its ordeal or on Syria now.
“While Islam blends us with the Kurds and the Arab identity binds us to the Christians, the Armenians succeeded in integrating our societies.”
The FSA is undone and we’re fighting al-Qaeda
“Developments on the ground are going well.
“Our strategy is to keep Damascus and the other cities under army control. As concerns the countryside, we deliberately choose to clear some areas for tactical reasons at times.
“Better we sap (their strength) than having them sap ours.
“The so-called Free (Syrian) Army is effectively undone. We’re now fighting al-Qaeda. Some 23 foreign nationalities are currently fighting on Syrian soil.
“Many advised us at the onset of the crisis to respond decisively. But you can’t do that to your own people on your home turf.
“Had we followed the counsel, the picture for some people would have looked blurred and we would have lost a few friends. Today, however, we are winning (the hearts and minds) of some of our adversaries.
“For example, we responded wisely when armed rebels broke into the Yarmouk Camp (for Palestinian refugees). We were urged to force them out.
“Instead, we reinforced our positions around the camp and fenced in the armed insurgents. In no time, we heard residents clamoring for the terrorists’ evictions from the camp…”
Generally, “the battle will be very long, but our sole choice is to win it.”
The Arab League is blind as a bat
“The Arab League is blind as a bat. It was originally set up to serve British interests. It never played a pan-Arab role, except in the days of Egypt’s late Gamal Abdel-Nasser.
For Russia, defending Damascus is defending Moscow’s status
“Moscow’s strategic decision to stand by the Syrian state is not for the love of our people and us. It is because Russia considers the battle to defend Damascus as a battle to defend the status and interests of Moscow.”
Today’s Russia is stronger than the former Soviet Union. Some people link the outcome of the Syria crisis to the meeting between Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland in June.
“From our side, we say Syria’s steadfastness and strength will impact on the summit and not the other way around.  We need to impose our rhythm on the summit instead of vice versa. Each of the two presidents will be looking at the facts on the ground in Syria to determine what he does.”
Americans have been pragmatic throughout the crisis
“The Americans have been pragmatic since the onset of the crisis. They don’t go to the limit. In the end, they go along with the winner.
“Europe is confused.”