NIGHTWATCH: Syria Assad Interview, Other Comments

02 Diplomacy, 03 Environmental Degradation, 04 Inter-State Conflict, 05 Civil War, 05 Iran, 06 Russia, 07 Other Atrocities, 08 Proliferation, 08 Wild Cards

Syria: President Asad gave an interview to Le Figaro which was published by the Syrian news agency Sana on 3 September. Excerpts follow.

Asad denied Syrian forces launched a chemical attack. He said Syria has no motive to make such an attack because it is winning the fight. He challenged the US to produce its proof and show it to the UN since the party making the accusations has the burden of proving them.

He said his soldiers were wounded in the attack on the 21st and the UN inspectors visited them in hospital.

He accused the US President of being a weak leader who succumbed to pressure from small groups and as one who starts wars instead of prevents them.

Concerning a Syrian response to a US attack, he reminded the interviewer that the architects of a war only control the first shot. He said the first and the greatest danger is that the situation will explode into a regional war.

In response to a question about Russian support he said,

“Today, stability in the region depends on the situation in Syria; Russia fully fathoms this. Russia is neither defending the President nor Syria, but rather it is defending stability in this region knowing all too well that otherwise it will also be affected. To assess the situation through the narrow lens of a Syrian-Iranian alliance is a naive and over simplistic view; we are dealing with a situation of far greater significance.”

Concerning contacts with Americans, he said,

“I don’t think anyone can trust the Americans; I don’t think there is a country in the world that can guarantee that the Americans will or will not take any form of action towards another country, so it is pointless to look for such reassurances. The Americans adopt one position in the morning, only to endorse the complete opposite in the evening. As long as the US does not comply with or listen to the UN, we should not be reassured.”

He saw no reason why the US could not wait until after the UN lab tests are finished.

Assad blamed the fighting almost entirely on foreign terrorists.

“…today we are fighting terrorists, 80-90% of them affiliated to Al-Qaida. These terrorists are not interested in reform, or politics, or legislations. The only way to deal with the terrorists is to strike them; only then can we talk about political steps. So in response to your question, the solution today lies in stopping the influx of terrorists into Syria and stopping the financial, military or any other support they receive.”

He cited Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the US, France, Britain and Turkey as supporting the terrorists.

He said he considers the present French government’s policies to be an enemy of the Syrian people, but not the French people.

Comment: The interview summarized the main issues and Syria’s position. The written text indicates Asad is well informed and articulate in answering the questions. He expressed views that echo in many countries. He did not deny that chemicals were used, he blamed their use on the opposition.

UN: For the record. On 3 September, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that any unilateral punitive military action against Syria would be illegal. He said the only lawful uses of military force by UN members are in self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter and pursuant to Security Council approval.

Special comment: The thrust of US public discourse centers on US military action and its effect. Very little attention and intelligent commentary are being paid to the ripple effects from the manners in which Syria and its allies will respond and the measures the US and its allies need to take to minimize damage around the world

Both Hizballah and Iran have joined Syria in threatening responses. Hizballah and the Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force have the capacity for terrorist attacks on every continent. US targets, from tourists to business enterprises, are vulnerable everywhere.

As time passes without action since 21 August, the outrage over the chemical attack is in danger of succumbing to the inuring effects of too much TV exposure of the same images. What is likely to emerge to replace those images is the image of the most powerful country in the history of the world attacking Syria without waiting for the UN to announce its findings

Readers may be confident that the Syrian propagandists already have developed an information strategy for showing the world images of dead women and children from stray US missiles.

Israel-US and Russia-Syria: Press services reported and showed video and the US Defense Department released a press statement that the US and Israel fired one or two missiles to test Israel’s Arrow ballistic missile defense system. The US announcement said that the exercise was long planned and had nothing to do with the Syria situation.

Russia actually was the first to detect the test or at least the first to publicize it. It announced that its ballistic missile early warning system successfully detected two ballistic objects flying from the central Mediterranean Sea on an easterly heading. The Defense Ministry ordered heightened combat readiness for the Aerospace Defense Troops, according to Ria Novosti

The US and Israel initially denied the report of a test, but corrected themselves later.

Comment: The US and Israel appear to be testing whether the Arrow system can detect Syrian missiles in time for them to be shot down before reaching Israel.

The Russian disclosure of the previously unannounced missile test caused the price of crude to jump $1.00 almost instantaneously on fear of a US surprise attack against Syria. The implication of the Russian announcement is that the US must expect that Russia can and will provide missile attack warnings to Syria, should the US attack Syria, to the extent it is able. Russian “advisors” probably are manning some of Syria’s air defense systems.

Russia press reported that the Russian Navy has ordered two more ships to the Mediterranean Sea as part of the “routine rotation of ships. Two large amphibious landing ships are expected to arrive by the end of this week. They can carry 500 tons of cargo or ten battle tanks and 200 soldiers.

Comment: They would be useful in resupply and in evacuation of Russians from the port of Tartus. Thus far, President Putin has shown no inclination to pull the Russian Navy from Tartus.