Sunday Feb 12, 201207:39 PM GMT
‘President al-Assad committed to ending Syria unrest’
Sun Feb 12, 2012 7:5PM
Interview with Wadaah al-Khatib, Syrian political analyst
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If we go back to his (President Assad’s) speech in front of the people’s assembly back in April we will see that the whole package of reforms has been stated then with the acknowledgement by President Assad. So I think that many observers in Damascus would agree that the president and his close team are committed to a comprehensive program of reforms.”

Syrian political analyst, Wadaah al-Khatib

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his close team are totally committed to a comprehensive program of reforms, a political analyst tells Press TV.


Last week, the US tried to pass a resolution against Syria at the United Nations Security Council as means of staging Libya-like military operations against the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Russia and China, however, vetoed the draft resolution.

The draft resolution called for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resign and hand over power to a deputy who would form a national government with opposition leaders within two months.

The UN resolution comes as Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. While the opposition blames the government for the violence, Damascus says ''outlaws, saboteurs, and armed terrorist groups'' are responsible and that it is being orchestrated from abroad.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Wadaah al-Khatib, political analyst from Damascus to further discuss the issue. The following is a transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Mr. al-Khatib if you can tell us a little bit more about the visit by the Russian foreign minister. It seemed that in his point of view things were quite positive.

Can we say that Russian President Bashar al-Asad is willing to make further steps in the issue of reforms in order to stop the unrest in the country?

al-Khatib: Yes, I think President Bashar Asad has already mentioned back in April a program of reforms that was at that point just a certain vision. And he has since then and his government, they have worked on a schedule for those reforms.

So I think he was totally committed from the beginning. If we go back to his speech in front of the people’s assembly back in April we will see that the whole package of reforms has been stated then with the acknowledgement by President Assad.

There was a delay that was not necessary, that was probably also caused by regional issues more so than internal issues. So I think that many observers in Damascus would agree that the president and his close team are committed to a comprehensive program of reforms.

Press TV: In light of what’s just happened do you think that things will take a more militarized turn, leaving no doors open for any political solution or any perhaps national dialogue between the opposition and the Syrian government?

al-Khatib: Yes, let me first go back to what Hisham has said about the issue of the constitution and the fact that it is too late. This is something that we’ve been hearing actually from the very beginning of the crisis in Syria.

As far as the user manual that is suggesting there should be an elected constitutional assembly; I don’t think there is one paradigm that we should follow in drafting a new constitution.

The fact is that the situation in Syria in 2011 is very different from the situation in Syria back in 2000 where the amendment of the constitution took place for the age of the president.

Now there has been an election drafting committee and I would really like to know the opinion of Mr. Hisham Safieddine [another speaker on the show] about the composition of that committee and also about the fact that this committee has been working with a security situation on the ground that has been escalating, I think at a very calculated pace by the Western powers, they acknowledge they have been trying to hijack political dissent in Syria.

I think what we are looking at is a very complex situation where we have to really separate the security issue from the political process.

Press TV: In that point do you think that Mr. Assad can actually gain a kind of legitimacy if goes to the ballots- people get to really vote and of course in a legitimate way in order to legitimize kind of rule for himself and create a new constitution which is for the people?

al-Khatib: Well, I think he wants to, under the right circumstances and I think Qatar foundation, and we know what Qatar foundation is, has commissioned a poll, an opinion poll by a western polling agency, they found out only a month ago that about 55 to 60 percent of the population of Syria would like to see Assad remain in power.

And again this is a poll that was conducted by a Western agency. I think he is eager to be probably the first president of Syria that is elected in a presidential election where they have many candidates, where the elections are transparent and everyone can verify their authenticity. So he is wiling and he is eager I think.

Press TV: What do you think the Arab League might do now? Do you think that it will try to legitimize some kind of military action against Syria?

al-Khatib: Well, the Arab league is in a quandary right now. I think you have two camps in the Arab League, one that is led by the [Persian] Gulf countries and the other by what I may call the reluctant countries who do not really want to intervene more than what they have done.

It will be interesting to see what happens on Sunday especially that the meeting of the Arab League was postponed so that the [Persian] Gulf countries can meet on Saturday. I think any attempt to legitimize military action in Syria by the Arab League will be a grave mistake on the part of those countries.

And I think the veto of Russia and China will make some member countries more hesitant than they were before about taking extra measures against Syria.

Press TV: Mr. al-Khatib don’t you think that the fact that there is military action from the government to try to wipe out any military presence of the armed gangs or the armed groups in the opposition areas- doesn’t that also pave the way for a military solution to the crisis and not a political one?

al-Khatib: There is no military solution for the crisis, the military solution in and of itself cannot resolve the issues that Syria needs to resolve internally. As far as the security situation, if you want to start a political process you need to have some stability on the ground.

But all indications are that those groups are not really interested in a political process and so it is again imperative upon the Syrian government to clear the area’s some of these groups have been controlling for some time and to get back immediately to the table to encourage even more the opposition parties to actually come and negotiate with the government.

It is kind of interesting because the government has been calling for opposition figures from the very beginning to sit down and talk and we have seen reluctance on the part of various spectrums of the opposition and this reluctance I think is not because of their own decisions.

I think it is because they have been pressured by Turkey, by the [Persian] Gulf countries, by the United States, by the West, not to engage the Syrian government in any dialogue.

Press TV: Mr. al-Khatib do you think that the closing the US embassy in Damascus and the departure of several diplomats- how can that affect and impact the Syrian government and sanctions of course what kind of an economic impact do you think they will have on the country?

al-Khatib: Well, let me just please first go back to the issue of the transfer of power- transition of power. I think this is going to be a precondition for a process. I think the principal of power transition through political process, through democratic elections is a principal that we should all adhere to and that the Syrian people and the Syrian government should embrace sincerely.

But at this stage to say that there is a need for transition of power as if the whole issue is simply who holds power, I think is over simplistic with all due respect. When we come back to the issue of the closing of the embassy- the American embassy in Damascus has practically declared they’re closing their doors early in January.

The timing itself is kind of interesting, the reasons they have given, the Syrian government are security reasons related to the fact that the Syrian government rejected closing certain roles around the embassy that the American embassy asked for.

As for the other embassies I think this is more of as diplomatic show of statesmanship. I don’t think it will have any effect now on the ground; we have to wait and see what actual steps will be taken in means of economic and political pressures on Syria. I think the US and the camp that the US is leading is now trying to find some creative ways to deal with Syria.

I think the strength of the Chinese and the Russian position and ... have made the options very limited. I mean this not the same West of 1999; this is not even the same West of 2003.

So I think they have options that are limited. They can definitely hurt Allah but they are not escapable as they used to be. I think I agree with Hashem it might be a good idea to bring in somebody like Brazil, South Africa or India to be some sort of broker.

But I want to go back to Russia, Russia has from the very beginning tried to embrace the opposition and I think they have in this in good intention and I repeat the opposition have lost a chance.

VG/JR
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