A year following the start of the Syrian unrest, tens of thousands of the supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government took to the streets across the nation in their latest display of solidarity with the country’s ruling structure.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Omar Nashabi from Al Akhbar
, a daily Arabic language newspaper published in the Lebanese capital Beirut, to ask his opinions on the issue of the Western- and Arab-backed armed rebellion inside the country.
The program also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Lawrence Davidson, a professor at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and Jiwad Rashad from Syrian Social Club.
The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Omar Nashabi, the show of support this time by Syrians was not only in Damascus, it was also in other cities, reported to have increased, both in size and number.
Does that mean the Syrians are more united since the crisis began a year ago in which today they marked the one year anniversary?
Well, the Syrians have realized, I think that, and they are very clearly aware of the fact that there are some interventions in Syrian internal affairs and that these Western powers and these other pro-Western Arab regimes are not thinking about the interests of the Syrian people and therefore, the Syrians, I think, with a large number of Syrians-- I think-- it is a majority in Syria; realized that they need central government to be maintained; they need stability; they need to go back to business as usual; they need to preserve the unity of the country and therefore, they are taking to the streets.
There were accusations by some opposition figures that the people who we can see right now on the screen and who took to the street today in support of the central government and of the reforms, that have been introduced by President Assad and by his government, are just employees in the government and they are being pushed by the regime to, or forced by the regime, to demonstrate in support of the regime.
That, I think, is a bit ridicules to say the least, because the numbers are really massive and I think that the opposition themselves have said that the wall of fear, what they call the wall of fear, has collapsed.
So if the wall of fear has collapsed, then these people if they do not want to demonstrate in support of the regime, they can just simply say no and stay home and call in sick or something.
No, these people, actually, I think that a large number of Syrians want to maintain stability in Syria; they want to preserve the Syrian institutions that provide basic services to the Syrian citizens.
They provide basic services that are not even available in the same quality in Lebanon, by the way.
I mean, we are talking about electricity, water, medical services, education services, social services; we are talking [about] telecommunication services.
All these services are provided to the Syrian people at low cost to everybody and there are also on the political level, yes there were demands and President Assad had a referendum on the new constitution and now he is having elections, parliamentary elections, in May.
The reforms are there; they need time; the people will have to take things one step at a time.
Fast change is no good, because, you know, we [know] from experience [that] fast change can lead to bigger problems.
Now, this change will come; there will be some reforms; there will be better political situation with more freedom of association, more freedom of expression, and these things are there on the agenda.
I think even if these things are not completely fulfilled, as some may think or some may claim, I think it is much far better than any foreign military intervention in Syria, far better than smuggling weapons and giving these weapons to some groups, God knows who these people are and what they want from Syria and what their intensions are.
There are already many people who were killed in Syria. Many of them are [from] the Syrian government; many of them are ordinary citizens. There is a lot of destruction in the north of Syria.
I think, it is time to end this and to sit together in a table of dialogue as Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said today as an advice to the Syrian people who are very close to the Lebanese people, as you know.
The extent that they would go on that, Omar Nashabi, is what is transpiring on the airwaves and I would like to refer to a number of resignations by Al Jazeera staff, including their Beirut Bureau Chief, which was very significant given Qatar’s outspoken support for the opposition, including arming them, aside from charges of biased coverage of Middle East revolutions.
This charge included amongst many a smear campaign against the Syrian government, including the distortion of facts.
How important was this coming from Al Jazeera who has played somewhat of a role, as some say, regarding the revolutions in the Middle East?
Yes, I think there is a clear double standards here and this is violation of the ethical standards because let’s take Bahrain for example. In Bahrain, there were massacres; there were serious violations of basic human rights and they were very much undermined in the media, in [Persian] Gulf media; there was intervention by the Saudi army in Bahrain that was not covered enough.
But I think the most dangerous thing that I can think of is promoting smuggling weapons into Syria or any other country.
I mean, I am taking this from an international level, I am thinking what nation on the face of the globe would accept that the other neighboring nations would smuggle weapons to individuals so that they shoot at the government institutions.
No nation would accept this; the United Nations does not accept this; the Arab League does not accept this. It declared that it did not accept this. I mean Egypt does not accept this.
However, there are some [Persian] Gulf States, such as Qatar, promoting violence, promoting murder, promoting chaos, armed chaos in a country.
I mean, this is totally immature and irresponsible by all standards. I mean, even the United States today is realizing that this could be a very dangerous game [that] the Qataris are playing and the Saudis are playing by smuggling weapons into Syria.
Omar Nashabi, why would you say that the United states is realizing today? What has altered that? Why that?
Yes, I have to explain this because it will create a state of chaos where Chaos will lead to mayhem in the whole region. I mean this is not good for anyone.
>b>Press TV: They didn't know that before? Looking at Syria, they could not analyze that situation prior, given Syria? Or were they going by the report card as they failed in Libya.
I mean, what made them go ahead with the stance they did, with arming as they have alleged to have been doing?
>b>Nashabi: Yes, I have to tell you, I think they thought that the regime will collapse from the first month, like a year ago.
They counted on that the same way they thought that for example they had miscalculations in Lebanon in 2006 and they though Hezbollah was going to be destroyed from the first ten days of the war.
They thought that the Syrian regime was going to collapse. In fact, the WikiLeaks documents show that they thought that when the first report of the United Nations' independent commission in the murder of Rafiq Hariri came out, they thought that this will actually lead to the collapse of the Syrian regime.
They said this in the WikiLeaks documents. So they had miscalculations all over and now things are going out of control.
Omar Nashabi, are we looking at a situation with the recent visits by Valerie Amos from the UN and then the UN Arab League envoy, Kofi Annan, who has said that he is going to present his findings tomorrow at the UN and that is going to be a political resolve in terms of dialogue with the opposition but the precondition being that the arms need to be laid down.
Some are indicating that that is a stance now that has been agreed by the US and Russia, given that the US and its allies have realized what they had ventured into has failed.
Do you think that is the case?
I think that Kofi Annan will criticize both sides. He will actually ask for more steps from both sides.
However, I am sure that, in his report, he will repeat what he said openly in Egypt with the Secretary General of the Arab League, by saying that he hopes, and I am quoting him; he hopes that no one is thinking seriously of smuggling weapons into Syria because that would only make the situation worse.
I hope also that the Qataris and the [Persian] Gulf States that are paying millions and millions of dollars to smuggle weapons into Syria will cease to do that and that is a very important requirement for maintaining the minimum stability that is needed for dialogue and needed for a political reform.