On June 7, RT Arabic interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 24 questions and a few additional questions, an assessment of the world situation was approached. Not surprisingly, the Russian military operation in Ukraine also plays a central role for the Middle East – and not only because of the currently much discussed grain exports from Ukraine and Russia to the Mediterranean.
war in Ukraine
Assad ordered the conflict in and around the Ukraine not only into recent history, but also drew a longer historical line. Beyond NATO’s eastward expansion, one could speak of a “permanent war” against Russia that began before the First World War. For Syria, it is not only important that Russia – its ally, as Assad emphasized – is currently winning a “battle”, but that Moscow’s position on the “international stage” is generally strengthened. The “today’s strength of Russia” could contribute to “restoring the lost international balance”.
The Syrian President was convinced that Moscow is committed to a new world order – and that the operation in Ukraine will also be an element in establishing this order. Assad does not see the Cold War after 1945 as a bipolar world order, as is usually the case, but emphasizes US dominance:
“However, the unipolar order began after World War II, when, following the Bretton Woods conference, the dollar became the dominant currency in the world. More important than the military aspect, or perhaps equivalent, are the economic results of the current war (against a unipolar world) and most importantly, the position of the dollar. If, despite the outcome of this war, the dollar continues to dominate the world economy, nothing will change.”
US dollar roll
According to Assad, in this western or US-dominated world, the US dollar not only plays the role of an “extortion instrument”, but actually also serves as a predatory tool:
“The object of the dollar is not blackmail, but theft. America promised after World War II that the dollar would have a gold equivalent. In the early 1970s, the United States under Nixon decided to separate the dollar from gold, making it a Paper became worthless.”
However, there is hope for non-Western countries. Although they are under enormous pressure, politically, economically and culturally, the international balance of power has changed fundamentally.
“Today the situation has changed in relation to Russia, China and many other growing economies. We are under a blockade, but we no longer need imports of many essential goods from western countries with which we have severed relations.”
Although the West tries to portray all problems in the world economy as a result of the war in Ukraine, this is not the case in reality. A distinction must be made between (Western) government action, the general economic situation and specific economic conditions, including the situation of individual companies.
development in Syria
When asked about the domestic political situation in Syria and his slogan in the last election campaign – “Hope in action” – Assad said that he wanted to counteract the desperation that was certainly there. The hope is justified insofar as production will be maintained to the best of our ability:
“Do we have the means to produce? Of course we do, otherwise there would be no state. Medical care in Syria continues to be free, despite the deterioration in the level of services. Access to education remains free, despite the decline in education due to the current circumstances . Popular support continues, albeit at a reduced level.”
All basic government services would continue to be provided. Syrian citizens understandably have expectations of their state, many of which are related to a secure electricity supply. But solutions would still be found in the course of 2022, Assad said confidently.
At the same time, domestic political reforms are to be carried out and a new constitution drawn up. The Syrian President said:
“The Constitutional Committee has the task of drafting a final constitutional text. The constitution should represent the desires, ethical bases, aspirations and culture of the Syrian people as a compromise between the different sectors and currents of society. To arrive at this result is logical Assuming that this is a dialogue between Syrians, let’s call it a Syrian-Syrian dialogue, assuming that there are two sides. But the main thing is that both sides are Syrians.”
But the inner-Syrian dialogue is being disturbed from the outside – Assad, for example, opposed Turkey’s interference in the Syrian constitutional debate. The President’s powers could also be restricted as part of the constitutional reform if the Syrians agreed to this among themselves.
As for the return of refugees from Syria to their homes, Assad insisted that there could be no general amnesty such that existing laws were simply repealed. However, those who have left the country are not automatically considered traitors. There is “not even the term ‘political prisoner’”.
Assad also showed himself willing to compromise on the question of the Syrian Kurds, provided that the Kurdish side behaves loyally towards the Syrian state:
“If we look at the Kurdish question from a national perspective, the Kurds have always existed in Syria. Most of them are patriots. However, some of them, as well as some Arabs and other nationalities, are becoming agents, especially for the US. This problem has nothing to do with the president or the political opposition. It has to do with the issue of Syrian unity.”
Politics and Conflicts in the Middle East
In the final part, the discussion revolved around Syria’s neighbors and the country’s position within the Arab world. Regardless of all the tensions in the region, Bashar al-Assad took a pragmatic approach:
“Sometimes you have to have a dialogue with agents.”
According to the Syrian interpretation, these “agents” include foreign forces who primarily serve US interests and “threaten the unity of Syrian society”. But the majority of Syrians would not bow to these interests.
Assad assessed the Syrian-Turkish confrontation in the north of the country in a similar way: “Every invasion is immediately met with resistance from the population.” The Idlib area and other occupied areas would also come back under Damascus control: “This is not up for discussion. All areas, whether occupied by Turks or terrorists, will be liberated over time.”
Syria and the Arab League
Asked about his recent visit to Abu Dhabi, the President explained:
“We didn’t go anywhere. Syria stayed where it is, with the same positions and under the same circumstances, and acted in its own way, according to its principles and vision.”
Syria will continue to present its positions without apologizing to other Arab states or justifying their position. You have to “start from reality”.
On this basis, Syria will also resume its full role in the Arab League. However, Syria will not sacrifice its good relationship with Tehran for the sake of relations with other Arab countries:
“Syria’s relations with any other country are not negotiable with anyone in the world. No one can decide for Syria with whom it will establish relations and with whom it will not.”
Iran is an “important country”. And if you want to “talk about stability in the Middle East,” you need “relationships with all countries in the region.”
Based on these basic assumptions, Assad offered to mediate between Tehran and Riyadh. It is in the interest of the mediator to bring those countries closer together with which Damascus itself has good relations.
As for the complicated relationship with Israel, the Syrian President rejected the term “normalization” as meaning “forcing the Arabs to make concessions to Israel without receiving anything in return.” The “restoration of the rights of the (Arab) peoples” must be linked to the peace process. It is questionable whether the Oslo agreement can still provide a basis for this, because it gives Israel “every advantage”.
Assad responded to the accusation that the West regarded him as a “president against the will of his people” that these were “big lies and boundless exaggerations”: “These lies don’t stop.”
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