Finally we have heard from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad! Yesterday he gave his first broadcast interview since a massive explosion in Damascus on 18 July took out four members of his command staff and started rumors about Assad's own health and well being.
I raised that speculation here in a number of diaries, beginning with BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying? on the day of the explosion. The interviewer from Al-Donia TV sounded like he was responding to this speculation when he suggested to Assad:
The president should appear everyday on TV so we don't hear rumors, where are you now Mr. president? [00:53]The full interview is promised to be aired today at 9:00PM on Al-Donia TV. Four minutes of excerpts from the interview have been released earlier today. The YouTube video of those excerpts, together with English sub-titles, appears below. The time marks after the quotes refers to that video.
Al Jazeera English got my attention early this morning when they used the following quote from Assad to introduce their report on his interview:
The truth is that Syria doesn't need a green light when dealing with it's internal affairs, neither from our allies or our enemies. [03:42]I feel like my dairy, UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria, has just received its 33rd donut, and this one from Bashar al-Assad himself!
I published that diary only a few hours after US President Obama made his statement that Assad's use of chemical weapons would be a "red line." I said that Obama was giving Assad a "green light" to use everything but chemical weapons.
While that notion was largely condemned by Kossacks, who awarded it 32 donuts, the diary has been shared, tweeted or liked more that 270 times. I have no idea how many times it has been retweeted or republished. The idea and the phrase have been given wide currency by many closer to the Syrian struggle and continues to reverberate, as exampled by the tweet above from yesterday and the article below, new today.
A YouTube video of the full 30 minute interview in Arabic is available here and contains at least one other reference to the "green light."
In other news, I am sorry to report that George Galloway in joining the Assad propaganda team for £80k. Yesterday Galloway himself favored one of my tweets commenting on this:
— Clay Claiborne (@clayclai) August 29, 2012
@georgegalloway At least he is open about it. I'd like to see a complete list,
The "green light" critique of President Obama's Syria policy just made the pages of the NY Times:
From the Pocono Record today:
Syrian Émigrés Hang a Shingle in Washington to Help Arm Rebels
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
Published: August 29, 2012
WASHINGTON — From a one-room office in an unfinished glass tower three blocks from the White House, an amorphous network of activists is doing what the Obama administration will not: attempting to arm the rebels trying to overthrow Syria’s government.
The Syrian Support Group, incorporated here in April as a nonprofit, has few resources and, so far, few donations, and whether it succeeds in its larger goal remains to be seen, but it is already serving as a conduit between the United States and the armed forces seeking to topple Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and having an effect on American policy.
The group has surprisingly extensive contacts among rebel commanders of the Free Syrian Army, a rare license from the Department of Treasury allowing it to sidestep sanctions and a conviction that the assistance the administration has so far offered Syrians — mainly communications equipment — is simply not enough to defeat Mr. Assad.
Dr. Danan, originally from Damascus, lamented that the group had yet to receive an influx of donations large enough to do much more than set up the office in Washington.
While maintaining good relations with the Obama administration, the group has also been a critic of the administration’s approach, with added credibility because of its ties inside Syria. Dr. Danan, for example, said President Obama’s warning that any use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces would be “a red line” that could provoke intervention amounted to a “green light” for Mr. Assad to use as much conventional force as possible. More...
From the Washington Post, 7 August 2012:
Assad could take Obama's message as green light
August 29, 2012
WASHINGTON — Faced with a rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria, President Obama stepped into the White House briefing room on Monday and outlined the conditions under which he might "change my calculus" and ramp up U.S. military involvement in the country. His red line, he explained, is Syria's store of chemical weapons — and not only if they are used, but if there is evidence that they are being moved around and positioned for potential use.
On its surface, this sounds like good news for those watching with despair the horrors that the Syrian people are experiencing. Tens of thousands of Syrians are flowing across the border to Turkey. Refugee camps are being built to accommodate them, but the Turkish government says they cannot handle more than 100,000 people. Some 70,000 people displaced from Syria are already living in Turkish camps.
Obama issued what is essentially a threat to Syrian President Assad. If the embattled Assad indicates that he is prepared to use chemical weapons on his own people to put down the rebellion, he can expect U.S. military force to come raining down on him. The last time the leader of a country resorted to chemical weapons was in the1990's when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein used them against the Kurds in northern Iraq.
Assad may well be thinking that Syria could be the next Iraq with "shock and awe" from U.S. weapons and U.S. forces, and if he had any inclination toward unleashing his country's stockpile of chemical weapons, he realizes that would be like entering into a suicide pact. If he wants to remain in power, he better make sure those weapons remain carefully contained and there is no hint that they might be deployed.
On the other hand, Assad may well look on Obama's words as a green light to crack down on the uprising in his country with any means possible short of chemical weapons. That is not the message Obama wanted to send, but it is the risk Obama runs by spelling out so explicitly what he regards as the tipping point for more aggressive U.S. military involvement.
If Assad refrains from introducing chemical weapons, he can be fairly confident that every other brutality of war will be met by strong words of condemnation from the White House, but American military power will remain leashed. More ...
"Used with permission from the Pocono Record, a division of Dow Jones Local Media Group"
Syrian rebels feel abandoned, betrayed by U.S.
By Liz Sly
AL-BAB, Syria — As the Arab world’s bloodiest revolt continues to maim, kill and ravage lives on an ever-escalating scale, anti-American sentiments are hardening among those struggling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, in ways that could have profound consequences for the country and the region in a post-Assad era.
America, once regarded by the Syrian opposition as a natural friend in its struggle for greater freedoms against a regime long at odds with the West, increasingly is being viewed with suspicion and resentment for its failure to offer little more than verbal encouragement to the revolutionaries.
In the nearly 17 months since Syrians joined the clamor for change that swept the Middle East last year, Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have voted in elections, chosen new leaders and embarked, however messily, on democratic transitions.
Syria, by contrast, is hurtling ever deeper into an all-out conflict with no end in sight, “and all we get is words,” said Yasser Abu Ali, a spokesman for one of the Free Syrian Army battalions in the town of al-Bab, which lies 30 miles northeast of Aleppo.
The rebels say they don’t want direct military intervention in the form of troops on the ground. But they have repeatedly appealed for a no-fly zone similar to the effort that helped Libyan rebels topple Moammar Gaddafi last year and for supplies of heavy weapons to counter the regime’s vastly superior firepower, say rebels and opposition figures.
When the regime falls, as the rebel battalion spokesman assumes it eventually will, Syrians will not forget that their pleas for help went unanswered, he said.
“America will pay a price for this,” he said. “America is going to lose the friendship of Syrians, and no one will trust them anymore. Already we don’t trust them at all.”
It is not entirely accurate that the United States is doing nothing to help the Syrian opposition, nor is it clear what more it usefully could or should be doing, analysts say. A debate is raging within the Obama administration over whether it is prudent to step up support for the rebels now that the effort to promote a diplomatic solution through the United Nations has failed.
“We get no help from anyone. We are relying only on ourselves,” said a Free Syrian Army commander in al-Bab who identified himself as Capt. Abdul Razzaq. His assertion is widely repeated by rebels from many parts of the country.
Indeed, the bulk of the rebels’ arsenal comes from supplies they have bought on the black market or, more often, from weapons captured from the government, said Joseph Holliday, who monitors Free Syrian Army activity at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington.
At the same time, the rebels have already gone a long way toward fulfilling another of their key demands: a haven free of government forces. An 11-year-old boy, Abdel Rahman Sabha, whose left leg was severed at the knee, was one of the last victims of the battle for control of al-Bab, whose fighters drove out government forces last week to join a string of “liberated” communities stretching south from the border with Turkey toward Aleppo.
“America and the West could have prevented this,’’ Omar Sabha, 21, said as his younger brother lay weakly under a bloodstained sheet, his face twisted with pain and incomprehension. Abdel Rahman had been struck the previous day by a missile apparently fired by a helicopter outside his home, and the loss was only now beginning to register. “They are able to help us, but they don’t want to,” the older brother said. “They don’t have the courage or the intention.”
“After everything we’ve been through, we don’t want any help from the West,” said Ahmed Dosh, 24, an Aleppo university student who is on a waiting list for a gun so he can join the Free Syrian Army. “We know only God can help us. We have great faith in God, and only God will end this.”
Dosh described himself as an Islamist, though not an extremist. But at a time when al-Qaeda-influenced jihadis are trying to establish a presence in Syria, there is a risk that a virulently anti-American form of Islamism could take hold among disillusioned Syrians, said Andrew Tabler of the Washington Institute of Near East Affairs, who believes that the United States should selectively arm rebel groups identified as supporting America’s interests.
If Washington continues on its current path, “ultimately the political entity that comes to power is not going to be in U.S. interests,” he said. “A secular and democratic Syria is what we’re going to lose big-time.”
For some Syrians, offers of help now would be too late. With the rebels holding ground in the commercial city of Aleppo and making inroads in Damascus, hope is growing that they may be able to finish what they started unaided, said Barry Abdul Latif, 30, an activist in al-Bab. “These days I thank God that nobody supports us, because now I think it will be easier for us to build a new Syria on our own, without the agendas of others,” he said.
“We called for help and nobody came. It is better this way.” More ...
The Syrian American Council is sponsoring the following event. You should attend and support the Syrian people if you can.
Syria Rally: World Silence is Killing Syria
Starts at: September 02 2012 10:00 [Duration: 02:00 hours.]
You are cordially invited to attend World Silence is killing Syria, a rally at the White House followed by a fundraising lunch, on Sunday, September 2.
The Syrian people are calling upon the international community to stop the killing, stop the destruction, and stop Assad's atrocities against the Syrian people. It is time for American citizens to take a step to making sure their call is heard.
The program will include the following:
9:00 a.m.:Assemble at DC Convention Center: 801 Mount Vernon Pl., NW, Washington, DC 20001
9:30 a.m.: Begin march
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.: Rally at Lafayette Square (in front of the White House)
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.:
Fundraising luncheon for Syria
1000 H Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Ticket Price: $75 (Discounted rate available if tickets are purchased in advance).
Come out in numbers, bring your friends and family. Stand with the Syrian people, stand with humanity!
Question: Mr. President, regarding the military operations taking place inside Syria now; there is talk on the Syrian street that Syria received a green light, a Russian green light and Chinese green light, with some going as far as to even say an American green light maybe or a western green light. Does Syria need a green light to carry out what it's doing now?Here are my related diaries on Syria:
President al-Assad: In various stages there was talk of a green light. For example, when Syria entered Lebanon in 1976 there was such talk and it was repeated at other stages. In fact, Syria doesn't need a green light in sovereign issues, in local issues neither and in national issues, from friends nor from enemies nor from opponents. If we didn't possess the green light then there's no need for our existence as a homeland and as a state.
#Obama opposes French support for #Assad's opposition in #Syria
BREAKING: Amnesty site hacked, Assad propaganda posted
BREAKING: 630 Slaughtered in new massacre in Syria
Special message from Syrian children to Obama
Assad's Redline and Obama's Greenlight!
General Meade at Gettysburg
Tell US gov't to stop endangering Syrian activists
UPDATED: #Obama "green lights" #Assad's slaughter in #Syria
Syria: Turning Battlegrounds into Playgrounds
BREAKING: Bashar al-Assad is alive as deaths in Syria reach 25,000
The Left and the Arab Spring
Iran increasing its intervention in Syria
Syria: Images from the Battle of Aleppo
Fears grow of WMD attack in Syria
UPDATED: FSA says it killed Russian General in Syria
BREAKING: Syria releases new images of Bashar al- Assad | Are they fakes?
NOT BREAKING NEWS: Just another massacre in Syria
UPDATED: Syrian prime minister defects
Syria: FSA says Iranian pilgrims really Republican Guard
Syria: Aleppo under Siege!
BREAKING: UN votes to condemn Assad Regime as Reuters posts false story on Syria
BREAKING: Kofi Annan resigns as envoy to Syria
Syria: Bashar al-Assad not heard from on Armed Forces Day!
BREAKING: Senior Syrian diplomat to Armenia defects
BREAKING: Big Explosion hits #Damascus #Syria
UPDATED: Syria's Charge D'Affaires Quits London Post
BREAKING: Ground assault on Aleppo begins!
BREAKING: Protests across Syria in spite of Assad regime violence
ALEPPO: Step outside the Matrix and witness the Horror
UPDATED: US fears massacre in #Aleppo, #Syria
BREAKING: Reports of clashes between Jordan Army & Assad's Syrian army
BRAKING: Obama stops Putin from re-arming Assad in Syria
Syria: Foreign meddling increases as crisis builds
BREAKING: Aleppo, Syria bombed with fighter jets
BREAKING: Syria issues a correction, it has no WMD to use
BREAKING: Arab League asks Assad to step down!
Bashar al-Assad: New images released as slaughter continues in Syria
no blood for oil
BREAKING: Activists report toxic gas attack in Deir ez-Zor, Syria
Glenn Greenwald sees Islamist Terrorism as main issue in Syria
Will Syria's Assad make a chemical attack in Damascus on Saturday?
BREAKING: I know where Syria's President Bashar al-Assad is!
BREAKING: Massive Fire near #Assad's Presidential Palace in #Damascus, #Syria
BREAKING: Is Syria's Bashar al-Assad dead or dying?
BREAKING: Damascus explosion kills Defense Minister, other key figures
The battle for Damascus is coming
BREAKING: General Strike in Damascus
BREAKING: Intense fighting reported in Damascus now!
BREAKING: Syrian defector spills beans as important new defection reported.
Does Syria's Assad have something on Kofi Annan?
Tremseh Massacre in Syria: What we know
BREAKING: ~227 reported massacred by Assad's forces in Tremseh, Syria today!
Syria: Is Assad regime on the verge of collapse?
BREAKING: Russian Warships reported in Syria
BREAKING: #Russia changing on #Assad but not as fast as conditions in #Syria
UN Observers say violence in Syria is ‘Unprecedented’
BREAKING: Defection of major Assad insider reported in Syria
BREAKING: WikiLeaks releases 2.4 million #Syria emails
When did "Never Again" become "Whenever?" | #Douma
BREAKING: Incredible mass rally in Aleppo, Syria today!
BREAKING: HRW releases torture report on Syria
BREAKING: Syrian General defects with 293 to Turkey
BREAKING: Items not in the MSM on Syria
My response to Phyllis Bennis: Where is the non-violent opposition in Syria?
BREAKING: Syrian Air Force attacks Douma, 10m from Damascus, thousands flee
BREAKING: As Syria Burns, UN Blows More Smoke
BREAKING: Kofi Annan to propose Syrian unity gov't sans Assad!
BREAKING: Douma, Syria under massive attack, another massacre feared
BREAKING: Another mass defection from Syrian army
BREAKING: #NATO says No War in #Syria shoot down of #Turkey jet
NATO meetup tomorrow as more defect from Syria
BREAKING: Turkey calls for NATO consult on downing of jet by Syria
BREAKING: Senior Syrian Officers Defect
UPDATED: Russia reported to be preparing to evacuate from Syria
BREAKING: Syria fighter pilot defects
BREAKING: Britain stops Russian ship carrying attack helicopters for Syria
BREAKING: Russian troops headed to Syria
Qaddafi forces Strike Back in Libya
BREAKING: UN suspends mission in Syria
Libya & Syria - two videos - no comment
BREAKING: Russia denies supplying Syria with NEW attack helicopters
Syrian people rise up against the massacre
Another "Houla style" massacre in Syria
Fake Houla Massacre Photo: Was the BBC set up?
Idlib, Syria protest today on anniversary of Kent State killings
BREAKING: Massive protests in Syria following Friday pray
Syria is bleeding
Syria: Ceasefire faltering as mass protests breakout