Like most of you, I spent 1 hour listening to Bashar al-Assad’s interview with the Russian media yesterday. I have to tell you that I am impressed. But before I discuss this in more detail, let me confess something which old-time readers of this blog might remember: I used to be very opposed to secular Arab nationalists, especially Baathists. Not only did I have an extremely bad opinion of Saddam Hussein (which does not prevent me from being outraged at the way he was treated and murdered), I also had some Syrian friend who told me a lot about Assad père, Hafez al-Assad, the corruption of his regime, the very real fear that so many Syrians had of this security services and the nomenklatura of wealthy fat cats which surrounded him. Coming back to Bashar al-Assad, I could not forgive him that he tortured on behalf of the CIA in the so-called “rendition” program and that he, or somebody very close to him, had clearly protected the Israelis who murdered Imad Mughniyeh. All this is to say that I can hardly be accused of being a Assad fanboy.
But now I have to say that I am changing my tune. Not only because there can be no doubt whatsoever that Assad and his military are currently the only force protecting the Syrian people from the medieval insanity and viciousness of Daesh, but because, frankly, the man impresses me more and more.
The first thing which impressed me about him is that he simply makes sense. No offense to anybody here, but most Arab leaders make no sense at all. They are long on hyperbole and short on simple rational common sense. But not Assad. He clearly knows his stuff and he strikes me as a man who believes in what he is doing. Of course, I am no mind reader and I cannot prove any of that, but this is the feeling I got while listening to him.
The second equally subjective feeling I got is that over the past four years the man has grown in stature. Frankly, listening to him before the war, I got the feeling that he was somewhat of a typical Arab playboy you can find in Saint Tropez, Marbella or Geneva every summer. Not necessarily a bad guy, just a spoiled and superficial character. He sure did not look much like a statesman to me (not even compared to Saddam Hussein who, for all his flaws, was a charismatic personality). But listening to him yesterday I came away with the feeling that the Assad of 2015 is not at all the Assad of a decade or so ago. I get the feeling that this war profoundly changed him.
My third and last conjecture is about the change in Assad’s entourage. Remember at the beginning of the war – there were all sorts of “regime officials”, including generals and ambassadors, who suddenly grew a “democratic conscience” and defected to the “Axis of Kindness”. My guess is that all the CIA-paid scum which infested the Assad regime ran because they were convinced that Assad would be overthrown in a few months at most. Except for Assad stayed and, amazingly, held the course even in the darkest of times. I don’t know that for a fact, but I suspect that the quality of people in the immediate entourage of Assad must have dramatically changed for the better and that now he is surrounded by real patriots.
Another doubt which I used to have in the past was this: would Assad have the wisdom to listen to the Russians and the Iranians or is he a megalomaniac who will listen to nobody? Clearly, listen he did. Had he not, the Russians would never commit their support the way they are doing now. Sure, the Russians are not saying that Assad is indispensable, that it is for the Syrian people to decide, but that is also the politically correct way of backing Assad since they are convinced that the Syrians do want him. Besides, what the Russians are really saying when they say that “it is for the Syrian people to decide” is that it is NOT for the “Friends of Syria” or any other part of the “Axis of Kindness” to decide. In other words: screw you – US/NATO/EU/etc. So for all the diplomatic circumlocutions about the future of Syria the reality is that Assad has the full backing of the Kremlin.
Finally, what I see is that the Russians are clearly “pushing” Assad towards the front stage again. This is, I think, the real purpose of this interview: to promote Assad as a man who can negotiate, who will listen and who is above all a “principled pragmatist”.
Here is what I believe the Russians are doing now: they are using a multi-level strategy which combines some military aid with a flurry of diplomatic activity with all the key regional powers the main purpose of which is to convince as many leaders as possible that Assad now is undoubtedly part of any solution. For the AngloZionists, this is absolute crimethink. But for those looking at the nightmare created by Daesh and who now face the consequences of 4 years of AngloZionist support for Daesh, it will be become very difficult politically to remain so totally opposed to Assad as to not being willing to even talk to him. Besides, no military effort against Daesh makes any sense at all unless it is coordinated with the Syrians. What the USA and their puppets are doing right now is not only illegal, it is also totally ineffective. Contrast that with the Russian position which aims at creating an anti-Daesh coalition which would be 100% legal (Syria, being a sovereign country, can invite anybody to help it) and effective (any air or missile strikes would be coordinated with Syrian ground operations).
Yesterday, listening to Assad, I felt that he was confident that eventually the US-induced insanity will stop and that most world leaders will come to their senses and realize that talking to Assad should be not only an “option”, but the top priority for anybody sincerely interesting in stopping the Daesh rot before it threatens even more unspeakable horrors for the Middle-East and even beyond.
I hope that he is right.