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November 5, 2012

Exclusive: Bashar Assad wants war not peace reveals Syria’s former prime minister Riyad Hijab

Exclusive Telegraph article
The most senior politician to defect from the Bashar al-Assad’s regime has revealed that the President repeatedly rejected calls by his own government for a political compromise, in favour of all-out war.

The most senior politician to defect from the Bashar al-Assad's regime has revealed that the President repeatedly rejected calls by his own government for a political compromise, in favour of all-out war.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (left) and former Prime Minister Riyad Hijab Photo: AFP/Getty Images
By , Amman,04 Nov 2012

In his first full interview with a Western newspaper since he fled to Jordan in August, Riyad Hijab, the former prime minister, told The Daily Telegraph that he and other senior regime figures pleaded with Mr Assad to negotiate with the Syrian opposition.

One week before his defection, Mr Hijab, the vice-president, the parliamentary speaker and the deputy head of the Baath party together held a private meeting with Mr Assad.

“We told Bashar he needed to find a political solution to the crisis,” he said. “We said, ‘These are our people that we are killing.’

“We suggested that we work with Friends of Syria group, but he categorically refused to stop the operations or to negotiate.”

Mr Hijab referred to the war waged against the Muslim Brotherhood by Mr Assad’s father, Hafez, which led to the deaths of up to 10,000 people in an assault on the city of Hama.

“Bashar really thinks that he can settle this militarily,” he said.

“He is trying to replicate his father’s fight in the 1980s.” Mr Hijab was speaking as key anti-regime figures gathered in the Qatari capital Doha to replace the fractured opposition Syrian National Council with a new government-in-exile. Once formed, the new Council would seek to gain formal international recognition, and, crucially, better weapons.

Mr Hijab said he rejected an offer to be part of the US-backed proposal, promising to be a “soldier in this revolution without taking a political position”.

He said the lack of serious action by the West had consolidated President Assad’s confidence.

“Bashar used to be scared of the international community – he was really worried that they would impose a no-fly zone over Syria,” he said. “But then he tested the waters, and pushed and pushed and nothing happened. Now he can run air strikes and drop cluster bombs on his own population.”

Mr Assad’s acceptance of ceasefire proposals by the United Nations envoys Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi during the 19-month crisis was “just a manoeuvre to buy time for more destruction and killings”, he said.

Indeed in a speech to his cabinet Mr Assad extolled only the dictums of warfare, Mr Hijab said.

It was as he watched his leader speak – coldly, confidently and gripped by the blind conviction that only military force would crush his enemies, he said – that Mr Hijab knew he had no choice but to break away.

“My brief was to lead a national reconciliation government,” Mr Hijab said. “But in our first meeting Bashar made it clear that this was a cover. He called us his ‘War Cabinet’.” The explosion at the Damascus national security building that killed the country’s defence minister and the president’s brother-in-law marked a turning point, Mr Hijab said. After that, no holds were barred.

“The new minister of defence sent out a communiqué telling all heads in the military that they should do ‘whatever is necessary’ to win,” he said. “He gave them a carte blanche for the use of force.” In recent months the formal government had become redundant, Mr Hijab said. Real power was concentrated in the hands of a clique comprising Mr Assad, his security chiefs, relatives and friends.

Certain that he had lost all influence, and watching the tendrils of smoke rising from his home town of Deir al-Zour near the Iraqi-Syrian border after another wave of air strikes, Mr Hijab plotted his escape: “A brother spoke with one of the Free Syrian Army brigades in Damascus,” he said. “We had expected to be at the border in three hours, but it took us three days.”

Since then, the violence has worsened and new fronts have opened across the country. On Sunday a bomb exploded in the centre of Damascus, wounding 11 civilians, state television and activists reported. The blast was detonated close to the Dama Rose hotel, which hosted Mr Brahimi during his recent visit to Damascus.

Rebels also claimed to have seized an oilfield near Deir Al-Zour, while fighting continued around army and airbases west of Aleppo, which the regime have used to strike rebel-held areas in recent weeks.

Mr Hijab said the violence would continue and the regime would stay in power for as long as Russia and Iran continued to provide support. But even if they cut their allegiance, he said Mr Assad would most probably still refuse to quit.

“I am shocked to see Bashar do what he has doing,” he said. “He used to seem like a good human being, but he is worse than his father.

Hafez is a criminal for what he did in Hama, but Bashar is a criminal for what he is doing everywhere.”

Abbas widely slammed on social networking websites


[ 04/11/2012 – 10:55 AM ]


GAZA, (PIC)– The latest serious remarks made by de facto president Mahmoud Abbas have received widespread condemnation on popular social networking websites from different Arab and Palestinian noted writers and intellectuals.

Editor-in-chief of the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper Abdulbari Atwan described Abbas on his twitter page as “dangerous to the Palestinian constants.”

“Abbas is not able to defend the right of others from his people to return to Palestine when he gave up his own right to return to his hometown Safed…This man has become a threat to the Palestinian constants and must go,” Atwan said.

Saudi political writer Hasan Al-Ajmi commented on Atwan’s twitter remarks by saying, “he has been dangerous for a long time and he is definitely more evil than the occupier. He is the one who confers legitimacy on the existence of the occupier. May God be with you, Palestine.”

Specialist in Israeli affairs Saleh Al-Naami twitted: “the Palestinian left, which boycotted the visit of the Qatari emir to Gaza at the pretext he had ties with Israel, continues to sit with Abbas, although he waived the right of return.”

“All Fatah leaders are aware of the damage caused by Abbas’s outspoken concession on the right of return, but they embark on vulgarly inventing interpretations for it for fear they lose their financial privileges,” Naami added.

Director of the London-based Islamic political thought institute Azzam Al-Tamimi said on his page that “Abbas does not have anything in order to give up, and his statements are a kind of hallucination and of no value except that they confirm his deviance and bankruptcy.”

Journalist for Palestine newspaper Mohamed Yasin stated on his facebook page that “what many facebook activists said against Abbas following his remarks on the right of return was like a popular trial and a final irrevocable sentence against him releasing him from his posts.”

In a related incident, the Islamic student bloc at Birzeit university staged on Saturday afternoon a protest against Abbas’s remarks on the right of return and the popular intifada (uprising).

According to the reporter for the Palestinian information (PIC) in Ramallah city, dozens of Birzeit student rallied outside the student council carrying Palestinian flags and banners slamming Abbas’s antinational remarks.


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