Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Does Tariq Aziz have a television set? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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If there is anything piquing my curiosity these days, it is the question: Did Tariq Aziz – Saddam Hussein’s Foreign Minister – watch the latest press conference given by [Syrian Foreign Minister] Walid Muallem? And if he did watch this, what is his opinion of the statements made by the foreign minister of the last Baathist regime in our region?

I believe that Tariq Aziz’s feelings would be a mixture of pity, sadness, and perhaps schandenfruede, however I asked a prominent Arab figure – who knows both Aziz and Muallem – about what the former Iraqi foreign minister’s potential response to this speech would be. He answered “when Aziz looks at Muallem, I expect that he may see a bit of himself in him.” He added “these may be different figures in [different] Baathist regimes, but there is no difference in the suppressive and brutal methods that can force a man like Walid Muallem to come out in this manner, or say what he said at this Damascus press conference.” My source described Muallem as the man who “returned Syria to Washington with cunning and humour” when he was Syrian Ambassador to the US. Indeed Muallem managed to overcome many a difficult political issue with a light-hearted joke, without this having any consequences on Damasus, or Muallem himself. The source also described Tariq Aziz as being “like silk…smooth, mild, and good-natured” however, according to the source, both men share one thing in common, which is that neither dares to confront their leader with the truth.

My source then went on to tell me – thanks to his previous position and his relationships – that a Russian figure once informed him that prior to Operation Desert Storm, Tariq Aziz requested a meeting with a Moscow official and implored him to convince Saddam Hussein to withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait, as Aziz himself was not capable of doing this at the time. This is something that also applies to Walid Muallem, who replaced [former Syrian Foreign Minister] Farouk al-Sharaa. I used to call al-Sharaa, Farouak al-Sharrakh [Faraouk the Shouter] because every statement he made would lead to a Syrian – Arab crisis. Many sources have said that Muallem’s way of doing things is no different than al-Sharaa’s, particularly with regards to the conflict taking place between the political elite in Damascus.

However today Muallem has come out to top anything that al-Sharaa managed to do as Syrian Foreign Minister, namely Muallem’s announcement that “Syria will forget that Europe is on the map” for taking a position opposing the al-Assad regime’s brutal suppression of the Syrian people! What is even more contemptible is Muallem’s talk about Turkey’s position towards Syria, where he said that his country “reaches out to others, however as I said previously one-sided relations are exhausting, and that is a fact of international relations.” There can be no doubt that if Tariq Aziz heard such talk he would fall to the ground laughing, despite all of his concerns. Indeed the former Iraqi foreign minister would have no doubt been crying with laughter if he heard Muallem’s response to a question about his vision for Syria in three months. In response to this question, Muallem said “we will offer an example of democracy…there will be social justice, equality before the law, and accountability!”

Therefore my source says that what unites Tariq Aziz and Walid Muallem is that both figures cannot reject directives [from above], according to the oppressive nature of Baathism. Therefore, Muallem said what he said because he had no choice, and there is no power and no strength except with the help of Allah.

Therefore, my belief is that if Tariq Aziz saw Walid Muallem’s press conference, he would say “we were first…but you are next!”