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What did the Saudis say to al-Assad? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Saudi Arabia has said, over and over again, that its religious and moral duty behooves it to take the stand it has adopted today against the al-Assad regime, and this is in order to protect the unarmed Syrians, and to protect Syria itself from who knows what awaits it, in light of al-Assad’s brutal repression.

Last week, the Saudi King told the Russian President that he has religious and moral standards, as does his country, towards what is happening in Syria. The day before yesterday, the Saudi ministerial cabinet, chaired by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, reiterated that “that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be at the forefront of any international effort aiming to achieve urgent, comprehensive and effective solutions to protect the Syrian people”. As a result [of this proactive Saudi stance], there are now those who ask why Saudi Arabia did not try to convince al-Assad himself in the past, and others, from among the al-Assad regime’s affiliates, who now seek to slander and defame the Kingdom at every opportunity, such as the tyrant of Damascus’ ambassador to the United Nations, while others now say that Saudi Arabia is simply trying to lecture them on democracy.

Is Saudi Arabia really dictating its conditions to the tyrant of Damascus, and stipulating specific steps? Is the Kingdom really adopting this crucial position now, without ever trying to exert peaceful efforts upon al-Assad in the past? To answer these questions we must consider the following story, and consider the difference in terms of wisdom, credibility and nobility between those who offer genuine advice, and those who kill in order to stay in power!

At the beginning of the revolution, Bashar al-Assad contacted Saudi Arabia saying that matters were getting worse in Syria, no one was standing by him, and he was facing financial difficulties and so on. At the time, al-Assad said that he felt abandoned by everyone, and asked for advice, saying that he was ready to respond to whatever he needed to hear, and what would be asked of him.

However, Bashar al-Assad’s phone call, the subject of our conversation, took place at the same time as the Syrian regime’s media was accusing Saudi princes of standing behind the Syrian revolution, and claiming that the revolution was a Wahhabi conspiracy. The Saudi response to al-Assad was as follows: We don’t want to do anything at all, the Syrian problem lies within Syria, and within your hands specifically. All we ask is that you stop the killings. Do not kill. Hence the advice we give you is simply: Go out and address the Syrians, make your speech brief, no more than ten minutes, and give them more than they are asking for. Grant them more than the demands they have come out to protest for, and then you will have saved Syria and answered your people.

This was the guidance offered by Saudi Arabia, nothing more, nothing less, and the reader will certainly note that this is concise and fatherly advice, but what happened of course was the opposite. Al-Assad’s speeches were long and drawn out, and his troops have been killing the Syrians over the past eleven months, whilst he has offered only weak promises of reform. Bashar al-Assad has now come out with a ridiculous constitution to ensure that he rules until the year 2028, and worse still the al-Assad regime claims that 89 percent voted in favor of this farce!

Is it Saudi Arabia that is hostile towards al-Assad? Of course not, al-Assad is his own enemy, just as he is the enemy of the Syrians.