Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Radwan Ziadeh, member of the Syrian opposition, director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights in Washington, and law professor in Georgetown University in the United States, has stated that: “dialogue with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is futile. All the solutions that he has proposed do not reach the level of the basics of the regime. Thus, everything that he has offered is one form or another of procrastination”.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Ziadeh stressed that the Syrian people “will not accept anything less than moving from slavery to democracy and freedom after the number of detainees has exceeded 15,000 and the number of martyrs has exceeded 1,200 individuals”. He proposed three possible scenarios to resolve the crisis in Syria.
The Following is the full test of the interview:
[Asharq Al-Awsat] how does the Syrian opposition asses the upcoming stage? What are the scenarios on which you are operating?
[Ziadeh] First of all, we have to be realistic. The regime cannot be dismantled easily and the demonstrators are not showing the required momentum to move to a fresh level of demonstrating. We are building our moves on three scenarios. First, the Syrian regime is capable of suppressing the protests as happened in Burma in 2007 and in Iran in 2009. This is a weak scenario because the Syrian regime’s base of support differs totally from the support that the Iranian regime enjoyed then. The Iranian president is popular in the conservative society and in the countryside. However, the Syrian revolt started in Dar’a that includes a large proportion of military and security officials, like the Syrian vice president, the deputy foreign minister, the chief of military intelligence, and a large number of army commanders. We should also keep in mind that the uprising did not start in the Kurdish regions or Hamah or Aleppo that constitute support bases for the Muslim Brotherhood. In less than a week and at a rapid pace, the demonstrations moved to the various towns, specifically Baniyas, Latakia, and Jublah that is viewed as a regime stronghold. This reflects the weakness of this regime’s support base and shows that the first scenario is almost impossible. As for the second scenario on which the opposition is wagering, it is the continuation of the demonstrations and the resulting killings until we reach the stage where the army will decisively resolve the issue. We realize that the army commanders need time to assess their ability and the degree of influence they have on their military bases. They also need time to assess their ability to confront the Fourth Division commanded by Mahir al-Assad that is better organized, armed, and trained and thus take the option later of supporting the demonstrators, stopping the murders, and forcing Bashar al-Assad to leave. The third scenario consists of the continuation of the demonstrations and the resultant killing in the absence of any stand by the army. This will increase its involvement that appeared in Daraa, Baniyas, and Talkalkh thus paving the way to humane intervention to protect the civilian population.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] How capable are you of implementing the third scenario?
[Ziadeh] This scenario depends on two different equations: The internal forces on one hand and the international forces on the other. However, this should be accompanied by a strong move by the Arab League, a move that is totally missing at this time. As for the Security Council resolution that we pressuring to be issued, it gives us the minimum of our demands, namely, condemnation of the violence and urging the Syrian government to permit the international fact-finding committee to come to Syria. We consider this the starting point on which can build on in the future. Regarding the issue of foreign intervention, we have to realize that the situation in Syria is totally different from that in Libya. Libya is vast and its population is totally different from that of Syria where the closeness of civilian, military, and security locations does not permit air strikes. Thus, foreign military intervention in Syria is extremely complicated. We should also keep in mind the financial cost of such a mission. Our principal goal at this stage and all our focus is on the Syrian army. We recently organized “The Friday of the Protectors of the Homeland” marches in order to incite the army to play a role in this regard. Moreover, the national initiative for change in which we suggested that Defense Minister Ali Habib and Chief of Staff Dawud Rajihah take over the management of the transitional stage proceeded from our desire to send reassuring signals to the Alawite sect that the Al-Assad regime is holding hostage.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] On what levels are you operating as opposition forces?
[Ziadeh] We are operating on three levels. The first is the United Nations Human Rights Council. After pressures we put on the United States and the European countries, we succeeded in holding a session and we will proceed along this track till the end. The second level is that of the international courts. We should keep in mind that the judicial system of several European countries – like Spain, France, Belgium, and Britain – permits them to sue other states if the victim holds their nationality. We are working on that at present. The third level is that of the ICC although we are aware that the international prosecutor cannot open a special investigation because Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute. Hence, the Security Council should issue a decision referring the Syrian file to this court.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that international interests are obstructing your ambitions?
[Ziadeh] On the contrary; President Al-Assad’s closest friends – France and Turkey – were among the first countries that pressured him to make radical changes and backed the demands of the demonstrators. Hence, the regime is in a serious quandary internally and externally having become convinced that it cannot suppress the protests as it did in the 1980s. This is so because the peaceful and unarmed demonstrations are raging in all the Syrian provinces and towns and because the media and the social networking sites are playing a big role in conveying the picture to world public opinion within minutes.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Do you think that the time factor is in your favor or that of President Al-Assad’s regime?
[Ziadeh] The time factor is definitely in favor of the demonstrators, particularly since the economic crisis inside Syria is exasperating and confusing the regime in the wake of the European and American sanctions that have dried up Al-Assad’s financial resources.
[Asharq Al-Awsat] Why do you not respond to President Al-Assad’s call for dialogue, especially after the concessions he has made?
[Ziadeh] How can we engage in dialogue someone who has detained 15,000 people and killed more than 1,200 martyrs? The figures may be even much higher than this. A dialogue with Al-Assad is futile. All the solutions that he has proposed do not reach the level of the basics of the regime. Thus, everything that he has offered is one form or another of procrastination. The Syrian opposition has moved from the possible acceptance of engaging Al-Assad in a dialogue to searching for the ideal way to manage the transitional stage. The Syrian people will not accept anything less than moving from slavery to democracy and freedom.