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Al-Assad has lost touch with reality – Former Syrian MB leader | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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London/Beirut/Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – The defiant speech issued by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad yesterday further angered the Syrian opposition calling for his ouster. In his first speech since June, the Syrian president claimed that he retained the support of the Syrian people and blamed foreign interference for the turmoil that is raging in the country. In a rambling and contradictory speech, al-Assad called on the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood to engage in dialogue with his government, although he later condemned the Islamist group, describing it as the “Devils Brotherhood”. Al-Assad also variously blamed the unrest in the country on a “foreign conspiracy”, as well as “terrorist” elements; he vowed to deal with the “terrorists” with an “iron fist”.

In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, former Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni said that al-Assad’s speech demonstrates that he has lost touch with reality.

Bayanouni said “when al-Assad was reading from the prepared speech, he put forward the idea of cooperation with the opposition of the 1980s [i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood] but when he deviated from the text his true intentions were revealed, for he described us as the ‘Devils Brotherhood’. This was contrary to his [prepared] speech which lasted for one hour and forty minutes but was empty of any real content.”

He added “we thought al-Assad had come to his senses and would announce that he would step down, however Allah is sufficient for us, and He is the best disposer of affairs.”

As for his response to al-Assad’s description of the Islamist group as being the “Devils Brotherhood”, former Syrian Muslim Brotherhood leader Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni said “I respond to his speech by citing the famous verse of Arab poetry written by al-Mutanabbi during the Abbasid era, namely ‘if an imperfect person slanders me….this is testimony of my perfection.”

He added “the Muslim Brotherhood, with all its history, is not in need of the testimony or the praise of this dictator who has killed thousands and imprisoned tens of thousands. We thought he would step down or hand over power to a transitional council…but he continues his tyranny and oppression.”

Bayanouni also told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Assad has lost touch with reality, asking “doesn’t he see the demonstrations that are taking place night and day in most Syrian cities? Doesn’t he hear the protesters who are chanting for him to leave?”

He added that “al-Assad has now become the master of the conspiracy theory mentality; he is describing the popular uprising as being conspiracies from abroad and terrorist operations. He does not know the colour grey: he wants to tell the Syrians that it is either black or while, or in other words either you are with us or against us.”

Bayanouni also stressed that “al-Assad’s speech reflects his disdain of the Syrian people following the deaths of thousands of martyrs, and his distasteful and repetitive speech was without any real content, whilst no Syrians – at home or abroad – believe him, rather his speech was nothing more than hallucination, misinformation, and a denial of reality.”

Whilst the top political leader in Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Farouk Tayfour, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the goal of al-Assad’s speech was to raise the morale of the security services and the pro-regime militia, after he realized that there had been a decrease in morale.”

He said “Bashar al-Assad did not have anything new to say, other than to demonstrate Syria’s regional and international isolation, and show that he is continuing to search for a security – or suppressive – solution to the crisis. This was a desperate speech in which al-Assad attacked everybody without exception; he accused the Arab states of conspiracy, as well as the international community.”

Tayfour added “he talked about division and sectarianism, whilst he is the one who is pushing the situation towards sectarian division, particularly between the Sunnis and Shiites, as is happening today in Homs.”

For his part, Syrian National Council [SNC] President Burhan Ghalioun described al-Assad’s speech as being “dangerous”. During a press conference held in Istanbul yesterday, Ghalioun said that al-Assad had “stated his determination to use violence against our own people” adding “he is determined to divide and push the country towards civil war.”

Ghalioun stressed that al-Assad had “blocked any Arab or other initiative to find a solution to the crisis”, particularly as “for the first time, the [al-Assad] regime accused the Arabs of being part of a conspiracy against Syria”. The SNC president claimed that “al-Assad’s speech has ended the Arab initiative” and called on the international community to “work to ensure international protection for Syrian civilians as soon as possible.”

He said “the Syrian regime has not learnt anything after 10 months of crises and bloodshed” adding “the only thing that the Syrian people are waiting for from al-Assad is the announcement of his resignation.”

For his part, SNC member Ahmed Ramadan told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Syrian people did not expect anything more from al-Assad than what he said in his speech.” He described this speech as being “desperate”, and said “al-Assad has demonstrated his popular isolation, in addition to his Arab and international isolation. He has shown that he is at a stage where he is unable to control the situation in Syria, and demonstrated his inability to communicate with the Arab and international world.”

Ramadan said that “the speech was full of contradictions, for at one time he describes what is happening as being terrorism operations, and then he talks about reform, whilst at one point he calls the Muslim Brotherhood to engage in dialogue, and then later describes them as the Devils Brotherhood.”

Whilst SNC member Anas Al Abdah, who is also Chairman of the Movement for Justice and Development and Head of the Damascus Declaration Abroad, said that the Syrian president had “closed the door on Arab and regional initiatives, aiming to monopolize control of the [Syrian] people and turn the country into a scene of killing, instability, and violence.”

Al Abdah asked “does the international community intend to remain silent on these practices and their effects on the region and world peace?” adding “the ball is now in the international community’s court.”

As for the response of the other major Syrian opposition coalition, the Syrian National Coordination Committee [NCC], to al-Assad’s speech, NCC leader Haytham Manna told Asharq Al-Awsat that al-Assad seemed to be more “self-confident” in this speech than in his previous speeches and public appearances. Manna said “al-Assad’s self-confidence could be for two reasons: firstly the international situation is giving him some measure of hope, and this includes the Turkish retreat and the assurances he has received from Russia and Iran. Secondly, there is the issue of the division in the Syrian opposition, and the tragedy resulting from the SNC withdrawing from the agreement it reached with the NCC.”