DAMASCUS, (ST)_ The Lebanese al-Akhbar Daily published Monday a comprehensive interview with Mr. Farouk al-Sharaa, the Vice-President, in which he asserted the importance of dialogue as to solve the ongoing crisis by the Syrians themselves through a ''historical settlement'' including the basic regional countries and UN Security Council members.
al-Sharaa underscored that the perpetrators of crimes and those who support them should be condemned, asserting that they have lost every human, moral and national feeling. The vice-president asserted that the Syrians are in ''the position to defend the existence of Syria''
al-Sharaa asserted that neither Istanbul Council, or National Coalition nor the Coordination Committee or any peaceful or armed opposition with foreign affiliations can claim to be a legitimate and sole representative of the Syrian people.
al-Sharaa reiterated that the Syrians would never accept foreign armies intervention in Syria, asserting that this would never take place and would be but resisted, highlighting the position of the Syrian Army in whatever political solutions or dialogues.
Here are excerpts from the interview, published Monday by the daily:
Farouk al-Sharaa speaks about the regime and the party and state leadership. He describes what is happening on the ground and the roles played by foreign powers against Syria and its historical role in the region.
But none of this seems to distract him, not even for one moment, from a sense of responsibility to play a role and propose a way out for Syria from the deepening crisis.
He is a friend of the Russian people, which are loyal to their historical relationship with the Syrians. He fondly describes his memories of China, the great country that developed itself surely and calmly, to become one of the strongest forces on Earth.
As for Iran, he believes it is the closest power to Syria, and not just the regime. Following its revolution, he believes that Iran was on its way become a great democratic experiment, if it wasn’t for the [Iran-Iraq] war imposed on it.
He acknowledges that it took the right position on the central Arab cause, Palestine, and supported the resistance in Lebanon, which rightfully expunged Israel from South Lebanon in the year 2000 and deterred its aggression in July 2006.
Sharaa has trusted the wisdom of Iran’s spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, even since his time as president of Iran, and lauds [Hezbollah leader] Hassan Nasrallah’s resilience. He is convinced that they could have played a bigger role in reaching an early political solution to the Syrian crisis.
Sharaa follows all the events in the Arab world. He considers that Egypt witnessed a seismic shift and there is no turning back. But the political and media mobilization should continue and not ignore what continues to take place in that country.
Sharaa informed all those who contact him that he will not accept to head any transitional government and does not aspire for it. According to Sharaa, Egypt is a country that transcends history and the relationship with it should be solid and healthy. It can do a lot for Arabs. Its situation today should be closely monitored, because it will not immediately achieve the conclusive results hoped for by the Egyptians.
Sharaa informed all those who contact him that he will not accept to head any transitional government and does not aspire for it. He is only worried about Syria. He says what he needs to say in support of certain steps, in criticism of a decision or a behavior, or in objection to a certain orientation or action.
The Militarization of the Protests
Sharaa differentiates between two opposition mobilizations. He has a clear view of the situation in his country, since the first days of the crisis.
“Does anyone have the right to shove the country into a bottleneck which cannot be escaped without breaking the glass?” Sharaa wonders bitterly whenever he sees images of the bodies of innocent citizens and the disfigurement caused by the shelling, explosions, and car bombs, which target people, infrastructure, public and private utilities, and scientific minds in the country.
“Those who commit these crimes and those who support them are guilty and have lost all sense of patriotism, morality, and humanity,” he says.
There were many mistakes made by the Arab League and the [Syrian] state both, which cannot be forgotten or stepped over.“The drop in the number of peaceful protesters led one way or another to the rise in militants,” Sharaa maintains. “While it is the duty of the state to provide its citizens with security, this is different than deciding on a military solution to the crisis. The two issues should not be mixed.”
“All of this should have required a discussion of mechanisms and an attempt at a Syrian-Syrian solution. The dialogue we adopted in July 2011 aimed at solving the crisis politically from the start, by Syrian hands,” he adds.
“But things did not go in this direction,” Sharaa explains. “The crisis was Arabized. Syria, a founding member of the League of Arab States, saw its membership suspended from the league without justification or a pretext that could convince Syrian citizens.”
The Country’s Survival, Not Ours
The Syrian vice-president acknowledges that the crisis is deep. “With every passing day, the solution gets further away, militarily and politically,” he warns. “We must be in the position of defending Syria’s existence.”
Are We In a Process of Resolution?
“[UN peace envoy] Lakhdar Brahimi keeps repeating in his statements that things are going from bad to worse. I cannot deny this but, for over a year, I have been seeing the line that links the events. The way events are heading will lead to an uncomfortable place where things will definitely go from bad to worse.,” he remarks. “But the problem is that Mister Brahimi is slow and careful, while events on the ground are accelerating and becoming more violent.”
“From my perspective, I am not completely certain where the current option will take us. I do not have a transparent answer. Officials might not even know where we have reached in the solution,” he explains.
“What is happening in Syria is complicated, elaborate, and intricate. If you try to unravel it, it might get more complex and the hidden stitches could multiply, instead of guiding you to a solution,” he elucidates.
“But, at the same time, there are the executive, legislative, and judiciary institutions, which are directly responsible for running the country’s affairs,” he informs. “These institutions have heads, general directors, and governing boards, who work, some who claim to work, according to the directions. Sometimes they make up their minds by pointing to the picture above their desks, meaning that the directive is not up for discussion.”
No Change Without Partners
“In 1970, many state institutions were built on top of the inconsistencies and conflicts of the revolutionary command council back then, based on an agreed upon pact (for example, the NPF, the people’s assembly, and local administrations). These institutions started to deteriorate and were not renewed, despite multiple attempts to restructure them since president Bashar al-Assad assumed leadership in the year 2000,” Sharaa explains.
“These institutions then started to function based on their own inertia. This could be partially acceptable in times of stability and decades of security. But how could it happen during major crises and the resulting destruction of infrastructure and homes, the lack of electricity, the stoppage of hospitals in many cities and towns, and the escalating internal and external displacement?” he asks. “This is not to mention the detention of thousands of people who are not presented in front of the courts, as if we are still under martial law.”
“Neither the [Syrian] National Coalition, nor the Istanbul Council, nor the National Coordination Body as a multi-polar internal opposition, nor any opposition faction be it civilian or armed with their external ties, can claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian People, just as the current rule with its ideological army and its confrontation parties lead by the Baath, with its years of experience and rooted bureaucracy, cannot achieve change and progress alone without new partners who can contribute to maintaining the fabric of the homeland, the integrity of its territory, and its regional sovereignty. The loss of trust between these two sides, and therefore the impossibility of getting together for a direct dialogue, will lead to continuous destruction and dismantling, which will only benefit the Israeli occupation at this stage,” he declares confidently.
Sharaa believes that “the political, economic, and social structure of the country is changing day by day and in front of our eyes. What is happening in Syria is homologous with what happened in the early 1990s in the countries of Eastern Europe. We should also note that those countries did not enter into civil clashes or destructive wars, during the transformation in their structure of their regimes, although they faced suffocating economic crises.”
Does the leadership have one opinion or are they just obeying the orders? Does the president listen, for example, to opinions that differ from his diagnosis?
“Of course, there are opinions and viewpoints among the political leadership. But the issue is not in a place that could lead to talk about different currents or deep divisions,” Sharaa replies.
“When I took care of the dialogue dossier, as vice president, in July 2011, I agreed to this appointment based on my convictions and everyone else’s in the national dialogue commission that this was a real step and not just a tactical move.”
“I do not deny that some of us acted as if [the dialogue] was unnecessary and whispered this to the leadership. So it distanced itself under the pretext that the internal and external opposition saw it as one of the regime’s charades. In the end, this finished off the political dialogue and opened the doors wide for the dialogue of bullets and guns. Today, Syria witnesses a sharp economic and livelihood crisis, in addition to the political and military conflict.”
Does anyone have the illusion that this people will accept foreign armies on Syrian soil? This will never happen and it will be resisted.“When we say that we refuse any external intervention, we base this on the fact that there was no consensus from the people to involve our national army in the crisis to begin with. So does anyone have the illusion that this people will accept foreign armies on Syrian soil? This will never happen and it will be resisted. The preeminence and unity of the Syrian army are indispensable in any of the proposed political solutions and discussions.”
But is the crisis only connected to political considerations?
“In any evaluation, we cannot ignore the local components linked with the economic situation and the policies implemented in the recent years at least. We also cannot ignore the actual need for a meaningful change in all of the state apparatus and its institutions. Real change is one which is based on solving the pressing issues based on requisite priorities. Maybe in the past we did not listen very carefully or take into consideration comments about the need for quick change. But we learn from our experience and that of others. Today, we understand that change is inevitable. If the regime does not take the initiative to achieve it with the others, it will happen through unilateral dictates from them.”
A Syrian Solution
How do you perceive the solution?
“Any logic based on the premise of rejecting dialogue indicates the desire for Syrians not to reach a solution on their own. Therefore, any settlement, whether starting with talks or agreements between Arab, regional, or foreign capitals, cannot exist without a solid Syrian foundation. The solution has to be Syrian, but through a historic settlement, which would include the main regional countries, and the members of UN Security Council. This settlement must include stopping all shapes of violence, and the creation of a national unity government with wide powers. This should be accompanied by the resolution of sensitive dossiers related to the lives of people and their legitimate demands.”
I do not see that what the security forces and the army units are doing will not reach a conclusive end.“The problem gets bigger and deeper when some start thinking that victory and defeat are possible. The opposition forces combined cannot decide the battle of overthrowing the regime militarily, unless they aim to pull the country into chaos and an unending circle of violence. Meanwhile, I do not see that what the security forces and the army units are doing will not reach a conclusive end, especially since we understand, without any illusions, the threat of the current campaign to destroy Syria, its history, civilization, and people. Brahimi’s contacts and visits, as well as the Geneva initiative, can be considered a suitable foundation for this settlement. I am not exaggerating when I say that reaching a historic settlement for the Syrian crisis might pave the way for an international environment of solving other important issues, through political means and not through military confrontation.”
But is the historical settlement ripe?
Sharaa hopes so, but is quick to add that “if each side involved in the settlement thinks that they can get all they expect and aspire to, then the legitimate national outlook of the Syrian people will be lost and the region’s fate will enter a dark tunnel.”