Most estimates agree that more than 15,000 Syrians have been killed since the uprising began. Whatever the make-up of the armed opposition, everyone agrees that the only forces in Syria with tanks and heavy artillery belong to the Syrian army. Damage to buildings in many cities caused by shelling by these forces has been widely seen. Yet, President Bashar al-Assad now claims that the majority of the casualties in the conflict are government supporters who have been killed by “terrorists.”
Here’s my question for anyone who anyone who casts a critical eye on the global war on terrorism: why would you not be even more skeptical about Syria’s war on terrorism?
Robert Mackey has posted an interview of Assad conducted in English by Jürgen Todenhöfer, a former member of the German Parliament who is an outspoken critic of Western foreign policy in the Muslim world.
Mr. Todenhöfer also interviewed Mr. Assad during a previous reporting trip to Syria, late last year. After that visit, the German author wrote in a report for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “Paradoxically, it is Bashar al-Assad who could most likely achieve a peaceful transition toward democracy, because he still has the power and still holds the authority among the majority of the population.”
In that same article, Mr. Todenhöfer also criticized foreign media reports on Syria and the armed rebels. “According to my personal experiences in Damascus, Dara’a, Homs and Hama,” he wrote, “at least half of the reports on Syria are simply false – almost like before the Iraq war.” He added that the “guerrilla commandos, whose methods differ little from those of the state’s security services,” have “robbed the revolution of its innocence and also harmed the peaceful demonstrators who have the historical merit of having initiated the process of democratization.”
Mr. Assad’s comments in the new interview included the accusation that Syrian rebels — whom he described as “an amalgam of Al Qaeda” and drug-smuggling criminals — were responsible for the recent massacre in Houla. He also claimed that the “armed gangs” who carried out the killings had worn government uniforms to frame forces loyal to him.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports: Kofi Annan has declared his third round of talks with Bashar al-Assad as “constructive” and suggested his stillborn plan to stop the violence in Syria may yet be revived.
The UN special envoy to Syria said on Monday that a fresh approach to end the conflict would be put to the Syrian opposition, but offered no further details.
The centrepiece of the former UN chief’s plan announced in April was a ceasefire by both sides that never took hold. Instead, the violence in Syria has escalated, with daily death tolls over the past two months approaching those seen during the bloodiest days of Iraq’s civil war six years ago.
Before Monday’s summit, the Syrian president described Annan’s plan as good. After the two-hour meeting, Assad’s aides couched the the talks as “constructive and good”.