Assad: We Regained the Upper Hand
Published Monday, January 28, 2013
Damascus – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told visitors that the Syrian army "regained the initiative on the ground to a very high degree and achieved important results, which will come to light soon."
"Externally funded armed groups received several hard blows recently," Assad added.
"The US is not ready for a solution in the time being." He believed that Russia will remain his ally. "It is defending itself, not the regime in Syria," he continued, stressing that "we will not budge from the articles of the Geneva agreement."
These positions were relayed to Al-Akhbar by Arab visitors to the Syrian presidential palace who were interested in seeing the inner workings of Syrian decision-making first hand, specifically when it comes to the president himself.
One of those visitors sat with Assad for more than three hours. He told Al-Akhbar that despite not being too influenced by anti-Assad propaganda, he was surprised at what he saw and heard. The Syrian president holds regular meetings in al-Rawda Palace in Damascus. His team follows up on his work as usual. On the personal level, the man seems calm and in control. His confidence level stands out. Also, there’s the news of the pregnancy of his wife Asmaa, which could not be dealt with as a simple personal matter between a couple.
From the personal to the political, Assad surprises his guests "by his intricate reading of the situation in this phase." This comment was repeated by several people who saw him recently. He speaks about "the minutest details in the Syrian provinces. His information encompasses a street here and the news of a small neighborhood there. The reports he receives are comprehensive, even when they’re not to his liking."
According to his visitors, "Assad is thoroughly aware of the international efforts to solve the crisis in Syria.” Some remark by saying, “If it was not so, the state would not have been able to survive for this long, the Syrian Arab Army would not have maintained its cohesion.”
Assad, as his visitors told Al-Akhbar, maintains that “the army has regained the initiative on the ground to a large extent, achieving important results, in addition to what it had achieved in the last 22 months. It stopped fighters from controlling whole governorates, limiting their playground to border zones with Turkey mainly, and Jordan and Lebanon to an extent. There are also some pockets in the capital’s countryside, which are being dealt with by the army. The capital Damascus is in a better situation. Its strategic points – despite all the attempts by the militants – remained safe, especially the airport road.”
Stopping at what happened at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp outside Damascus, Assad says that camp has its symbolism, which led the Syrian leadership not to take the decision to confront the militants that occupied a part of it. The solution of the Yarmouk predicament was left to the Palestinian factions, to provide initiatives for a solution, which the Syrian official side agreed to.
The Syrian president was asked by his visitors about what he said in the Opera House about “refusing to let Syria become a hotel resort.” He answered by saying that he does not want to dwell on that debate, but “I was hurt by those who should have been witness that our dealings with the Palestinian factions were never based on religion or confession.”
“Instead, they became false witnesses claiming that the Syrian state is acting in a sectarian manner. Logic says that we should expect them to tell the truth. We understand the circumstances of some of them, and we would have accepted their silence if they had been unable to be rightful witnesses.”
The Syrian president said that despite the positions adopted by leaders of some Palestinian factions “Syria, which paid dear from the pockets and savings of its impoverished people in support of the Palestinian resistance, will not bend on this support.”
Assad asserts that “what the Syrian army achieved in the last few weeks will come to light soon.” He shares some details, which can be taken as an indicator of “a real change of the situation on the ground. For example, there are 15,000 citizens who returned voluntarily to Homs. The Syrian people are fed up already with all these deviants that destroyed their streets, homes, and commercial shops.”
Assad sees that “closing the Syrian borders to the weapons and smugglers could resolve the issue in two weeks, since the sources of money and arms will be destroyed.”
He told his visitors that “the externally-funded armed groups received strong blows recently. This development intersects with an international move, most prominently the inclusion of al-Nusra Front on the terrorism list, which will be followed by further measures that will lead to wiping out this al-Qaeda branch altogether.”
Assad believes that the US is not ready for a solution in the time being. He believes Russia will continue to support him. “It is protecting itself, not the Syrian regime,” he explained, stressing that “we will not budge on the articles of the Geneva agreement.”
He stressed that Syria will continue to cooperate with the Arab-International envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, although “the latter seemed in his latest visit to Damascus to be somehow influenced by the media campaign against Syria.”
Assad’s visitors maintain that Brahimi suggested that the president steps down in the transitional phase on the basis that any president will not have serious powers in such a period. But the Syrian president “blocked him and explained to him in his special way that what will solve the crisis in Syria is the situation in the field, which is getting better every day in favor of the regime.”
Today, according to his visitors, Assad follows the news about the war taking place in his country. In his opinion, he was able to surpass the most difficult stages and things will be clear soon. He stresses the need for “logistical arrangements for the next phase. There is a plan to return the refugees to their districts and homes, which will be announced in due time and there are other plans for reconstruction.”
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.