A prominent Washington-based analyst says that the US’ and its Western and Persian Gulf allies’ policy to reject any peaceful negotiation possibility in Syria’s unrest and to back the radical al-Qaeda terrorists against the country, is “inhumane, insane and illegal”.
Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the armed violence. The Syrian government says certain Western states, especially the United States and its regional allies are fueling the foreign-sponsored armed unrest in the coutry.
Press TV has conducted an interview with James Jatras, Former US Senate foreign policy analyst from Washington D.C to further discuss the issue at hand. He is joined by two additional guests on Press TV’s News Analysis program: Caleb Maupin, with the International Action Center from New York City and Sharif Nashashibi, chairman of the Arab Media Watch from London. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Let us talk about these different insurgent groups and of course mercenaries that are mixed in there, running rampage in Syria. So much so that a 30-member military command center was apparently needed to be formed, headed by this General Salim Idris who, is said defected from Syrian army.
Now he said that he hopes and I underline that word to transform largely autonomous groups of fighters, wherever they are, into a unified force.
Not a good sign, 18 months to this, a little bit more, of a hope of trying to contain these insurgents.
Jatras: It is really a very sick joke. We really have a situation where is the United States and our closest allies in NATO, the Saudis, the Persian Gulf states, Turkey of course, have once again planted our flag on solid support of the most radical Sunni groups, which is a pattern we followed in Afghanistan, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Libya and now in Syria and then as we help to bring these very violent people to power, we then express concerns about, Oh wait a minute! There are elements of al-Qaeda here, I hope you can control them!
Where do you think al-Qaeda came from in the first place? Where do you think the Taliban came from in the first place? As a product of American and Saudi and other Western support in Afghanistan and the pattern has been replicated in many countries since.
What is particularly upsetting to me as an American, and I must say as a Christian, is that we see the kind of carnage that this has resulted in the Christian community in places like Libya and like in Iraq in particular and now we see this at the hands of the US-supported rebels in Syria, which if they take power we will have the predictable consequences for the Christians in that country.
It is a policy that is inhumane, insane and illegal.
Press TV: Let us get James Jatras for a response. Go ahead James Jatras.
Jatras: Yes, I do not think that we can equate the two things because the Western powers, led by the United States, have started with a priori non-negotiable demand and condition that the only conceivable outcome in Syria is that the Assad government must be removed. They only want to talk, we only want to talk about how to get from A to B, how to achieve that and we have already decided what the outcome must be.
I do not think talk of dictatorship really moves the ball here. Does anybody think that the rebels are going to bring anything close to like a democracy or a tolerant society to power? It is not a question of democracy versus dictatorship; it is a question between one regime, which is relatively secular, relatively open, although not certainly according to Western standards of democracy, versus probably something led by the Muslim brotherhood if not something more radically Islamic that would take its place.
That is what the Western powers are supporting with our democratic Saudi friends! I do not think you are going to equate this to the Russians and Iranians and other countries that are supporting the Syrian government, which is a recognized international government and they are not demanding a priori any particular outcome.
If the United States and our allies will drop the demand for Assad’s ouster and say Ok, fine! Let us agree on a ceasefire, let us agree with a suspension of aid [to] all of the warring sides and let us have a genuine negotiation with no preconditions and with open-ended outcome; I think the other side will go for that; but it is the western powers that are rejecting that possibility.
Press TV: This thing keeps popping up James Jatras, over and over again, the unification or lack of it for the opposition and now it has, well it is called the National Coalition, with its new leader Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, and also of course insurgents not being unified. When do you think that they are going to get unified?
Are they going to be successful in that and is that going to be the key for them in terms of pursing their agenda in Syria?
No I do not think all of this talk of unification of the rebel groups really means much if anything. We talk about this all the time we talked about it in Libya, we talked about it in Kosovo until we picked our designated group of thugs that we supported there. I think that that is sideshow, I think the only thing we can really predict is that if these people did come to power they will be very, very bad; just like nobody bothers to look at what the wreckage is in Libya after we left there.
I would like to also refer to the earlier point about whether there would be an intervention. You cannot talk of an intervention just in terms of boots on the ground or even an air campaign like we saw in Libya and in Kosovo.
The fact is that providing weapons and funds to insurgent, terrorist groups is already an intervention. It is already an illegal active aggression against a recognized, sovereign state.
So the idea that somehow will there or will not be an intervention is out of question. The question is, will there be an escalation?
[in response to Sharif Nashashabi]: Would you like to hear the answer? I agree about atrocities too, but it seems to me that the person who starts the war has to take the responsibility, especially when it is an outside power committing aggression.
There are many cases; let us take for example Turkey and the Kurdish insurgency. If an outside power was supplying weapons to the PKK to launch attacks within Turkey and the Turkish government responded, the United States would be first on the spot to say we fully support the Turkish government no matter how heavy-handed they came down on the insurgents and on the civilians who supported them.
We [US] are very selective when it comes to who is committing atrocities.
I am saying let us stop putting the cart before the horse. When an outside power supports rebel terrorist groups against the government and the government responds with force and atrocities are also committed by the government, as are by the rebels, to whom does responsibility belong? To the aggressor or to the government defending its territory?
I do not agree with you on the premise that we have seen this in other cases, where a political opposition that is not successful turns into a violent opposition, supported by outside powers; the principle of sovereignty is that a recognized government has a monopoly of the use of force within its territory that cannot be usurped by outside powers who arm what are, frankly, terrorists in order to provoke the sovereign government in a way that would then justify outside intervention.
Again we saw that in Kosovo, we saw that in Libya, we are seeing that again in Syria.
Press TV: Your closing comments James Jatras?
Jatras: Yes, I think that a secular dictatorship is far better for the most people’s lives in terms of integrity of a religiously and ethnically diverse country than empowering one group, in this case the Muslim Brotherhood and even more radical groups like al-Nusrah, to say go ahead and impose a theocratic dictatorship on the majority of Syrians who do not want it.
How is that an improvement? It seems to me it is less humane, more violent and more of a danger to the [Middle East and Persian Gulf] region.