Who is Bashar Al Assad?
By Arabi Souri, Global Research, 31-3-2013
Bashar al-Assad has been systematically demonized by the mainstream and so-called alternative media who claim that he is a brutal dictator.
Actually Bashar is a reformer who has done much to further the causes of democracy and freedom. It is the “opposition” and their foreign supporters which represent the most repressive elements of the former ruling party in Syria.
To fully understand this its is helpful to look at the historical context of the current crisis. The so-called “spontaneous popular uprising” started in Daraa on March 15th, 2011. The court house, police stations, governor’s house, and other public buildings were looted and torched by the “peaceful protestors” in the first week of the crisis. The people in Homs then began to protest in solidarity with Daraa, but this was uncharacteristic of peaceful Homs and many Syrians knew that it was a fake revolution.
About 110 unarmed police officers were murdered in Daraa and Homs, sparking anger against the “revolutionaries.” There was an incident in the city Baniyas where an Alawite truck driver was attacked by an armed mob, skinned, and paraded through the city. This was strongly resented by almost all Syrians and since then not a single major city actually rebelled against the government.
No sectarian based parties
Assad took advantage of the revolution to introduce his packages of reforms, putting aside those in the old guards who opposed them. Many of the old guard then joined the opposition abroad.
The opposition demanded the removal of article 8 from the Syrian constitution making the Baath Party head of the government. Instead of just deleting it Bashar Assad had the constitution re-written by a specialized committee of Syrian experts. The Baath-party became an ordinary party. A referendum was held and the new constitution was approved with almost 90% of a voter turnout of 60%.
Assad then enacted a Media Law that would allow more freedom of expression and the establishment of new independent media outlets. Assad eased requirements on the formation of political parties, excluding sectarian based (religious) parties.
Opposition: Fighting for a neoliberal theocracy
The fundamentalists and the Muslim Brotherhood reject a secular constitution. They don’t want to be ‘political parties with a political program’. They are fighting for an Islamist state, controlled by religious parties. They don’t seek democracy with its human laws (the voice of the people). They only are interested in “God’s Laws” (Sharia – the voice of the scholars).
Western allies like Qatar and Saudi-Arabia don’t possess secular, democratic constitutions. Those countries are old-fashioned, capitalist theocracies.
The elite owns the money and the Quran is their constitution. The scholars, who represent the Quran, are transformed into Gods. If you don’t obey the scholar then you are the devil and you will be crucified…, like Jesus in biblical times was crucified by Jewish scholars.., because he was not a Jewish nationalist and an enemy of religious (sharia) law.
Bashar al-Assad is the son of late president Hafez al-Assad. Hafez was described by western mainstream media as a tyrant and oppressor but he was not nearly as bad as any other leader in his time like Thatcher, Reagan, or any of the region’s rulers including Turkey’s military rule.
The current anti-Assad opposition often refer to the 1982 Hama ‘massacre’. They claim that Hafez besieged the city and then bombed it killing up to 40,000 civilians. You must understand the conditions in the country at the time to know what really happened.
1) The Muslim Brotherhood was engaged in a war of terror at that time, nothing less than what the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is doing now.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s forces were called the ‘Fighting Vanguard’ (Arabic “Al Taleea Al Muqatleh”).
Many of the present leaders of the FSA are the same men who led the Fighting Vanguard in the 80s; and they were as savage as their sons now. One of the Fighting Vanguard’s bombings included the Azbakiyeh Bombing in Damascus which took the lives of over 175 civilians and injured hundreds more, and there were many other terror attacks.
Thirty years after the fighting in Hama a report by US intelligence was declassified revealing that the death toll didn’t even reach 2,000. That number included 400 Muslim Brotherhood Fighting Vanguard militants; many Syrian Army soldiers and officers; Baath Party and other state officials; and a number of civilians who were caught in the fire.
2) The entire Hama episode was led by Hafez al-Assad’s younger brother Rifaat Assad. Rifaat was heading the Saraya Difaa (later to become the Republican Guard).
The Hama massacre, carried out by the Syrian Army supposedly under commanding General Rifaat al-Assad, effectively ended the campaign begun in 1976 by Sunni Islamic groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, against Assad’s government. At that time the Syrian minister of defense was Mustapha Tlass, and the Syrian minister of foreign affairs was Abdul Halim Khaddam.
All three of them: Riffaat al-Assad, Mustapha, and Abdul Khaddam are leading and financing the political opposition against Bashar from abroad right now.
Rifaat al-Assad: “What happened in Hama was a true war whereby the city was occupied fot three days during which Baathists, communist and secularists were killed.” “They were killing people indiscrimately on their own.”
searching for leadership
When Hafez al-Assad suffered from heart problems in late 1983, he established a six-member committee to run the country. Rifaat was not included, and the council consisted entirely of close Sunni Muslim loyalists to Hafez. This caused unease in the Alawi-dominated officer corps, and several high-ranking officers began rallying around Rifaat.
Rifaat’s troops began asserting control over Damascus, setting up checkpoints and roadblocks, putting up posters of him in State buildings, disarmimg regular troops and arbitrarily arresting soldiers of the regular Army, occupying and commandeering Police Stations and Intelligence buildings, occupying State buildings; he was clearly launching a bid to succeed his brother.
But by the middle of 1984 Hafez had returned from his sick bed and assumed full control, at which point most officers rallied around him. In what at first seemed a compromise, Rifaat was made vice-president with responsibility for security affairs, but this proved a wholly nominal post. Command of the ‘Defense Companies’, which was trimmed down to an Armoured Division size, was transferred to another officer, and ultimately the entire unit was disbanded and absorbed into other units. Rifaat was then sent to the Soviet Union on “an open-ended working visit”. His closest supporters and others who had failed to prove their loyalty to Hafez were purged from the army and Baath Party in the years that followed.
Foreign support for Rifaat al-Assat
Numerous rumors tie Rifaat al-Assad to various foreign interests. Rifaat is considered close, by some observers, to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Abdullah is married to a sister of Rifaat’s wife, and Rifaat has on occasions — even after his public estrangement from the rulers in Syria — been invited to Saudi Arabia, with pictures of him and the royal family displayed in the state-controlled press.
After the Iraq war, there were press reports that he had started talks with US government representatives on helping to form a coalition with other anti-Assad groups to provide an alternative Syrian leadership, on the model of the Iraqi National Congress.
Yossef Bodansky, the director of the US Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, has stated that Rifaat enjoys support from both America and Saudi Arabia.
In 2010, Rifaat was living in Mayfair, London. As of 2011 he is living in Avenue Foch, Paris, while trying to sell off his real estate properties. Rifaat has recently been funding the London-based Next Century Foundation’s Syria project.
Declares himself leader of the revolution
November 2011 Rifaat al-Assad called in Paris for a peaceful transfer of power in Syria. “The solution would be that the Arab states guarantee [Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad’s security so he can resign and be replaced by someone with financial backing who can look after Bashar’s people after his resignation.”
Rifaat, who is the President’s uncle, suggested that the transfer of power remain in the family, naming either himself or his son Sumer as the best candidates.
“It should be someone from the family … me, or someone else.” Rifaat cited Alawite concerns, the minority sect of the Assad family, that they are, “no longer convinced of the ability of Bashar to find a solution,” to the crisis.
The former Vice President further criticized his nephew, holding him personally responsible for the situation in Syria. “He is the one who leads Syria, no one else,” he said.
Rifaat Assad also said that the Arab League Initiative was “not enough” to encourage reform, and has called for, “a kind of international or Arab alliance,” that could, “be a real guarantor, (freelibrary.com)
Bashar al-Assad & The neoliberals
When Bashar was selected by the Syrian Parliament to succeed his father in 2000 he removed all of the treasonous foes and foreign agents that Hafez had maintained in office.
In June 2000 the Damascus Spring was started. It lasted until Autumn 2001 by which time most of the treasonous opposition’s foreign funding, and relations with the US Department of State and corporate think tanks had been exposed. The corrupt officials and their families were expelled from Syria and settled in foreign countries.
They used their massive accumulations of wealth to mount political opposition to Bashar from abroad. In 2003 the US was occupying Iraq. US Secretary of State Collin Powell visited Bashar and handed him a list of demands including:
1. Cutting all ties with the five main Palestinian factions in Syria,
2. Severing Syria’s relations with Iran in exchange for a promise of better relations with some Arab states.
3. Signing a peace treaty with Israel similar to one Syria had already refused.
4. Removing books from schools with any enmity towards Israel.
5. Allowing western banks and companies unhindered access to Syrian markets and resources along with other neo-liberal reforms.
Bashar refused these demands. Instead Bashar sought to hinder the occupation of Iraq and demanded that the occupying forces withdraw. …
This background gives the context accompanying president Assad’s reform attempts in Syria, where he had to face foreign powers from abroad and their agents from within.
About the author: The author was born and lived in Damascus, Syria. He moved to Germany ten years ago and runs a company that organizes tourist groups to Syria. Before the conflict he went to Syria often to stay for days and months. He has been an outspoken defender of the Syrian government and has been targeted by the Free Syrian Army who destroyed his property and threatened his life, and so writes under the name Arabi Souri.