Tag Archives: Bashar al-Assad

Russian troops join combat in Syria


http://s1.reutersmedia.net/resources/r/?m=02&d=20150909&t=2&i=1078102328&w=&fh=&fw=&ll=644&pl=429&sq=&r=LYNXNPEB880U0
Russian forces have begun participating in military operations in Syria in support of government troops, three Lebanese sources familiar with the political and military situation there said on Wednesday.

The sources, speaking to Reuters on condition they not be identified, gave the most forthright account yet from the region of what the United States fears is a deepening Russian military role in Syria’s civil war, though one of the Lebanese sources said the number of Russians involved so far was small.

U.S. officials said Russia sent two tank landing ships and additional cargo aircraft to Syria in the past day or so and deployed a small number of naval infantry forces.

The U.S. officials, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said the intent of Russia’s military moves in Syria was unclear. One suggested the focus may be on preparing an airfield near the port city of Latakia, a stronghold of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. officials have not ruled out the possibility that Russia may want to use the airfield for air combat missions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to his Russian counterpart for the second time in four days to express concern over reports of Russian military activities in Syria, warning that it could fan more violence.

The White House said it was closely monitoring the situation.

Russia says the Syrian government must be incorporated into a shared global fight against Islamic State, the Islamist group that has taken over large parts of Syria and Iraq. The United States and Assad’s regional foes see him as part of the problem.

“We would welcome constructive Russian contributions to the counter-ISIL effort, but we’ve been clear that it would be unconscionable for any party, including the Russians, to provide any support to the Assad regime,” White House spokesman Eric Schultz said, using an acronym for Islamic State.

SYRIAN TROOPS PULLING BACK

Assad’s forces have faced big setbacks on the battlefield in a four-year-old multi-sided civil war that has killed 250,000 people and driven half of Syria’s 23 million people from their homes.

Syrian troops pulled out of a major air base last Wednesday, and a monitoring group said this meant government soldiers were no longer present at all in Idlib province, most of which slipped from government control earlier this year.

Moscow confirmed it had “experts” on the ground in Syria, its long-time ally in the Middle East.
But Russia has declined to comment on the scale and scope of its military presence. Damascus denied Russians were involved in combat, but a Syrian official said the presence of experts had increased in the past year.

Reflecting Western concern, Germany’s foreign minister warned Russia against increased military intervention, saying the Iran nuclear deal and new U.N. initiatives offered a starting point for a political solution to the conflict.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said reports of growing Russian military activity in Syria were a cause for concern, while France said it made finding a political solution to the crisis more complicated.

Two of the Lebanese sources said the Russians were establishing two bases in Syria, one near the coast and one further inland which would be an operations base.

“The Russians are no longer just advisors,” one of the sources said. “The Russians have decided to join the war against terrorism.”

RUSSIAN NAVAL BASE

Moscow’s only naval base in the Mediterranean is at Tartous on the Syrian coast in territory held by Assad, and keeping it secure would be an important strategic objective for the Kremlin.

Another of the Lebanese sources said that so far any Russian combat role was still small: “They have started in small numbers, but the bigger force did not yet take part … There are numbers of Russians taking part in Syria but they did not yet join the fight against terrorism strongly.”

The Syrian official said: “Russian experts are always present but in the last year they have been present to a greater degree.”

Officials in the United States, which is fighting an air war against the Islamist militant group Islamic State in Syria and also opposes Assad’s government, have said in recent days that they suspect Russia is reinforcing to aid Assad.

Washington has put pressure on countries nearby to deny their air space to Russian flights, a move Moscow denounced on Wednesday as “international boorishness”.

Russia has set out the case for supporting Assad in the most forthright terms yet in the past few days, likening the Western approach to Syria to failures in Iraq and Libya.

Part of the diplomatic quarrel has centred around use of air space for flights, which Moscow says bring humanitarian aid but U.S. officials say may be bringing military supplies.
U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Wednesday that multiple Russian flights have passed over the airspace of Iran and Iraq to reach Syria.

RUSSIAN OVERFLIGHTS

The State Department said Russian use of Iranian airspace would not be surprising, given Tehran’s past support for Assad.

Spokesman John Kirby said the United States had advised “partners and our friends to ask the Russians tough questions about” overflight requests. He did not elaborate, saying only: “I’m not gonna detail diplomatic conversations.”

To avoid flying over Turkey, one of Assad’s main enemies, Russia has sought to fly planes over Balkan states, but Washington has urged them to deny Moscow permission.

On Tuesday, Bulgaria refused a Russian request to use its airspace citing doubts about the cargo on board. It said on Wednesday it would allow Russian supply flights to Syria to use its airspace only if Moscow agreed to checks of their cargo at a Bulgarian airport.

Turkey has not officially confirmed a ban on Russian flights to Syria but says it considers any requests to fly over its air space to Syria on a case by case basis.

Thus far in the war, Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah have been Assad’s main sources of military support. The momentum turned against Assad earlier this year.

In the latest setback, state television reported government troops had surrendered an air base in northwestern Syria to a rebel alliance after nearly two years under siege.

This meant the last government troops had withdrawn from central Idlib province, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based group that monitors the conflict.

President al-Assad: Syria is capable of confronting any external aggression


President Bashar al-Assad said that Syria is capable of confronting any external aggression as it is facing a daily internal aggression by the armed terrorist groups, thanks to the steadfastness of the Syrian people and their support to the army.

President al-Assad was speaking during his meeting on Sunday with Chairman of the Foreign Policy and National Security Committee at the Iranian Shura Council, Alaeddin Boroujerdi.

20130901-165548.jpg

President al-Assad said that Syria is achieving one victory after another until restoring security and stability to the homeland.

The two sides discussed the situation in the region and the latest developments related to the US threats of launching a military aggression against Syria.

President al-Assad affirmed during the meeting that the US threats will not discourage Syria from commitment to its principles and firm stances, and combating terrorism backed by regional and Western countries, especially the US.

For his part, Dr. Boroujerdi, expressed the support of the Iranian leadership and people to Syria in the face of aggression, stressing that the honest people in the region will not allow foreign schemes that are targeting Syria’s role and the security and stability of the region’s populations to pass.

He considered that any external aggression on Syria will be a failure and will backfire on the aggressors as the ”US and its agents in the region, especially the Zionist entity, will be the main loser in this adventure.”

The flimsy pretexts that Washington is using to justify its threats have become exposed to the international public opinion, Boroujerdi said, adding that Iran advises all people of common sense around the world to put pressure on the US to spare the region and the world the risks of inflaming wars that no one can control.

In the same context, Prime Minister, Dr, Wael al-Halqi and Foreign and Expatiates Minister, Walid al-Moallem met Boroujerdi and the accompanying delegation.

Deputy Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Dr. Fayssal Mikdad and Advisor to Foreign and Expatriates Minister Ahmad Arnous attended the meeting.

International weapons experts leave Syria, U.S. prepares attack


– U.N. experts investigating a poison gas attack in Syria left on Saturday, paving the way for the United States to lead military strikes to punish Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States, which has five cruise-missile equipped destroyers in the region, is planning a “limited, narrow” military action to punish Assad for an attack that Washington said killed 1,429 people.

“We cannot accept a world where women and children and innocent civilians are gassed on a terrible scale,” Obama said on Friday after Washington unveiled an intelligence assessment concluding Assad’s forces were to blame for the attack.

After laying out the case in a televised speech, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke on Friday to the foreign ministers of European and Gulf allies, as well as the head of the Arab League, a senior State Department official said.

The team of U.N. experts drove up to Beirut International Airport on Saturday after crossing the land border into Lebanon by road earlier in the day. No Western intervention had been expected as long as they were still on the ground in Syria.

The 20-member team, which had arrived in Damascus three days before the Aug. 21 attack to investigate earlier accusations, eventually visited the sites several times, taking blood and tissue samples from victims in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.

Inspectors also took samples of soil, clothing and rocket fragments. However, their mandate is to determine whether chemicals were used, not who used them.

Washington says it does not need to wait for the inspectors to report, since it is already certain chemical weapons were used and convinced that Assad’s forces were behind the attack.

U.S. forces are likely to launch strikes jointly with France, which has strongly backed the use of force to punish Assad.

“The chemical massacre in Damascus cannot and must not go unpunished. Otherwise we’d run the risk of an escalation that would trivialise the use of these arms and put other countries at risk,” French President Francois Hollande told Friday’s Le Monde newspaper in an interview.

“REBEL PROVOCATION”

Britain also strongly backed action, but was forced to pull out of the coalition after Prime Minister David Cameron unexpectedly lost a vote over it in parliament on Thursday.

Turkey backs the use of force and Arab states in the region say Assad should be punished, although they have mainly stopped short of explicitly endorsing military strikes against him. Iran, which supports Assad, has warned of wider war.

Kerry said Washington must act to protect itself and its allies, including Syria’s neighbours Turkey, Jordan and Israel, from future use of banned weapons.

“If we choose to live in the world where a thug and a murderer like Bashar al-Assad can gas thousands of his own people with impunity” it would embolden others, such as Iran, Hezbollah and North Korea, Kerry said.

Syria and its main ally Russia say rebels carried out the attack as a provocation. Moscow has repeatedly used its U.N. Security Council veto to block forceful action against the Syrian leader and says any attack on Syria would be illegal and only inflame the civil war there.

“I am convinced that it (the chemical attack) is nothing more than a provocation by those who want to drag other countries into the Syrian conflict, and who want to win the support of powerful members of the international arena, especially the United States,” President Vladimir Putin said.

Syria’s Foreign Ministry repeated its denial that the government had used chemical weapons against its own people. Kerry’s accusations were a “desperate attempt” to justify a military strike. “What he said was lies,” the ministry said.

Washington says the Syrian denials are not credible, and the rebels would not have been able to launch such an attack.

The White House was to brief Republican senators on Syria in a conference call on Saturday at the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a spokesman for the senator said.

RESIDENTS PREPARE FOR STRIKES

In Syria itself, residents in and around Damascus readied themselves for a strike.

A man named Youssef carried a small plastic bag bulging with documents. “Do I put them in my parents’ home? My in-laws? At work? I don’t know which area is safer, I don’t know where to hide them,” he told a friend.

“That’s my marriage certificate, my passport, my home ownership deed, my college degree, and all my wife’s documents too. We can’t figure out where to put them for safekeeping.”

Doctors in the outskirts of the capital said they were training up teams and trying to secure shipments sent in by aid groups of atropine and oxygen, which are needed for treating poison gas victims.

“We worry about another chemical weapons attack should foreign powers carry out the strike, as some kind of revenge, or who knows what could happen,” said a doctor in the rebel-held suburb of Arbin, called Abu Akram.

Rebels said they were planning to take advantage of a strike to launch an offensive. Qassim Saadeddine, a former Syrian army colonel and spokesman for the rebels’ Supreme Military Council, said rebel groups had been sent a military plan of action.

“The hope is to take advantage when some areas are weakened by any strikes. We ordered some groups to prepare in each province, to ready their fighters for when the strike happens,” he told Reuters, speaking by Skype.

“They were sent a military plan that includes preparations to attack some of the targets we expect to be hit in foreign strikes, and some others that we hope to attack at the same time.”

West rebukes Putin over Syria at G8 summit


Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Ba...
Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . ...
English: President Bashar al-Assad of Syria . Original background removed. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Português do Brasil: O presidente Lula recebe ...
Português do Brasil: O presidente Lula recebe o presidente da República Árabe Síria, Bashar al-Assad, no Itamaraty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: US President Barack Obama and British...
English: US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron trade bottles of beer to settle a bet they made on the U.S. vs. England World Cup Soccer game (which ended in a tie), during a bilateral meeting at the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, Saturday, June 26, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Western leaders rebuked Russian President Vladimir Putin for supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad‘s attempt to crush a two-year-old uprising, setting the stage for a tense G8 summit of the world’s most powerful nations.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to use his first face-to-face meeting with Putin in a year to try to persuade the Kremlin chief to bring Assad to the negotiating table to end a conflict in which at least 93,000 people have been killed.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, who is chairing the G8 summit in a remote golf resort in Northern Ireland, conceded there was “a big difference” between the positions of Russia and the West on how to resolve the war.

In some of his most colourful remarks on Syria, Putin described anti-Assad rebels as cannibals who ate human flesh and warned Obama of the dangers of giving guns to such people. Moscow also said it would not permit no-fly zones over to Syria.

For their part, Western leaders have criticised Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, for sending weapons to Assad forces and considering deliveries of a sophisticated missile system.

“How can we allow that Russia continues to deliver arms to the Bashar al-Assad regime when the opposition receives very few and is being massacred?” French President Francois Hollande said.

Stung by recent victories for Assad’s forces and their support from Hezbollah guerrillas, the United States said last week it would step up military aid to the rebels including automatic weapons, light mortars and rocket-propelled grenades.

In an apparent response to this development, Assad said Europe would “pay the price” if it delivered arms to rebel forces, saying that would result in the export of terrorism to Europe.

“Terrorists will gain experience in combat and return with extremist ideologies,” he said in an advance extract of an interview due to be published in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tuesday.

Divisions over Syria dominated the atmosphere as global leaders streamed into the heavily guarded resort in Northern Ireland, a place once rocked by decades of violence but which Cameron now wants to showcase as a model of conflict resolution.

Despite the disagreements over Syria, Putin and his Western counterparts appeared cordial in their public appearances. The Kremlin chief cracked a grin as he shook Cameron’s hand outside the venue, as police helicopters surveyed the site overhead.

Moscow and Washington both agree that the bloodshed in Syria should stop and say they are genuinely trying to overcome mistrust between them. They had earlier agreed to set up a Syrian peace conference in Geneva but progress has been slow.

The European Union has dropped its arms embargo on Syria, allowing France and Britain to arm the rebels, though Cameron expressed concern about some of Assad’s foes.

“Let’s be clear – I am as worried as anybody else about elements of the Syrian opposition, who are extremists, who support terrorism and who are a great danger to our world,” Cameron said.

Syria aside, Cameron wants to focus on the formal agenda on tax, trade and transparency, dubbed “The Three Ts”, topics expected to dominate discussions on Tuesday.

As the summit kicked off on Monday afternoon, the United States and the EU opened negotiations for the world’s most ambitious free-trade deal, promising thousands of new jobs and accelerated growth on both sides of the Atlantic.

OBAMA-PUTIN TALKS

The spotlight was on Obama and Putin who were due to meet at about 6:30 p.m. at the Lough Erne golf resort about 10 km (7 miles) outside the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen, scene of an IRA bomb attack in 1987 that killed 11 people.

Security was tight and the venue was surrounded by a 15-ft high steel fence. Unlike previous summits which have seen often turbulent anti-capitalist protests, the meeting failed to attract any crowds, possibly due to its remote location.

In a speech in Belfast, Obama urged young people in Northern Ireland to finish making “permanent peace” and set an example to other areas of the world stricken by conflict.

Cameron could also face some awkward questions at the G8 table after a Guardian newspaper report that Britain spied on officials taking part in two Group of 20 meetings in 2009.

In a report published just hours before the G8 summit, the daily said some delegates from countries in the Group of 20 – which comprises top economies around the world – used Internet cafes that had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their emails.

“If these allegations prove to be true, it will be condemned in the strongest fashion and the necessary action taken,” said Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek, who the Guardian said had his calls intercepted by Britain.

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Canada, Russia, Germany, France, Britain and Italy – representing just over half of the $71.7 trillion (45.67 trillion pounds) global economy – will also discuss global economy and trade.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders are likely to say they are not content with progress so far in fixing their economies in the wake of the global financial crisis, according to a draft communiqué seen by Reuters.

Abe will use the opportunity to explain his blend of fiscal and monetary stimuli known as ‘Abenomics’ to the leaders as investors try to absorb the implications of a signal by the U.S. Federal Reserve it may start to slow its money-printing.

Russian S-300 missiles a pawn in diplomatic game,


Iran Elections
Iran Elections (Photo credit: bi0xid)
Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Ba...
Welcoming ceremony. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Iran Twitter Flag
Iran Twitter Flag (Photo credit: People’s Open Graphics)
Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...
Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Asma al-Assad, wife of the President ...
English: Asma al-Assad, wife of the President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar...
English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. Русский: СОЧИ, БОЧАРОВ РУЧЕЙ. С Президентом Сирии Башаром Асадом. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Russia‘s pledge to deliver anti-aircraft missiles to Damascus at a time when world powers are trying to end Syria‘s civil war is consistent with a pattern of using the weapons system as a bargaining chip in its power struggle with the West.

Russia has said it is committed to sell the S-300 surface-to-air missiles as a deterrent against foreign military intervention, under a contract struck in 2010 with President Bashar al-Assad.

But Western powers who are trying, along with Russia, to organise an international conference to end the 26-month-old conflict say such a delivery would be hugely counter-productive.

“No one knows if this conference will become a success, but it is the wrong message which has been sent by Russia to the world and to the region by delivering S-300 or other weapons,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Friday.

Secret WikiLeaks cables show that Russia has played this game before, in particular with the long-range S-300 that Israel, for one, sees as a “red line” threat to its airspace.

Russia’s determination to supply Syria mirrors an earlier commitment to Iran, though it long assured diplomats it had no intention of sending S-300s to either country, the cables show.

Russia was well aware of the “destabilising” effect of supplying weapons like the S-300 to the Middle East, one September 2008 cable quoted Viktor Simakov, Counselor for Israel and Palestine in Russia’s Foreign Ministry, as saying.

“Simakov reiterated that Russia understood very well Israel’s concern about either Syria or Iran obtaining the Iskander or S-300 missile systems,” the cable said.

Syria had upset Russia by allowing an earlier delivery of anti-tank missiles to fall into the hands of militant Islamist group Hezbollah, and Russia promised tighter “end user controls” in future.

Syria tried to obtain missiles in 2008 by offering to host Russia’s own missile defences on its territory, matching U.S. missile defences in Europe that Russia objects to. Although Russia did sign a contract in 2010, it did not then agree; Israel’s promise not to sell arms to Georgia during the Georgia-Russia war that August may have outweighed Syria’s offer.

Speculation was mounting in late 2008 that Russia was planning to honour its 2005 contract to supply S-300s to Iran. But Russian officials assured the U.S. charge d’affaires in Moscow that the transfer would not be completed until Iran complied with its nuclear obligations, according to one cable.

But by early 2009, the sale looked like it was going to take place, and Washington asked six allied Middle Eastern countries to raise the issue immediately with Russia.

The move appeared to pay off, although then-U.S. Ambassador to Moscow John Beyrle expected Russia to keep pressing the issue, for financial, political and foreign policy reasons.

The Iran sale was merely “frozen”, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told U.S. Senator Carl Levin in 2009, and hinted that Russia did not want to be challenged again.

“The less we hear from Washington about this, the better,” an April 2009 cable quoted Ryabkov as saying.

Russian officials told Amos Gilad, at that time head of the political-military bureau in Israel’s Ministry of Defence, that the missiles to Iran would not be delivered for political reasons.

“However, Gilad said the Russians would reassess this political calculation should the United States continue to pursue missile defense plans in Poland and the Czech Republic,” said a cable dated July 30, 2009.

In the end, Russia scrapped the sale in 2010, and in what may have been a quid pro quo, the Israelis agreed to sell Russia surveillance drones that would narrow its technological military gap with Georgia.

“For better or for worse, the delivery of S-300’s have become a barometer of our bilateral relations,” Ambassador Beyrle wrote in 2009.

Syrian forces kill American, British citizen accused of fighting alongside rebels.


Coat of arms of Syria -- the "Hawk of Qur...
Coat of arms of Syria — the “Hawk of Qureish” with shield of vertical tricolor of the national flag, holding a scroll with the words الجمهورية العربية السورية (Al-Jumhuriyah al-`Arabiyah as-Suriyah “The Syrian Arab Republic”). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
CNN Center- Atlanta, GA
CNN Center- Atlanta, GA (Photo credit: hpstyles)
English: Former president Hafez al-Assad was o...
English: Former president Hafez al-Assad was on display everywhere, Maaloula – Syria. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Author - Ammar Abd Rabbo Source - http://flick...
Author – Ammar Abd Rabbo Source – http://flickr.com/photos/21499556@N04/2085667933/ License – Some rights reserved CC-BY-SA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text ...
Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text God protects Syria on the old city wall of Damascus 2006 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Syrian state-run television reported Thursday that forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad killed three Westerners, including an American woman and a British citizen, who they claim were fighting with the rebels and were found with weapons.
Syrian TV identified the woman, releasing what it claimed were images of her Michigan driver’s license and U.S. passport. It also released what is said was the name and passport of a British citizen. It did not identify a third person who it claimed was a Westerner.
The report said the three were ambushed in their car in the flashpoint province of Idlib in northwestern Syria, where government forces have been battling rebels for control.
TV footage showed a bullet-riddled car and three bodies laid out. It also showed weapons, a computer, a hand-drawn map of a government military facility and a flag belonging to the al Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front.
The United States is aware of the claim that an American woman was killed and is working through the Czech Republic mission in Syria to obtain more information, a State Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told CNN.
Citing privacy concerns, “we are unable to comment further,” the official said.
A family member of the American woman told CNN on Thursday she was informed by the FBI about the death. The family member said the FBI did not provide any details about how the woman died.
CNN is not identifying the family member, who lives in Michigan, until next of kin notifications have been completed.
British officials in London did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.
Al-Nusra Front
If the Syrian state TV report is true, it will not be the first time an American has been accused of fighting with rebel groups to overthrow al-Assad.
In March, a former U.S. soldier was arrested and charged by the U.S. government with illegally using a weapon on behalf of the al-Nusra Front.
Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was arrested by the FBI after returning to the United States from Syria, where authorities allege he fought with the militant group. He was charged with the alleged use of a rocket-propelled grenade.
The organization he allegedly fought with, al-Nusra Front, is one of several aliases used by al Qaeda in Iraq. Al-Nusra has claimed responsibility for more than 600 attacks in Syria, the Justice Department said.
An FBI affidavit says Harroun crossed into Syria in January 2013 and fought against al-Assad’s forces. He posted photos and videos of himself on the Internet handling RPGs and other weapons, it said.
Harroun served with the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2003.
Troubled talks
The report by Syrian state TV came on the same day that a leader of Syria’s main rebel coalition said the group may not participate in a conference aimed at brokering an end to the civil war.
“It is difficult to continue when Syrians are constantly being hammered by the Assad regime with the help of outside forces,” said George Sabra, acting chairman of the National Coalition, in a statement.
He cited the siege of Qusayr and attacks on Eastern Gouta, a suburb of Damascus, as well as what he said was an “invasion” by Iranian militia members in support of al-Assad.
Russia, which supports Damascus, expressed its own reservations. Conditions on the peace talks demanded by the National Coalition are too restrictive, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters, state news agency ITAR-Tass reported.
“One has the impression that the National Coalition and its regional sponsors are doing their utmost in a bid to prevent the beginning of a political process and resort to all means, including brainwashing in the West, to induce military intervention,” Lavrov is quoted as saying. “We regard such approaches as impermissible.”
In addition, the coalition “is not the sole representative of the Syrian people,” Lavrov said. “The coalition has no constructive platform.”
The National Coalition has demanded that al-Assad step aside as a condition for its participation in the talks, which were originally scheduled to be held this month in Geneva, Switzerland, but have been delayed.
The Syrian government has insisted that any talks be held without preconditions and has said that al-Assad will finish his term and must be qualified to run again in the 2014 elections.
Fighting rages on
Some 3,000 to 4,000 Lebanese Hezbollah fighters have been deployed to Syria, where they are fighting alongside government forces, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told the Foreign Affairs Committee of France’s National Assembly.
The Lebanese fighters have been involved in a battle for Qusayr, a town of about 20,000 that sits astride one route to the Syrian coast and another to the Lebanese border.
For the rebels, holding Qusayr represents a way of limiting the regime’s ability to sustain itself.
On Thursday, the media office of the Syrian Coalition in Istanbul, Turkey, said in an appeal for help that the number of wounded citizens in Qusayr had exceeded 1,000.
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said the fighting was part of its mission “to pursue terrorists in Qusayr and its countryside.”
‘One axis’
In an interview broadcast Thursday night by the Hezbollah television station Al-Manar, al-Assad was quoted by Lebanese media as saying, “Syria and Hezbollah are one axis.”
Hezbollah forces “are in Lebanon and Syria, on the border area,” al-Assad said.
According to the pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar newspaper, he said, “There are groups of (Hezbollah) party fighters in the border areas with Lebanon. But the Syrian army is the one fighting and running battles against the armed groups, and will continue in this battle in order to eliminate” what he described as “terrorists.”
The president expressed skepticism that the talks proposed for Geneva would prove fruitful, the newspaper reported.
Al-Assad is further quoted as saying that “Syria received the first batch of the Russian S-300 missiles, antiaircraft systems” and that “the rest of the shipment will arrive soon.”
“The contracts are not related to the conflict,” he said. “We negotiate with them for various kinds of weapons for years. And Russia is fulfilling these contracts.”
Russia has been criticized by the West for reported sales of six S-300 air defense systems to Syria under a 2010 contract.
Moscow, however, has said such deliveries would conform with international law and has denied supplying Syria with weapons that can be used against civilians.

International parties have hidden agenda to destroy Syria – Hamas leader


Syria
Syria (Photo credit: Zachary Baumgartner)
syria
syria (Photo credit: ewixx)
English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...
English: Brasilia – The president of the Syrian Arab Republic, Bashar Al-Assad during a visit to Congress Português do Brasil: Brasília – O presidente da República Árabe Síria, Bashar Al-Assad, em visita ao Congresso Nacional (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Asma al-Assad, wife of the President ...
English: Asma al-Assad, wife of the President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A flag, with the Shahadah, frequently used by ...
A flag, with the Shahadah, frequently used by Hamas supporters Proportions: 9:16Citation needed (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Bashar al-Assad under pressure
English: Bashar al-Assad under pressure (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hamas
Hamas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar...
English: SOCHI. With President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. Русский: СОЧИ, БОЧАРОВ РУЧЕЙ. С Президентом Сирии Башаром Асадом. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Khaled Meshaal in a meeting with span...
English: Khaled Meshaal in a meeting with spanish journalists (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First came confirmation that the interview was on. We flew to the Qatari city of Doha.

And waited…And waited…Then we were given a day, then two hours notice – a location.

That is an area of the city and a time. No address – just initial directions to the general area.

We proceeded junction to junction; roundabout to roundabout, stopping to receive new directions at each way point.

A Mossad injection 15 years ago very nearly killed the man we were going to see. Three years ago another top Hamas official was assassinated in a Dubai hotel room by a group of Mossad agents dressed up as tennis-playing tourists on faked passports – including British ones.

So the Palestinian group Hamas, do not take chances. Elected to power in Gaza over, yet deemed “a terrorist organisation” by the US and the EU, Hamas remains committed to denying Israel’s right to exist and resisting Israel by force of arms.
We arrived at a villa after several calls for the next stage of directions. “So who owns this place then?”

“It is owned by a man,” came the reply from the genial man in charge of welcoming us to this safe house.

Several times the producer would ask the question, several times, exactly the same smiling reply. We hand in our mobile phones. We walk through an airport-style scanner. The film equipment is carefully, intimately, searched. Then tea, cakes, sweets and we wait.

Finally, the courtyard doors open again and Khaled Meshaal emerges from a 4×4 with guards. The boss of Hamas is with us.

Neatly trimmed beard, soft-spoken with a ready smile, careful to greet all our team and both cameramen with handshakes. Scrupulous not to neglect or ignore anybody in the room. The guards take up postions by the door and outside. Open- necked shirt, neat, dark jacket: the technocrat, fixer, pragmatist, very much intended look.

I start with Syria.
Hamas left Damascus in January last year, for Doha. Goodbye to his longtime friend and ally President Bashar al-Assad: “The military approach is wrong. It makes the crisis worse. It doesn’t solve anything,” he explains, “it only makes it more complicated. What we are witnessing today proves our advice was right.”

So advice to Assad to seek a political solution when it looked feasible. And now Hamas denies the accusations that it is supporting rebel Syrian groups like the Free Syrian Army.

“We do not interfere in Syrian internal affairs nor do we interfere in the Syrian Crisis and this is our policy towards the Arab Spring and all other Arab and non-Arab countries in the world,” he said.

“So when the British government wants to arm Syrian rebels they’re making a mistake?” I ask.

“Hamas policy is against any foreign intervention in our countries.This is our general principle. But at the same time we support the rights of people to freedom, democracy and reform and we are against the use of force and violence, massacres, and military options against them. We support people to win their rights, but we are against foreign intervention.

“The international community has been talking about this for months and I think there is a kind of deception going on, and that there is a hidden agenda from many international parties to prolong the Syrian crisis and destroy Syria. These parties do not want to see recovery for Syria…they use positive slogans but in reality their attitude identifies with the Israeli agenda of destroying Syria, more death, and prolonging the Syrian crisis.”
I ask: “In moving to Doha you are sending a clear message to Assad that he should go?”

“No no, this is not what we meant. We, as the leadership of Hamas, had to leave Damascus the moment we felt that our efforts to convince the Syrian leadership to choose a solution other than the military one failed. On the other hand, the Syrian leadership was not happy with Hamas’ political stance and also, I felt they wanted to put pressure or demand on us to stand by the official Syrian position and support the leadership in their military solution to the Syrian issue … this is why we did not feel then I could stay, so we left – circumstances forced itself on us, but if Assad goes or stays, that’s up to the Syrian people not to us,” is the reply.

“But you moved to Qatar,” I say, “which more than any other supports the rebels in Syria. You’ve betrayed a great friend in Bashar al-Assad and betrayed Iran.”

“I explained to you why we left and this not a betrayal of any one We did not mean to anger any party by our political position, we just stuck to our principles.”

But it’s clear the move has been difficult. Relations with Syria are strained to put it mildly. Qatar has long been the key sponsor of the uprising in Syria. The Emir recently visited Gaza, and as we speak Qatari money is rebuilding the ruins of Israeli bombing back in Gaza.

And then Israel itself.

Bizarrely Hamas and Israel may even find themselves close to being on the same side over Syria. Israel bombs, Hamas leaves Damascus and seeks refuge in the coutry supporting the rebels. How deep is the rift with Assad? If profound, then on the basis that my enemy’s enemy is my friend Hamas could be uncomfortably close to The Zionist Entity as they would have it:

“If you use this kind of description,” says Mr Meshal, “how can you explain the Israeli assault against us in Gaza months ago?

“The aggression that killed our great leader Ahmad Al-Jaabary after we left Syria. Israel looks after its own interest and has its own policy of assault no matter which country it’s assaulting, if it’s Lebanon or Syria or any other country in the World. Israel is our enemy.”

So does Hamas continue with its position of stating that Israel clearly exists de facto but has no legitimacy to exist in law?

“I am surprised that the world keeps concentrating on the recognition of Israel and its right to exist, while it is an existing state on the ground, occupying the land and expelling its people while practising all manner of killings, aggression and terror. In all civil and religious laws in the world, there is no legitimacy to any one who establishes themselves by means of violation and the seizure of land and the rights of others. Does the international community accept this equation?”

“So yes or no? Does Israel have the right to exist Mr Meshal?”

“You ask your question your way, so let me answer you in my way. I’m telling you, we are the real owners of the land. We have the right to live freely without occupation, settlements, aggression, prisons and Jewishisation of the land.The law I believe in and I think it’s the same for every human being in the world, not only the Arabs and all Muslims is that there is no legitimacy or future for occupation or aggression.”

I wondered if there were any circumstances in which he could conceive of shaking hands with the Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu?

“Although the question is legitimate, how can I have peace with a killer like Netanyahu. Think logically. I am the Palestinian victim, my land is occupied, and my people are displaced. Netanyahu is waging war against my own people, and denies my rights, so why would the world expect me to shake his hand in the future? There was a historical handshake between Rabin and Arafat, God bless his soul, in the White House Garden when they signed Camp David Agreement, but what was the result? This hand, Arafat’s, the hand that shook Rabin’s hand was poisoned and killed by Rabin’s followers after that.”

He accuses Israel of somehow relishing concessions from Arabs in the Middle East for their own sake and here the historical self-image of Hamas is tellingly revealed.

“It’s a kind of sadism because it enjoys and relishes the Arab concessions. This is why the only answer to this situation is to take a rigid stance.

“You are in Britain and you are a respectable TV station. Why are the British proud of Churchill when he was dealing with Nazism when they occupied France and bombed Britain? Why did De Gaulle call for resistance to the German occupation of France from London? Why did he become a hero instead being criticised because of his lack of flexibility?”

With that, he takes his leave in a leisurely fashion. There are more talks with others in side the house before the guard shepherd him into the 4×4 and he leaves the house “owned by a man” and we can now retrieve our mobile phones and, after a suitable time has elapsed, leave the villa as well.