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DAMASCUS, (SANA): Before I start this speech, I would like to say that I was asked several times last week, why I look pale, and whether it was because of the pressures. I said no. In fact I was a little ill. I am saying this so that I do not get asked the same question again. Political circumstances make us more united; and when we get united we become stronger and livelier. This speech was scheduled for next week; but because of the fast pace of developments, I decided to make it today.
Esteemed professors, dear students,
It gives me great pleasure to address you from this platform at Damascus University, this great seat of learning which has, for decades, been a rallying point for the vanguard of Syrian and Arab young people, and has produced graduates who went on to be the best scientists, administrators and politicians and who have been working on achieving development and progress in our country.
It is a great opportunity for me to be in the university in which I spent some of my most beautiful and energetic days. I recall the six years I spent in the buildings, courtyards and laboratories of this university as a student learning from its professors, reading its books, and sharing the concerns and aspirations of this country with its students during a political stage which is not very different, in terms of its political implications and challenges from this period. Neither does it differ in terms of the seriousness of the conspiracies against Syria and the region and the gravity of the challenges which we face. The different structures of the university played an important role in analyzing these challenges and conspiracies and unraveling their implications, on the one hand, and mobilizing society to confront them, on the other. This is a very important and formative stage in the life of every young man and woman. The house and the family are the foundations for a person’s life, the school enhances this process and the university matures not only his/her academic experience, but social and political experience as well.
Hence the importance of this meeting today which I was keen on holding at this particular time in light of the political developments and the serious challenges we face so that we give you an insight into the present situation. I am keen on having all citizens fully aware of the details of the events and developments which have an impact on their life and destiny in the present and the future, and so that every one of us takes his/her position in the process of building and developing the country and play his/her part in facing the current challenges.
The fast pace of developments in our region and the incumbent tragic consequences of these developments made Arab citizens pay a high price in terms of their livelihood, security and dignity. The confused vision and the loss of direction among some people violently shocked the convictions, ideas and values of the Arab people, particularly young people. A number of international circles, and their agents in our Arab establishment, have been trying to promote their destructive political schemes under exciting names which touch people’s feelings and emotions and have been targeting people’s minds and souls before targeting their countries and invading their cultural identity and national existence before invading their national borders. They have been doing this in an orchestrated media campaign which has met a partial success thanks to the high technology it possesses, the money it spends, and because of the dubious trumpets it hires in order to promote this campaign of deceit with unparalleled shallowness.
The campaigns which have been waged on the Arab nation, and Syria in particular, in recent years, are extremely dangerous. The danger lies in the fact that they target the intellectual, psychological and moral structure of Arabs, within the framework of a media, cultural and scientific war which targets our young generations in particular with the aim of separating them from their identity, heritage and history and making them lose confidence in themselves and their capabilities, and consequently pushing them to surrender to the illusion of certain defeat at the first attempt to confront and stand fast before outside pressure put on the whole region, and on Syria in particular.
Theorists of this war have targeted our youth, in particular, because they do not recall, or have not lived the details of the political events in the past two decades and earlier. For Syria was able then to stand the storms blowing from every direction and which failed to achieve their objectives. That is why they think that these young people are the week point in any confrontation or any attempt to crack our national structure. I tell you, in all confidence, that your generation will prove to the enemies and the opponents that it is not less capable of standing fast and challenging than those who preceded them. This is because the will to stand fast and challenge is a national heritage inherited by one generation from another. And this heritage is usually enriched and developed by these generations and by their possession of more knowledge. Hence, you and I are going to face these challenges together with the spirit of the age, and will defeat them with the strength of this generation, the determination that we inherited from our fathers and forefathers and by connecting our past with our future. Our age, like any other, is the age of the powerful only; and there is no place in it for the week. When we understand this fully, it becomes our national duty to look for all the elements of our strength through mobilizing all our national energies and capabilities in order to protect and safeguard our decision, independence and sovereignty.
Hence, and from our belief in this principle sprang our problem with some of the big powers. It is a chronic problem which has its roots in the time when conflict between our will for independence and the intervention of others in our affairs which aimed at imposing their will on our decisions.
A quick look at the issues raised at present on the political arena with a great deal of noise against Syria and her stances, will show that all of them have one root which is our absolute rejection to bargain over independence versus subordination, sovereignty versus submission and dignity versus submission.
Here, an urgent question suggests itself: was Syria wrong in its positions, or was Syria wrong to the extent of the attack being launched on it? Has Syria made mistakes that justify this violent campaigns in the media which are with no free will and sometimes no conscience?
Had there been bargaining over resistance in Lebanon, over the Intifada, over Iraq’s independence and the dignity of our nation, we would not have had any problem with those powers, and they would not have talked about misjudgment here or there. In a nutshell, had Syria been mistaken, they would not have attacked her.
The problem of certain powers with Syria, or Syria’s problem with certain powers is its pan-Arab national identity. Arab nationalism is our identity and our history; and history is our memory which enables us to go to the heart of the present and the future. They want us without a memory so that they can plan our future for us, and without an identity so that they can identify our role for us.
Here I site a few examples to illustrate this point. We read and hear from some foreign envoys that the cause of the anger of some officials in certain countries, and you know whom I mean, against Syria is that President Bashar al-Asad committed himself before them to internal reform, and he has not implemented that reform. We did not know that the Syrian people have elected these foreign officials as representatives of their members of parliament in order to represent them; and that President Bashar has to express commitment to those foreign officials.
We did not know that they cared more for us than we cared for ourselves. We did not know that they were appointed as our guardians. This, in fact, shows a great deal of contempt, not for Syria, I am speaking in general about the Arab countries. They look at us as if we were non-existent, as if we have no people, no resources and no owners; as if Syria were a farm. And the same applies to other countries.
What are the reforms they want us to implement so that we check their credibility. Is it political reform? What kind of political reform are they talking about? They want the country without controls so that they could blackmail any regime form the inside.
Is it economic reform? They want us to open our markets before them regardless of our interests, in return for some charity and left-overs which will be offered to us.
As to cultural reform, they want us to get out of our skin and become a copy of them. If they want to prove the credibility of their propositions, since they always express concern for our internal situation, let them come forward and support us in the political framework to restore our occupied land and to prevent aggression against us if they are truthful.
In the economic context, let them come forward and support us so that we improve our economic situation and consequently the living conditions of our citizens. We want real support, not imaginary or partial support that does not achieve the desired objectives.
A couple of days ago there was a statement that the European Union did not invite the Syrian President. Of course we responded in a clear manner. This shows that they do not accept any Arab to decline an invitation. It is incomprehensible for them that anyone might say no, even to an invitation to a conference.
Many months ago, and before we received an official written invitation, when they were telling us that we should go, we said that this is a meeting concerning the Association Agreement, and I used to tell them that I will not go unless the Association Agreement is signed. So, we had already declined the invitation. But I mean that the method of cooperation comes in this framework. And regrettably, we as Arabs, taught them this. They should know our truth in Syria. We are not a state that accepts any relegation of our independence and free decision.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Our region, as you can see, has witnessed bloody events. And Syria was at the heart of these events. And by virtue of its position and historical role, it faced its fare share of similar challenges which were accompanied by direct threats which depended on dubious political and media campaigns based on falsifying conceptions and twisting the truth in order to achieve their objectives.
The political scene consisted of a number of hot spots whose elements converged in order to lead to changing the political, cultural and human face of the region and redrawing its map in a manner that meets the new tasks and functions of this region and serves the strategies interests of some foreign powers, particularly Israel. The Israeli factor has had always a dubious presence on all these arenas. Developments have in fact shown that that Israel was the most prominent actor and the greatest beneficiary.
If these events are clear before our eyes in their context, background and causes, knowing more will enhance your conviction and support your position, particularly after recent events have been distorted in an unprecedented manner using lies, deception and black propaganda which reveals the hidden intentions behind them and the malicious desires which lurk behind the words.
Syria’s stances have always been based on a high sense of historical responsibility dictated by its geopolitical position and direct relationship with the conflicts surrounding it. It was natural, in light of the desire for domination on the part of certain international centers, such a role should not be accepted. And it was natural that all our efforts aimed at finding rational solutions to pending issues in a manner that contributes to the establishment of security and stability in the region failed.
What is happening in Iraq is cause for concern for every Arab. This Arab country is in the process of fragmentation and disintegration. And no one knows when the big explosion that will throw the region into the vortex of the unknown and lead to dangerous repercussions that could affect regions far beyond the boundaries of the Middle East will happen.
The first danger threatening Iraq is eliminating its Arab identity under a number of pretexts and implications which are at odds with the history of Iraq and its people. The second danger is the political and security chaos which pervades the Iraqi arena and which is directly related to the question of Iraq’s territorial integrity. The more chaos prevails, the greater the possibility for internal strife, which increases the danger on Iraq and leads to shedding more of the blood of innocent Iraqis. Both dangers pave the way before the disintegration of Iraq with its incumbent direct dangers for Iraq’s neighbors. When damage goes beyond the borders of any country, it is no longer an internal issue. Other countries become directly concerned with developments in that country. Hence, we say that Iraq’s Arab identity is an Arab and regional concern in as much as it is an Iraqi concern; and preserving it is the duty of all concerned countries, particularly those neighboring Iraq. We all have to support the desires of the Iraqi people who support and uphold the true identity of Iraq, which is an Arab identity in terms of Iraq’s land, people, heritage and history.
There were negative propositions when the Iraqi constitution was put to the vote. And before the Iraq question, the issue of Arabism was raised in a negative manner, i.e. accusing Arabism or Arab nationalism of racism. This is unfair to Arab nationalism, in most cases, and has malicious motives and expresses ignorance, in other cases. Nationalism is not a racist concept and is not based on race. I remember that we studied at school that nationalism is based on a number of pillars like race, geography, history, common interests, mutual interests and other factors. Neither this theory, nor the national history of the region say that we thought, at any time, in a racist manner. The model is Syria in its diversity, despite the fact that it believes in Arab nationalism. Arabism is a civilizational concept which absorbs all cultures and interests, and particularly the common desire to live together. This common desire is often combined with common interests, which are, in turn, related to geography and history. Most of these factors are interrelated; but no concept or cause bases Arab nationalism on race.
International, regional and local parties have been trying to cause confusion in relation to Syria’s stances towards Iraq. This has been done by distorting these positions through a systematic campaign to imply that there is a Syrian link to the chain of regrettable incidents whose victims are the Iraqi people. There was a strong interaction between the Syrian and Iraqi peoples after the invasion of Iraq. This meeting between the two peoples had been forbidden for long decades: since the independence of the two countries. The great powers thought that this meeting was unacceptable, so they started to accuse Syria of all the terrorist operations taking place in Iraq with the aim of destroying the bridges between the two peoples and preventing any meeting between them in the future naturally and in a manner that saves these powers any effort to prevent this meeting. This accusation, of course, creates a gap between the two peoples which becomes difficult to bridge.
At the same time, there have been Iraqi officials who ignored Syria’s position towards these operations and used to blame Syria again and again and wonder why Syria does not condemn these operations. I do not recall that we supported these operations, neither in a speech nor in a newspaper article. I used to ask them, what is the problem? They used to say that we always put the news of these operations on the first pages of our papers. What kind of explanation is that? Of course all papers put the important news on the first page. I made statements later, and we wrote editorials and article in our papers which express clearly our rejection of these terrorist operations. But it seems that it is forbidden for these Iraqi officials to listen to what we say. So, we say to the Iraqi people very clearly that we condemn any terrorist operation against any Iraqi citizen, and add that, as far as we are concerned, the blood of every Iraqi is exactly the same as the blood of every Syrian. We have to work, and we will continue to work as we have worked in the past, to preserve Iraqi blood, honour, independence and aspirations.
This leads us to talk about the borders, this big lie which is being used as a well drawn scheme to accuse Syria. It is being circulated and exaggerated as the occupation forces in Iraq face more problems.
I talked previously on the subject and said that when Collin Powell came in 2003 and talked to us about controlling the borders, we said that we could not, and this has been a chronic problem. In principle, no country can control its borders. Big trucks used to enter Syria undetected, so how do you want Syria to control the passage of individuals? At any rate, if you are so concerned about this problem, we accept any technology that could help us in this area. Of course they have not provided anything.
Many American delegations came and talked to us about the same issue. They used to start by saying the United States cannot control its borders with Mexico, and end up by saying that Syria has to control its borders with Iraq. This means that a super-power cannot control its borders and we can. Iraqi delegations came and talked with the same logic; and there were unfounded accusations. We told our Iraqi brothers that we were prepared to cooperate in that regard. We told all these parties that regardless of the American demand, and regardless of any pressure, we have an interest in controlling our borders, because the chaos in Iraq had a direct impact on the security situation in Syria. So, we have an interest, but cooperation requires two parties. Shall we cooperate with ourselves on both sides of the border? We are on one side of the border, and there has to be cooperation on the other side, whether on the part of the Americans or the Iraqis. We stress again today that we are open without limits to cooperation with our Iraqi brothers, whether for controlling the borders directly or what lies beyond the borders, through security cooperation and other measures.
The strange thing is that the American accusations after the invasion and until the middle of 2004 were about what they called them Jihadis or Salafis or fundamentalists or Islamic terrorists. Suddenly these became Baathists and followers of Sadam Husein. This shows the state of confusion and the psychological pressure on the occupation forces.
I just wanted to lay this before you very quickly, because we talked about it before, just to point out that Syria does not neglect the border issue; neither does it neglect the Iraqi interests or its own. But the real problem lies in the difficulties faced by the Americans or by the occupation forces in Iraq in general. Of course it is unreasonable for them to say that they are wrong. Its only natural that they should blame others, and the easiest is to blame Syria. We tried our best, at the same time, to establish close cooperation with the current Iraqi government and invited president Jala Talabani and prime minister Ibrahim Ja’afari immediately after they took office. We sent a diplomatic delegation to Baghdad to restore diplomatic relations and open embassies. The delegation was authorized to discuss cooperation in the security and political areas. The mission of this delegation was thwarted and it was not allowed to meet local officials although it stayed a full week in Iraq. The delegation was supposed to prepare for the visit of the foreign minister and other officials from different sectors so that we could start a new relationship with Iraq and achieve a quality leap. This is what we had heard from Mr Ja’afari when he visited Syria before becoming prime minister. The occupation forces caused the failure of this delegation; and the political relationship was prevented. I am saying this so that no one might think that we have not tried, or we have not done our duty by the relationship with Iraq in all its aspects. But we do not blame them, because they do not have the final say on this. Despite all what I have Jut said, I renew my invitation to Mr Talabani and Mr Ja’afari to overcome their unjustified fear and visit Syria, because, ultimately, no one will stand by Iraq except its Arab sister states. Syria will remain beside Iraq to preserve it from the destruction of this wrong war so that it could go back to playing its Arab and regional role and to occupy the place it deserves in the international community. It has become urgent at this stage to draw a time frame for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq, because that will protect Iraq against internal fragmentation, restore its independence, preserve the lives of innocent people, save it from the daily mistakes of the occupation forces which cause more chaos; and is a better alternative to blaming their mistakes on others.
On the Palestinian arena, we supported president Mahmoud Abbas when he came to Syria, stressed the importance of the unity of the Palestinian people, insisted on their inalienable rights through national dialogue among Palestinian factions and the complementarity of their roles. Our position has been the support of the struggle of the Palestinian people in order to regain their rights, and giving everything in our power to this end. We declared on many different occasions that Syria agrees to whatever our Palestinians brothers agree to, and will definitely reject what they reject.
Lebanon was the tumultuous arena on which certain big powers wanted to settle accounts with Syria and with the patriotic forces which supported the resistance and achieved the Israeli withdrawal from most Lebanese territories, making it a base for conspiring against Syria and its pan-Arab stands. The starting point in this regard was to strike at the Lebanese resistance as a prelude to a rearrangement of the situation in Lebanon and redrawing its role and status in its Arab surrounding.
The arms of the resistance have always been a main concern for Israel and the forces supporting it. That is why the resistance has to be disarmed. And Syria was required to play a role in this regard in return for some gains.
The used to believe that Syria would not leave Lebanon. Some people might have thought that withdrawal from Lebanon will lead to the collapse of the Syrian state and consequently we would not have given up such a thing. The bargain after resolution 1559 was for Syria’s presence in Lebanon or slow and phased withdrawal. And finally the idea emerged clearly when it was proposed to us that Syria could withdraw gradually from Lebanon, but if it wanted to stay, it had to find a solution for the Hizbullah problem, i.e. the arms of the resistance. We refused, of course, and said this is not Syria’s task, and the subject does not concern us at all. As far as we were concerned, we were continuing withdrawal in accordance with an already set timeframe, and we leave it to you to solve to this problem. In other words, we will leave it to you and see how you are going to deal with the Lebanese situation.
This was towards the end of 2004 and beginning of 2005. What happened later is that prime minister Hariri was assassinated and things turned in a different direction. Our problem with staying or leaving was not the international resolutions, the problem was the approval or disapproval of the Lebanese people. After the assassination of prime minister Hariri there was a radical change in the position of some sections of the Lebanese society. There was an emotional outburst incited and misled by the Lebanese media and some Lebanese officials. Our decision at the time was immediate withdrawal, although we did not declare it. I am talking about the days following the Hariri assassination and its repercussions in Lebanon.
The decision of immediate withdrawal was not linked to any timeframe. In April or May there was international pressure for Syria to withdraw from Lebanon before the election, even by one day. We withdrew a month and several day, or a month and a week before the elections. But we are concerned with the implications of this pressure. They thought that Syria’s presence during the elections will affect their course, but the more important conclusion is that the Lebanese parliamentary elections, held in May, were not a Lebanese landmark but an international one. That was the start of taking Lebanon out of its Arab role and pushing it towards internationalization which means pushing it more towards Israel under an international cover and with instruments which carry the Lebanese nationality. This was of course done in a partial manner, because the plan did not succeed completely. Some Lebanese were not sufficiently aware of this point and others were well known for their hostility to Syria and Arabism and allegiance to Israel. What I am saying is not new. Some of these individuals or currents hade a dishonorable history during the Israeli invasion, and they are still there and are still play an effective role. So, this was the international objective of the recently held Lebanese elections.
On a parallel line, we used to hear attacks against Syria under the title of the “era of tutelage”. Regardless of these terms and our rejection of them, and regardless of the ingratitude and the immorality of such terms and propositions in relation to Syria which sacrificed a lot for Lebanon, we say that those who are using such terms are what they call themselves the “Hariri current”.
If we got along with them in the use of this term, who is the good son of the “era of Syrian tutelage”? It is Hariri himself. He supported this era, marketed it, defended it, and used to call for intervention upon facing every problem, the last of which was the last government which was not formed. We refused to interfere. So, why are they reviling him? Why are they reviling Hariri, while they are his “current”? At the same time, they started accusing Syria of Hariri’s blood. And at the same time they absolved Israel of his blood, as if they are saying that Hariri was not good with Syria, and was good with Israel. This is incorrect. So, why are they making a traitor out of him? This means that this “current” reviled Hariri and made a traitor out of him in order to revile Syria and accuse her of treason while doing the opposite thing.
The fact is that most of these are blood traders. They made a stock market of Hariri’s blood; and this stock market is yielding money and positions. Every article has a price, every position has a price, and every broadcast hour has a price. Nevertheless, we ignored all these things and did not descend to their grounds. We remained in the well known position of Syria. We received prime minister Siniora and discussed different issues with him. We told him we wanted his visit to succeed; and for our part we do not hold any rancor against any Lebanese. We are interested in the Syrian-Lebanese relationship. We told him we did not want Lebanon to be a route for any political or security conspiracy against Syria. He said in a final and decisive manner, “I will not allow it for Lebanon to be a route for any conspiracy against Syria.
In fact, what we see today is that Lebanon has become a route, a manufacturer and financier for these conspiracies. This means that Mr. Siniora was unable to live up to his commitments, or he was not allowed to do so because he receives orders from those who receive orders in their turn.
A commission was set up to investigate the assassination of prime minister Hariri; and our decision from the very start was full cooperation with the commission, based first on our absolute confidence in our innocence; and second, because of our real interest in knowing the truth, since we were the first to suffer the damage. In return, some Lebanese politicians tried by every possible means to implicate Syria’s name in the Hariri assassination, although they were fully convinced of Syria’s innocence. And because they went to a great length in accusing Syria, they faced a real predicament with the Lebanese people if Syria’s innocence was proven, because the are incapable of telling the truth to the Lebanese people. Would they tell the Lebanese people that they gave them lies and illusions and that they intentionally deceived them? Would they tell them that the fake witness was made by them and by their money? They would not say that. That is why we see them doing their best in order to mislead the investigation and divert it from the route which leads to the truth. This is what was abundantly clear from the report of the investigation commission which was met with large-scale criticism. We all know the international circumstances which led to the publication of this report. And most of us knew how the report might look like before it was published. These international circumstances are not likely to change in the near future. Nevertheless, our principle is still the same: it is positive cooperation with international organizations, their resolutions and with the investigation commission based on our self confidence, the correctness of our positions, Syria’s innocence of all the accusations made against her and our genuine interest in making the investigations achieving their objectives.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Some have waited for the false truth for months. “The truth” has become subject to scorn and sarcasm in Lebanon now, so it abandons all aspects of Arab character, national identity and feelings of brotherhood. That is why we should not allow these people to destroy the Syrian-Lebanese relationship and destroy the region with it. Syria and Lebanon live next to each other. This is their destiny. The weakness of one is weakness for the other in the same way that the strength of one is strength for the other. This fact requires preparing the common ground for the will for common living and abandoning negative attitudes and illusions.
The brotherly Lebanese people should know this situation. If they really want a brotherly relation with Syria, without slogans and pleasantries, this cannot happen while a large section of it remains publicly hostile to Syria and tries to make Lebanon a base and a route for conspiracies against it. What we can say to all these pretty and anesthetizing statements made by some Lebanese politicians that they are opposed to sanctions against the Syrian people and opposed to conspiracies against Syria, is that they are not intelligent enough to deceive the Syrian people with such language. This cannot happen in a state, where the majority are against Syria, cannot happen through attacking Syrian citizens in Lebanon and cannot happen through ingratitude towards all that Syria has offered.
We are interested in preserving the unity and stability of Lebanon, and look with caution to the situation prevailing in it, to the fact that some parties lack the minimum sense of responsibility, those who try to bring Lebanon back to its former status as a route for conspiracies against Syria. This is what we have started to see from the policies and practices of those who made a profession of politics, and who are mistaken if they think that they can destroy the national equation. Some of these forces tried to do so in the distant and near past, but failed. And they will no doubt fail this time by virtue of the awareness of the Lebanese people who will, sooner or later, discover the false reality, and through the patriotic Lebanese forces which brought down the May 17 agreement and the era of tutelage associated with it. The fall of the new May 17 will not be far off, as I can see. Beirut, which stood fast under Israeli siege, which embraced the Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian patriotic forces that defended her to the last, will not change, and Tripoli, which produced great patriotic personalities will not abandon the heritage of its great figures for a handful of traders in politics and their money.
The patriotic forces, which stood throughout their history against all dubious schemes, from Sykes Picot to the Baghdad Pact, supported the Palestinian cause in the 1960s and 1970s, fought and defeated the Israelis in the 1980s and 1990s and liberated Lebanon in 2000 are still the main base in Lebanon and will not accept to live in the holes of darkness, and will continue to represent the vast majority of the Lebanese people.
The others, the politicians and leaders of foreign tutelage derive their power from the power of their masters. That is why they are week and are moved by remote control.
As usual, we draw general principles when we talk about the current situation so that we do not take it as an isolated case. It is wrong for us, as Arabs, to look at things as isolated cases. What is happening today is an extension of what happened several years ago. As I said in the past, resolution 1559 has nothing to do with extension of president Lahoud’s term in office, and preparations for it, as admitted by president Bush, had actually started three months before that. And what is happening now has nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination of Hariri. If they are so interested in the assassination of Hariri, why had not they set up an investigation commission to investigate the death of president Arafat who was poisoned in the Palestinian territories and died in France and no one asked for an investigation commission. Despite our long differences with president Arafat, we do not deny that he was one of the symbols of the Palestinian cause and a historic personality. Nevertheless, no individual or country called for an investigation commission, at least between Palestine and France as the states directly related to this issue. The reason, as I said, is that they are looking for a false truth, while in the case of president Arafat the truth is not false; and they do not want true truths, real truths.
These stages, or this war that we are fighting, is problem of a number of phases, or we could say more accurately a war of a number of phases. The first phase was before the invasion of Iraq. We paid two prices: a price which is usually paid by small countries as a result of the conflict of big powers. The conflict before the invasion was between those with the war and those against it. The second price was that different countries, including Syria, were pressured to support the war immediately after the invasion. We were paying the price for the reconciliations and the compromises which took place between the big powers, and we paid directly the price for opposing the war. Today we are paying the price of the division of interests among the big powers and we are paying a direct price for the failure of the occupation and the invasion of Iraq. So, in all these phases the big powers are the main players, and the relationship between them needs dynamism. Dynamism needs energy and energy needs fuel. It is exactly like cell metabolism (I am sure there are professors of medicine among us) which needs the sugar that generates energy which is essential for the life of the cell. The same applies to international relations. The fuel is the small countries, particularly that we present ourselves as fuel. Just as a joke, they know that Arabs like to complemented, so they tell us that we are as sweet as sugar, meaning that we can be used as fuel.
If we look at the context of events, we see that we implemented resolution 1559. The result was that they said we did not implement the resolution, and that the intelligence services remained, and intervention continued. The first commission came. We cooperated with it. The commission and its report said that Syria was responsible one way or another for the assassination. The second commission came, and we got the same result. When they said that Syria was late, actually Syria was not late. We sent the answers a few days before. They set the deadline after the Security Council meeting to say that Syria did not cooperate. We expected this report to look into the kind of explosives used, where they came from, who makes them, what country in the region can make them, where the car came from, how it came, all these details. We found that the report only speaks about individuals, Syrian individuals and all those who have something to do with the Syria line. All those who were with Syria and changed their positions were accused and then became innocent. We have to see these things; and I believe every Syrian can see this. This is the truth of the matter. In other words, things are moving in a certain direction regardless of cooperation. The only positive thing I can see in this report is that it has proved our innocence. Even we suspected that there could have been a Syrian failure that led to this thing. After the report it was proved that all this is in the framework of targeting Syria, and Syria is not involved.
I was convinced of this from the beginning. Before the report, I used to say that Syria is innocent. When I said in my interview with CNN that if a Syrian is involved then he is a traitor, they understood it to mean that the president is preparing the ground because he knows that there is a Syrian person involved and wants to move ahead of things. The truth is not like that. Treason is something rare; and when I say this I mean that we are almost absolutely certain that Syria is innocent. But when the report was published in this way and was followed by a prepared resolution, we knew that Syria was absolutely innocent and that it is a political case. So, we as Syrians have to put the criminal aspect aside, because it is no longer a criminal case. We do not have to think and waste our time on this issue. Syria is not involved neither on the level of the state nor on the level of individuals, unless there is a human error of judgment. All indications point to this fact; and I want to assure myself of this idea. We move to the political aspect. The problem is only a political one. From the context of events, the first evidence provided in the report made us feel that we are innocent, when it raised the question of the false witness. When do we look for a fake witness? When we do not have evidence and we do not se a real relationship between the crime and the concerned party. Looking for a false witness is the alternative for the truth. That is why we must assure ourselves that the report and the false witness proved our innocence. I will not talk about the report because all the Syrians, on their different levels and specializations, are of one opinion, and the Arabs too. So I will not talk about whether or not it is politicized, or about the political circumstances surrounding it. From my explanation, it is very clear that this is a political issue, and the resolutions and reports are part of this political dynamism which is targeting Syria. After the commission came back to Lebanon recently a few days ago, we set up an investigation commission. We first sent an invitation to the international commission to come to Syria and meet the foreign minister because they asked to meet him. They refused. The Syrian Judicial Commission, set up by decree, sent an invitation to Mehlis to come with his commission and draw the legal framework for their investigations. He refused. The legal framework is important of course. There are rights of the accused, the witnesses and lawyers and things of this kind. No investigation can take place without a clear legal framework. This is unacceptable under any title, neither the Security Council nor anybody else. Nevertheless he refused. Yesterday, Mr. Amr Mousa was here in Syria and we discussed this with him in order to show that we were really flexible although we know the reality of the game. These investigations could take place at the Arab League, because it is an Arab territory, and we do not have a problem with holding the investigations there, of course with Egypt’s cooperation. There was a telephone conversation with president Mubarak on this point yesterday in order to coordinate. They refused. We said if the problem is holding the investigations in Syria, why do not they accept any other place. We also suggested a place in Syria with the UN flag and UN security, in other words non-Syrian territory. They refused. This is what confirms what I said from the beginning. Whatever we do, and no matter how much we cooperate, the result will show in a month’s time or a year’s time that Syria did not cooperate. We have to know this fact whether we like it or not. We have to be clear. We should not bury our heads in the sand and not see the truth. At the same time we should not be afraid. The important thing is that we do our duty. Syria is targeted, how shall we deal with this? Syrians are discussing this, and there are many ideas on this issue that go in different directions, but all these ideas lose their importance if they are not put in the right framework. When we are at battle we have to understand, first of all, the strategy and the tactics of the enemy before we start with ourselves and our interests. What is the strategy of the enemy or the opponent which has been followed during these recent years, not only with Syria, but with the countries of the region and the countries of the world at large. Their strategy says, either you kill yourself or I kill you, not literally of course. What is the difference between the two cases? The result is the same, but when you kill yourself the enemy deprives you of two things: first, the honour of defending yourself; and second, the possibility of harming him or defeating him in the end in any area. How do we think? If we ask any Syrian what he thinks? He will say that the period needs wisdom and rational thinking. When does wisdom and rational thinking become retreat and collapse? And when flexibility becomes a fracture? When we turn into a dough that they can form in any way they like from the outside.
Suppose somebody is walking in the street. A well-set outlaw without any principles or moral values started harassing him. It is wise and rational to avoid him and look for what we want elsewhere, but he found that the outlaw has followed him. The person went home, and the outlaw forced himself into the house and attacked the father, the mother, the brother, the sister, the son, the daughter, can we avoid him? Is it wise to let him do this?
Whether we look at this from a moral, social, or religious perspective, this is unacceptable. And those who accept it become social outcasts. Syria has a glorious history. We cannot give in to any thing that could enter our houses and try to humiliate us from the inside or play with our national stability. What does this mean? It means that we are prepared to cooperate, but within a framework that leads to revealing the truth of the crime, although we know that a book can be read by its title. We know in what direction things are moving, but we have to do our duty. We want to cooperate, but we will not allow for any measure that might harm Syria’s stability and security, because as I said we will not move in the direction of killing ourselves. At any rate, not in the manner that they are thinking of. We have always supported the international legitimacy, and we are committed to it, but not at the expense of our national commitments. When there is a comparison between anything in this world and national commitment, the latter comes first, because we are not tourists or visitors in this region. We are the people of this country and we want to live in dignity.
We supported international legitimacy and did not support international disorder. International legitimacy is the UN charter, while international disorder is basing resolutions on the interests and moods of certain officials in this world. Those countries, those forces and everybody in this region and in the world should know that the era of tutelage which existed at the beginning of the last century is over, and now the region is in front of two choices, either resistance and steadfastness or chaos. There is no third choice. Resistance prevents chaos. Resistance has a price and chaos has a price, but the price of resistance is much less than the price of chaos. We need to know these things. But if they believe that they can blackmail Syria, we tell them they got the wrong address.
If it is a matter of a bargain: they raise a problem here in order to bargain over different issues, like Iraq for instance, let them come forward and negotiate and bargain over the counter and in front of our people. We do not have any thing that we are ashamed of. Our relationship with the people is based on frankness. I used to say the same thing to the American officials: if you have a deal, and you like deals, please let us have it. I will propose it to the people and if they agree, we do not have a problem.
Giving in in such matters is very dangerous. Some people think that if we make this move we will protect ourselves. Small tactics are no longer useful under these international circumstances. There is an international plan moving; and when at one point we get into a confrontation after we have given in, we will not be able to resist and engage in a dialogue and triumph in the end; because no matter how long it take, we will triumph in the end.
We are all thinking of the interest of the country; and we all know that conditions are hard, but there is a compulsory price that we have to pay and we pay it from the beginning, because the question is that of history, and the cause is that of a people. It will not be the Syrian people who will change their skin at any price. We will get along with their game, because what is happening is a game. There is nothing serious in it except the danger on Syria and the whole region. Syria is one of the many links in a chain that will affect the Arab states one after the other and one people after another. We stress to everyone that this damage, if it happens at any time it will remain outside Syria’s borders, and it will affect first of all the agents who brought the colonizers in this manner to our region.
In the final analysis any resolution will be taken in a dialogue with the people, because the people is the concerned party first and last. The Syrian people is a good and faithful people. And God always shows the faithful people and the faithful individual the right path. But it will not be President Bashar who will bow his head nor the head of his country. We only bow to God almighty.
At any rate, things are moving at a fast pace, and all the details that will become available will be discussed with the people in a transparent manner. Everyday there is something new, but I am talking about the way we think. But at any rate, what they cannot get by external pressure they will not get through internal pressure. They have been using pressure on Syria and the Syrian people through the media, thinking that this pressure will make us collapse and do what they want. This did not work, particularly after the masks they have been using dropped.
Then they tried to create a crack between the government and the people. The Syrian people are aware of this. If there are mistakes in the state, we all discuss them at home, but we will not allow anybody to talk about them from the outside. This method failed as well. Later they tried to distort the image of the president directly so that the people lose confidence in the president. These attempts also failed. Then they are now engaged in this stage by stage tactic to create a crack in the Syrian society about how to react and to create a crack within the state and another crack between the state and society, thinking that this will prepare Syria in the end to do what they want. Of course they are surprised that as they move from one tactic to another social cohesion is increasing. And we stress the importance of social cohesion. This moves us to the subject of the Arab mass media. I mean that these media created a lot of confusion and contributed to the political attacks. I say here and I repeat that we should distinguish between the Arab media and the Arabic language media. The Arab media are those which speak the Arabic language and adopt Arab causes, while the Arabic language media are those which adopt the causes of the enemies and the opponents, but use our Arabic language. Consequently, they contribute to their battle because they come from the same structure and because they have credibility.
Now there is a great deal of polarization: there are those who support concessions in the extreme and those who support steadfastness in the extreme. Distinguishing between the two is easy.
On the other hand, Syria has been at the center of events for years, particularly recently. Consequently the largest part of the information comes from Syria. When we know the truth we avoid lying. Those who know the truth do not care for lies. That is why we have to be more transparent in passing information to Syrian citizens. Then we will not be worried about the confusion our citizens are subjected to.
This was raised in the regional conference of the party. And we started some modest mechanisms for passing information, not necessarily through the media. But these mechanisms are still not sufficient to face this huge media campaign. The more we move ahead in terms of transparency and pass correct information quickly to our citizens the more they will be immune. Then, these media campaigns will not be of any use. The ultimate purpose of this media attack is to cause panic and fear, or to inflict defeat without a battle. We know that moral defeat is half, if not three quarters, of the real defeat in any battle, whether it is military, cultural or otherwise.
As to the media attack, with all it capabilities, instruments and men, it might succeed only through our reactions. It fails too through our reactions. Consequently, we decide its success or failure, by our awareness, holding to our principles, and arming ourselves with science and knowledge.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Despite the difficult situation we are going through, we continue to implement our development plans in order to improve the living conditions of our citizens, and in the process of political, economic and administrative reform. We are also going ahead in our anti-corruption campaign and in widening the circle of accountability to involve all those who harm the interests of the people and the country.
These pressing regional and international conditions, the challenges associated with them, and also the sorry Arab condition which does not call for optimism, pushes us towards more self-reliance, towards depending on our capabilities in the first place, to invest in our capabilities in a better manner, and to benefit from all patriotic and faithful efforts in the process of reform and modernization.
The regional conference of the Baath Arab Socialist Party passed a number of ambitious resolutions which express the concerns and aspirations of our people. We are determined to put them into implementation according to set priorities which take into account the conditions and available resources. The relevant resolutions will be passed in the coming period.
I would like to touch on a subject which has been raised in the media, which is the party law. Discussions of this law have started, but they will take a long time because of the sensitivity of this issue.
Another issue is that of the census, because it was discussed during the regional conference. This issue was in fact settled in 2002, when I visited the city of Hasaka and met community leaders. The issue of the census was raised, and I said at the time that no one in Syria is opposed to solving this problem. It is a technical issue, and we started solving it in 2002 by studying the criteria put for solving the problem, i.e. granting the nationality. In the last stages there have been some details which were not finalized, until the events of March 2004 happened, and we thought there was a big problem. We discovered later that it was a passing ordinary problem. Political developments delayed this issue. Now there are authorities in the state which are putting the final touches and we will solve this issue soon in an expression of the importance of national unity in Syria.
We have to know that whatever we do, or try to achieve, needs a national and moral base to build our reform project on. If this country belongs to all its faithful sons and daughters, it could not belong to those who have rancor against it or those who play with its capabilities, those who see the national interest only through their own narrow interest and only remember the rights they are entitled to enjoy and forget their duties.
We always talk about national unity, but we hear expressions like a conference for national reconciliation, as if we were feuding tribes in this country going out of a civil war. When we speak about consolidating national unity, it does not mean that this unity does not exist, because this means civil war. There are no half-solutions, but the national unity, like everything else, has standards and criteria, not necessarily in terms of numbers, but it depends on the national situation and it depends on every citizen. Since we are at the university, when two students pass, the first gets 48+2 and the second gets 90, the first student is not like the second. Both of them pass but there is a difference. When two students pass the secondary school certificate, a student gets 110 grades and the second gets 260, there is a difference. When we talk about enhancing national unity, we mean upgrading this unity so that it becomes a general and strong condition throughout the country. There is sometimes confusion between chronic cases and acute cases (doctors understand this here). Treatment of chronic cases is different from treatment of acute cases. Now we have a crisis, or a problem, or a difficult situation. Let us do this in order to overcome the crisis. I say this is wrong. If we arrive at a crisis and we have not done anything to overcome it before, then it is too late. Everything we do is for the future. These are remedies for future cases. As I said earlier, crises will never stop, because there is a plan moving in a certain direction against Syria and against the whole region. What we are doing now is preparing for future crises. We do not have to stick to a straw. We have to do things about whose results we are certain and use the capabilities that we possess today. This must be clear. Of course when such things are suggested, they are suggested in good faith because when we do something we need to know when to reap the results.
We should also know a number of concepts. I use here what I said in my speech at the regional conference when we talked about national unity. How do we define national unity. We have examples in the region. There are nations that respect themselves which unite when they pass through a crisis, although they might have a thousand issues that they do not agree on. And there are nations in this region too which when they come under pressure and these pressures reach a crisis point they divide. Such nations do not respect themselves. One example, a person raises his voice in harmony with voices coming from outside his country and lowers it also in harmony with outside voices. This person belongs to the outside. How can he be a patriot and connected to the outside. Those who raise their voices should do that according to certain principles and according to national principles. Voices should be raised within the same house not in harmony with outside voices. I do not allow anyone to raise his voice from the outside and be called a patriot. We will deal firmly with unpatriotic cases, because these cause confusion at times of crises.
In the final analysis we support having different opinions. Openness and all these issues are moving but slowly perhaps. I do not claim that we are moving fast and have never said that. Some people say that the process of development was fast and then slowed down. I say it was slow from the beginning. To be realistic, it has never been fast. But we have no other choice but to move forward using our capabilities in order to enhance national unity. We do not differ from other societies. Patriotism or the lack of it exist everywhere. At times of crisis we have to control these cases with the objective of consolidating national unity as I said.
Brothers and sisters,
We have to focus on pivotal sections in our society, and young people come at the forefront of these sections. This needs a comprehensive strategy which includes objectives that we want to achieve and clear executive programmes in relation to this vitals sector.
The world is moving very fast. And there are challenges produced by these changes. There have been new opportunities for achievement. Since at the heart of these changes lie information, communications and the digital revolution, we have all to work in order to integrate young people into this information age and to provide the integration mechanisms in all our institutions starting from the school, whether material mechanisms like laboratories, the internet, or activating the institutional, educational, cultural and media structures, in a manner that allows for embracing their creative energies and guarantee confidence in their capabilities on which we pin great hopes, because they are the real guarantee for the greatness and progress of our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Since we have not talked today about resolutions 338 and 242 because they have become self evident for us, and because we know that we waste our time when we talk about the non-implementation of international legitimacy resolutions and the double standards and all that; I still want to greet, on your behalf and on behalf of every Syrian citizen, our steadfast Syrian brothers and sisters in the occupied Golan. Instead of talking about the international legitimacy resolutions, let us talk about the essence and the substance. As far as we are concerned, these resolutions are the land. So, we salute those who prove everyday the truthfulness of their loyalty to their people and their homeland and prove their deep belonging to the causes and dignity of their people and defy with their strong will the Israeli oppression machine.
We assure you that we are with you in our hearts and capabilities, and that the Golan will remain at the center of the causes before us so that it returns to its homeland, Syria.
In conclusion, brothers and sisters, if there is cause for concern, there is no need to fear in the direction they are pushing us into, because that will give them a free victory. Worry is the positive condition which will push us to achievement, and then to achieve more and triumph. Fear, however, is the condition which paralyzes us and pushes us towards certain defeat.
Trust the credibility of the position of your country, trust that when national cohesion is strong between the people and their leader, it will surround the country with a wall of immunity to face the difficulties and challenges. At the threshold of such a country, the illusions and conspiracies of others will fail. National cohesion will remain, God willing, as powerful as ever. This country is protected by its people, by its state and above all, as the popular saying has it, “Syria is protected by God”.