Assad brazenly denies what the whole world knows
Bashar al-Assad's recent interview with Russia's chief propaganda outlet RT had everything you'd expect and everything his supporters would want. Forsaking any semblance of journalistic impartiality, the interviewer began by saying what an "honour" it was to meet the man responsible for the first genocide of the 21st century and the largest humanitarian catastrophe since World War II.
He then all but congratulated Assad for his "latest… objectively spectacular… victories in Ghouta and Yarmouk", the former of which was a whirlwind of slaughtered civilians, severed limbs, poison gas, barrel bombs and ethnic cleansing, and the latter of which was much the same - with Yarmouk only this week being described by the UN as having been turned into a "death camp" at the hands of Assad.
The interview contains mostly rehashed propaganda points Assad has used for the past seven years, but some of the content is interesting. Though one always ought to be wary of armchair psychology, it hardly takes a keen understanding of Freud to note what exactly Assad fears.
All that is required to determine the areas of is to unpick and reverse the main areas of his perverse and hysterical bravado, such as his contention that Israel is in a "panic". The tyrant claims Israel is "hysterical because they are losing their dear ones… ISIS and Al Nusra".
Assad is, as always, playing to the gallery here, with the gallery being the legions of people across the world who believe - thanks in no small part to Russia's vast propaganda networks and their saturation of the media with "fake news" - that the Syrian rebels are "Zionist agents" fighting to weaken the "Axis of Resistance" due to its noble opposition to Zionism and US imperialism.
But there's no doubt that the dynamic has shifted regarding Israel. Not only has it ramped up its strikes on Baathist-Iranian military targets in Syria, destroying significant proportions of the Iranian-run T4 airbase, killing Iranian troops and members of the IRGC, but officials from the Israeli government, most notably Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz, have openly claimed Israel would "eliminate" Assad if he continued to allow Iran to "turn Syria into a military base in order to attack Israel".
|Assad is of course lying, but what's more is he knows the Israelis know he's lying
Despite their "anti-Zionist" rhetoric, Assad and his Iranian masters have thus far been terrified to respond, and care more about securing their own genocidal interests than confrontation with Israel. All the "Axis of Resistance" can muster is denial, with Assad in this interview even claiming "we don't have Iranian troops [in Syria]… we always said we have Iranian officers… but they work with our army… there are no Iranian troops in Syria."
Assad is of course lying, but what's more is he knows the Israelis know he's lying. The fact that he won't openly admit to it comes down to his necessity to maintain the myth that there still exists a "Syrian army" of which he is in full control. As much as 80 percent of his ground forces are Iranian-run foreign militants and Iranian military personnel. Assad needs the Iranian regime as a ground force in Syria, but he also needs to ensure that Israel doesn't come down upon him and his rump state like a tonne of bricks.
It ought to be noted that Israel doesn't care about the fate of Syrians oppressed by Assad. They simply care about their own regional tussle with Iran. Assad and Iran pose no threat to Israel's effortless occupation and annexation of Palestine, but they could, using Palestinians as pawns, make things a whole lot messier for Israel.
To paraphrase the anarchist philosopher Mikael Bakunin, you can never trust states, but you can always trust states to behave like states - there will always be commonality between even perceived enemy states. It's thus of little surprise that it appears that Israel and Assad, mediated by Russia, have agreed to a deal whereby Israel will allow Assad's forces to launch an offensive on rebel-held Deraa and surrounding territory along the Israeli and Jordanian border, with the condition that Iran does not participate in the offensive.
Israel knows that if Iranian troops were to take Deraa, it would put them around 15 miles from the Golan Heights, which has been illegally occupied by Israel since 1967. But they also know that Assad, backed by Russia (also an ally of Tel Aviv), represents a regional order that is generally passive towards Israel's own limited but devastating expansionist agenda.
It is thus with grand irony, and almost comical cognitive dissonance, that Assad claims, in this recent interview and elsewhere, that Israel is behind the insurgency against his dynastic regime. It will be amusing to see how Assad's fanboys attempt to explain away the fact the great "anti-Zionist" Assad has struck a deal with Israel to launch an offensive against what they have said, for the past seven years, are "Zionist" rebels.
The deal would mean Israel is now cooperating with Assad against those rebels.
Given the extent to which Assad relies on Iran, it remains to be seen whether this deal will even be viable.
One of the staples of Assad's propaganda over the past seven years is that he, his regime and their allies are the eternal victims. The interview is littered with references to plots by "the West, led by the United States and their puppets in Europe and in our region" to undermine his "victories" by "bringing more terrorists into Syria" and "undermining the political process".
Some of the very worst massacres perpetrated by Assad have been committed during ceasefires that are part of this "political process", while the only person who has brought "terrorists" into Syria is Assad, via Iran and Russia.
|The tyrant has denied every massacre committed by his regime and its allies and he doesn't break the habit with the recent chemical massacre in Douma
Of course, the genocide and its vicious components are entirely denied by Assad. The tyrant has denied every massacre committed by his regime and its allies and he doesn't break the habit with the recent chemical massacre in Douma, claiming firstly that "we don't have chemical weapons", but continuing with the absurd lie that the attack was a false flag by the rebels and the West - "a pretext to attack Syria", in his own words.
Here Assad's absurd logic lands him in hot water - for if the attack was a false flag used to justify western interventionism to overthrow his regime, as per his claim, why then was the retaliation so limited and why did the US, UK and France all come out and say in no uncertain terms that it wasn't about "regime change"? He later tries to get himself out of this slip-up by claiming that glorious Mother Russia magically deterred what was originally going to be "a comprehensive attack all over Syria".
Not that he'll ever be held to account for these lies, and, judging his demeanour, he knows that all too well. While he questions the logic using chemical weapons in Ghouta after his forces were victorious and because it would undermine his attempts to win "the hearts and minds of Syrians", the reality is that when he used them in Douma, rebel forces and resistant civilian populations, who far from reconciliation with Damascus are targeted for ethnic cleansing and extermination, were deeply embedded - it was thus a perfect time to use poison gas to further his genocidal ends. Moreover, he did so in full knowledge that nothing meaningful would be done against his murder machine.
And this brings us to perhaps the most disturbing area of the interview. Despite his wrangling with Israel, Assad remains confident of "total victory". Though he speaks of potential negotiation with the YPG-controlled SDF, he claims that it's impossible to negotiate with the "terrorists" in Idlib, who he calls "factions like Al-Qaeda… ISIS… and like-minded groups", swiftly claiming that all Syrian rebels are basically the same as these groups.
The only way to deal with the factions in Idlib, he claims, is by force.
We know what this would mean: murder on an unprecedented scale. Assad can sit in his palace and spout lie after lie because he knows most of the world no longer cares about truth, while he can sit and justify, deny and obscure the realities of his genocidal war because he knows the world doesn't care about Syrian lives.
Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.