‘I can win if Damascus is destroyed’
What happened in the last meeting between international envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Syrian President Bashar Assad as reported by Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper on Tuesday is worth noting. The former told the latter that he could not remain in power. He reasoned that other than the fact that the opposition is capable of victory; the price would be the destruction of Damascus. To this Assad replied, “I can win the war if Damascus is destroyed.”
This, in fact, is Assad’s plan: Destroying Damascus, Syria and the region. He already tried this in Iraq and Gaza and is still attempting to do so in Lebanon. Here, I would like to quote from a part of the memoir of former French President Jacques Chirac entitled “Le Temps Présidentiel,” in which he recounted several events that took place between the late Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Syrian President Bashar Assad.
In his memoirs, Chirac recounts a dinner he had with the then US President George W. Bush in 2004. He says that Bush at the time did not understand Lebanon well, so he decided to explain to him the importance of supporting the country and restoring its independence from Syria and Hezbollah. He told him that presidential elections in Lebanon were scheduled to take place in October, and that this would be an appropriate occasion for a “new start” provided that the new president was not — as usual — imposed by Damascus.
Chirac adds that in the summer of 2004, while France and the US were working on a draft law that calls for free and fair elections accompanied by the unconditional withdrawal of Syrian troops, what they had expected happened. Assad and his ally former Lebanese President Emile Lahoud agreed to modify the constitution in a way that allowed the latter another three-year term in office. Hariri, then prime minister, condemned this proposal, so Assad summoned him to Damascus on Aug. 26 and made it clear to him that Lahoud was his representative in Beirut, and that antagonizing Lahoud meant antagonizing him.
The Syrian president threatened to inflict “physical harm” on Hariri and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt if they both insisted on rejecting Lahoud and the new constitution. Assad actually yelled at Hariri and told him that if they wanted him out of Lebanon, “I will break Lebanon on your head.” He threatened to pursue the Lebanese prime minister and his family, wherever they were, if he did not obey his orders.
On the afternoon of Feb. 14, Chirac recounts that he was holding in a meeting in the Élysées Palace when he got the news that Hariri was assassinated in an explosion in Beirut. Chirac says he had warned Hariri two weeks before when the latter came to Paris. He told him that he did not have confirmed information, but that “they” were criminals and would not hesitate to do anything.
We are dealing with a real criminal who had intentionally killed tens of thousands, not because they were party to the conflict, but rather because he believes that killing and destruction are tools of control. This is what he is doing everyday and what he will do in the region if he remains in power for another year or more.