Assads’ Inbox: On suggestions for the president’s speech
(Below is the translation of an attached document sent to President Bashar al-Assad's media adviser on Dec. 31, 2011.)
On Suggestions for the president’s speech:
Upon consulting a sufficient number of people in the media as well as the political advisor to the Iranian ambassador, I have noted some points I believe should be mentioned in the speech:
• Since the majority of our people belong to the Sunni faith, and are devout, I suggest the President add an Islamic spirit to the speech, especially since a large portion of the opposition raises the flag of Islam in their rhetoric. The President can also use the flag of Islam in a special way like mentioning verses of the Quran in his speech.
• There should be an assertion that the Islam of the Syrian people is the real Islam and Syrians espouses its characteristics:
2- Hostility to Israel, the first enemy of Islam
3- Protection of the Palestinian people’s rights. (The President may add in the speech that he has strong condemned Israel’s latest practices of Judaizing Jerusalem.)
• The President can discredit his opponents holding the flag of Islam as they use the religion while every day making concessions to Islam’s first.
• A comparison between our position defending Islamic sanctities in Palestine with our non-recognition of Israel compared to the position of those who claim Islam but reassure Israel that if they gain power in any Arab country, they will recognize Israel and abide by the treaties with it.
• We are a state that cares for all Islamic affairs, institutes for Quran teaching, ensuring Muslims rights are in accordance with Islamic duties, building mosques, etc.
• Pointing out that our opponents want to deform the image of Islam by making calls to terrorism and murder.
• Syria is the cradle of true Islam, so Syrian people will never accept [calls to terrorism].
• I think we need an emotional language to reach out to the hearts of people and offer condolences to parents who lost loved ones so they can feel closer to the President. We should look at the way Syed Hassan Nasrallah addresses the martyrs and their families as that is a good example.
• We should assert that the blood of the martyrs led to the victory and defeated the international attack on Syria.
• We should honor and salute the martyrs’ families for their attitudes, sacrifice and for saying they are willing to sacrifice their children as redemption for their homeland.
• Focus on the martyrs in the army and security forces as many people feel that they are not sufficiently honored by their state. The President especially addressing them and their families should leave a significant impact.
• The assertion that the martyrs have sacrificed their lives for the sake of Syria and not the President or the regime as the opposition tries to portray when they use terms like Assad forces, Assad troops, etc. (I’m reminded of how Barbara Walters in her interview with the President used the word “your forces” and he replied as a great patriot when he said that they are not his forces, but the country’s, yet Walters kept repeating it dozens of time in the hostile interview.)
• The speech may be drafted by using Quranic verses to honor the martyrs.
• In my opinion, the martyrs’ subject should form a significant part of the speech.
Reforms + crisis + Syria’s future:
• I think the language must be balanced and rational though a bit emotional.
• Going back and recalling what the President has promised, what has been achieved so far and why some things have not been achieved. (Transparency is very important here because a large portion of people have begun to lose confidence in the state.)
• Ensuring that reforms are continuing despite the fact that Syria’s enemies do not want that. Use as example the bombings that took place in Damascus and how they were aimed at stopping the reforms, destroying the country and spreading strife.
• Explain some of the problems that people are facing and provide realistic solutions. (It is important to mention some details here in order to show to people that the President feels their pain.)
• It is important to affirm that the state plans to confront the conspiracy and complete reforms despite the fact that difficult security circumstances have made it tough for the state to ensure that the citizens’ daily needs (food, fuel) are being met. However, the state will quickly find a solution. This should give the sense that the President is living like his citizens’ and feels their suffering and will take care of them, as the majority of our citizens us not interested in politics but in livelihoods.
• If it is appropriate, it is possible to state that the current government is a transitional government until the election of a people’s assembly whose primary mission will be to issue and execute laws and legislation. (A resentment regarding the performance of the current government is evident.)
• The assertion that a national unity government shall be formed after the coming elections in light of the results.
• Warning people of the future that Syria’s enemies want for them -- like Libya where people are fighting each other while its oil is being stolen by the Western world.
• Addressing those who have committed mistakes, held arms or exercised sabotage with a mixture of kindness and firmness while reminding them that they are deluding themselves and their country when they help Syria’s enemy without even realizing it.
• It is important to stress that the state shall not forgive the criminals.
• It is important to highlight the patriotism of all Syrian people and that the state will make all efforts to respond to the peoples’ demands. In addition it is important to emphasize that it is the conceited that harbor mistaken views towards Syria, especially since public opinion is distressed with threats of treason.
The youth needs the President’s guidance and should feel secure knowing their demands will be heard and the President will meet them and change their sad situation.
I felt that a large portion views the President as distant from the people so it is necessary to mention “the people” at every opportunity and link everything to them i.e. political positions, reform, resistance, people are the source to triumph over crisis etc.
It is important to repeat the word “people” in the speech.
I think that an important part of the speech should talk about the army, thanking them and ensuring that their work guarantees the country’s unity, and that its loyalty to the homeland is a victory for Syria and its people.
The Economic situation:
• It is very important to reassure people about the economic situation because they are panicked by the idea of an economic collapse.
• Provide some details and data to reassure citizens.
• Alert people to the psychological warfare that is being exercised on them economically and remind them that economic exchange and stock prices do not solely define the economic situation.
• Syria is not sieged economically so whoever chooses to block Syria will in effect be blocking itself (because of Syria’s strategic location).
• Despite the need to reassure people, there is great need for transparency so the President’s words should be realistic and recognize the current economic difficulties and those that will confront us in the future.
Stability of the Syrian position and its forces + external pressures + Israeli concern:
• I think that the language must be strong and violent because the people need to see the President as a strong advocate of Syria, one who does not tremble, especially since peoples fear has increased following the recent bombings and the escalation of statements by the international community against Syria. The President’s speech shall give a huge boost in morale to the people because we don’t want to lose the trust of our people in our bid to dismiss the opposition.
• To give a feeling of optimism, it is important to state that acts of terrorism in Syria today are nowhere near what the country suffered in the eighties and if Syria could triumph then, and foil the conspiracy it will triumph once again thanks to God and the force of our people and army.
• The President should strongly emphasize that Syria will not be subjected to pressures as people have the feeling that we will be defeated by external forces.
• At this point, the Israeli issue should be brought forward in order to show the difference in Syria with other countries witnessing crises.
• Emphasizing Syria’s role in challenging all Israeli and Western plans by supporting the resistances and the non-normalization of any relation with Israel. We should link the external pressures which Syria is witnessing to its revenge through victories over Israel (1973-1982-2000-2006-2008) in which Syria was the prime partner; and how those victories have changed the balance of power in the region and have put Israel in weak position.
• We should reaffirm that Syrian people are the greatest enemy of Israel and the President will not make peace with the enemy regardless of the pressures, knowing that if he approved, all the leaders calling for his withdrawal will stop their campaigns against him. People should be reminded that he derives his legitimacy from the people and he implements the people’s demands of refusing any form of normalization with Israel.
• Syria is the only country that refused to hold talks or secret negotiations with Israel knowing that some countries that give us lessons in democracy and nationality have done more than that.
• Using as an example the reality of Arab countries that have been subjected to Israel and the Western world as a means to confirm the validity of Syria’s position [on Israel]. (My idea may sound obvious but after many discussions with different segments of society, I believe people need to be made aware again of how their interest lies in hostility with Israel and how they should not be subjugated to the West and this is of course due to our poor political guidance of our media.)
• Affirming the Syrian military’s strength and its ability to defend its sovereignty and its people’s positions as there is a belief among a large portion of people that we are not strong enough to face a military attack. It would be helpful to leak information related to our military competence before the speech.
• The Western fear on Israel, the protector of their interests, will deter them a thousand times before considering an attack on us. (This point is very important in my opinion as it explains the geostrategic and geopolitical dimensions of the crisis).
• Taking a clear and courageous position regarding the statements of Jeffrey Feltman and other persons calling to create humanitarian corridors and areas of air ban, and ensuring that Syria would prevent it by force.
• All this is aimed at giving a dose of confidence and power to the people. A balanced statement is important so it does not seem like the President is betraying the people or making Israel the cause of what is happening or if he is trying to escape from any mistakes made during and before the crisis. He should clearly differentiate between the ambitions of the Western world and the demands of the people and stress how the Western world and Israel are taking advantage of a group of Syrian people without their knowledge in a bid to make Syria kneel but the president has a great confidence in the patriotism of all Syrians.
• We should show appreciation to the countries who support Syria and assert that the Syrian people will not forget these positions.
• Hostile countries are fighting Syria on behalf of the U.S. and Israel.
• Syrian people know how to deal with them and will not forget what they did.
• Let them [countries] know still have a chance to review you positions but the period is limited.
• We have information and documents about what you have done to our people but we will not publish them.
• America has begun to withdraw from this region and you will soon not have allies except your Syrian neighbors.
Message to reassure the people:
• Confirming that the army and security forces will restore the security and the safety of Syria
Location of speech:
• It is necessary to deliver the speech in front of a large audience taking into account the security aspect.
• A massive call for martyrs’ families, so that it looks like a celebration.
• If possible, see if a band can play an emotional melody for the martyrs.
• One of the martyrs’ wives may give an expressive speech on behalf of the martyrs’ families after which the President appears.
• The interaction with the public is necessary and will add power to the President’s speech. It is preferable the interaction does not look as a routine approach.
We have established a website on the Internet to collect polls about what people want to hear in the speech and we will be sending them to your Excellency after gathering sufficient information.
(Translated from Arabic by Sarah Sfeir.)