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Not ‘The Onion:’ Assad says he is ‘against killing of civilians!’

Assad’s charm offensive seems to have fallen flat on its face

Faisal J. Abbas

Published: Updated:

At first one would think he has stumbled upon a made-up story on The Onion or the Pan Arabia Enquirer, but no; the headline “Bashar al-Assad says he is against killing of civilians” wasn’t satire, it was real… albeit, this is classic example of matter that would have been extremely funny, if wasn’t so sad!

This quote from the entrenched Syrian President is from an interview he reportedly gave a few days ago to Czech publication Literarni Noviny.

Never missing an opportunity to spin a story to justify his tyranny, Assad also called on Western politicians to reconsider their backing of Syrian rebels and opposition

Faisal J. Abbas

Assad, whose regime is responsible for the killing of over 200 thousand people (of which 63,000 are civilians, including 10,377 children according to the conservative estimates of Syrian Observatory for Human Rights), was commenting on the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and declared that he is against the killing of civilians anywhere in the world; he also expressed sympathy for the families of victims of the terrorist attacks in France.

Never missing an opportunity to spin a story to justify his tyranny, Assad also called on Western politicians to reconsider their backing of Syrian rebels and opposition, saying they were “short-sighted” and France's attacks proved that “what we (the Syrian regime) said was true (that supporting terrorists will backfire in Western countries).”

To put this in context, we ought to remember that since the outbreak of - what began as – a peaceful pro-democracy uprising in Syria, Assad sought to label the protests against his family's four-decade rule as a Western-backed foreign plot furthered by Islamic extremists. His regime views all the rebels as “terrorists" and treats them accordingly.

Assad’s charm offensive seems to have fallen flat on its face when it came to convincing Hollande to abandon his rightfully hawkish position on Syria

Faisal J. Abbas

To back these claims and defend its brutal retaliation, the regime engaged in boosting terrorist groups and reportedly released the majority of current ISIS leadership from its prisons in 2011 in order “to persuade the West the uprising is terrorist-led,” Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported last year.

This accompanied by continuous propaganda efforts, detailed here in a thorough analysis by Senior Al Arabiya News Journalist Eman El-Shenawi, saw Assad positioning himself as an alternative to ISIS.

Nevertheless, Assad’s charm offensive seems to have fallen flat on its face when it came to convincing French President François Hollande to abandon his rightfully hawkish position on Syria.

Speaking to Paris-based ambassadors yesterday, Hollande said: “Assad is responsible for the Syrian tragedy.”

“Nobody believes that he can unite his people after so many massacres. The alternative cannot be Assad or the terrorists because they mutually keep themselves going,” he elaborated.

Some critics might question why the Assad regime should be held responsible for all these killings, I believe the reason is quite simple: we are talking about a totalitarian regime that controls all aspects of security, military, intelligence, society and religion; as such the regime is 100 per cent responsible for everything that goes on within the borders it controls. Furthermore, the mess in Syria today could have easily been prevented if Assad had dealt differently with the legitimate demands of the people of Dar’aa whose children were abducted, tortured and never returned to their families and the situation might could have also been avoided had Assad agreed to step down back later on.

Hollande added that any solution in Syria could only be negotiated by representative members of the Syrian government and opposition, and that France was ready to work with the United Nations and countries with an influence in Syria to achieve a deal.

“When an international intervention is cancelled, then the international community puts itself in danger,” the French President said in reference to the U.S.’s decision at the end of 2013 to pull back from striking Assad, a move which irked Paris at the time.

“Conflicts that are not resolved are a source of inspiration for terrorists and zones of chaos become their training ground.”

All one could say to President Hollande is “chapeau bas” for not allowing the likes of Assad to hijack the sentiment following the awful Paris terrorist attacks to spin the truth and divert France away from the correct path it has maintained over major Arab issues, especially Syria.

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Faisal J. Abbas is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya English, he is a renowned blogger and an award-winning journalist. Faisal covered the Middle East extensively working for Future Television of Lebanon and both Al-Hayat and Asharq Al-Awsat pan-Arab dailies. He blogs for The Huffington Post since 2008, and is a recipient of many media awards and a member of the British Society of Authors, National Union of Journalists, the John Adams Society as well as an associate member of the Cambridge Union Society. He can be reached on @FaisalJAbbas on Twitter.


Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.