The following observations about Syria are excerpted from a conversation between Ernesto Gomez Abascal, a journalist, writer and former ambassador from Cuba to several Middle East countries, and Ammar al-Mussawi, director of International Relations for Hezbollah. Hezbollah is a popular political organization representing the Shiite Muslim community as well as a national liberation organization defending the people of Lebanon. WW managing editor John Catalinotto did the translation from Spanish. The entire interview is on lahaine.org.
Ernesto Gomez Abascal: What is your evaluation of what is happening in Syria?
Ammar al-Mussawi: Now it is Syria that faces a war led by the United States. The goal is the same [as with the 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon] — to create a new Greater Middle East controlled by the U.S. and Israel. Behind it all is the control of energy resources during the 21st century, where gas will play the most important role. Looking at the map, we see that Syrian territory is the natural path to reach the Mediterranean ports through gas pipelines from Iran, Iraq and Qatar, where the largest reserves are. Additionally, large deposits of gas have been discovered in Syria and Lebanon.
The Qatari monarchy has a special interest in this; it has huge gas reserves and its leaders have pretensions of becoming a great power. The largest U.S. military base in the Gulf is located there. The television station Al Jazeera has become the mouthpiece of political reaction, imperialism and Zionism. It is blatantly intervening in Syria. Why doesn’t it put that effort behind defending the Palestinians and into the fight against Zionism?
Saudi Arabia does the same. We are seeing how in some mosques in that country the leaders are asking the faithful to make monetary contributions to help the opposition in Syria. They have never done that to help the Palestinian resistance.
We have the view that the situation in Syria is complicated, but the government has the capacity to resist and will defeat the aggressors. When terrorist activities began last year, the opposition and the imperialists said that in three months the government would fall. Then they said six, but they are no longer setting deadlines. The latest Israeli intelligence assessment says that Bashar al-Assad will last for years.
Unlike what happened in Libya, the armed forces are holding together in Syria; they maintain their combat effectiveness. There are only individual defections, personal ones. Nor did the enemy succeed in provoking defections from the embassies, so the European Union countries, after wearing themselves out trying to achieve this, decided to expel the ambassadors.
The opposition, on the other hand, is deeply divided and has failed to unite despite all efforts made in many meetings of the so-called “friends of Syria.” There are also many differences between opponents who are inside and those abroad. The internal opposition is against foreign intervention, while those outside request it. Furthermore, all in the opposition want to be the leader. The war against Syria is exposing the hypocrisy and double standards of Obama and the imperialists, who say they are fighting terrorism but are supporting Al Qaeda, the Salafists and extremists who commit crimes in Syria.
Impact on Lebanon
EGA: What influence does what is happening in Syria have in Lebanon?
AM: Of course, what happens in Syria impacts on Lebanon. Hezbollah is working hard to make sure no harm is done to Syria from Lebanon. We cannot succeed in this completely, as the Future Movement and the March 14 Movement, directed by Hariri, are Syria’s enemies and support the armed opposition. We are acting with patience and caution, trying to avoid confrontations as far as possible, but if they want to take things to the extreme, this can produce an explosion that would cause a confrontation. We try to maintain an acceptable balance at the political level. In the search for such a balance, we know that the internal correlation of forces is favorable to us, but we do not lose sight of our fundamental objective: the resistance to Israel.
EGA: What position do the countries bordering Syria take?
AM: The other countries around Syria are acting according to their interests. Turkey has ambitions but also fears. The government has been working for a U.N. resolution granting a cover for military action against Damascus. Opposition from Russia and China has been very important. The raid by Turkey’s F-4 Phantom aircraft over Syrian territory, which was shot down by Syria’s air defense at Latakia, was neither accidental nor a result of an error. It was a provocation and an attempt to probe Syrian defenses. And it got a clear answer.
Russia and Iran have given serious warnings to Turkey and are very concerned about the establishment of a U.S. radar base on Turkish territory. Clearly, this base is not being put there to protect Turkey. The Turkish government also has internal problems and has not reached a consensus to wage war on Syria; there is opposition even among the military.
In Jordan, the monarchy is addressing the issue carefully, afraid it will aggravate the internal contradictions and that the conflict in Syria could reach into its own territory, so it is not acting openly. However, it allows U.S. and British special services to train Syrian opposition groups there.
The Iraqi government is in favor of Syria and supports Bashar al-Assad’s government, but the border is very long and difficult to control, and can be penetrated by opposition elements.
Iran has always provided support to Syria because they are allies. Russia is also giving full support.
Israel, in our opinion, is not going to get involved in the Syrian conflict, at least not directly, as it doesn’t suit their interests.
In summary, our view is optimistic about Syria, but the struggle will be long and complex.