Syria probably wary of ulterior motives in giving up weapons stockpiles
While Washington may say a strike is a means to get Syria to the
negotiating table, Waqqaf said that Damascus would likely view US
military action as more about degrading its long-term capability
for the benefit of America’s regional allies like Israel and
Turkey, rather than about the needs of the Syrian people.
RT:Mr. Kerry says if Assad hands over chemical weapons there will be no strike. Is this a plausible way out for Mr. Assad?
Ammar Waqqaf: I don’t think it is very much so the case. This reminds us, for example, of the situation prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003 when Iraq was quite encouraged to hand over whatever weapons and munitions they had that could actually harm any attacking force, some missiles for example. At the end of the day, all that happened was that the Americans did come but then Iraq had really very little teeth to resist anything. So I don’t think the Syrians will be falling into the same trap here.
RT:Mr. Kerry made the point today that at he believes Mr. Assad has too much power. If Mr. Assad believes he can use chemical weapons with impunity, there’s no way he will want to negotiate. Why should he come to the table and talk peace?
AW: I don’t think that the weak Syrian government, at least in the eyes of the Syrian government supporters on the ground, would be in a much better position than a strong Syrian government. In fact, I would argue the opposite. I would say a strong Syrian government that gives confidence to its supporters on the ground would be in a much better situation to concede any ground in any possible negotiations in the future. Whilst if it is perceived to be very weak and going into negotiations, yes, it might concede a little bit more but actually that would come down easy on its supporters and it might complicate matters a little bit more actually than they are complicated already.
RT:To be fair, everybody is saying a diplomatic solution is the only solution and they’d like to see all sides come to the negotiating table. But if there is a military strike, what would the chances of that happening be?
AW: I think the Syrian foreign minister made it clear today that the Syrian government will seriously rethink its position with regards to the Geneva process, the entire political process so to speak, should a military strike take place. But let us not forget here that the Syrian government has all the reasons to believe that a military strike, whilst probably saying to the world that this is for pursuing the objective of trying to push the Syrian government to the negotiating table, the Syrian government might want to say, “Well this is about weakening our geopolitical position in the region for years and decades to come.” I don’t think they will agree with the notion that this is about encouraging them to go to the negotiating table. This is more punitive and more about degrading capability in the long term for the benefit of regional rivals like Israel, like Turkey, and so on, rather than taking into consideration the needs of the Syrian people.
RT:Why do you think Mr. Kerry came to London, given that Parliament had already rejected a US bid for military action?
AW: The parliament’s rejection last week, or last ten days, of this military action was quite surprising to everyone and I think pushed America into consulting their own [government] and probably France to do the same. I think President Obama and his administration would want to have whatever support they can, whatever leverage the British government could actually help them with in trying to convince their own Congress and Senate to vote in favor of a military action. I think they are also going to search the possibilities or the options, should Congress and the Senate refuse such a strike. What would be the alternative? Would it be to go back stronger to the [UN] Security Council? Would it be to go solo on a strike? How would Britain behave in such a case? And really, does a “no” in the British Parliament really mean a “no” or a “maybe” or whatever, should compelling evidence on the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons appear? So he must have quite a few issues on the table to discuss with Mr. Hague.