A thorough and excellent assessment of the claims in New York Times about Assad’s admission of mistakes by the Moon of Alabama (http://www.moonofalabama.org/):

Syria: False NYT Claim May Serve U.S. Policy Change

The New York Times suggests that the admittance that “mistakes were made” in recent interviews with Syrian government official and its president is something new and unexpectedly conciliatory:

President Bashar al-Assad himself has declared that he and his government have made mistakes and that they share some blame for the crisis with rebels. Mr. Assad told the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview to be published on Monday, that he could not claim that the insurgents “did everything and we did nothing.” Reality, he said, has “shades of gray.”

After years of describing the country’s civil war in black and white, as an international terrorist conspiracy, Syrian officials in recent days appear to be trying to sound more conciliatory, as global powers try to arrange peace talks in Geneva to end the bloody stalemate, and as international weapons inspectors began on Sunday to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.

The claim that the Syrian government has so far painted a black and white picture and that the “mistakes were made” message and offers to the opposition are something new is pure propaganda and defies the historic record.

May 18, 2011: Security forces made mistakes, says Assad

Syria’s president says the country’s security forces have made mistakes during the uprising against his regime and that thousands of police officers are receiving new training.

August 10, 2011: Syria’s Assad: “Some mistakes had been made”

Syria’s President Bashar Assad met with envoys from India, Brazil and South Africa on Wednesday and “acknowledged that some mistakes had been made by the security forces in the initial stages of the unrest” and reassured the delegations that reforms were coming, according to a statement from the envoys.

July 5, 2012: Assad: We can make mistakes

UC: Do you regret the fact that last year you crushed the first democratic protests by using arms?

BA: Well, at the end of the day we are human also. We can make mistakes. You can always say, it would have been better if we did not do this, but did that, etc. And this is very normal.

August 29, 2012: President Bashar al-Assad’s interview with the Syrian TV station, Addounia

President al-Assad: […] There were mistakes that happened, there were transgressions that happened, there were violations, thefts, some of which was uncovered but in a limited number and those were referred to the judiciary many months ago. Everyone who made a mistake or wanted to prolong the crisis for different reasons must be held accountable.

November 9, 2012: Assad: There is no civil war in Syria

Asked if he has any regrets, he said: “Not now,” although he acknowledged that “when everything is clear” it would be normal to find some mistakes.

July 11, 2013: Bashar Al Assad: Baath party made mistakes in Syria

Ruling party leaders removed in a reshuffle this week had made mistakes while in office, Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad told the Baath party’s mouthpiece in an interview published on Thursday.

The NYT’s false claims of the historic standpoint of the Syrian government may serve to allow for a change in the U.S. position towards it. If the longstanding position of the Syrian government can be depicted as something “new” that claim allows the U.S. politicians to also take a new stand to towards it. “Look, Assad has changed his position and now we can change our position too.”

There is hint of such a change of the U.S. position in today’s remarks by Secretary of State Kerry:

U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry offered qualified praise Monday for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, crediting Syrian authorities for cooperating with a United Nations mandate to destroy the nation’s chemical stockpiles.

“I think it is also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly as they are supposed to,” Kerry said at a joint newspress conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government helped craft the Syrian chemical disarmament plan, averting threatened U.S. airstrikes against Syria. “Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road. But it is a good beginning and we should welcome a good beginning.


About angelajoya

Assistant Professor, Middle East Political Economy, at the University of Oregon. Currently writing on the Egyptian revolution and the Syrian crisis.
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