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ASSAD: US and Israeli intervention prevents reconciliation in Syria (Interview)

Assad is adamant that the price demanded by the Americans, that of absolute US hegemony, is one that Syria will never pay

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad revealed in a recent interview with Iranian media al-Alam TV that attempts at achieving non military resolutions to conflicts inside Syria via reconciliation is being actively prevented by intervention from Israel and the US. He is adamant that the price demanded by the Americans, that of absolute US hegemony, is one that Syria will never pay. Video of the interview is furnished below in English, courtesy of Press TV, followed by a transcript obtained from Syria 360 Internationalist News Agency. Added emphasis on certain statements is mine.

13 June، 2018
Damascus, SANA

President Bashar al-Assad affirmed that the Syrian south is in front of two options; reconciliation or liberation by force, indicating that at this point, there are no concrete results for a simple reason which is Israeli and American interference, for they put pressure on the terrorists in that area in order to prevent reaching any compromise or peaceful resolution.

The President added in an interview given to Iran’s Al-ALAM TV that the Syrian-Iranian relation is strategic not subject to a deal and it is linked to the present and future of the region , affirming that neither Syria nor Iran has floated this relationship on the international political bazaar for it to be subject to haggling.

President al-Assad affirmed that since the beginning of the war, particularly when it started to have a clear military nature on the southern front in particular, the Israelis used to shell Syrian forces continuously, and consequently provide direct support to the terrorists. Israeli artillery and aircraft are the terrorists’ artillery and aircraft… Despite Israeli support to the terrorists, we have been doing our job, and the Syrian Army is fighting its way towards the southern front, and has liberated a number of areas within the limits of its capabilities. So, with or without its approval, the decision is a Syrian one, and this is a national duty we shall carry out.

Following the full text of the interview;

Question 1: Mr. President, there are many issues which we will talk about, but in the light of the victories you have achieved, the main focus remains the south of Syria. What’s happening exactly, or what is the nature of what is happening in the south of Syria?

President Assad: To put it simply, after the liberation of al-Ghouta, it was suggested that we should move south. We were faced with two options, as is the case in all other areas in Syria: reconciliation or liberation by force. At this point, the Russians suggested the possibility of giving reconciliation an opportunity, similar to what happened in other areas, in order to restore the situation that prevailed before 2011. In other words, for the Syrian Army to be deployed in that area, which is an area of confrontation with the Zionist enemy. And of course the terrorists should leave the area. This proposition suits us. Up till now, there are no concrete results for a simple reason which is Israeli and American interference; for they put pressure on the terrorists in that area in order to prevent reaching any compromise or peaceful resolution. That is how the situation stands now.

Question 2: So, it hasn’t been decided whether to move towards a military operation or towards reconciliation?

President Assad: No, contacts are still ongoing between the Russians, the Americans, and the Israelis, while nobody is communicating with the terrorists, because they are mere tools, and they implement what their masters decide ultimately. This is what happened, i.e. there was an opportunity to reach reconciliation, but the American and Israeli interference prevented that possibility.

Question 3: Of course, this is the reality there. But on the other hand, there are those who talk about many things taking place in the south. Mr. President, is there a certain deal, what is the price? Is there really a price for concluding this deal in the south? Let me talk frankly about the issue of getting the Iranians to leave the southern region in return for al-Tanf, for example. What did the Americans demand, or let’s say, what was the price the Americans asked to approve the reconciliation process in the south?

President Assad: For the Americans, there is a general principle they follow in dealing with any problem in the world. The only price they ask for is absolute hegemony, regardless of the issue and the place. Of course, we shall never provide that price; otherwise we wouldn’t have fought this war for years. We have been fighting for the independence of Syrian decision-making, for the Syrian homeland, and for the unity of Syrian territory. As for Iran in particular, let me be very clear: the Syrian-Iranian relationship is a strategic one not subject to a deal in the south or in the north. This relationship, in terms of its implications and results on the ground, is linked to the present and future of the region. Consequently, it is not subject to the price tags of the international bazaar. Neither Syria nor Iran has floated this relationship on the international political bazaar for it to be subject to haggling. The proposition was made by the Israelis with the objective of provoking and embarrassing Iran. At the same time, this comes in line with the international propaganda campaign launched against Iran regarding the nuclear file. It is not a separate issue; for everything happening now is linked to Iran in order to create an international position against it. As for us in Syria, the decision concerning our land is an exclusively Syrian decision. We are fighting the same battle, and when we have a decision concerning Iran, we will talk about it with the Iranians and not with any other party.

Question 4: Of course, we will talk more about Iran and in more detail, but since we are talking about the southern front, let’s explore it further. Practically, in the same context, there is the MOC which hasn’t stopped its operations since the beginning of the war on Syria about eight years ago. It is working and is still active, and is directly linked to the Israelis. But we have noticed recently that it has been reactivated, and there are more communications. Mr. President, does this mean that the Syrian state is practically moving towards a military decisive action in the south regardless of the consequences, whether things reach a stalemate or not? Is a decisive action in the cards for the Syrian leadership?

President Assad: No, MOC has nothing to do with this decision. MOC has been linked to the presence and the role of the terrorists since the beginning of the war on Syria. That’s why it existed: in order to lead them militarily. Consequently, the continued existence of this operations room means the continuation of the role given to these terrorists, i.e. they are equipped and prepared to carry out more terrorist acts. MOC is linked to the terrorists and not to the role of the Syrian state. Our role has nothing to do with it. Our decision has been clear from the beginning: we will liberate all Syrian lands. As to when to move south, north, east, or west, this is a purely military issue. But regardless of MOC, we have moved towards the south and we are giving the political process a chance. If that doesn’t succeed, we have no other option but to liberate it by force.

Question 5: But there is a confrontation in the south, and the issue is not limited geographically to Syria in the larger political sense. There are the Americans, the Russians, the Iranians, the Israelis, and Hezbollah. All these parties are there in the area. What does that mean? How are you going to deal with this?

President Assad: You are talking about two axes: one supporting terrorism, and represented by the US, Israel, and some flunkies in the region including some Arab and non-Arab states, and an anti-terrorist axis. The first axis supports terrorism and seeks hegemony, while the second axis seeks independence. So, there can be only one result for this confrontation, i.e. the victory of one of these axes. At least, as far as the anti-terrorist axis is concerned, it will not give up the process of cleaning Syria and the region of terrorism and will not give up on the unity of Syrian territory.

As to the other axis, will it change as a result of the reality on the ground? Let’s wait and see. But in terms of substance and convictions, it will not change, while in terms of the political practices dictated by reality and the facts on the ground, it might.

Question 6: Will the Americans leave al-Tanf?

President Assad: The Americans say they are ready, but everyone knows that the Americans are historically professional liars in politics. So why should we believe them? Also, we have to wait and see.

Question 7: Mr. President, what’s happening now in Jordan? Is it linked to what’s happening on the southern front in particular, i.e. is it linked to what is being plotted in that region, in your view?

President Assad: In fact, the only information we have is what we hear in the media. In any case, we wish Jordan stability, not chaos, because the latter will have a negative impact on us.

Question 8: Since we are talking about the south, let’s close this file. Mr. President, what would make the Israeli occupation agree to the return of the Syrian Army to the borders, i.e. a return to the situation which existed at the beginning of 2011, after seven years of repeated Zionist attempts, directly and indirectly, to undermine the Syrian state, the regime in Syria, and stability in Syria. Why would it agree now to the return of the Syrian Army to the borders and to the occupied Golan?

President Assad: Certainly, neither conviction, morality, nor international law means anything to the Israelis. Since the beginning of the war, particularly when it started to have a clear military nature on the southern front in particular, the Israelis used to shell Syrian forces continuously, and consequently provide direct support to the terrorists. Israeli artillery and aircraft are the terrorists’ artillery and aircraft. That applies to Jabhat al-Nusra of course. Nothing is going to change this Israeli approach. As far as we are concerned, Israel’s approval had no role at all. Despite Israeli support to the terrorists, we have been doing our job, and the Syrian Army is fighting its way towards the southern front, and has liberated a number of areas within the limits of its capabilities. So, with or without its approval, the decision is a Syrian one, and this is a national duty we shall carry out.

Question 9: So, a return of the Syrian Army is better than having resistance in the Golan, for instance?

President Assad: For the Israelis?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: I think the two options are bad for the Israelis. Both of them are bad. Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah has repeatedly talked about Syria’s relationship with the resistance and a Syrian role in the resistance. So, how would the Israelis choose between two bad things for them?

Question 10: As you said, Mr. President, Israel has financed, supported, and more dangerously was capable of enlisting a large number of Syrians, some of whom were treated inside occupied Palestine. They talked about it. In the future, how would you deal with this large number of Israeli agents? Maybe some of them were misled and Israel might have exploited the financial and living conditions of some; and some have chosen to side with the Israelis. How would you deal with them in the future?

President Assad: This is true; we cannot put everyone in the same basket. There are different reasons for moving in this wrong direction; and these people have wronged the homeland and every Syrian citizen. Ultimately, they are the children of this homeland, and we all bear responsibility for this problem, not only those who have done wrong. When crime, for instance, becomes widespread in a certain country, the whole society bears responsibility for this crime, not only the security agencies or the criminals themselves. The first thing that should be done is to accommodate these people. Second, we need to address the root causes which led to this case of weak patriotism. The causes here are many and complicated, and the scope of this interview doesn’t allow for all of them to be mentioned.

Question 11: In the same context, while you are talking about restoring the Syrian air defense systems and confronting the Zionist occupation, statements have been made by leaders of the Israeli entity that they will strike at the depth of Syrian territory. How would you deal with that situation, particularly that balance has been achieved recently, i.e. balance between Israeli aggressions and Syrian responses?

President Assad: Basically, we haven’t stopped responding. First of all, we haven’t stopped fighting terrorists, and at the same time we haven’t stopped responding to Israeli aggression within the capabilities available to us, militarily and technically. Moreover, the more these capabilities improve; the response will be better and higher. But in fact the strongest response to Israel now is to strike the Israeli army existing in Syria which consists practically of the terrorists.

Journalist: You consider them an Israeli army?

President Assad: Of course, for they are acting clearly and starkly in Israel’s interest. The first acts they carried out were attacks against the air defense systems. What is the link between air defense systems and the terrorists acting as infantry on the ground? This was an Israeli order. It was an Israeli-American order because it is the same thing. So, they are Israel’s army inside Syria; and the first strike against Israel, politically, militarily, and in every other area, is to strike Israel’s terrorists inside Syria, whether they belong to ISIS, al-Nusra, or the other groups linked to the Israeli plan and strategy.

Journalist: If Israel escalates, are you prepared to respond more forcefully?

President Assad: This is what’s happening. It is escalating, and we are responding. Ultimately, we are fighting the war within the capabilities available to us, and we are doing our best within these capabilities. A response does not need a political decision. I stress that responding or not responding is not a political decision. It is a national decision, and it was taken from day one. But implementing this decision depends on what we can do militarily and not politically.

Question 12: In terms of capabilities, there is one issue in the media which we are always following, i.e. the S300 Russian missiles. Russia says, “We will deliver these missiles”, and then says, “We will not deliver them”, which means that the issue is not clear. What is happening exactly? Why this Russian hesitation, in your view, in delivering the S300 missiles to Syria, while some other countries have been seeking S400, i.e. they are ahead of us in this regard.

President Assad: You know that military action and military considerations are part of political considerations. Consequently, a statement, even if it is of a military nature, carries at the same time political messages. So, why did the Russians say that they want to send or not send? This is a statement that the Russians should be asked about because it might be part of their political tactics. As to the military aspect of the statement, which concerns Syria, it’s not our custom to talk about the weapon which will be delivered or not delivered. The evidence was that the weapons used in response to the last two aggressions, the tripartite aggression and after that the Israeli aggression, were not announced by Syria. We traditionally do not announce cases of a technical military nature.

Journalist: So, even the nature of the response is not linked to the issue of the S300 missiles?

President Assad: No. The same applies. Even if the S300 missiles will be provided or not provided, we will not say that they were delivered to Syria. A weapon is used when it must be used.

Journalist: Is there a possibility that you have developed certain weapons?

President Assad: This remains a possibility. In any case, the result is the same: weapons shouldn’t be talked about until they are used. Weapons announce themselves only when they are used.

Question 13: Mr. President, let’s return to the political aspect, since we are talking about the southern front. Regarding the general situation, in light of all that has been achieved on the Syrian arena today, the most prominent actor is the tripartite alliance, or what is being called the tripartite alliance. I mean Syria, Iran, and Russia. What is the nature of this alliance? Is it a temporary alliance, in the sense that it is linked to fighting terrorism or to certain developments on the Syrian arena? Recently, we have started to see – or let’s say some have focused on certain points in order to show – a certain fracture in this alliance. What is your take on that and what is the actual reality of this alliance?

President Assad: If we talk first about the Syrian-Iranian part, for 40 years, and in the different conditions that the Middle East region has gone through, this alliance remained solid. So, there is no reason to say that it is temporary or otherwise. The new element in the war on Syria is the Russian element, and that’s why this tripartite alliance came into existence. Our relationship with Russia is now about seven decades old. Despite the fluctuations and the fall of the Soviet Union, the rule of President Yeltsin, and the deterioration of these relations to a large degree for us, it has never reached the stage of reversing this relationship with Syria. Russia continued to deal with Syria as a friendly state, and we have imported everything from Russia, including weapons, during the different stages of the sanctions imposed on Syria. It is not in the nature of the Russians to build temporary or self-serving alliances or to sell out on relations in order to get deals done. The relationship is definitely a strategic one, but the political statements allowed for these speculations.

These statements also aim at sending messages in different directions. Maybe, sometimes the language or the choice of particular terminology might not be helpful and might take the statement in a different direction at odds with the content of the statement. This happens from time to time. However, these statements shouldn’t be taken out of context: the Russian view of the relationship with Iran is a strategic one. As for Syria, the Russians do not interfere in Syrian affairs. If they have a certain opinion, they raise it with us and say that in the end, the decision is that of the Syrian leadership and the Syrian people. This is a constant principle for Russia. Therefore, the alliance is a strategic one, and if there are differences, such differences happen within the Syrian state, and you see differences within the Iranian state and within the Russian state. It is natural for us to differ on daily tactical details, for why conduct a dialogue if we agree on everything? We meet extensively in order to reach agreement.

Journalist: So, this tripartite alliance is being consolidated.

President Assad: Of course. This is dictated by reality, interest, and international changes that make it necessary for this alliance to be consolidated. As long as the other axis supports terrorism, and as long as we, together with Iran and Russia, feel the danger of terrorism, not only in Syria, but also on all these countries and on the whole world, and as long as Syria, Iran, and Russia realize the importance of abiding by international law, these facts make the existence of this alliance necessary.

Question 14: But there are those who say that Syria will get a price if the Iranians leave Syrian territories. Is there a certain political, moral, or military price in this regard?

President Assad: As I said in the beginning, as long as this relationship is not floated in the bazaar, they cannot offer a price, and the answer will be clear. That’s why they don’t dare suggest this price. This issue was raised by different countries, including Saudi Arabia for instance, at the beginning of the war, and not only at the beginning, but at different stages. The proposition was that if Syria cut its relationship with Iran, the situation in Syria will be normal. This principle is basically rejected by us.

Journalist: So, there were initiatives, so to speak, made in this regard by Saudi Arabia.

President Assad: During the war?

Journalist: Yes.

President Assad: Of course, more than once, and in a clear manner.

Journalist: Directly?

President Assad: Directly. The relationship with Iran was the basis for every proposition; and Saudi Arabia’s position on this subject is public. I’m not revealing a secret.

Question 15: An issue is raised, whether in Syria, Iran, or Lebanon, about the nature of Iranian presence in Syria. Some call them Iranian advisors. Even the Syrian Foreign Minister used the same term. At the same time, we notice that there are Iranian martyrs. Frankly, Mr. President, what is the nature of Iranian presence in Syria now?

President Assad: The term adviser is sometimes used in a broad manner, i.e. these advisers have been with us, through the longstanding relationship with Iran, even before the war, because the military relationship is close. When a military formation moves to a fighting position, the adviser becomes a fighter. So, the word can be used in different senses. There are certainly Iranian advisers in Syria, and there are groups of Iranian volunteers who came to Syria, and they are led by Iranian officers. Iran has fought with and defended the Syrian people. It offered blood. That’s why when we say “advisers” this is a generic term, but this doesn’t mean that we are ashamed of any Iranian presence, even if it is official. But we use the word “advisers” because there are no regular Iranian fighting units in Syria.

Journalist: Full formations.

President Assad: Exactly. There are no battalions, or brigades, or divisions. First, we can’t hide them, and then why should we be ashamed of that? When we invited the Russians legally to come to Syria, we were not ashamed of that. And if there were an Iranian formation, we would announce it, because such relations need agreements between the two states endorsed by parliaments. Such relations cannot be concealed.

Journalist: And you invited Iranian advisers to come?

President Assad: Of course, from the beginning we invited the Iranians, and then we invited the Russians. We needed the support of these countries, and they answered the call.

Journalist: Mr. President, you said more than once that there are no Iranian bases in Syria.

President Assad: That’s correct.

Journalist: Why there are no Iranian bases, while we notice that there are a number of Russian bases?

President Assad: There’s nothing that prevents the existence of such bases as long as Iran is an ally as is Russia.

Journalist: This means that if Iran requested the existence of such bases, you would agree?

President Assad: If we ask. We will ask them to agree. I mean that we could ask for the existence of such forces to support us. Iran has never asked and does not have an interest except in fighting terrorism. But the evolution of the war made it necessary to develop the nature of this presence.

This happened as far as the Russians are concerned. In the beginning, Russian support, like Iranian support, was different from what it is today. The support for terrorism has developed internationally and globally when the Syrian Army confronted those terrorists, and with that Russian and Iranian military presence developed. At a certain stage, we found – with the Russians of course – that the existence of air bases was necessary to provide air support to the Syrian Army. And now, if we find, in cooperation, coordination, or dialogue with the Iranians, that there is a need for Iranian military bases, we will not hesitate. But now, Iranian support in its present form is good and effective.

Question 16: Why haven’t you visited Iran so far, although you visited Russia more than once?

President Assad: That’s correct. In fact, there was a scheduled visit to Iran a few months ago, and it was postponed and not cancelled. It was postponed because of an emergency in Syria related to the development of battles. There is certainly no reason which prevents such a visit, and I’ll visit Iran hopefully soon on the earliest opportunity. This is natural, but the issue is logistic, no more, no less.

Question 17: Mr. President, I move to another file. Last week, it was the Jerusalem International Day, and the Palestinian cause is going through its most difficult stages. We are talking about the “deal of the century”, and moving the American Embassy to occupied Jerusalem. What do you have to say about Palestine? Is Syria still capable of supporting the Palestine cause? Basically, wasn’t one of the most important objectives of the war on Syria to get Syria out of the axis of resistance and to prevent it from supporting resistance, whether in Lebanon or Palestine?

President Assad: The Palestine context, since 1948 up till now, has been a complicated one, because the regional context is complicated. Of course, it is complicated because the colonial West, which is particularly supportive of Israel, has always created elements which aim at one single thing. First, to drive to desperation the Arab citizen who is historically attached to the cause of Palestine and who has always considered it a pan-Arab cause that touched him even on the national level.

The other objective has been to distract the Arab peoples together with states or societies in general to marginal causes so that they do not have time to think about Israel. And they have succeeded to a great extent, most recently through the so-called Arab spring which has aimed at destroying the political, military, and psychological infrastructure of Arab societies.

Nevertheless, recent development have proven that the Arab people is still conscientiously attached to the cause of Palestine. As for Syria – since it has been part of these plots to undermine the Arab condition in general – first, for Syria to support the cause of Palestine, it should first of all destroy the Israeli army in Syria. Restoring stability in Syria, striking terrorism, and foiling the Israeli plot in Syria is certainly part of supporting the cause of Palestine. The support might be indirect with direct consequences, but these direct consequences are linked to the internal Palestinian condition. We shouldn’t forget that the Palestinians are divided between groups which resist Israel and are genuinely linked to the cause of Palestine, and other groups which are against the resistance and support surrenderist and defeatist peace, while there are other groups which use resistance as a title in order to achieve their political objectives under the slogan of religion. This is of course the Muslim Brotherhood’s approach.

Question 18: Are you prepared to offer whatever the resistance asks of you, whether in the form of political, military, or any other form of support?

President Assad: Politically, we haven’t changed. The Palestinian question for us is still as it was ten years ago and decades ago. It hasn’t changed. As to what we can offer, this has to do with two things: first, Syria’s current capabilities; and there’s no doubt that the priority is given now to cleaning Syria of terrorism. Second, it has to do with the Palestinian condition and the parties with which we can deal within the Palestinian arena.

Question 19: Since we are talking about resistance, there is the other side. In addition to some countries which stood beside Syria in fighting terrorism, there was also a role played by the resistance in Lebanon, particularly Hezbollah, which provided a great deal and contributed to fighting terrorism. What do you say, Mr. President, to resistance fighters and families of martyrs and the wounded?

President Assad: When all these groups of resistance get together to defend Syrian soil and Syrian citizens, including the Lebanese resistance and the brothers who came from Iraq some of whom reproached me for not mentioning them by name, I take this opportunity to stress that there are brothers from Iraq to whom we give the same weight of any resistance fighter who came from any other country.

There are also the families of resistance fighters who came from Iran and sacrificed their blood in Syria. We should put all these in the same basket next to the Syrian martyrs, fighters, and their families. To those I say that all the letters, the words, the sentences, and the whole of literature are much less than a single drop of blood. Therefore, words are of a much lesser value than what they have offered. What’s more important is what history will write about them.

In fact, when we talk about writing history, we need to highlight that history needs a strategy and needs tactics, but the fact remains that strategy without implementation on the ground has no value. It remains mere thought which we might include in books and essays. But the reality is that these individuals in these countries, this group of resistance fighters, not politics, write history. I would like to use the answer to this question to express to them all my love, respect, and appreciation, and my reverence to the fighters, the wounded, and martyrs, and to all their families who are courage incarnated and who sent these individuals to Syria to defend it and fight terrorism, so that these families become models of morality and principles for present and future generations.

Question 20: Have you asked Hezbollah to leave Syria? A few days ago His Eminence Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah talked about this issue and said that nobody can get us out of Syria unless the Syrian leadership asked us to do so.

President Assad: The battle is long and ongoing. When we talk about this tripartite alliance – and if we consider it a quadruple alliance when we add Hezbollah, we talk about the tripartite alliance in terms of the states included, but in the end Hezbollah is a basic element in this war – the battle is long, and the need for these military forces will continue for a long time. When there is a need, and when Hezbollah, Iran, or others believe that terrorism has been eliminated, they will tell us that they want to go home. As Sayyed Hasan said, they have families and daily interests, which is normal, but it is still early to talk about this subject.

Question 21: Up till now, there are still areas under the control of terrorism and areas under occupation. At the same time, regretfully, some Arab countries, and here I am talking particularly about Saudi Arabia, announced that it is ready to send forcers to Syria. On the other hand, a few days ago popular tribal units were formed to resist occupation. Are these really popular resistance units? Do they receive support from the Syrian government? Does this mean that the army cannot liberate those areas, and that’s why it is asking for the help of the tribes? What is the nature of this issue?

President Assad: There are different forms of this resistance which appeared a few years ago. In the beginning they were fighting ISIS before they started to fight the occupiers. They were against ISIS in the central and eastern regions, and there were cases where they appeared in other regions which were not given media coverage and about which we hear sometimes through information and indications.

Now, this situation has started to expand. So, it’s not one single case. There are a number of cases which might be individual sometimes, or in the form of small groups not affiliated to an organization. In any case, our position as a state has been from the beginning to support any act of resistance, whether against terrorists or against occupying forces, regardless of their nationality, i.e. American, French, Turkish, or Israeli. We support these resistance forces based on our national role as a government.

Question 22: What about Saudi Arabia and sending Saudi forces to Syria?

President Assad: First, when we talk about a state, we should assume that such a state can take decisions independently. That’s why we will not talk about the role of Saudi Arabia. You better ask me about the American decision on this issue.

Question 23: On the other hand, there are a number of Arab countries which we talk about and which had a role or contributed to the role or to the destruction of Syria. These countries are now trying to get to Syria through the reconstruction process. What do you say in this regard, particularly that these countries are the ones which have capital and huge financial power? How are you going to deal with that?

President Assad: Reconstruction in Syria is not a cause for concern for us. It needs two factors: first, the human factor which is more important than the financial factor. When a country like Syria possesses the human factor, the financial cost will be less when it comes to reconstruction. This is self-evident, and we possess all these factors despite the fact that many competent and qualified Syrians have immigrated because of the war.

But we still have the capability to start reconstruction. And the evidence is clear now, for the state is moving forward and reconstruction has begun. As to money, the Syrian people have financial capabilities, capital, most of which is not in Syria, but outside Syria. But there is capital waiting for reconstruction to begin, so it will begin investing. On the other hand, there are the friendly countries which have capabilities and have the desire; and we have the desire to have them participate in reconstruction, so that they benefit and we Syrians benefit from this process. In the end, we do not need those countries and we will never allow them to be part of reconstruction.

Journalist: Never?

President Assad: Absolutely.

Journalist: Not even if there was a need in this regard, I mean in terms of financial resources?

President Assad: Financial resources are not everything. As I said, this is available. There are different sources in the world and in Syria for capital.

Question 24: With these tough years, we are talking about the legendary steadfastness of the Syrian Army, the Syrian people, the Armed Forces. If you wanted to talk about two cases, the most difficult case or incident that you have encountered during these years, and on the other hand the best and most beautiful case.

President Assad: It is natural, at the heart of the military battle, for the best and worst cases to be linked to the development of the military battle. If I say that the worst cases were when terrorists used to control a certain area, this is self-evident, but it is related more to specific battles, particularly when the area is strategic or the city is big with a large population. Consequently, the impact will be much greater psychologically and in terms of morale.

But there was an ongoing situation which we are still living and we must think about: when a martyr or a group of martyrs fall, and this is ongoing on a weekly basis for us, we must think that a family lost a dear one who cannot be compensated. He might be compensated by achieving victory at a certain stage, but on the family, psychological and human level, you cannot compensate a dear one lost to a certain family, or maybe a friend. This is a very painful situation which we have lived and continue to live. This will not stop until the war itself stops. But there were painful cases at the beginning of the war, when you see this huge lack of patriotism. They were perhaps a minority, but a large minority, of individuals who were prepared to sell the homeland and trade it together with their principles, if they had ones, in return for money or a certain interest, in addition to a certain percentage of extremism.

On the other hand, there were victories, particularly when victories started in the city of al-Qsair in 2013, and culminated in the city of Aleppo in 2016, that was the beginning of the major victories. That was followed by Deir Ezzor, and today we are living the joy of liberating Damascus and its countryside. This is a situation we have all lived through, and you were with us, and I am sure you feel the same joy.

Question 25: Have you felt tired at a certain moment? Have you felt hesitant at a certain moment, in light of all the decisions you have taken, have you ever, even for a moment, thought of leaving? Haven’t you said to yourself: let me save my family and resign, as some people did at a certain point in time?

President Assad: This question might be raised in a personal manner. When I am faced with a personal situation as an individual, I might feel despair after a few months. I might feel tired or bored or I might want to move to a different situation, or give up. That is possible.

Journalist: As an individual?

President Assad: Of course, as an individual, but the case you are proposing is not personal, it is national. Imagine yourself in a different condition, perhaps building something on your own. You feel tired, but when you see a large number of people helping you build it and share the same determination, you forget the tiredness.

Now we are in a national situation. We are talking about millions of Syrians. When you see a shell striking and victims falling anywhere in Syria, you feel frustrated. But when you see life being restored to the same area after one hour, your psychological condition changes. When you see that the electricity worker, the oil worker, the teacher, the employee, are moving side by side with fighters, moving without despair and without tiredness, how can you feel tired? This is a collective condition not related to me as a person. It has to do with our human condition when we are together as a society. How do we live? This defines whether you are tired or not. Would the Syrian society have arrived at this stage of despair and surrender, I would certainly have been with it. I would have surrendered because I do not have the necessary elements for steadfastness. This is self-evident.

Journalist: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for giving us this opportunity, and for your candidness in answering these questions. Thank you very much.

 

 

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tom
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tom

Mr Assad is a very impressive speaker, and conveys a strong impression of honesty and sincerity. I wish him and his people success in cleaning their country of the terrorist invaders.

Jonathan Jarvis
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Jonathan Jarvis

Thank you for posting this. This is what Syria has been facing for many years..incredible..that the tide has turned in their favour by relentless sacrifice…https://syrianperspective.com/2018/06/brandons-stunning-article-exposing-the-american-plan-for-syria-a-must-read.html

G George
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G George

The filthy American bastards are set on world domination and will do anything to achieve it.

John Vu
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John Vu

Who doesn’t know that already? But Putin henchmen like this article’s author, Alex Christoforou and Peter Lavelle still in denial that Putin is a strong man.

Ann Watson
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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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