Originally appeared at A-specto, translated by Valentina Tzoneva exclusively for SouthFront
Dessislava Puteva interviews Mohammed Ibrahim, chairman of the Association of Syrians in Bulgaria.
A number of Western countries have called for a ceasefire in Aleppo in order to deliver humanitarian aid for civilians who are trapped in the city by the rebels. Do we have a reason to believe that the United States wants a truce, not so much for the plight of local people, but to allow the rebels, called agents of the United States by President Bashar Assad, to withdraw from the city?
The human ideology, forced by the West, as well as the issue with the refugees is abused. When it suits them, they talk about humanitarian aid and humanitarian disasters emphasizing them; when it does not – such humanitarian issues do not exist. I will take you quickly to the city of Aleppo in 2013. The intelligentsia lives in the western parts, while in the eastern neighborhoods, most people are from the province. At that time, that part was under siege from the moderate opposition for six months. During that time, the city had no food, water, electricity, medicine, nothing. Believe me, neither Bulgaria nor the world knew about this siege. Because these forces acted as soldiers of the West in Syria, they could do whatever they wanted and it was not a problem. If a child was wounded, it became the fault of Syrian or Russian aircraft, the whole world knows about it. But when terrorists deliberately bombard schools in the same neighborhoods in the western part, which is controlled by the Syrian government and dozens of students are killed, nobody says a word. Russian and Syrian planes shoot and bomb in eastern Aleppo, where the schools were turned into centers of terrorists. When they bomb a school, they do not bombard children but terrorists. In the western part of Aleppo, there are no classes of 30 but 80 students, because schools in the east no longer work. So the West should not lecture us on morals and humanitarian aid. In the past few days, the eastern areas of Aleppo were abandoned by about 50,000 to 60,000 residents who were immediately accepted by the Syrian army, the Syrian government. They were accommodated, fed and warmed up. The West did nothing for them. They can go where the Syrian government is in control now and help them. But this whole game is a manipulation. Why is Aleppo an important city? As we know from history, every major war has a decisive battle. The decisive battle in Syria will be for Aleppo.
President Bashar Assad also said that the expulsion of rebels from Aleppo would be a “big step” to end the war.
Yes, but the Security Council is controlled by five countries, not all the countries in the world. Among these five countries, there are three which use terrorism and Islamism to achieve their goals. I have said many times that the terrorists in the world are the second most powerful army in NATO. The US sends terrorists wherever they want. We see them in Afghanistan; we saw them in Libya at one stage; now we see them even in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq. Mr. Kerry wants to impose “Jabhat al Nusra”, which is a branch of “Al Qaeda” as a moderate opposition, given that 95% of them are foreigners, not Syrians. Their chief in Syria is a Saudi: Abdullah Muhaysini. First, they are foreigners; secondly, they are “Al Qaeda” and Mr. Kerry wants to present them as moderate opposition.
A few days ago, Stefaan de Mistura, who is the UN envoy to Syria, said that this opposition in the eastern districts of Aleppo must be given the status of self-government. They even want to make a state within the state. This is the ultimate goal of everything that is happening in Syria: its fragmentation along ethnic and religious lines. These words were supported by Mr. Lieberman, who is the Defense Minister of Israel. He said that Syria should be fractured and divided: there must be a Sunni state, a Drusian state and an Alevi state. That is the plan: to crush this wonderful country that is like a mosaic. These people lived together for thousands of years before there were religions. The city of Aleppo is 12,500 years old. These people have always lived there. Later on, they become atheists, Christians, Catholics, Shiites, Sunnis, but they are all from Aleppo. This brings us back to the question: why is this city important? The West wants to present these groups that are in the eastern part of Aleppo as a moderate opposition, but actually hides behind the false moral cause. We have spoken before that all groups in Syria preach radical Islam. If radical Islam is opposition for the West, then we should congratulate them on having it; let them have it in France, Belgium and wherever else they want, but in Syria, the people will not allow it and did not fall for it in six years because Syrians are not random people and they do not pass through history by accident.
Another city that has terrorists is Raqqa. There is no dispute that this is ISIL. No one will say “I’m going to defend ISIL.” At present, Mr. Assad is implementing a terrific policy. At places with outbreaks in Syria, especially around Damascus, anyone who went and gave up weapons and signed that they will no longer carry weapons, received amnesty and returned to normal life. But those who refuse are the radical Islamists. They are sent to the city of Idlib. The world can no longer defend these people, because ‘Al Qaeda’ is there.
De facto there is no moral support for these outbreaks. The West cannot protect them and say: “There are civilians, this is the opposition.” The truce which was achieved, was not because of these terrorists or for humanitarian aid, but because there are no more civilian people there. There are only few people who are used as human shields. The truth is that among the terrorists, there are some western officers. And now everything possible is being done to get them out without being shown on cameras, without being arrested by the Syrian army. These are Turkish, French, American and Qatari officers who have worked with the United States for a long time. There are Saudis as well. Kerry flew to Lavrov saying: “Let’s get these people out of there. We’ll get to an agreement. The city will be entirely under government control, but let our people get out of there.” There is a deal there. These things happen in history. This is not accidental. And another reason why Aleppo is so important: before the war, it contributed to over 40% of the economy of Syria. It was demographically the biggest city in Syria. This is the oldest city in the world. It has a great historical charge. Moreover, it is an oasis for all religions and all ethnicities. If Aleppo is broken away, it will be a great loss to Syria. But of course, this cannot happen.
Will the coming of Trump as president change the attitude of the US towards Syria and the Middle East as a whole?
My view is that the policy will change not only in the Middle East and Syria, but also within the US and worldwide. We see the results in France; we see the results in the US. Donald Trump says: “We shall no longer use our military to overthrow regimes but to combat terrorism.” And terrorism was created by the very United States. We all suffer from these terrorists. Recently, Mrs. Clinton stated that the US created “Al Qaeda” in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. These are her words. We know it, but it is nice that she said it. She also said that Democrats and Republicans during the Reagan time were of one opinion because they fought against the greatest evil: communism. It is nice that communism is over, but a bigger evil remained for the other people, and not for the United States. They are very far from terrorism; we are the ones who suffer from it.
Mr. Trump publicly said that ISIL was created by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama. There are many indications that Mr. Trump is making a revolution in American policy itself. He is not the result of corporations which have so far created the policy. He is a showman, a man who appeals to the ordinary American, hence the support for him. The proof for my opinion is the fact that all media and corporations in the United States predicted that Clinton will win. Trump is making a revolution because he wanted to return the US capital in the world back to the States in order to achieve the boom that Germany, Japan and South Korea have. Recently, I read that the US bases worldwide cost about 170 billion dollars. But who owns the money? US corporations own it, not the average American. The battle, which divided the world and changed the status quo was in Syria. The US is no longer the only superpower. Regarding the demand for a truce in Aleppo a few days ago, which China and Russia vetoed, it was the fifth or sixth veto by China and Russia; 10 years ago no one dreamed to veto against the will of the United States.
Some analysts believe that the role of the US as a global hegemon has played a practical joke on the American establishment which is sick of imperial grandeur and began to impose by power its “truth” and “democracy” in all parts of the world. Do you think this will change with the arrival of Trump as president, especially considering that he wants to warm up relations with Russia?
Not only with Russia, but also with other countries. Our message to the American people is: we, the other citizens of the world, are not enemies. We know that you have nothing to do with what is going on. However, you have to change the status quo in your country. The US cannot continuously absorb the world’s economy, have a huge domestic deficit, a huge external loan, and have their aircraft and bases pressuring most nations and sucking their money. Let us respect all people in the world. The US may be the world number one in many aspects, but why should the world be theirs? Let them be a superpower, but without applying pressure on other nations and depriving them of their identity.
We know that much of the scientific discoveries are made in the US because they have a policy to steal brains. I blame the other countries for not doing it. Why must the Americans give 50,000 dollars to a Bulgarian genius to go to them? Let Bulgaria give him 50,000 dollars. We must learn from their model, because obviously it is working. But the model that comes with missiles and aircraft to impose their way, their vision, and their political orientation, is not working.
Let the US be number one in one sphere and another country in another. But why should there be rivalry at this level? Trump said: “Hillary wants to get us into a World War.” Really, it would have become a World War, but the West would have lost it. This is a spoiled society that no longer has ideals. Its lifestyle pulls it very low morally. They sent 300,000 terrorists to Syria but could not conquer it. The reason is that the Syrian people are not like the people of the US and France. Each has its own identity, let’s share mutual respect instead of taking the best from the other.
Due to the conflict in Syria, a huge number of people have been displaced within the country or have left it. In a previous interview, you were saying that Europe is also guilty for this refugee crisis…
Of course, Europe is to blame for this refugee crisis. People who are currently running away from Syria are not fleeing from the war. In Syria, there is an internal displacement of about 8 million people and not all are so resistant to remain in these difficulties. There is an economic blockade from Europe to Syria. Terrorists of the West blew up all power stations in the country, there is no longer electricity. They want to warm themselves up but there is no fuel. There is no medication and food. They are pressuring the people so the people, in turn pressure the government. But the people know that Mr. Assad is not a dictator. The proof is there: 20 million people still live in Syria. Why did they not escape? Contrary to expectations, Mr. Assad becomes much more stable.
So Europe is to blame not only for Syria but for other countries too. Why do people flee from Africa? They flee from hunger. Why do they flee from Asia? Instead of sending them bombs and missiles, let’s give them a hand. Let them be well where they are so they don’t have to come to us. Unfortunately, all European leaders act as puppets of US leaders; even the Bulgarians. Now I see that many politicians, including Mr. Borisov, are accusing the media for not reflecting the words of Trump, that Clinton and Obama have created ISIL. Mr. Borisov, why did you not say it? Mr. Borisov, why do you allow the sale of Bulgarian weapons for the terrorists? We sell weapons to licensed US companies who sell them to third parties for whom there is no embargo. So far, 1 trillion dollars is spent to kill people in Syria and Yemen, and there is no embargo on them.
The weapons from Bulgaria go to those American companies that sell them to Saudi Arabia. Half of them accost in Turkey and are delivered to Syria from the north, and the other half goes to Saudi Arabia and from there, through Jordan to Syria. Saudi Arabia is a country that has nothing to do with morality and human values. As a Bulgarian citizen, I am hurt by the fact that the Syrian army that drove the terrorists from the eastern part of Aleppo has taken over a warehouse in which they found weapons ’Made in Bulgaria’.
At the same time, all accuse the Syrian army of using chemical weapons. The first chemical weapons that were used were found in the province Khan al-Assal, near Aleppo. These chemical weapons have been fired by terrorists against the Syrian army. Both Russia and Syria provided evidence for this. Both sides have asked experts in the Security Council to confirm who did it. These experts, however, came only after three months. When they arrived in Damascus, on the next day, chemical weapons were used in the immediate vicinity. Do you think that Bashar Assad is so naive as to use chemical weapons after the experts arrived? The investigation found out that this rocket was available in Syria and in Libya. However, this missile was sold by the Soviet Union to Libya more than 30 years ago. The missile had been delivered to Syria to make it look like it is Syrian. When they seized the weapons from those depots in eastern Aleppo, they found out that there were huge quantities of products which can be used for making chemical weapons. The terrorists use these weapons against the Syrian army every day but no one went to investigate it. The West believes that there is no problem when you kill people or the Syrian National Army; this is allowed. But if you make a mistake in another direction, then the whole world jumps. This is the double standard which, however, will not always exist. Now, there are other forces that will rival the United States. For example, leaders who have a new vision emerged in France. Both contenders, fighting for the presidency in France, are friends of the Syrian government. Those who do not have support are sympathetic to US policy.
If the US pulls out of Europe because of the isolationist views of Trump, is it possible for the Balkans to become a victim of Erdogan, who is becoming more aggressive? There were comments that he has territorial claims towards the countries neighboring Turkey.
The United States played this particular game after World War II. You see, if they are not in Europe, then Russia will conquer it; communism will conquer it. They created the same psychoses in Europe. Now they say that the Islamists will take over Europe, but they created them. The US destroys the backyard of Europe, breaks all the countries around it, and from there, the immigrants are already coming. The European leaders made a policy that is not in the interest of their peoples. I am amazed by the fact that Bulgaria can argue with Russia. The prudent policy is to be friend with the West and the East and with Africa. Europe is in conditions that can make it the Number One force in the world. It is very powerful demographically and economically, its territory is large, its position is favorable. But it has to solve the problem of Islam. The question is not about removing 50 million Muslims. This is not the solution. This will make Europe suffer as they play a role and it is also contrary to European values. Instead, in promoting such models that exist in Syria, Egypt and Lebanon where Christians and Muslims live in absolute harmony, we are promoting the Saudi model. We import preachers to Europe, who graduated in Saudi Arabia or come from there. We do not benefit from any extreme forms – be it extreme Muslims or extreme Christians. The Grand Mufti of Syria gives speeches from a church. When the Christians in Syria have a holiday, Muslims go to church and when Muslims have a holiday, priests come to the mosque. This is the model that should apply.
How can the spread of radical Islam be stopped? What do you think of the assumption that at some point it would turn like a boomerang against the US?
No, I don’t think it will happen. Those who fight against Islamists are Muslims. The Dutch army has not gone to Syria to fight against Islamists; they are fighting the Syrian army, which is composed of Muslims. It is the same in Iraq and Egypt. If we want to really clean the world from terrorism, we must first of all put pressure on the US to stop using terrorism as a tool. We also need to attack modes that support Islamism – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey. I am talking about the regime of Erdogan, not the Turkish people. Speaking of this, “Al Qaeda” and ISIL were created by the United States, Islamism was created by Britain. Wahhabism was founded just over 200 years ago in Saudi Arabia, namely by the British authorities against the then Ottoman Empire. Then they used Islamism to achieve their goals. “Muslim brothers” were also created by the British authorities in 1928 in Egypt. The source of terrorism is not Islam but Islamism. Obama said that it will take 30 years to fight against ISIL. Did you know that ISIL can be finished in 30 days?
If so, what is the reason ISIL has not yet been eradicated?
The reason is that the US helps ISIL. The Syrian army fights against terrorists and Mr. Kerry presses Syria to stop the attack against them. First, if the United States has the will, they will stop terrorism. Second, the national armies of Muslim countries – Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria, must help each other. Presently, ISIL is off to Algeria, tomorrow it will go to Pakistan, etc. They go to places where they can recruit people. In Bulgaria, there are Saudi foundations, as well as in France and in Belgium. We must start from this foundation. How can broadcasters who preach Islam, hatred and cruelty be broadcast from Saudi Arabia across Europe, and the Syrian television that has film and music programs be banned in Europe? I recommend to our government, with the help of the Bulgarian Patriarchate and our Mufti Office, to invite to Bulgaria the Patriarch and the Mufti of Syria to show another pattern that can be seen from all over Europe – the coexistence between Islam and Christianity, which lasted until the war of Israel and USA, who brought the terrorists in Syria. We have a chance, but we have to work. I hope this message reaches the right recipient.
Turkey’s military command has decided to send additional troops to Syria, 300 soldiers from the special forces to take part in the operation “shield of the Euphrates.” What is Turkey’s role in the conflict in Syria? What is its purpose?
If it was about 300 soldiers, there would be no problem. At present, Mr. Erdogan is professing the ideology of “Muslim Brotherhood”. He made an alliance with Qatar to put his hand on all countries in the Middle East: from Morocco to Indonesia, and to have seemingly democratically elected governments of the “Muslim Brotherhood”. He wants to regain the influence of Ottomanism, but in another form, by vote buying, etc. and thus impose his ideology, which was written in the doctrine of former Foreign Minister of Turkey, Davutoglu, “Strategic depth.”
It is good that Syria is stable, otherwise Erdogan was really going to look at northern Greece, southern Bulgaria and Macedonia to make the corridor to Bosnia and Albania. But in Syria he failed, although he did not only hold his own policy. He was used by the US to push the policy of fragmentation of these countries. The Americans use this drive with Erdogan and the aspirations in Qatar, plus the aspiration of Wahhabism to push their policy to have Islamism and terrorism from which they have a great advantage. It is a very nice business. They create terrorism, smash countries and then they are going to restore them. Nobody talks about the economic crisis after the so called “Arab spring”; there is no economic crisis, although in the depths it exists, but it seems gone, because there are no failed banks.
In late November, it was announced that the Turkish army began military operations in Syria in order to end the reign of Bashar Assad. Does this not create any prerequisites for clashes not only with government forces but also Kurdish fighters? What will be the fate of the Kurds in Syria? Do you think the main purpose is to prevent the autonomy of Kurds in Syria and eventual unification with those in Iraq?
Not only Turkey, but Syria, Iran and Iraq have problems. Kurds want to make one of four states. In the so called Institute for Strategic Studies, there is a new map for Syria already. Kurdistan and “Islamic state” are drawn on this map. But all this failed. One of the reasons for Erdogan’s stress is that if you had given birth to such a Kurdish state, Turkey will be the biggest loser; half of its territory would fall into this country, and there are over 20 million Kurds. In Syria they are a small part. The Kurds historically did not exist in Syria itself. They came with the Ottoman army and were the tool used by the Sultan to kill Armenians and Assyrians. The cities in southern Turkey are Syrian cities. Assyrians lived there. Everybody talks about the Armenian genocide but no one talks about the Assyrian genocide when about 1 million people were killed. These Kurds that have come with the Sultan and killed locals, now claim the creation of a state. The Kurds had no problem in Syria before these events; they are Syrian citizens in the same way the Armenians are in Bulgaria. Do the Kurds in the United States have a problem? No problem there. But now they go to take land from another country. No one gives his land. Britain has created a basis for them, which is called Israel, and the US now creates another base that is called Kurdistan. It frightens the Arabs, the Turks and Iranians, etc. It is better for the borders to remain in their present form. The best solution is to prevent fragmentation.
15 days ago, the Syrian army shelled the Turkish forces and Turkish soldiers were killed. Turkey calls it aggression, although they brought soldiers in Syria that came to defend against them. But Erdogan immediately heard from Putin, who has warned that this is a red line. If you want to have a big collision, you will have it …
What do you think of the accusations by the US military that the Syrian regime, supported by Russia and Iran, strengthens the escalation of tensions in Syria with indiscriminate bombing?
Do we really want to follow international norms or do we want to talk like populists? There are two ways to enter an army into a country legally. One is through a resolution by the UN and a mandate of an army or a force to close a conflict, rescue people etc. But that has not happened in the case of the Americans. They have not received authority from anyone for entering and bombing Syria. Two days ago, American planes bombed Iraq and killed 120 people. In Syria they have no such mandate. The other way is when the very legitimate government in a country requests assistance from another country to get help. This happened with Russia. Nobody can say that Assad is not legitimate because he is the president of Syria. The government of Syria asked Russia to come and help in the fight against terrorism. But what do the American, British, Australian planes do there? Two months ago, they bombed the Syrian Army which fought with ISIL near Deir ez-Zur where 200,000 people live. The American, Norwegian, Australian planes came and bombed the Syrian army thus allowing ISIL to take this strategic point and endanger the lives of those 200,000 people. Then they apologized and said that it was a mistake. So the populism of the US already is very funny. The truth is that Russia is helping Syria to kill terrorists and to restore normal life. The USA is accustomed to act like a tsunami. Their ideologies and decisions are implemented wherever they want. They come to Bulgaria, they are not satisfied with something, then they do something to change the government. In Syria, this plan did not work and will not work. None of those who said that Assad is not legitimate have remained in power. All fell: Clinton, Sarkozy, Cameron, Obama’s mandate is over, and this of Plevneliev, not to mention Nikolay Mladenov or Daniel Mitov. All are gone, and Assad is still standing because the people want him.
If hostilities dry up completely, do you think that the Syrian president will be able to manage safely?
Yes, no problem. Assad will rule with the power of the people. About 90% of the Syrian people want Mr. Assad. Should I break up the country because 5% are not satisfied? Democracy means 50 plus 1%, while in Syria he has much more support.
Lieberman said: “There will be peace in Syria only if Assad disappears.” Is this their decision? So it means that Assad interferes with their plans. If he leaves now, why should there be peace? What do you end up? -The support for the terrorists? The truth is that Israel helps the terrorists. Jordan helps the terrorists. Turkey helps the terrorists. Almost the entire West helps the terrorists. And now they cry for the refugees. Allegedly, it was 90,000, but I think that not more than 60,000 civilians have fled the western part of Aleppo. The Syrian army and the Syrian government took them very quickly. And in Bulgaria there is a belief that because of the 5,000 refugees, the whole country is paralyzed, there is social unrest; some said that we are impoverished because of them. The media and policy of the government are to blame. And what about those 90,000 who were displaced in one day? I told you, 8 million people in Syria are displaced.
Don’t think about Syria too much. Syria will recover quickly but there must be a will from all of us to put pressure on the cause, not on Mr. Assad. He lived in Syria, and it was a great improvement. Before the events, the average salary was over $500, the medication was almost free, there was fuel, electricity, water, free education, health … This is not a country that must be broken. The problem was that the policy of Mr. Assad did not align with the ideas of the United States. The United States wanted to break up Russia. When Mr. Putin came, the process stopped. Now they want to break Russia economically by stopping gas that comes from that country. They create problems for Russia and Europe is left without fuel. Then, there must be an alternative – the fuel comes from Qatar and the pipes pass through Syria. The Syrian government did not agree to do something that is against Russia. They can get gas from Syria because there are huge quantities. If you remove the Government of Syria, this gas will be directed to Europe. Furthermore, Syria is the only country in the Mediterranean, apart from Algeria, which is a friend of Russia. Thereafter, all are friends of NATO. So, there is no way for Russia not to defend Syria because by protecting it, Russia protects itself and its interests. There is nothing wrong about it. At the same time, the US is protecting the terrorists because through them it defends its interests. How is it possible for Russia not to defend a secular state that is loyal? Syria was a friend of the Soviet Union and is still a friend of Russia. It does not become an enemy of Russia like Bulgaria. It is a partner that can be relied upon.
There will be radical changes after the battle for Aleppo. That is why the West wanted Aleppo to remain in its hands. There are no talks about Idlib but there it is a completely different problem. When the Syrian army starts to kill terrorists in Idlib they will flee to Turkey and Europe. Congratulations Europe! You will get back the citizens who were sent to Syria with the knowledge of the governments and services.