Bashar al-Assad stonewalls Charlie Rose

Bashar al-Assad stonewalls Charlie Rose

Bashar al-Assad stonewalls Charlie Rose

I wrote recently about the brave Raqqa activists documenting Islamic State abuses on the ground in northeastern Syria; now, we have this hour-long interview with Bashar al-Assad by Charlie Rose.

Gosh, what a missed opportunity.  Bashar al-Assad does not sit for many interviews these days so you want to see the most made of each chance.  And Charlie Rose has interviewed Bashar before so he should have anticipated how he would hide crucial facts behind a wall of semantic technicalities, yet at every turn Rose finds himself outmatched.  So Rose asks Bashar about ‘barrel bombs’ and a practically theater of the absurd debate follows in which Bashar pretends the issue is that the bombs are misnamed (based on their shape, not their power, distance or explosive material) and Rose never finds his way around this small communication roadblock.  Likewise, Rose asks about ‘Iranian fighters in Syria’: in context, he clearly means Hezbollah fighters (who, obviously, are Lebanese, though allied with Iran) and Bashar uses this small matter of national identity to evade the whole line of inquiry.  Bashar says repeatedly that his position rests on the will and desire of the Syrian people and Rose waits until the very end of the interview to ask how, exactly, one is supposed to gauge that in a country without elections when some very, very large part of the population went into open revolt.  Bashar’s answer? “I sense it. I am in touch with the people.” And so on.

Perhaps the biggest loss here is that Charlie Rose does not seem to recognize that complete chaos in Syria is Bashar al-Assad’s strategy: it is not an unfortunate consequence but the very essence of it.  And, worse, it has worked: the whole discussion of American cooperation with Assad against the (supposedly greater) threat from Islamic State is a measure of why Assad will survive, because he has made himself the least-bad option.

Sigh.  Anyway, the most valuable information extracted here is confirmation by Bashar al-Assad that he receives American intelligence via ‘third parties’ though the only one he mentions is Russia.  There is a lot more there to ask about but, alas, Charlie Rose moved on, so perhaps we’ll never know.

Still, the interview is worth watching, if only because a missed opportunity is still an opportunity.


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