Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently gave an interview to the U.S.- based Foreign Affairs magazine. Significantly absent from his replies to questions was any hint of responsibility for the suffering experienced by the Syrian people, even though his regime’s violent response to peaceful anti-government protests nearly four years ago ignited the conflict that has led to the deaths of more than 200,000 people, and the displacement of millions more.
Also absent was any acknowledgment of the abhorrent tactics he has used against the Syrian people for nearly four years, including starvation as a weapon of war, chemical weapons, and barrel bombs.
There are other crimes perpetrated by the Assad regime as well, “including murder, hostage-taking, enforced disappearances, torture, rape, sexual violence, [and] use of child soldiers,” U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Thomas Melia noted at a recent conference on the ongoing crisis in Syria. In addition, Mr. Melia cited the imprisonment of tens of thousands of individuals, many of whom are subjected to many of these horrors, as well as inhumane conditions, denial of fair trials, and execution.
Bashar al-Assad falsely presents this conflict as a choice between his regime and terrorist groups like ISIL. The regime’s brutality against the Syrian people – its choice of repression rather than any effort to address their legitimate grievances – has been the driving force behind the rise of extremism. As Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia explained, ”ISIL arose in part because a dictator in Syria has spent nearly four years destroying town and cities, driving half the people of his country from their homes until some of them became so desperate that they turned to the false deliverance ISIL and groups like it offer.”
At a press briefing, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki referenced the false myth-making displayed by Assad:
“The delusions that Assad presents here only …reinforce our firm belief that…he long ago lost all legitimacy and must go. There can never be a stable, inclusive Syria under his leadership.”
Instead, the United States supports and will continue to promote, as Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia has said, a negotiated political solution that stops the violence perpetrated by both the Assad regime and by the violent extremists – a political solution that “leads to a sustainable peace for all Syrians, men and women alike. The U.S. Government,” said Mr. Melia, “will continue to support the Syrian people in pursuing this outcome.”