US embassy cable - 01DAMASCUS3036

ASAD: ISRAEL DOES NOT DESIRE PEACE

Identifier: 01DAMASCUS3036
Wikileaks: View 01DAMASCUS3036 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 2001-07-09 15:03:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Tags: PREL PGOV SY
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 091503Z JUL 01
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5527
INFO ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS DAMASCUS 003036 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS:  PREL, PGOV, SY 
SUBJECT:  ASAD:  ISRAEL DOES NOT DESIRE PEACE 
 
REF(S):  FBIS EUP2001070700109 
 
1. (U) SUMMARY: ACCORDING TO A LENGTHY INTERVIEW WITH 
GERMAN NEWS MAGAZINE DER SPIEGEL 7/9, SYRIAN PRESIDENT AL- 
ASAD ACCUSED ISRAELI PM SHARON OF PUSHING THE REGION 
TOWARDS WAR; ASSERTED THAT SYRIA WANTED PEACE BUT WOULD NOT 
SHY AWAY FROM WAR IF FORCED INTO IT; AND WAS UNAPOLOGETIC 
ABOUT SYRIAN SUPPORT FOR HIZBALLAH.  ASAD, WHO DEPARTS 7/10 
FOR A STATE VISIT TO BERLIN, ALSO OFFERED A TORTURED 
DEFENSE OF HIS CONTROVERSIAL REMARKS REGARDING JEWS DURING 
THE POPE'S VISIT TO DAMASCUS LAST MAY.  THE INTERVIEW IS 
PART OF THE SARG'S EFFORT TO BURNISH ASAD'S CREDENTIALS 
INTERNATIONALLY AND PAVE THE WAY FOR HIS TRIP TO GERMANY. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (U) HIGHLIGHTS: 
 
-- PM SHARON: "IT'S OBVIOUS THAT SHARON AND HIS GOVERNMENT 
ARE SEEKING A WAR.  THEY WISH TO PLUNGE THE WHOLE REGION 
INTO CONFLICT." 
 
-- HIZBALLAH:  "POLITICALLY AND MORALLY, WE TOTALLY SUPPORT 
HIZBALLAH AND ITS JUST CAUSE OF REGAINING THOSE TERRITORIES 
IN LEBANON WHICH ARE STILL UNDER OCCUPATION...SYRIA DOES 
NOT CONTROL THE ACTIONS OF HIZBALLAH" 
 
-- CONFLICT WITH ISRAEL:  "SO LONG AS WE REMAIN COMMITTED 
TO THE PEACE STRATEGY, WE WILL NOT LET OURSELVES BE DRAWN 
INTO WAR.  BUT NEITHER WILL WE SHY AWAY FROM IT, SHOULD WAR 
BE FORCED UPON US.  MOREOVER, THERE IS A WHOLE RANGE OF 
THINGS THAT WILL HIT ISRAEL HARDER THAN WAR.  WE HAVE ONE 
OR TWO IN OUR LOCKER." 
 
-- INTIFADA:  "ARAFAT HAS NEVER BEEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE 
INTIFADA....THE INTIFADA IS NOT THE WORK OF ONE MAN, ONE 
STATE, OR ONE PARTY, IT IS THE REVOLT OF THE PALESTINIAN 
PEOPLE." 
 
-- PROSPECTS FOR PEACE WITH ISRAEL: ASAD DENIED THAT SYRIA 
SUPPORTED A NEW "CALL TO DRIVE THE ISRAELIS INTO THE SEA." 
"THIS IS NOT OUR REASONING...WE ACCEPT THE REASONING OF THE 
INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY AND SAY, AS YOU DO IN GERMANY [AND] 
IN THE U.S. THAT ISRAEL MUST HAND BACK THE TERRITORIES IT 
OCCUPIED IN 1967.  THE [HARSHER] TONE WE'RE ADOPTING IS IN 
LINE WITH THE CHANGING CONDITIONS [I.E., CURRENT TENSION IN 
THE REGION].  IN TERMS OF POLICY, WE STICK BY OUR 
PRINCIPLES [I.E., NEGOTIATIONS BASED ON MADRID TERMS OF 
REFERENCE]. 
 
-- ANTISEMITIC REMARKS:  "WE SYRIANS OPPOSE THE TERM ANTI- 
SEMITISM...SEMITES ARE A RACE...WE ARE AT ITS CORE...I 
MERELY COMPARED CHRIST'S AGONIES WITH THE SUFFERINGS OF THE 
PALESTINIANS."  ASKED IF HE HAD MEANT THAT JEWS WERE 
RESPONSIBLE FOR CHRIST'S AGONIES, ASAD REPLIED THAT "THESE 
ARE HISTORICAL FACTS WHICH WE CANNOT DENY.  BUT HOW CAN 
ANYONE ATTRIBUTE AN ANTI-JEWISH ATTITUDE TO ME, WHEN WE 
ALSO HAVE JEWISH CITIZENS HERE IN SYRIA, AND WE AS MUSLIMS 
RECOGNIZE THE JEWISH RELIGION?" 
 
-- THE ECONOMY:  "SYRIA IS STILL A SOCIALIST COUNTRY, BUT 
WE DO OF COURSE HAVE A VISION FOR THE FUTURE...WE ARE 
BUILDING DEVELOPMENT POLICY ON TWO PILLARS: CREATING MORE 
JOBS, AND RAISING STANDARDS OF LIVING.  WE WILL CONSIDER 
ANYTHING THAT HELPS TO ACHIEVE THIS.  BUT WE WILL NOT SELL 
THE STATE SECTOR." 
 
3. (U) COMMENT:  ASAD'S PERSONAL ATTACKS AGAINST SHARON AND 
HIS THREATS TO RESPOND TO FURTHER ISRAELI STRIKES ARE 
HARSHER AND MORE EXPLICIT THAN HIS RECENT PUBLIC REMARKS ON 
THESE ISSUES.  THIS PROBABLY REFLECTS THE INCREASING 
PRESSURE HE FEELS, FROM BOTH DOMESTIC CONSTITUENCIES AND 
OTHER ARAB LEADERS, TO RESPOND MORE DIRECTLY IF ATTACKED 
AGAIN.  HE IS LIKELY FRUSTRATED THAT THE ANTI-SEMITISM 
ISSUE HASN'T GONE AWAY AND CONCERNED THAT PROTESTS COULD 
MAR WHAT HE HOPES WILL BE A SUCCESSFUL TRIP TO BERLIN THIS 
WEEK.  END COMMENT. 
 
PEARCE 

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