Gennady Yevstafyev, retired Lieutenant General of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, believes there is no blanket support for the Western cries about democracy and modernization in the broader Middle East. One can't ignore the fact that people who killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens are active in Syrian affairs and this is the kind of people which America and the West support. In Syria, they are the driving force for the opposition to the secular regime.
Sir, I’m very happy to greet you here. What is your impression because it looks like the situation is really ambiguous? On the one hand the Western community is saying that those actors who have gathered in Cairo are unable to resolve the Syrian issue but on the other hand the Arab street seems to be exasperated with the Western involvement. So, how do you see the situation? Perhaps Turkey, Iran, Egypt and perhaps Saudi Arabia might really do something.
The feeling you are getting from recent publications and speeches and statements is such that the situation is nearing the climax and this climax is not very much in favour of the Western community which has opened factually an open war against the Syrian regime and is very detrimental to the far reaching interests of many countries of Europe in this part of the world. On the other hand Turkey which was very enthusiastic in supporting many of the Western things done against Syria is now burden with its own problems which are unraveling in the southeast area of Turkey and the activity of Kurdish opposition and military Kurdish opposition is growing. So, very soon Turkey is going to forget about the whole thing.
In the sense the group of 4, which includes Iran, could play an important role in searching the positive result as far as compromise is concerned, of course if it will be allowed to do this because the Western friends are going to really sabotage the positive activity of the group. On the other hand there is a very interesting situation after Libya, after the death of the American Ambassador, this tragic death, many people look at the whole situation through different spectacles. There is no blanket support for the Western cries about democracy and new generation, and modernization, and democratization of the broader Middle East.
No, you now have information which is growing that those guys who killed Christopher Stevens are really active in Syrian affairs and this is the kind of people which America supports and the Western-European countries support, in Syria they are the driving force for the opposition to the secular regime. It is becoming more and more strange to look when the so called democratic countries are really supporting the most extreme terrorist forces against whom they promised to fight, and even George Bush promised to wage a war against terrorism. All this kind of forces are fighting over there and in many groups and numbers because the strength of purely Syrian opposition is getting weaker and weaker and I think it is going to disappear very soon.
It is not by accident that the Human Rights Watch and other organizations are now speaking not only about the atrocities of Damascus’s regime, but they now admit that if there are atrocities there, they are committed by both sides. Of course there could be no participation of extreme terrorist forces on the part of opposition without atrocities and that’s what we were saying all the time openly but the terrible domination of the Western propaganda in mass media was really eliminating every reasonable word that was saying that there are people who are committing atrocities on the side of opposition and on the side of the forces which are waging a war against the lawful regime which was elected and which was trying to suggest certain things to try to find a compromise.
It is not to say that I’m very optimistic because despite the tragic results of American support of the Arab Spring in the countries of the Middle East, there is evidence that Americans are continuing. You know, they have a tremendous force there initially, and especially in the election period they cannot abandon their line of supporting those destructive forces, they would try to continue. And this is the diplomatic inexperience of the Secretary of State Hilary Clinton who has clearly indicated in her reactions to what is happening now in the Middle East even after the death of their own Ambassador who was in the first place one of the initiators of the Arab Spring.
So, what we have now is a very fluid situation, very tragic situation which is going to last quite a long and that’s why I’m not very much sure that Mr. Lakhdar Brahimi, who is an extremely capable and extremely influential negotiator, and he is an Arab himself, would be able to find a compromise any time soon. I hope that the statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry recently, yesterday or the day before yesterday, that we will not allow to pass any resolution through the Security Council which would deal with the use of force in Syria, it is a really serious signal to those who are still playing with the idea of no-fly zone over Syria and so on. This no-fly zone is not supported by anybody around Syria because everybody has seen the real effect of the no-fly zone and the result of it in Libya.
And I think the sooner, but I don’t think it is going to happen soon, but maybe after elections in the US if Obama retains his cabinet in the White House, there could be some rethinking of American policy in the Middle East.
Sir, you are saying that the US has developed huge inertia. But on the other hand we know that Turkey which is one of the closest allies of the US in that region seems to be somehow shifting its position on Syria when the Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said that there was a need for, like he put it – regional ownership of the issues of our region.
That’s what I was talking about. That Turkey is burden with its own problems and the Turkish people who are Islamists by nature, those who are ruling now – the Turkish Government – I think are afraid of an uncontrolled chaos which could find its place into the areas of this part of the Middle East which contains very explosive areas of Kurdish dissidents, religious dissidents and so on. And I think that Turkey is thinking twice before continuing what was initially the very aggressive line against Syria because they thought this Syrian regime would be overthrown in a matter of weeks but now we have already 18 months and it is clearly a sign that the population in Syria, most of it, is in support of its Government and only a minority is trying to wage a war against the regime.
The interesting thing about this meeting in Cairo was its format in which the four parties, like you said – Iran, Egypt, allegedly Saudi Arabia and Turkey were sitting…
No, it is no wonder because this is a committee which was constructed and established on the proposal of Mr. Morsi – the new Egyptian President – who is supposed to Islamist by nature. But he is an Islamist with I would say a rather wise outlook on the matters of the Middle East.
In fact I was thinking whether Iran could really contribute, whether it could play some considerable role in the situation around Syria because there is an illogical position of the Western countries – on the one hand they are saying that Iran is pretty much involved in that situation; on the other hand they are denying Tehran a role in negotiations.
No, this is a continuation of the Western policy towards Iran – it is a policy of a comprehensive isolation of Iran from any possible political context. But this is an extremely wise action on the part of Morsi who has suggested that Iran should participate and it was very clear that these people admit that without Iran’s participation there could be no solution for the situation around Syria. And Iran is playing I would say in certain respects a crucial role and of course there are rumors and information that the Iranian military people are participating in actions in support of Assad’s regime. This could be exaggerated but the fact is that Iran is breaking through the isolation around it and is playing an active diplomatic role in the search of solution over Syria. It is very important.
So, do you think that potentially Iran can make a difference?
No, I don’t think it would be allowed to make a difference but the point of view of the Syrian Government is very much represented by Iran. And Iran is not going to allow for any kind of military actions against Syria. And anyway, I think Iran can influence the approach of Mr. Morsi. It is not going to influence the approach of Saudi Arabia but it could affect the approaches of Egypt and to a certain extent of Turkey.
Interestingly enough, Saudi Arabia was absent from the meeting. They sent no one.
That is a clear indication of where this country stands.
Sir, thank you so much.