Asad's latest interview with Jonathan Tepperman , published by Foreign Affairs, is regarded by some, including Tepperman, as affirming Asad's categorical refusal to agree to any form of compromise: "The Asad that I met made it very clear that such a compromise is an absolute fantasy. It's impossible to imagine because he is convinced that he is winning the war militarily. He is convinced that he is winning the war for the hearts and minds of his people." (Tepperman in a subsequent interview by NPR) Yet in response to a question regarding how the war will end, Asad responded: "No. Any war ends with a political solution." Meanwhile, reports continue to circulate regardingRussian/Saudi talks on Syria's future and ... oil production.
Regardless of how one interprets Asad's words, it is clear that he had a message he wanted to share at this particular moment. Tepperman confirms this when he describes how the interview came about - a story which documents the extent to which the Presidential Office was eager to have this interview conducted. Tepperman received an 'urgent' message, and was subsequently asked to be in Damascus in 'five days.'
In our new blog series on Syria, we invited scholars affiliated with the Centre for Syrian Studies to share their thoughts on the following question:
Is Asad truly convinced that he is winning the war, and is therefore unwilling to agree to any form of compromise; or are the words he uses in his interview carefully selected to project strength at precisely the point that he is convinced the war is not sustainable?
Stéphane Valter - " ... the president is desperately trying to magnify his existing mainstays in a – usual – denial of reality."
Ferdinand Arslanian - " Tepperman is correct in acknowledging that Asad’s plan is to have “all his enemies, in the region and in the West ... capitulate and concede the merits of his own twisted arguments” … the problem lies in the extent to which Asad’s arguments are twisted.”
Raymond Hinnebusch* - " ... numerous idealist proposals were set forth, and all have failed ... Something needs to be done, and if Asad is truly reaching out, now is the time for serious diplomacy."
*/(with several Syrian scholars who prefer to remain anonymous)