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Interview with Sukant Chandan

May 2, 2012

Press TV has conducted an interview with British political analyst and filmmaker Sukant Chandan to discuss the issue of Syria. This is an edited transcript of the interview.

Press TV: Mr. Chandan, attacks are intensifying, they are even becoming more sophisticated despite the announced ceasefire. These protesters who have taken up arms, who are they?

Sukant Chandan: These are people who are being emboldened and most likely trained and backed by the Western white power structure or imperialism whatever you want to call it.

The fact is that even though there is no open and direct Western military intervention in Syria, imperialism is at war with Syria.  This perhaps is somehow a misunderstanding of the nature of imperialism including by the anti-war movement in England.

The West as an entity lives from a constant war against the people of the Global South including the people of Syria, Palestine, Iran, etc. for over five centuries.

So currently in Syria there is a war, it is an economic war through sanctions, it is a cultural and media war and in this regard I like to congratulate the Iranian authorities for having arrested the Reuters bureau chief in Tehran for the lies that she was responsible from purporting because these are not journalists, these are war propagandists.

Press TV: Mr. Saeb Shaath is saying that there is a scenario at work and it is being implemented now to instigate civil war in Syria and start a military intervention.

One point we are hearing constantly said by the United Nations right now as its observers are in Syria, is that the Syrian government has to stop fighting and at the same time the Syrian government is saying, “when I am being attacked by armed groups what option do I have? I have to defend myself.”

So what can prevent this from escalating into civil war?

Sukant Chandan: I am not sure what can prevent it but I think the Syrian state is absolutely right in trying to protect the security of its citizens.

I mean to be honest, what can stop this happening are the countries supporting Syria and enabling Syria to withstand and kind of defy and reject an imperialist intervention, primarily Russia and China.

And Russia and China need to basically go on the offensive really if they want to protect not only Syria but other countries of the Global South that are being targeted in a time when William Hague, the British foreign minister openly says that he is supporting the opposition by “nonlethal means.”

I mean what are nonlethal means? Nonlethal means can help the lethal means; they can be radio communication equipment, etc.

But frankly I am sure they are doing more than that and that’s only what he is admitting to, when Qatar is admitting to this, when Saudi Arabia is admitting to this and we will know other reactionary forces in the region are supporting the opposition.

The Syrian government and beyond that, the people of the Global South have an absolute right to defend themselves as much as possible.

So really Russia is the only safeguard to Syria and any other country of the Global South to be able to protect its independence, which is the most precious thing for any country of the Global South.

Press TV: Mr. Saeb Shaath is saying, that looking at the situation in Syria, it is not a good idea for president Assad to step down now, that it’s not a good idea to have a transitional government because Syria needs to defend itself at this point.

Mr. Chandan what is your view on this? Because if the Syrian president, President Assad, opponents would say, could have solved this by stepping down why hasn’t he been able to do that?

He has announced a new constitution, he has announced a presidential election, but still he has not been able to calm the situation.

What is preventing President Assad from doing that? Do you agree with his opponents who say that Assad himself is the problem?

Sukant Chandan: I am not saying that there is no internal contradiction in Syria that needs to be resolved and there needs to be a healthy opposition, a democratic opposition that engages with the regime.

That is all there but this is turning into something totally different, this is turning to a project of regime change as brother Saeb Shaath is saying, it is a rolling war machine that is going to target Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Palestinian resistance, Iran, and beyond that Russia and China.

So this is not a question of whether Assad steps down or not. This is a question whether the West can smash Syria as the last resistant Arab nation to Zionism-imperialism in the region.

I look at Libya, what has Libya turned into? And what was Libya all about, I would argue, from the first weeks of pro-NATO rebellion? It has turned into a launch pad for further regime change.

You have the audaciousness of imperialism and their allies in Syria organizing a 150-ton-load of weapons on a boat that was loaded in Benghazi in Libya, then went to Tripoli in Lebanon and luckily and thankfully the Lebanese army foiled that attempt to arm the opposition.

So this is what we are faced with, and Gaddafi said himself in the last summer that the resistance in Libya against NATO is defending Syria and Iran as well.

So really the whole third world, the whole Global South has to stop this war machine in Syria. The point of what imperialism is trying to do in Syria is regime change.

Intead of an attack on Iran, destabilizing Syria, softening it up is enough for them for their war preparations against Iran.

This is the great danger. Some people are perhaps thinking, well, now Russia and China are supporting Syrian independence and we have some breathing space. But this breathing space really has to be a moment where we up our vigilance, up our militancy and preparedness against the plans of empire in the region.

Press TV: Mr. Chandan, at the same time as there may be plans for a foreign military intervention in Syria, for instance we are hearing some officials in the United States saying that we can’t go into another war, this is going to be another military adventure that is too costly for America.

Will America get itself involved in a Libya-style solution in Syria, do you think?

Sukant Chandan: I think the key is what you called a Libya-style solution because the Western white power structure what it always prefers is that its regime change is done by collaborators among the NATO members themselves and that is exactly what happened in Libya, that is what they are trying to do in Syria, and that is what they tried to do before in using the green movement in Iran to effect some kind of regime change or at least some kind of fundamental political change that is to their benefits.

And I mean the nation of Turkey in providing safe bases along the border region with Syria for the armed opposition to prepare itself to go back into Syria and training Syrian rebels on Turkish soil. It is all there.

Don’t forget Saudi Arabia and Qatar for example, Qatar is now infamous for being a tiny little island created by the British that is doing the bidding of Zionism-imperialism throughout the region.

But the French foreign minister has said that military intervention is still on the cards despite that we have some semblances of a breathing space right now because Russia and China said no and put their veto in the Security Council in relation to Syria.

What we still find is that even president Obama is saying in terms of the negotiations with the Iranian government, that this is the last chance for any type of peaceful settlement with the Iranians.

So the rhetoric is still very aggressive and very much warlike.

Press TV: So would you say that right now Kofi Annan’s peace initiative in Syria has failed? Would you use that term and if so where does this leave the Syrian situation?

Sukant Chandan: I would not quite say that Kofi Annan’s peace initiative has failed because of the geopolitical situation. I think the peace plan was a de facto admission by the West that they could not conduct the type of regime change they wanted in the timeframe that they wanted.

So I think, I mean it is a double-edged sword, isn’t it? Because in terms of UN observers, I’m always haunted by the infamous UN observers in Iraq and we know where that led to, that absolutely devastating war against the Iraqi nation.

I do not think it has failed just as yet, but obviously there is a big chess game going within this Kofi Annan peace plan in terms of how the Syrian opposition can use it now.

Whose interest is it to let off these terrorist bombs in Syria? It is obviously not the Syrian government because they have a vested interest in actually a peaceful solution ASAP to the conflict.

The terror acts are in the interests of imperialism and its regional allies, al-Qaeda itself as you quoted journalist Lizzie Phelan in the introduction, al-Qaeda itself had admitted these attacks but really we have to think, we have to question whose role is al-Qaeda playing?

It is playing its destabilizing roles in whose interest? In Zionism-imperialism. Al-Qaeda was formed in 1996; it was supposed to be Islamic international front against the “crusaders and Jews, i.e. Zionism-imperialism.”

But since Libya clearly we are finding that al-Qaeda and those supporting al-Qaeda are completely in line and facilitating and helping, as in the case of Tripoli military commander for NATO Mr. Behladj who is actually leading the ground troops for NATO against our countries.

Press TV: And another question that is frequently asked is about the opposition in Syria, who they are? How split or divided they are? Which groups are being backed by the West and which groups are not?

For instance we have the SNC, the Syrian National Council; it is becoming a bit notorious over allegations that it is following the lead of the United States, the West and some regional countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar and there is one part of the opposition that is totally against foreign intervention whereas the SNC is not against that — they’re actually calling for intervention.

How is the split do you think in the opposition going to affect the future of the Syrian crisis?

Sukant Chandan: I think you are right in the assumption that the opposition is split, there are sections of opposition that are not into armed opposition to the Syrian regime.

There are legitimate grievances of the Syrian people like there are legitimate grievances of the people in every country in the world. It could be your favorite country but there would be still legitimate grievances of people there.

But this is a situation where you have the greater powers in the opposition allied to the interest of Zionism-imperialism and reactionary Arab states.

Even those sections of the opposition that I may have sympathy for, I mean the sensible and obvious rational option for them is to step away from opposing the Syrian regime, to close ranks actually with the Syrian government, however distasteful that may be to some sections of the opposition.

But you know, it is perhaps less distasteful to close ranks with the Syrian regime than is to end up having a situation like that perhaps in Iraq or definitely perhaps that in Libya today.

 Sukant Chandan is a London-based political analyst and filmmaker and runs the SonsofMalcolm.com blog.
He can be contacted on sukant.chandan@gmail.com

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