One of the participants in this conference was Syrian journalist and activist Ayman Abdel Nour, who came at the invitation of the Turkish Foreign Ministry.
Ayman, who first met Bashar al-Assad during his university years and wound up working as a consultant for him for four years, was one of hundreds of thousands of Syrians able to flee the country to escape being thrown into prison. He did so when a friend warned him of what was about to happen to him. The reason Ayman became the target of Assad’s fury, at a time when things seemed to be going well, was his underhanded support for reforms that in fact Assad had promised while in power. Ayman also met with others within the Baath Party about these reforms.
When the regime suddenly invalidated his passport -- as they did to everyone else labeled opposition -- Ayman was saved from becoming someone without a nation by taking shelter in Canada. Currently, there are more than 250,000 Syrians who have had their passports cancelled in a similar fashion. Ayman then did some work in the media in Canada, and even formed his own company. From the very start of the uprising against Assad, he has been on the frontline of the opposition. Because of his many years working close to the regime, Ayman has access to information from friends who are still in the regime, and he takes this information and publishes it on the website “all4syria,” which has a following of thousands.
Ayman asserts that it was around 2002 that Assad’s previously amicable speeches and stance began to change, and that it was then that the Syrian leader began to view himself as a sort of demigod, becoming more and more removed from normal people while pushing to the forefront those who would bow and scrape before him. He adds that not only is Assad smart, he follows and directs everything himself, and is not, as some assert, just a puppet to others within the regime.
Words spoken by Assad to Ayman, when he gave the latter the task of following up on talks meant to lead to a partnership accord with the EU, were significant: “Try to postpone the accord for as long as you can, while giving a sense of hope. In one to two years, our interlocutors in Europe will start to defend us, so as not to fall into a situation they had not seen coming.” That same accord, which Ayman spent four years postponing to the best of his ability, has still not been signed.
How did Assad view relations with Turkey? As Ayman sees it, the most important role in the development of this relationship was played by the Sunni business circles in Halep. These circles pushed Assad to develop relations with Turkey -- which would ultimately open up possibilities in trade, etc. with the rest of the world -- rather than with Shiite Iran. And unlike with Europe, there were no political conditions set for developing relations with Turkey. To wit, the entire first section of the accord with Europe, whose talks were underway, was composed of various political standards and criteria. Which made it not very popular. However, to the contrary, a free trade agreement with Turkey was worked out very quickly.
Ayman, who publishes information on his website about violence wielded by the regime, as well as about the state of the opposition and the future of the country, does not treat criticisms of divisions within the ranks of the opposition, or allegations that they are intertwined with groups like al-Qaeda, warmly. He believes that the source of such allegations is in fact the Baathist regime itself.
And so, former consultant and new journalist Ayman manages to share striking information received from sources in the Syrian Foreign Ministry, people who are spiritually disconnected from the regime but who, for security reasons, are unable to distance themselves from their posts. As he sees it, the world powers who stand with Assad will try to present any sort of solution to the current situation until the energy of the opposition has completely expired, and will thus continue to offer full support to the Baathists. At the final point, a Latakia-based Nusayri state will be recognized. This is a scenario that sees the old Syria returning, with no coastline and very weak. In this scenario, either the Kurds will be granted autonomy, or their separation will be arranged.
The most recent visit by Putin to Israel, as well as the CIA chief’s sending of David Petraeus, John McCain, and Joe Lieberman to Israel, can be read within this framework. In this way, Russia will see its small base in the Eastern Mediterranean transformed into a bastion of state control, while Israel, with its own fears of a strong Syria led by Sunni leadership, will relax. Ayman believes that the US, Turkey, Europe and the Syrian opposition are all aware of this plan. And they are resolute in their desire to prevent it. But of course, in the end, this will all be decided by the result of the struggle, and developments related to it.