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tv   Quadriga - The International Talk Show  LINKTV  September 30, 2016 7:00am-7:31am PDT

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♪ peter: a warm welcome to "quadriga," coming to you from the heart of the german capital, berlin. this week, we are looking at the latest developments in the war in syria, where the focus is on the embattled city of aleppo. in recent days, the e city once known as the jewelel of syria hs seen some of the most horrific fighting in the fifive-year-oldd conflict 250,000 are under siege. there are allegation of barbrbarism and war crimeses. medical staff say they simply cannot cope with the overwhelming number of casualties. one first responder said of the
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situation in aleppo, there is no escape. it feels like the end of the world. on "quadriga," we are going to be talking about the suffering of the people of syria and the response of the international community. to do so, i'm joined in the studio by three syrian specialists, beginning with usahma felix darrah, a german syrian author and activist based in berlin. he says what is happening is an abomination and will continue as long as washington continues to refuses to exercise strategic leadership. also with us is kristin helberg, a widely published commentator on syria. she is convinced the path to peace goes through moscow. we are joined by dw's own maissun melhem. she was born in syria, and she says it is not aleppo that is the real cause for shame but the suffering of the syrian people and the fact the international community has been in denial for so long. i would like to begin with you. you were born in syria.
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we have tended, in recent times, to act as though the conflict could not get any worse. it seems there is a definite escalation. what are your thoughts and what are your feelings? maissun: you start your day with a cup of coffee and a feeling of satisfaction that your child is sleeping in his bedroom, and you start reading the news. the first thing you see, like what i saw today, a bunch of children swimming in a crater, explosion crater, resulting from the bombings of yesterday, filled with the water of the broken water supply, which civilians in aleppo do not have any more. then you see the syrian ambassador at the u.n. laughing when a journalist asked him -- peter: truly a shocking moment. maissun: asking, mr. ambassador, did you target the hospitals yesterday?
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he just laughed and walked away. you think it has been moving from bad to worse for the last five years. every day, we reach a worse condition. i do not know if we are going to have an end anytime soon. peter: after five and a half years of the conflict in syria, the special envoy to syria said that we are witnessing new heights of horror. what can you tell us from your personal contacts? kristin: it is definitely a new escalation, and i always thought, as you probably thought, that it is not possible. it cannot get any worse. but it is getting worse. we have there places where people are besieged for four years now that we are not even looking at. we have the strategy to besiege
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people, starve them , and this works because assad and the russians know they can do whatever they w want. they can use the weapons they have because no one will interfere and stop them. this is the major problem right now. peter: before we bring you in, let's listen to two voices of people who are trapped in aleppo at this current time. >> i call on honorable peoplpleo comemend help usus. we are dying. the blockade, the destruction, the killing. may god hold these people to account. >> which country did we rise up against? we are simple people. we have committed no crime. the entire world, including russia and america, is crushing us. peter: that is very moving
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testimony directly from aleppo. i have noticed the last couple of days a lot of people comparing the situation in aleppo with guernica in 1937 in the buildup to the second world war. people have been talking about what happened in dresden in 1945 at the end of the second world war, the tererrible firebombingf that city. how useful are those comparisons? usahma: i think they are useful comparisons to put a context there. i i mean, if you want to look at guernica or dresden, they were destroyed fairly quickly in a matter of several weeks. in aleppo or other places in syria that have been besieged in southern damascus, you have a civilian population of 6000 to 8000 people with 600 fighters that were besieged for three years and only could survive because they have an independent water supply, very deep wells, and they are into urban gardening.
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in terms of the context of the horror we see now, this is a long, protracted situation. it would be comparable to what happened in warsaw when the nazis beseiged the jewish corridor there. it held out for 21 days. aleppo has thehe willpower to stanand for many months. what we are seeing is comparable to that. it is on a much larger scale. it is like dying in slow motion. peter: when we talk about the level of suffering, how important is it to point to the kind of weaponry being used? cluster bombs s and napalm, bunr busters and incendiary bombs. how important is that now? usahma: how important is it? these are weapons that we have seen. we have a regime that has unfolded its complete
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conventional military arsenal. we have a white house that has said we have international norms that have to be respected and enforced. there was a red line drawn, but not enforced. the murder weapon was taken away. he was not punished for it in terms of chemical weapons. the u.n. started a process in which the regime became a partner in a disarmament process. now, two or three years later, we see statements from the white house saying the use of chemical weapons has become routine in syria. we need to go much deeper here. the very foundations of the international system as we know it, as we knew it since the second world war, is fraying, falling apart. peter: you are nodding. maissun: i agree with him. especially when i always get disappointed that not only that
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red lines are not enforced. bashar al-assad and his representatives of this regime, which is doing all the atrocities we are witnessing right now, he gets interviewed by international journalists, like, every couple of weeks. he is given the chance to justify his war crimes in front of all our cameras after doing all his crimes also in front of our cameras. i do not understand it. these journalists come usually from the u.s., from the west, not even from russia, who is supporting the regime. kristin: we have to take into consideration the syrians are paying a price for western foreign-policy of the last 10 or 15 years. if you look at the american record in the region, obviously, there was a lot of mistakes.
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we had the invasion of iraq, the birth moment, kindnd of, of f d, islamic state. we had obama in the white house saying, i do not want to go for any military adventure. i want to get american soldiers home. this was the second catastrophe for the syrians. we did not have any chance to engage in the only chance, militarily, of protecting civilians. i do not want to compare it to iraq. it did not happen. there was no western regime change. if any governments wanted to do this, they would have millions of reasons to do it, talking about the red lines. but we have a u.s. administration and european continent that is not able to formulate any kind of common foreign policy. we really left syria to russia. they took the chance. they engaged very much, even militarily.
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we are now at a point where we have to realize, like it or not, that it is the russians who we need to convince how to get to a future inside syria. we need to have a negotiated transition. the russians have to understand this is in their interest. engagement and t the war in syra is very expensive for the russians and not popular at home. the russians cannot own syria. it is too big for them. it is in their interest to make a transition, an organized transition, away from the assad regime. we have to convince vladimir putin of that. without him, it's not possible. maisissun: how? we have been watching peace talks between the americans and russians for i don't know how many months. kristin: it seems he's not interested. maybe we need a military balance. that is the question. do we need to engage militarily
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to stop the bombing of civilians unilaterally from the west? everyone is afraid of escalation, a third world war with the russians. will it be a step to get out of the spiral of violence? usahma: this is s exactly what s tried in geneva in the first six months of this year. the opposition was there. they had three rounds of peace talks. there were several tracks. this is what the goal is, to take the remnants ofof state institutions, civil servants with no blood on their hands, to try and go for some type of interim government. a military council and so forth. i think therere is a huge problm here. if you see the diplomacy fails, that has a huge, huge price. it does not occur in a vacuum. if you look at the u.s. position going into geneva, they have plan a.
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and they declare that there is no alternative to diplomacy. but if you do not have a plan b, a credible threat, plan a cannot work. i will tell you why. the russian ambition grows with their perception of weakness in the white house. of course, it is not so easy, as you mentioned. russia's economy is about the size of spain now. it is in freefall. foreign currency reserves have fallen from 140 billion to 20% or even less. they do not want to swallow syria. they are fighting two hybrid wars in ukraine and syria at the same time. you have to have some type of balance so each side can sense how far they might be able to go to consolidate the situation. we are nowhere near that because the europeans, frankly, i think
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they can formulate a coherent policy but it's only coherent in terms of the common denominator. we spoke of barbarism. saturday, the security council on syria, an interesting exchange of blows there. the u.s. said that russia is responsible and called their actions barbaric. the germans did not do that. they followed the american line. when the europeans came out with their statement, ms. morgarini did not mention any culprits at all. she just said that is very didisconcerting. it shows there is no military component at all. that is the opposite of what we learned convnventional diplomacy to be, as teddy roosevelt said. speak softly, but carry a big stick. peter: i would like to speak more about diplomacy. listen to what four of the top international diplomats have had to say in recent days.
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>> images of destruction, people with limbs blown off, children in terrible pain with no relief -- infected, suffering, dying -- with nowhere to go and no end in sight. >> what russia is sponsoring and doing is not counterterrorism. it is barbarism. >> as a result in syria, hundreds of groups are being armed. the territory of the country is being bombed indiscriminately, and bringing peace is almost an impossible task now. >> there is a fafailure of the international community. that is what the syrians are saying. they are right. thank you very much. thank you. peter: the people of syria are saying the international community has let them down. i know you say the international community is in denial.
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tell me more. maissun: as i said, this drama we are watching on tv is more than about aleppo. it has been like this for two or three years, from 2011, when there wasn't any jihadists in syria, to 2014. and as usahma said, the syrian regime did many things, crossed manyny red lines drawn by the international community or the u.s., and was not asked about it. we heard only rhetoric from them. i mean, just a couple of weeks ago, a convoy of aid organizations going to civilians in aleppo was targeted by russia. no one even raised an eyebrow.
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peter: how about the question there, how can one deal with the question if russia is responsible for barbarism or war crimes? kristin: last week seemed quite cynical. they were sittining around in nw york trying to go back t to a truce, but it was russia itself bombing aleppo. again, we won't be able to find a solution without the russians. they have their own goals in syria. i would argue vladimir putin reached his goals already to be perceived as a world power, a regional power. he wants to make sure the american century is over in the middle east. he wants to make sure his own military bases -- i think this is what he needed from syria. now would be the time for him to realize that, if he wants to influence the postwar era and
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who follows the assad regime, it would be the moment to asksk bashar al-assad to step aside. the problem is, who will tell this to vladimir putin? at the moment, i feel the deal between assad and putin is we will let some humanitarian aid convoys pass. at the same time, he really wants to go back and take east aleppo. he has tried several times. this time, he said, we will finish this. the russians will help them with the hope that, after this election in the u.s. -- because that is the biggest fear, this convoy would be frozen for three or four months.
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no one will think about an international initiative without a new u.s. president. the russians will help fortify his position militarily on the ground. everyone has to wait until february until any international initiative will be announced. maissun: did i understand you right that russians are not able to impose their word on assad? kristin: i think they don't seem interested. maissun: they are waiting for him to get the part of the city that is held by the rebels. they might be satisfied, and then they might talk to him? kristin: yes. usahma: it is interesting that,, when we speak to the russians, we say that the guy that you are protecting is the worst war criminal we have seen for a long time. this rubs off on you, and he is weak on the ground. the syrian army is only legally carrying this title. it has basically dissolved into a bunch of warlords. we have seen the results with the last so-called elections.
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the parliament is full of warlords. the army itself cannot hold a single front. krisistin: this is what russiann generals say. usahma: a lot of them complain about this. look at what we got ourselves into. the other aspect is what is happening on the ground. if we say the international community should balance out something, it is not going to happen without hillary clinton. the opposition is speaking to hillary clinton. she has a syrian task force, six or seven people. reassessing her options means what? trying to separate the free syrian army, which is there, tens of thousands of people in the north, central, and in the south. maissun: it is not an army. usahma: it is not an army, but an idea. the idea of an army that keeps
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the oath it swore to protect the fatherland and syrian citizezen, which nobody in the syrian army does now. from now until february, say hillary wins, what is going to happen in this interval now? this is where putin goes all in trying to destroy aleppo. what it means for the international community is that syrians are saying the jihadists on the ground are a morally stronger force than the international community. this is what they see. they feed us and so forth. on the ground are a morally peter: we talked about the americans and the russians. what about bashar al-assad and his supporters? i'm guessing you have had opportunities to listen to what they have to say. it would be interesting to hear how that sounds to you at t this
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point in time. they too are the syrian people. maissun: they are. as any other part in syria, there are extremists living in the region where assad still has control. but many people are tired from this long-term war. they are just stuck, hoping to leave the country. they just hope to leave the country behind and survive with children. like many others -- we hear from them the same statement we have been hearing for the last five years. what might be the alternative if assad went? it is about existence there. the war between jihadi and
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militants -- after it has become a sectarian war, they are just defending their existence or trying to leave the country. kristin: it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. maissun: they invented, and they are suffering right now. kristin: foreign terrorists coming to the country was ridiculous. maissun: they were not laughing. they believed it from the first moment. kristin: now they see, on the other side, we have these jihadists. assad is supposed to protect me from these people. his supporters hold still. they don't move. they are a afraid. they feel, let's not move. they are afraid of the assad regime and the future as well. they tend to believe what he is telling them. maissun: even afraid of serving the army. they support him but would not like to fight in his army.
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usahma: it is true, of course, this is his self-fulfilling prophecy, to destroy the moderates so the world has to choose between him or al qaeda or isis or whoever. syrians are stuck with saying, these people protect us. they do not share our vision for the future of syria. they do not even use the word "syriria," true jihadists. but he is the only one protecting me now. where's the world? when i speak of the ininterval until the next u.s. president hopefully decides to make a move, there is an important point. 80% of syria are hard to reach areas. according to the geneva designation, you have 18 or 19 besieged areas. 80% are hard to reach. those are almost exclusively provided for by syrian civil society.
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i am afraid that not only are the political discourse and negotiations trying to find a meeting of interest between the great powers and neighboring countries, the syrians are shrinking away from the process. i do not see them being consulted. i mean, how can you have a process there and cessation of hostility based on an agreement with russia that you don't consult with allies and friends with? you are doing this for the syrian people, aren't you? it seems to a lot of syrians that they are improving bilateral relations at our costs. peter: should the syrian people make shaming the international community one of the topics of discussion? pope francis talked about globalization of indifference. 30 seconds on that phrase.
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kristin: i think the u.n. and international community has not only let syria down in terms of war or bombing, but humanitarian aid is not being delivered to people there. the assad regime dictates who gets help. we have to go back to a more stronger standard. peter: globalization of indifference. maissun: the sentence before the show, injustice has become part of our moral system. usahma: i would just ask the european states to n not think n terms of national interests or agenda. if you wanant to help the syrian people, you invest in civil society. it is alive. and it is the future of syria. peter: thank you to my guests for your comments, your insights. thank you for joining us on "quadriga." until then, bye-bye.
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♪welcome to "global 3000." this week, we're off to switzerland to find out what migrants need to learn in order to live and work there. then in india, we meet a young woman giving a voice to the untouchables. but first, we head to japan, where women often lose their jobs when they get pregnant. japan has been ranked at position 101 on the global gender gap index, a study of the

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