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Sami Ramadani is a senior lecturer in sociology at London Metropolitan University and was a political refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime. He is a frequent contributor to the Guardian and other publications.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And we're continuing our series of interviews about Syria.And joining us again now is Sami Ramadani from London. He's a senior lecturer in sociology at the London Metropolitan University. He was a political refugee from Saddam's regime in Iraq. And he joins us again from London.So why doesn't the Syrian eliteâwhy, even the Assad familyâwhy don't they make a deal with the West? I mean, wouldn't it be easier than this? It's not like the Assad regime is really for, you know, some different type of economy in Syria. They had been integrating into kind of global neoliberalism. They were privatizing. The Syrian elite is, you know, exploitive, advanced, very rich capitalist class, and so on and so on. So, I mean, you know, why not make a deal? And why go through this hell?SAMI RAMADANI, SOCIOLOGY SENIOR LECTURER, LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY: I think a deal like the one you are suggesting would have been possible some 25, 30 years ago, or even 20 or 22 years ago. Things have changed since 1990 onwards, 1991, after Saddam invaded Kuwait, and so on, and with the entry of large numbers of U.S. forces in the region, with the coming to power of the second Bush generation.It's not only Syria which has an Assad and a son ruling. There was Bush senior, and then, when Bush junior came, George W. Bush and the neocons took firm control of U.S. foreign policy. They used the 11 September terrorist attack, which killed thousands of American people. Instead of building bridges and getting peopleâsympathy consolidated with the American people, they used it to institute a new aggressive policy: invade Afghanistan, invade Iraq, knock down any country which is not with you. If you are not with us, as Bush said, you are against us. So room for maneuver and compromise became very limited with various ruling elites across the world, becauseâ.JAY: Sami, do you think the Syria policy is to a large extent being driven by the neocons and not as much perhaps by the Obama administration? I mean, you look atâNetanyahu is clearly allied with the far right of the United States. The Bush family was very, very close to the Saudi regime, and so was Cheney. Is this kind of being driven by those forces, and is this why we're hearing some ambivalence from the administration? For example, early on Hillary Clinton was calling Assad a reformer. We hear from some of the leading generals, we're not so sure about this opposition. Is there a real split here, one, in the U.S. about what to do with Syria, and then (I'll get back to my question again), still, why doesn't Assad, or at least the Syrian elite, make some deal that they're not against this global neoliberal economy?RAMADANI: Sure. I think you are right to refer to differences within the U.S. administration and amongst influential political commentator circles, advisers, people like Henry Kissinger, others. There isn't a unified approach.But you are also right to suggest that ultimately, in terms of foreign policy, neocon foreign-policy cornerstones, if you like, still seem to be in operation as if there has been a handover. And I think the Obama administration has an Achilles heels in terms of the depression and the recession and the economic crisis and so on. These are climates that generally favor extremist policies. And neocon foreign policy is still predominant, I say, in Washington. And if you remember, even within the context of Iraq, it was Bush who agreed the withdrawal agreement with Iraq, and Obama came and implemented it. That was quite significant, that the major security agreement under which the U.S. withdrew from Iraq was signed by Bush in the changeover period from Bush to Obama. So there is a certain degree of continuity. And within the Middle East there is that continuity.And something also very significant happened in the Middle East, which is the great uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. And the U.S. has decided to, if you like, follow the neocon policy to its hilt, because they felt threatened by the uprisings. And to apply the neocon policy to the hilt means relying more and more on the Saudi dictatorship and, according to advice that was given to the U.S. administration, let's deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.JAY: And I guess for Israel the other issue is, if there's going to be a war with Iran, you do everything you can to try to weaken and neutralize Hezbollah, and the first step to do that is you destabilize and do what you can against Syria.RAMADANI: Yes. Without Syria, Hezbollah will be much weaker. Although it's a very indigenous Lebanese force and it's very popular amongst large sections of the Lebanese population, its arms and supplies do come through Syria. So, obviously, they will lose a major ally in Syria.JAY: Alright. Let's go back to my first question, then. So, given the alignment of forces, if you're even the Assad family, but certainly broader section of the Syrian elite, why don't you make a deal?RAMADANI: I think they would make a deal if the United States abandons the Muslim Brotherhood and the Saudi-Qatari-Turkish axis. This axis and this alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood of Syria means that the entire Syrian elite, encompassing quite a number of social forces, will have to go, because you're talking about a very, very radical social political force that will take over in Syria. And this is preventing, I think, a deal.I think the Syrian regime was negotiating with the United States. They even kept the U.S. ambassador to the last minute. If you remember, they even allowed him to travel in Syria, Robert Ford. He went to Hama, met with leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama and so on, the U.S. ambassador did, and Syria was still trying to build some sort of bridges with the United States. But the United States is applying such an extreme policy that the Syrian elites are terrified of the alternative that the United States and Saudi Arabia are backing in Syria. So that is one of the main reasons why we don't see a compromise solution emerging regarding Syria.JAY: Right. Okay. In the next segment of our interview, we're going to talk about intervention and the potential global consequences of what might be an intervention, foreign intervention in Syria. Please join us for that. And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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