The Charge d’ Affairs and Head of Mission of the Syrian Embassy in Nigeria, Dr. Shafik Daiyob, has disclosed how Syria’s regional neighbors and the United States created, funded and facilitated the menace of the Islamic State (ISIS) to destabilize Syria.
In this interview with INNOCENT ODOH, the envoy who warned that ISIS could consume its supporters, noted that the war against ISIS and other terrorist organizations needs comprehensive efforts under the United Nations resolutions. Excerpts:
Syria has been fighting rebellion for about three years, which suddenly turned into a new phenomenon called Islamic State (ISIS). How is Syria coping with these huge challenges?
Yes Syria has been fighting this band of terrorists for three years now but the most worrying thing is that these terrorists come in from over 80 countries to attack Syria. They come in from the borders of Syria’s regional neighbors and among the countries that support, sponsor and open their borders to them to attack Syria, include Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
What do you think is motivating these regional neighbors of Syria to sponsor and open their borders for these terrorist attacks against the Syrian government?
This question is supposed t o be directed to these countries. But I want to mention that the Takfiri ideology, which is the background of the terrorist organizations, is being exported from one of the regional countries which supports and supervises it and some major media organizations are also supporting it. In addition there is a relationship between some regional countries and some of these Takfiri organizations.
And these countries as I mentioned are well known, everybody knows them.
The Syrian crisis started in similar way as some other Arab uprising that toppled some regimes in the Arab world such as Egypt, Libya Yemen in the hurricane called the ‘Arab Spring’. The fighting then looked more like people clamoring for a regime change in Syria. But the people who clamored for regime change in Syria are now transforming into different kinds of elements. What is your reaction to this?
Thank you for these wonderful questions but let me point out two things. First of all the term ‘Arab Spring’ is misleading and is not accurate. The use of the term Arab spring is supposed to lead to a positive transformation in the Arab countries. But look at what happened to all the countries involved in the so called Arab Spring, such as Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen among other countries. Unfortunately the situation in these countries is leading towards the worst.
Libya was once one state and now there two governments in Libya. Due to the absence of a central and functional government, Libya has turned to an exporter of weapons and fighters all over the world. The same situation exists in Yemen, and it is a very difficult situation that Egypt is going through now. The situation in Tunisia is relatively difficult even though we hope that the situation will improve in all our countries.
The Arab spring did not bring a good improvement in Arab countries but terrorism and bloody changes in these countries, and exposed the unity and sovereignty of these countries to very dangerous phenomenon.
That is why the use of the term ‘Arab spring’ is not accurate, is quite misleading and it does not reflect the real situation in most of these Arab countries.
Apart from the Syrian neighbours, outsiders such as the United States have openly showed opposition to the Bashar al Assad regime. There seem to be interplay of forces between the US, Russia and Iran over the Syrian matter. The interests of these countries have now escalated and prolonged the Syrian crisis. How do we solve the Syrian crisis in the face of these contending interests?
I agree with what you said. The international intervention has prolonged the situation and the fight against terrorism in Syria. But let me say that there is now an improved understanding of the situation in Syria. The international community now understands what is happening in Syria. And the understanding is that what is happening in Syria is terrorism, which is attacking other countries in the region generally.
That is why the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) endorsed Resolution 2170, targeting the ISIS and any other form of terrorist organization. And in September UNSC ratified another Resolution 2287, which is targeting the foreign fighters in Syria and to find a way to stop their funding, training and
These two resolutions represent a transformation from international understanding about the real situation in Syria. We hope that all regional countries will abide by these two resolutions and to carry out the content of the resolutions.
The commitment of these countries to carry out the content of these resolutions will be a big turning point in fighting terrorism not only in Syria but in the region and all over the world.
What I want to mention here is that since Syria started the war on terrorism, it called on the world to stand against terrorism and for an international coalition to fight terrorism. It called for taking measures against funding, training and financing of the terrorists and dry out the source of terrorism and the source of their funding.
But unfortunately the international community did not respond to the Syrian call at that time. Syria warned at that time about the consequences of supporting terrorism by some countries as it concerns the security, stability not only of Syria and the region but all over the world.
Despite that, we feel there is improvement in the international understanding and we hope it will reflect on the regional position, and I hope that all countries will be committed in carrying out the resolutions 2170 and 2287 and at the same time preserving and protecting the sovereignty and independence of Syria as stipulated by the United Nations resolutions.
When the Syria crisis started, the US was said to have armed the Syrian rebels. Now the ISIS emerged and most of the weapons being use by them are said to be those supplied by the US. How do you feel that the US which once armed the terrorists has now started a bombing campaign against the same people?
I wish you forward this question to the American officials. We in Syria have suffered a lot from the American policies. Let me emphasis here that any US support to any terrorist organization whether they call them moderate or not, will be in favour of terrorists in the Middle East. And it will reflect negatively on the region and all over the world. There is contradiction in American position, while the US is attacking the ISIS, it is also giving some money for arms and training of what they call moderates. In fighting terrorism, there is nothing moderate or not, terrorism is terrorism.
So when we want to fight terrorism we have to take all necessary measures to fight terrorism.
There seems to be some lull in the response of the Syrian government to the ISIS threat. Has the Syrian government abandoned the fight to others?
Let me mention one important point here. Syria has been fighting terrorism for more than three years. The US is claiming to be fighting terrorism all over the world, but in this situation it exempted Syria from participating in this important campaign and it exempted very important forces also from participating in the campaign against the ISIS.
This will cast some doubts about the America’s efforts in fighting terrorism. But despite that, Syria has been fighting terrorism before the creation of the international coalition and it will keep fighting terrorism till the end whether it is in the international coalition or not.
At the same time Syria welcomes any sincere international effort to fight terrorism. It hopes that fighting terrorism will be based on the United Nations Resolutions and the UN charters. At the same time Syria hopes that necessary measures will be taken to avoid targeting innocent civilians while attacking these terrorists.
The coalition is carrying out some airstrikes in some regions and Syria is not part of the international coalition as Syria is not invited. Some of the areas the international coalition are targeting, Syrian forces cannot go there and operate because there is no coordination between the two sides and that may lead to a situation where Syria troops will be targeted.
That is why the international coalition should be improved where it will contain all countries that are ready and have been fighting terrorists because it is quite unbelievable that Syrian forces cannot go to areas where the international coalition are targeting terrorists.
Since the Syrian government has been left out of the coalition, probably regime change in Syria is still within the American cards, as there might be a time when they will begin to make incursions into the Syria territory. Don’t you feel threatened by the coalition forces around Syria?
We hope this will not happen, because that will be a clear violation of international law and to the UN charters, and it will be a blatant interference and a violation of Syrian independence. This may lead to a severe consequence and it will strengthen terrorism in the region instead of fighting it.
Regime change is not important to the international coalition led by the US. I want to mention very important issue here. There was a presidential election in Syria in June. The election was a multi-part and multi-candidate election for the first time in the history of our country. The Syrian people participated very actively and very positively inside and outside Syria, and with all their free will, elected President Bashar Assad.
President Assad is the choice of Syrian people as a result of democratic election and the will of Syrian people should be respected.
The crisis seems also to have taken a sectarian dimension pitching the Shiite against the Sunni Muslims both within and outside Syria. This seems to have added a far more dangerous dimension to the conflict. What is your reaction to this?
Thank you for this question. This is one of the fake images drawn by some media organizations and some other international forces. The conflict in the region is not sectarian, absolutely not. Though there are some forces both within and outside the region trying to turn the conflict into a sectarian one, the conflict in the region is a political conflict. The conflict is as a result of two things. Syria has good relationships with Iran, Russia and some other countries. Syrian –Iranian relations predates the conflict in the region. Russia, China, Venezuela and some other countries around the world stand by Syria. Do you think Russia and China are Shia? Of course not. Do you think Venezuela is a Shia country? Of course not.
Some countries only try to present the conflict as sectarian to serve their interest; they don’t want peace and good things for the Islamic world.
Turkey has massed troops around the Syrian border but it is not fighting the ISIS. What does that mean to you?
The border between Syria and Turkey is about 820 Km, it is quite a long border. Even though Turkey is a member of NATO up till now it is contemplating about joining the international coalition to fight ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
We confidently know that Turkey and other countries assist al-Qaeda in the region. American Vice President, Joe Biden, mentioned something like that when he said that some US allies finance and support terrorist organizations in the world. Eventually Turkey is supporting and facilitating the al-Qaeda and exporting terrorist fighters to Syria. Up till now Turkey has not joined the fight against the terrorists but it is trying to put speculative conditions. It tried to link its participation in the international coalition and targeting the Syrian government also.
About 45 Turkish diplomats were kidnapped in Mosul, they were released, this is a good development, but the very surprising thing was how they were released because ISIS doesn’t release hostages. We know how ISIS treats the hostages. There are so many questions relating to Turkish policies and its dealing with terrorists.
We hope that Turkey will abide by the UNSC resolutions and the charters of the United Nations and stop interfering in the affairs of Syria. And it should stop supporting terrorism and facilitating their arrival, training and arming them because the continuation of Turkish policy could be very dangerous and it may have negative consequences on Turkey itself.
The US and some of the Gulf States especially Saudi Arabia recruited al-Qaeda during the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. At that time, they were calling them fighters for freedom, when the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and the eventually collapsed; the same freedom fighters turned to terrorists and carried out the September 11 attacks among other things.
Syrian, has warned right from the beginning that supporting and exporting terrorism will impact negatively on the countries that support terrorism. The terrorists now fighting in Syria have two options, either they are killed in Syria or the, return to their countries and if they go back to their countries and they have learnt how to fight and they have this Takfiri ideologies in their minds, it will reflect negatively in the security of their countries.
Look at what some of the Western countries are doing now, they want to put some laws that will prevent some of their citizens from returning to their countries because they are afraid of these dangerous elements and this is exactly what Syria warned of.
What is the current level of bilateral relations between Syria and Nigeria?
The relation between Syria and Nigeria is good in bilateral, political, economic and other areas. Let me use this opportunity to say that the Syrian government and its people stand by Nigeria and Nigerian leadership in fighting terrorism in north eastern parts of the country, and Syria supports the unity and sovereignty of Nigeria. There are some similarities between the situation in Nigeria and Syria. Terrorism is the same all over the world, the danger is that its support terrorism in another parts. Attacks against terrorism all over the world will assist in stability all over the world.
The cooperation between Syria and Nigeria may also include the coordination of efforts in fighting terrorism because this will serve the interests of the two countries and I hope that Chibok students will be released soon and we really sympathized with their families and the victims of terrorist activities.
What of the trade volume?
The trade volume between the two countries is about 14 million dollars, which is about 90 percent of Syrian trade relations with most African countries, and it is in favour of Nigeria. The cooperation between the two countries is bigger than this number.
What is your response to the ideological motivations to terrorism? Do you have a strategy to mentally defeat terrorism?
Terrorism starts from ideology; ideology is the first hub of terrorism. There are some countries that encourage the Takfiri extremist ideology and using the media for marketing and propagating this ideology. They have also budgeted huge amount of money for this and also encouraged some religious personalities and preachers about adopting this ideology. They have established some religious institutions for the propagation of this ideology, Syria knows all these.
Syria is one of the very few countries in the Arab and Islamic world that teach the moderate ideology, and graduate moderate students.
The problem in Syria is that terrorism is coming from outside. About this ideology Syria cannot do anything. What I hope from the international community now is to work toward the implementation of the resolutions to dry out the source of terrorism ideology and for the media to follow very moderate ways, and the religious leaders should follow similar ways also. The problem of terrorism is international; one country cannot confront it no matter its resources. Terrorism needs international efforts to fight it. You cannot fight terrorism with arms, of course it is s military fighting, it is security fighting, is a media fighting, it is intellectual fighting, it is educational fighting and it is an ideological fighting.
Comprehensive measures should be taken in fighting terrorism. United Nations must play a leading role in fighting terrorism.