John Shuck [00:16:01] Mark Taliano is speaking with me. He's the author of "Voices from Syria." His web site is Mark Taliano dot net. I also have on the phone Reverend Andrew Ashdown who also has been to Syria a number of times, a Christian minister. Andrew, what is your perspective from what people think of the Syrian government now and who is really the enemy from the Syrian people's point of view?
Andrew Ashdown [00:16:25]Absolutely. I think we'll have to go back a bit, actually because what you have what people don't realize, and again, my expertise on this if you'd like, my study on this is on the plurality of Syrian society. I was a regular visitor to Syria before the conflict and since and during the conflict. Syria is a plural society based on a secular constitution. All countries have their difficulties and no government is perfect. That's a fact. Prior to the conflict, Syria was emerging. The reforms were happening. I visited several times in the years immediately prior to the conflict. The country was developing quite rapidly. People were excited. In 2010 I visited the country and I had people sort of saying come back in five years this is going to be the beacon of the Middle East. The tourism infrastructure was being rebuilt. The social infrastructure was"main mainstream infrastructure was being restored. Lots of things were happening and there's great excitement in the country and lo and behold suddenly six months later it all falls apart.
John Shuck [00:17:39] Now was this 2011?
Andrew Ashdown [00:17:41]What you have in the country is actually multiple communities. Mark's quite right, actually. When you ask questions about whether you are Shia or Sunni or Christian, many Syrians get quite offended. Because they say that you're sectarianizing the country, and we are not a sectarian country. We are Syrians together. And if you go into restaurants now, even now, yes and throughout the war in government controlled areas at least where Sunnis and Shia and Druze and Christians of all denominations live together and churches and mosques are side by side and people go about their daily business, you go into restaurants or the mosque and you will see Sunni and Shia and Christian eating, sitting, socializing side by side, you know, whatever they are doesn't matter. And that's been true of Syrian society throughout. And most Syrians wish to recover or sustain that sense of plurality. The so-called rebels belong to extremist Islamist ideology. Are those blokes going to establish democracy? You know I've seen the villages, the Christian villages, which have been ethnically cleansed by what we call the so-called moderate rebels. Churches destroyed, other mosques destroyed. Anybody who doesn't follow the extremist ideology of the so-called rebels the West supports, villages wiped out by that ideology. And there are no Christians left in the areas that are occupied by those groupsor a tiny number. So you know you've got the contrast between those areas and the government controlled areas. When the vast majority of you know the internally displaced the refugees that are more internally displaced in Syria than refugees outside. And the vast majority have gone from where to where? They've gone from the so-called rebel controlled areas to the government controlled areas where they're being looked after where they're not being killed by the government. They're being looked after by the faith communities, by the government, by various agencies. So the situation on the ground is very very different to how it is perceived. And yes President Assad is much much more popular than people realize. And the other thing is that there's a huge amount of hypocrisy in the Western approach to to Syria. You know we go in as the West and we just we've successfully destroyed Iraq. We successfully helped destroy Libya and Afghanistan. We kill millions. We go out and are supposedly doing the right thing. We will bomb cities to show" we bombed Mosul and Raqqa killing tens of thousands of civilians in the process to destroy ISIS. But it's okay for us to do that. And having spent weeks and weeks, many many weeks over over a period of five years travelling throughout Syria and meeting hundreds and hundreds of people on the ground in these areas which have been in the midst of the conflict, they want to get rid of those extremist elements and restore the peace. And if you go to Syria now wherever those so-called rebel groups have been, the areas that have been liberated from them, life is returning to a kind of normality except that you have the huge effect of sanctions which is causing yet more suffering to millions and millions of people. So Western policies are actually prolonging the war and causing suffering to millions, millions of people. So the situation is very very different to how it is projected or presented by western media and Western governments.
John Shuck [00:21:37] Reverend Andrew Ashdown speaking there about Syria. You've been to Syria several times. What about these, they call them the moderate rebels but they are really what al Nusra, Wahhabists, terrorists, mercenaries. Can you tell us about these guys?
Andrew Ashdown [00:21:56]Most Syrians that you talk to in Syria and if you talk to the ones who've actually fled from the areas under those areas under the control I mean the sheer brutality of what they" I mean I've heard some of the stories firsthand. And we're talking brutality of an extraordinary degree, an unimaginable degree. And most Syrians who've experienced that say there is no such thing as a moderate rebel. They are all intertwined. Now it's well-documented now that most people feel that even if at the beginning there might have existed what one might call so-called moderates, any that's existed all of them work together. I've spoken with people in towns and villages which have been under attack from these groups, and they say absolutely consistently that all the groups were fighting together. From those that we could term moderate to the most extremist. I mean take the names of these groups. They are extreme Islamist groups. The other factor is that even though the groups that we call moderate have as their intention to create an Islamic state, which most Syrians, including I would dare suggest most secular Sunni Syrians, do not want to see. Many Sunni Syrians as I've spoken to in Syria you know, don't want to see that happen. Oppose. The vast majority of people inside Syria oppose those extremist groups and don't want to see this sectarian government that they would bring. Now why on earth is the West supporting these groups that have an extremist ideology?
John Shuck [00:23:41] Well let's let's ask that question. Why on earth is that happening?
Mark Taliano [00:23:45] Can I answer this?
John Shuck [00:23:45] You bet, Mark. Mark Taliano.
Mark Taliano [00:23:50] OK yes I agree with Reverend Ashdown totally. They all work together. And why is that? Because NATO has command and control out of Turkey. OK. NATO has control. I mean these terrorists could not work independently against and perform and occupy so much on their own. OK? And it is quite clear that NATO has command and control ".People use the term rebel, OK that's that's being nice. OK, Andrew has specified that they are extremist and he's correct. And who are extremists? Well they are al-Qaida groups. They're al-Qaida affiliated groups. They are ISIS. The Empire claims it's a war against ISIS. I'm sorry it isn't. ISIS are also supported by empire. OK? They are expendable, but they serve a purpose. And let me give you an example. There were that defense intelligence agency document in 2012. OK? And in that document it said that the Empire supports the opposition. Well the opposition they're referring to is al-Qaida and its affiliates and ISIS. And it says on this report, al-Qaida drives the opposition in Syria. Now just a little caveat. There is opposition Syria. But they're not walking around with assault rifles. OK? There are opposition politicians in Syria, but the North American military refers to these armed jihadis, these terrorists, as opposition. But anyway the report goes on that al-Qaida drives the opposition in Syria. The West identifies with the opposition. The establishment of a quote unquote Salafist principality in eastern Syria is exactly what the external powers supporting the opposition want. The external powers are identified as the West, the Gulf countries, and Turkey, in order to weaken the Assad government. OK? So there's plenty of primary source documentation which supports everything that we're saying. That this war has nothing to do about humanitarian issues except.
Andrew Ashdown [00:26:10]It is geo-political.
Mark Taliano [00:26:12] And also the areas now, the oil rich areas now occupied by the West, were exactly predicted by these documents. They wanted this area in eastern Syria. So in some ways, in all ways, the document predicted what has happened so far. Because right now empire is illegally occupying areas. Some areas they're training new terrorists, and they are occupying oil fields. And the oil fields are to the east of the Euphrates. And let's not forget also, Wesley Clark, "We're going to take out seven countries in five years." I mean all of this was publicly acknowledged. Canada's own defense minister, said you know, Assad has to go. Well they're announcing publicly supreme international war crimes.
John Shuck [00:27:13] My guests are Mark Taliano and Reverend Andrew Ashdown. Mark Taliano has written a book called "Voices from Syria." In 2017 he wrote that. His website is Mark Taliano Dot net. You can go there and kind of follow along if you happen to be by a computer and listening to the radio. Mark Taliano dot net is his website. One thing in your book that came out that I thought was eye opening to me is that there's a sense right now in which it is almost or perhaps even is a world war. We we've got various countries involved already, Russia. You mentioned Turkey. NATO. Could this be a prelude to something much larger than where then we're looking at?
Mark Taliano [00:27:59] Well it's an economic war for sure and there are imperial powers in there and NATO is there. Turkey is on the ground. The Americans are on the ground right now. Those forces are committing supreme international war crimes because the Syrian government did not invite them in and the U.N. Security Council did not allow them to go in. Russia was invited in. So Russia and Iran, any forces that invited them by the Syrian government are legitimate. The Syrian government can legitimately and should defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity as it is doing. And Russia and Iran and their allies are helping.