A British Jewish MP from the governing Conservative Party, who has met frequently with Bashar Assad, warned that the Syrian president is “willing to destroy Syria completely” in his bid to protect his regime and his family, and said that Syrian rebels forces must be supplied with the weaponry needed to defeat him and avert genocide.
Brooks Newmark, MP for Braintree in Essex, wrote in a newspaper article on Saturday about a series of meetings he had with Assad between 2006 and 2011. In one of their conversations, he also noted, Assad readily acknowledged using Hezbollah as a proxy force to attack Israel. Newmark quoted Assad saying, “I am weak both economically and militarily. I cannot take on Israel directly. They are much stronger than me. It makes more sense to use Hezbollah to put pressure on Israel.”
“While I abhor the Assad regime and its hostility towards Israel (I am Jewish),” Newmark wrote in the Daily Mail article, “I have a long-standing interest in Syria and the Middle East and am a firm believer in the adage ‘Diplomacy becomes a little lazy if all you do is talk to your friends’.”
He said Assad’s answers to his questions in their meetings were “at times shocking in their directness. When I asked him what was his most important objective, he replied in two words: ‘Regime survival.’ This was quite different from his public utterances at the time about seeking political reform. I told him there is a complete contradiction between reform and regime survival, but he could not answer this question.”
As the past two years have shown, wrote Newmark, Assad “is willing to destroy Syria completely and kill its people in vast numbers to protect his family… A once-beautiful country is quickly disintegrating into a fragmented Somalia on the Mediterranean. I understand the concerns of those, including fellow Conservative MPs, who say we should not arm the Syrian rebels and help them bring down Assad and that we must not be dragged into another Iraq or Afghanistan. But I believe they are wrong.”
He stressed, “No one is suggesting sending a single British soldier to Syria.” But, “The Syrian rebels urgently need their own surface-to-air missiles and tank-busters to have any chance of winning. Britain can and should supply them with them. We could train them how to use them in Jordan or Turkey.”
Newmark warned that “While the West, scarred by Iraq and Afghanistan, prevaricates, 20 million Syrians face genocide. If we do nothing, instead of 100,000 dead we could see 300,000 dead a year from now.”
The MP, who was born in the US and moved to England as a child, said he also met separately with Assad’s wife Asma, drinking tea with her in her private Damascus home in 2011. She told him she hoped her husband would “serve one more term in office,” institute genuine reform, and then step down.