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It's been said that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days are numbered. But today, according to Syrian state TV, Assad was conducting serious business — attending the swearing in of his new defense minister, after the old one, along with two other key aides, was killed yesterday in a bombing in Damascus. At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council Thursday, Russia and China both vetoed — for the third time — a western-backed measure to impose new sanctions and extend the mission of UN observers. Here & Now's Monica Brady-Myerov spoke with Dr. Najib Ghadbian about the recent developments in Syria. He is founding member of the opposition group the Syrian National Council. Portions of the conversation are excerpted below.
What's your reaction to the UN vote?
This is a very negative move on the part of Russia and China. For the third time, they're obstructing the security council to be able to carry out its function, which is to be able to preserve security and stability.
You've said that Wednesday's bombing was a major blow to the government. What should we expect to see in coming days in Damascus and in other cities?
We've seen expressions of joy among many of the citizens of Syria... at the same time, retaliation [by the government] against civilian neighborhood [sic] in Damascus. All of these things indicate we are going to see more violence in the short run. But I think the general trend [is that] we see the collapse of a regime that has opted to use only violence in response to the legitimate demands of the people.
If the Assad regime falls, you've said a transitional government would include members of the present government and the military, who've been behind a lot of the violence against Syrians. Wouldn't having the military and old government involved de-legitimize any new government?
We say we could accept members of the regime in any transitional government on one condition: That these individuals have not been implicated in crimes against Syrians. The other source of participants could be the technocrats in government, those have not been implicated.
We've heard reports that Assad's government may be moving some of the country's chemical weapons from storage facilities and the king of Jordan is warning that they could be taken by al Qaida. Are you worried that the chemical weapons will either be used by Assad or taken by others?
We are very concerned about these reports. So far we haven't seen any evidence that the regime has used these weapons, but what we know is that there are huge stockpiles of these weapons, they did move some of them. The concern is that if they get so desperate they might use them in maybe certain areas. Let's not forget this regime used snipers, artillery tanks, helicopters and now even aircraft against Syrians. So the concern, if they feel they are threatened, they might out of desperation use that. This is why we called upon the international community, including countries like Russia, which continues to support the Syrian regime, to send a clear message that this is a red line.
- Dr. Najib Ghadbian, member of the Syrian National Council, associate professor of political science, University of Arkansas
This segment aired on July 19, 2012.
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