SHAFAQNA- Tehran Times: Following is the full text of the interview with Rick Sterling who is a journalist and member of the Syria solidarity movement.
Q: What do you think is connected with the sudden activity of businessmen from the UAE in Damascus?
A: It was good to see the United Arab Emirates re-open its Syria embassy last December. Now it is good to see them at the Damascus International Fair which is taking place now. We will see if they make significant investments or not. Just the other day, the US issued a warning. The US is threatening repercussions against any country or company which does business in Syria. We will see if the UAE business community stands up to this bullying or not. We hope that the UAE will stand up to the USA and invest in redevelopment and reconstruction in Syria.
Q: The US imposed sanctions on a Lebanese Bank Jammal Trust Bank, formerly Washington has sanctioned individuals associated with the official Damascus and businessman Samir Faza. For what purpose is the US pursuing a policy of sanctions against Syria?
A: Economic sanctions have been used by Washington to punish many countries. In Chile under Salvador Allende, the US set out to “make the economy scream” in preparation for the 1973 coup. In Nicaragua, the Sandinistas were punished in the 1980s and again now. Iraq in the 1990s was under horrendous sanctions as the US prepared to invade. Today we have Iran, North Korea, Russia, Venezuela and many countries under some form of US sanctions. Regarding Syria, the US wants to prolong the conflict and prevent the Syrian people from recovering. Thus they maintain the sanctions and try to bully other countries into compliance. They don’t care if it hurts ordinary civilians. The purpose is to punish countries that disobey the US dictates and make an example as a warning to others.
Q: In April 2014, as part of an international delegation, you visited several cities in Syria. Could you tell us briefly whether the protesters had “political leadership”? And what were the local, so-called “moderate opposition”?
A: Yes, in April 2014 we met with leaders of seven different opposition groups in Damascus. This is the real moderate opposition as opposed to the armed militants. These individuals, both men, and women, were very impressive. They wanted changes in Syrian policy in various ways. Some of them said that they supported President Assed in the current crisis; some did not. But all of them denounced the armed opposition and said it was foreign funded. They called for dialogue and stopping the foreign funding of armed groups. The groups called “moderate rebels” in the West do not exist. It is a pretense to allow the West to continue supporting fanatics and mercenaries who are the armed opposition.
Q: Is it true that public figures living in the West and criticizing the activities of the “White helmets” often face threats?
A: Those who criticize the western narrative on Syria, including the White Helmets, used to be harshly criticized and sometimes threatened. Supposedly the opposition wanted “freedom and democracy” in Syria but opposition supporters would try to shut down anyone who questioned their narrative. Sometimes they issued threats of physical harm. Even though the media broadcast their narrative 95% of the time, they tried to shut down and threatened people who presented the facts. Now that the Syrian government has prevailed, and the facts about the White Helmets have been more widely seen, opposition supporters are on the defensive and not so outspoken and aggressive.
Q: Are there reasonable politicians in the US Congress who support the Syrian Government in the fight against international terrorism?
A: On the national level Tulsi Gabbard has tried to get Congress to pass the “Stop Arming Terrorists in Syria” resolution. She understands the US has been colluding with terrorists like Al Qaeda. She is trying to make the public aware of this and open it up to debate. Most Americans agree with her but the political establishment does not. They are trying to derail her candidacy to be the Democratic Party nominee and to stop the discussion that she wants to initiate. Bernie Sanders is another national politician who would probably stop US collusion with terrorism in Syria. As for the rest of candidates, we don’t know but they seem compliant to the foreign policy establishment which is unduly influenced by Israeli interests. Israel and the US prefer to maintain Al Qaeda and ISIS as a tool and threat to the Syrian government.