Friday, January 11, 2013

Bill Clinton about President Hafez al-Assad

"On the way home from Russia, after a brief stop in Belarus, I flew to Geneva, for my first
meeting with President Assad of Syria. He was a ruthless but brilliant man who had once
wiped out a whole village as a lesson to his opponents, and whose support of terrorist groups
in the Middle East had isolated Syria from the United States. Assad rarely left Syria, and
when he did it was almost always to come to Geneva to meet with foreign leaders. On our visit, I was impressed by his intelligence and his almost total recall of detailed events going back more than twenty years. Assad was famous for long meetings—he could go on for six or seven hours without taking a break. I, on the other hand, was tired and needed to drink coffee, tea, or water to stay awake. Fortunately, the meeting ran only a few hours. Our discussion produced the two things I wanted: Assad’s first explicit statement that he was willing to make peace and establish normal relations with Israel, and his commitment to withdraw all Syrian forces from Lebanon and respect its independence once a comprehensive Middle East peace was reached. I knew the success of the meeting resulted from more than personal chemistry. Assad had received a lot of economic support from the former Soviet Union; that was gone now, so he needed to reach out to the West. To do that, he had to stop supporting terrorism in the region, which would be easy to do if he made an agreement with Israel that succeeded in giving back to Syria the Golan Heights, lost in the 1967 war.
Clinton, Bill, My Life. ALFRED A. KNOPF, NEW YORK, 2004. Pages: 452-453.

"A few days later, President Assad’s eldest son, whom he had groomed to succeed him, was killed in a car accident. When I called to express my condolences, Assad was obviously heartbroken, a reminder that the worst thing that can happen in life is losing a child."
Clinton, Bill, My Life. ALFRED A. KNOPF, NEW YORK, 2004. Page: 453.

"Several days later, while I was participating in the Carleton College commencement exercises
in Minnesota, an aide passed me a note informing me that President Hafez al-Assad had just died in Damascus, only ten weeks after our last meeting in Geneva. Although we had our
disagreements, he had always been straightforward with me, and I had believed him when he
said he had made a strategic choice for peace. Circumstances, miscommunication, and
psychological barriers had kept it from happening, but at least we now knew what it would
take for Israel and Syria to get there once both sides were ready."
Clinton, Bill, My Life. ALFRED A. KNOPF, NEW YORK, 2004. Page: 734.

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Hegel lecturing in Berlin

Hegel lecturing in Berlin