I want to be very clear. I was clear in July, and what I said in July has followed me all over the world by the American and Israeli propaganda machine, so I want to be very clear again. All dignified people in the world, whether Arabs or Muslims or others with dignity, are very proud of the speech made by President Bashar Al-Assad a few days ago here in Damascus.
For me he is the last Arab ruler, and Syria is the last Arab country. It is the fortress of the remaining dignity of the Arabs, and that’s why I’m proud to be here and addressing you this evening.
The reason why Syria is being threatened is not because of anything bad which she did, but because of the good which she is doing.
So I say to you, citizens of the last Arab country, this is a time for courage, for unity, for wisdom, for determination, to face these enemies with the dignity your president has shown, and I believe, God willing, we will prevail and triumph, fwa-salam aleikum.
—George Galloway at Damascus University, November 2005
–Daraa, Syria, March 2011
Alec Macph adds: Not long afterwards, the then MP for Birmingham Ladywood, Miss Jean Brodie said:
From south Lebanon, we went to Syria to meet the President, Foreign Minister, other Ministers and parliamentarians, the British ambassador and many others. The President lived for a long time in the UK. He is a charming and open man who, for a long time, was not going to be President and therefore took on the style of an ordinary western citizen. He is very popular in his country because he does not have a grandiose or fine-living style. He is keen to deliver significant reform in Syria, to open up the country and to improve the economic opportunities of the people, but he made it clear that the situation in the region made that difficult. Shortly after he took over, there was what has been called a “Damascus spring”—a sort of opening up. It is difficult to continue such reforms when there is such bitter division all around and organised extreme Islamist groups in the region.
The President stressed that the Syrian regime is secular and takes a tough line against Islamist insurgents, but that it was keen to work with others to help to stabilise the situation in Iraq. He deeply regretted the fact that the UK did not have, as he put it, an independent foreign policy. He said that, before Sir Nigel Sheinwald visited Syria for talks on behalf of our Prime Minister, he had been to Washington and that his view was that the UK could play a much more useful role if it had an independent policy, but sadly it did not and it continued to be a complete echo of US foreign policy.
Syria has not, so far, been swept into the revolts in the region; and Lebanon is a different case. Hence, among the Arab states engulfed by protests, Libya is the only one whose ruling clique is not a Western puppet.
–Noah Tucker, 21st Century Socialism, March 11, 2011