Not bashing Bashar

Charlie Rose interviewed Bashar al-Assad last week. 60 Minutes broadcast a portion of the interview last night (video below, transcript here). Rose reported that the interview was conducted “under the conditions that we use Syrian TV technicians and cameras.”

Assad inherited the Syrian regime from his father, who took it over via a coup in 1971. Syria is of course engaged in a bloody civil war that has become a battlefront with ISIS as well. The Assad regime is, moreover, a cat’s paw of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I found much of interest in the interview, all of it evoking frustration with the interviewer. Rose appeared to be poorly prepared, for example, as demonstrated here near the outset of the interview:

Charlie Rose: There is another number that is alarming to me. It is that 90 percent of the civilian casualties [numbering some 200,000 to date], 90 percent come from the Syrian army.

President Assad: How did you get that result?

Charlie Rose: That was a report that was issued in the last six months.

Well, okay. He read it somewhere.

Rose appears in the interview to be a “cow’rin’, timorous beastie” (to borrow Robert Burns’s formulation). I wonder if those “Syrian technicians” might have had a deterrent effect. What is he afraid of?

Here, for example, is Rose touching gingerly on the dubious legitimacy of the Assad regime:

Charlie Rose: Why do you think that they– people in the West, question your legitimacy?

Assad commented with some acuity on one of Obama’s best friends:

Charlie Rose: What about Turkey?

President Assad: Turkey– let’s say it’s about Erdogan. His Muslim Brotherhood fanatics.

Charlie Rose: And you–

President Assad: It doesn’t mean that he is a member. But he’s a fanatic.

Charlie Rose: President Erdogan is–

President Assad: Is a Muslim Brotherhood fanatic. And he’s somebody who’s suffering from political megalomania. And that he thinks that he is becoming the sultan of the new era of the 21st century.

You can see where Obama and Erdogan might be on the same wavelength. But do we really need Rose simply to elicit the views of the ruthless dictator sitting in front of him as though they should be taken at faee value? Prime Minister Netanyahu wouldn’t get an interview this respectful from Rose, who turned in a pathetic performance.

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