Marco Tosatti is an Italian journalist and author who, next to writing for the Italian newspaper, La Stampa, and for the Italian website, La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, has his own website on which he publishes important articles about the Catholic Church and the world. He has recently written two different posts about the situation in Aleppo, Syria, with its piercing humanitarian problems (Buona Pasqua, Aleppo! Un Progetto Per Dare da Mangiare a 1350 Famiglie Nella Città Martire and Aleppo Senz’acqua da 42 Giorni. La Siria Senza Combustibile. È Ora Che L’europa, E L’italia, Tolgano le Sanzioni). That is the reason why I reached out to him to ask him for an interview about the current situation in Syria, to include the aftermath of the recent gas attack on civilians in Idlib. May his words have much influence upon U.S. Catholics and their own assessment of the Syria crisis in light also of the Just War Doctrine.
* * * * *
Maike Hickson: In the recent past, you published stories about the situation in Syria, especially the city of Aleppo. Could you tell us how the general situation of the civil war is? How is the population holding up under the conditions of war?
Marco Tosatti: As far as I know — I have not been there, so I must rely on what people tell me — many have fled, but many have decided to stay in very harsh conditions. Aleppo has been without water, fuel, and electricity for months and months, not to mention medicine and food. So they have been really heroic. And even now the situation is far from being good, even though they are not under the bombs from the so-called “rebels” anymore. I think that the civil population all around Syria has been through a real nightmare. And that’s why they prefer the Government to the so-called “rebels.”
Hickson: Who are the major war parties and how are they related to the major world powers such as the United States and Russia, but also some Middle Eastern powers?
Tosatti: I am not a specialist, but by what I heard and read there are different Islamic forces, all of them more or less extremist. You have for instance the Al-Nusra Front, which is — or was — supported by Turkey; you have in the North a Turkmen Party, who put forward at a certain time some kind of an historical claim on Aleppo; you have Al-Qaeda, masked under different names, you have Ahrar As-Sham, and of course you have ISIS, the Islamic State. Behind them are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, The United States, France and Great Britain, with the European Union to back them on a political level. On the other side you have Syria, Russia and Iran, and the Lebanese Hezbollah, connected to Teheran. And then you have Israel, who bombs the Hezbollah in Syria, and the Syrian Air Force, and gives the impression of being very happy if the war in Syria does not come to an end. There are some experts who talk about a very strange alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Hickson: What is your assessment of the recent developments with regard to the recent use of chemical weapons? Do we really know who is behind the killing of the civilians in Idlib?
Tosatti: We have been led to destroy a country like Iraq by what happened to be a colossal lie — the weapons of mass destruction Saddam Hussein was accused of possessing. In 2013 they tried to say that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons, and a UN investigation proved it was not true, and journalistic reports stated that it was probably some kind of provocation organized by the Turkish allies on the ground. Wikileaks revealed that Hillary Clinton approved the sending of chemical material to the so-called rebels. I do not believe in what seems to be another great lie to try and find an excuse to prolong a war that seemed on the point of being solved.
Hickson: Do you consider the reaction of the United States — the bombing of a Syrian airport — to be a just reaction?
Tosatti: Of course not. Even if it were true that the Syrian government was responsible, I do not think it is lawful to do such a thing. Why do they not bomb Saudi Arabia, who is committing massacres in Yemen? What right has the U.S. to go around the world deciding to bomb other countries? It’s a gangster behavior.
Hickson: What could be the potential consequences of this act of war on the side of the United States — for Syria, but also for the world?
Tosatti: Really, I do not know. From what I saw and read, the damage was very limited. I cannot understand which kind of play we are looking at, a tragedy or a comedy? I do not understand.
Hickson: Who profits most from the recent U.S. military intervention? Will it strengthen those who fight against ISIS in the country, or those who support ISIS with the intent to weaken or even get rid of President Assad?
Tosatti: Who certainly profited from the attack were the terrorists who took advantage of it. I cannot believe that the so-called alliance led by the United States has not been able in all these years to dismantle — for instance — the oil production of the terrorists. I am afraid that they are fighting a mock war, while Russia, Iran, and Syria do the hard job. And, as I said before, certainly Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are very happy to have a destabilized situation in Syria.
Hickson: Do you have any explanation why President Donald Trump so quickly changed his whole assessment of the Syrian situation? In the past, he had accused President Obama for intervening in a conflict that is not pertinent to the U.S., saying that it was an unjust burden on the U.S. and its own citizens. Why would one incident make him fundamentally change his own attitude to that war?
Tosatti: I have a very sad feeling. I am afraid of something: that the Presidents in the White House count very little, in spite of the differences between them. And I am afraid that the real power, and the real decisions are taken elsewhere, by unknown and not elected or chosen masters.
Hickson: What is to be done now? How can we, as Catholic journalists, contribute to the support of peace in that country, to include to support the Syrian Christians?
Tosatti: To say and write the truth, and not to fall in with the lies diffused by the propaganda machine in United States and Europe. It’s very sad, but as a Canadian colleague wrote a couple of years ago, the Syrian war was the death toll for American journalism; and I would say for most European journalism, too. Everybody — beginning with the BBC and the New York Times — was ready to drink from polluted sources of propaganda and disinformation. And still they are. So our duty, as journalists first, and as Catholics secondly, is to counter-inform the public, exposing the lies.