The French philosopher credited with persuading Nicolas Sarkozy to take military action in Libya has claimed similar action could end Bashar Al-Assad’s rule within “a few days”.

His comments come in new Al Jazeera series Head to Head, a gladiatorial contest of ideas, hosted by Mehdi Hasan.

Levy also revealed that Sarkozy took military action in Libya because of his regret for supporting Tunisian dictator Ben Ali:

Bernard Henri Levy: Sarkozy said it very precisely. I asked him exactly that. Why did you intervene in Libya though you did not do it you did not do anything and you even proposed to help the security forces in Tunisia. He said it was my regret. I thought I was wrong in Tunisia and I tried to … to make to … make …

Mehdi Hasan: To make amends.

Bernard Henri Levy: Yes of course.

Levy said getting Arabs and The West to take action together was his longheld ambition, which was fulfilled in Libya:

“If I had an agenda it was to try once in my lifetime to show that an alliance between an Arab country and the west was possible. And that this alliance was able to topple a dictator. This was my dream. And this was achieved.”

This is the first episode of Head to Head, which will see journalist and author Mehdi Hasan take on leading figures in what he calls “interviews with attitude”. Interviewees will defend positions such as climate change skepticism and West Bank settlement building. Future episodes will see Hasan spar with personalities such as Irshad Manji and Thomas Friedman.

The interviews are filmed in front of a live studio audience at a venue no stranger to challenging intellectual exchange – the Oxford Union.

In the first episode, a member of the audience objects to Levy’s apparent outsize influence on the French presidency:

Audience member: “I have a question about the role of the philosopher and the intellectual in a democracy because from the perspective of democracy I find it quite irritating that you as an individual citizen have the power to contact Sarkozy directly and influence such important policy decisions.

Bernard Henri Levy: “You are right to be irritated. [APPLAUSE] You are right.”

The series begins on June 7th, and can be seen weekly at the following times: Friday 2000GMT Saturday 1200GMT Sunday 0100GMT Monday 0600GMT

Episodes will also be available to watch online

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Twitter: @AJheadtohead



1. Transcript for the “few days” passage mentioned above:

Mehdi Hasan: How quickly do you think the conflict would be over if your solution of no fly zones … if you advocate happened you called him a paper tiger.

Bernard Henri Levy: Of course. If Putin if the Chinese and the Russian had not hijacked the Security Council of United Nations, if they had not acted as gangsters as they did, and hooligans, world hooligan I think Bashar al Assad would be toppled since long. At least he would be in prison in his palace with his tanks blocked and with his planes stuck on the ground. It would be a big progress.

MH: But how long how long would it take roughly? We’ve already been at conflict for two years or more.

BHL: A few days.

MH: A few days?

BHL: A real no fly zone.

MH: A few days?

Audience member: There are 23 million people in that country. Do you not think by now the people would have got rid of him if really the majority of the people in Syria did not want their President, he would be gone?

BHL: I don’t know what the majority of Syrian people think. But I know what Bashar al Assad does. And a man who is able to kill 100,000 people and probably more, is unworthy to govern his country.


2. Episode running order

JUN 7TH: BERNARD-HENRI LEVY Mehdi Hasan challenges world famous philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, at the Oxford Union, on the rights and wrongs of foreign military intervention.

JUN 14TH: TOM FRIEDMAN Mehdi Hasan challenges super-star columnist Tom Friedman of the New York Times, at the Oxford Union, on whether America is a force for good in the world.

JUN 21ST: IRSHAD MANJI Mehdi Hasan challenges Irshad Manji, author of The Trouble with Islam Today, at the Oxford Union, on reforming Islam and the problem of Islamophobia.

JUN 28TH: LORD TURNER Mehdi Hasan, at the Oxford Union, challenges Adair Turner, author and former top financial regulator on the role of the banks and whether capitalism has failed.

JUL 5TH: DANI DAYAN Mehdi Hasan, at the Oxford Union, challenges former leader of Israeli settlers Dani Dayan on annexing territory and the threat to a two-state solution.

JUL 12TH: RICHARD LINDZEN Mehdi Hasan challenges leading climate-change sceptic Richard Lindzen, at the Oxford Union, on his view that concern about global warming is alarmist nonsense.

JUL 19TH: RICHARD DAWKINS Mehdi Hasan challenges celebrated scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins, at the Oxford Union, on whether religion is a force for good or evil in the world.

Source: Al Jazeera