|“Western Officials Have No desire to Combat Terrorism” – President al-Assad
March 06, 2015 “ICH” – “SANA” – Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to Portuguese State Television, RTP, following is the full text:Question 1: In a few days, it will be 4 years since the protests began in Syria against the government of Bashar al-Assad. From then on it has been a massacre. More than 220 thousand people have died, and there are 4 million displaced people. The arrival of Daesh (Islamic State) has made the situation more grim. For this reasons, it’s important to speak to a key figure in all this process. Today, he gives his first interview ever to a Portuguese media outlet. The Syrian President, Bashar Al Assad.How do you describe your country today, Mr. President?
President Assad: Let me start by commenting on the number that you mentioned in your introduction, about the number of victims in Syria, which is 200,000, that’s been mentioned in the Western media recently, 220,000. That number is exaggerated. Always the West has exaggerated the numbers in Syria. Actually, it is not about whether they are hundreds of thousands or tens of thousands. Victims are victims, killing is killing, and terrorism is terrorism. Actually, it’s not about being a mere number represented on a graph, on a chart, like a spreadsheet. It’s about families that lost members, lost dear ones, lost relatives. It’s a human disaster we have in Syria.
This crisis has affected every part of Syria, every Syrian citizen regardless of his affiliation or allegiance. It affected his livelihood, food, medicaments, medical care, basic requirements like education. Hundreds of hospitals were destroyed, thousands of schools were destroyed, tens of thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of students don’t go to school. All that will create the fertile habitat and good incubator for terrorism and extremism to grow. But despite all this hardship, the Syrians are determined to continue fighting terrorism, defending their country, and defying hegemony.
Question 2: Syria is not much of a country nowadays. The Syrian Army does not control all the borders, you have international coalition flying in your skies. On the grounds there are different entities. Is Syria as we have known it lost or finished?
President Assad: You cannot talk about a finished Syria when the people are unified behind their government and their army and fighting terrorism and still have institutions working. We still have subsidies, we still pay salaries, we pay the salaries even in some areas under the control of the terrorists themselves. We still have the-
Question 3: You send money to…?
President Assad: Exactly, we send salaries. Because they are employees, and have their own salaries. We send vaccines to those areas for the children.
Question 4: So you cooperate with the Islamic State?
President Assad: No, no. We don’t. We send them, and we deal with the civilians who are the mediators with the terrorists, or the militants. But at the end, all these basic requirements reach those areas. So, we don’t have “Syria is finished” and we don’t have a failed state, actually. But if you want to talk about something different you mentioned in your question, which is the breaching of our airspace illegally by the alliance airplanes and by terrorists supported or working as proxy to regional countries-
Question 5: And borders.
President Assad: This is a failure of the international system, this international system that’s been represented by the United Nations and the Security Council, and that is supposed to solve the problems and protect the sovereignty of different countries and prevent war. Actually, it has failed in doing so. So, what we have now is a failed United Nations; failed to protect international citizens including in Syria, Libya, Yemen, and in other countries.
Question 6: But you also failed. The Syrian Army also fails, because a lot of Christians have been abducted recently in the north.
The role of the Syrian Army, like any national army, is to protect every single citizen
President Assad: Actually, the role of the Syrian Army, like any national army, is to protect every single citizen, regardless of his affiliation, religion, sect, ethnicities, and so on. If you have mentioned this, I would say yes, we would like to and we wish that the Syrian Army would be able to help every Syrian since the beginning of the crisis. But the main obstacle why the Syrian army couldn’t do so, and as part of this couldn’t help the Christians a few days ago that have been kidnapped by ISIS, is the unlimited support that’s been offered to those terrorists by the Western and regional countries.
Question 7: What we have seen until now is several attempts to have a peace conference that all have failed. What we have until now, it’s talks about talks. What can break this deadlock, Mr. President?
President Assad: Do you mean in Geneva?
Question 8: Geneva 1, Geneva 2, the Russian initiative was a fiasco.
President Assad: The solution is political, but if you want to sit with someone or a party that doesn’t influence the situation on the ground, it’s going to be talk for the sake of talk, that’s correct. We didn’t choose the other party in Geneva. It was chosen by the West, by Turkey, by Saudi Arabia, by Qatar. It wasn’t a Syrian opposition that we made dialogue with. You’re right; if you want to make dialogue, you have to make it with Syrian opposition, Syrian partner, Syrian people who represents Syrians in Syria, not who represent other countries. So, what happened in Geneva wasn’t the model that we have to follow.
Question 9: But, what you are saying, is that an acceptable opposition for you, or…?
President Assad: Of course, any opposition that works for the Syrian, to defend its country, represents Syrians or part of the Syrian population…
Question 10: Within the framework of the Syrian state?
President Assad: No, no. Any opposition who works for the Syrian people. It’s not related to the state, it’s not related to the government.
Question 11: So, you’re excluding the Syrian National Coalition?
President Assad: I don’t exclude anyone as long as he’s Syrian. I’m talking about criteria. Anyone, or any party, who meet with these criteria, we can consider him as opposition. If the coalition is formed in the West or any other country, it’s not considered Syrian. It doesn’t represent the Syrian people. The Syrian people won’t accept him.
Question 12: But are you able to discuss with them or not?
President Assad: Actually, what we have followed since the beginning of the crisis, we didn’t leave any stone unturned. We tried every possible solution in order not to allow anyone to say “if they didn’t do this, that would have happened.” So, we discussed even with the coalition, although we know in advance that it doesn’t represent Syrians, it represents the countries that formed it. And second, it doesn’t have any influence on the ground in Syria, even with the militants, even with the terrorists, even with anyone who is involved in the problem within Syria.
Question 13: So you’re saying that the “Free Syrian Army” doesn’t have influence on the ground? That only al-Nusra and Islamic State have influence on the ground?
President Assad: Even Obama said that, he said that the moderate opposition is a fantasy. Most of the world now knows, what they called moderate opposition, they called it “Free Syrian Army,” they have so many other names, all of them are fantasy. Actually, who is controlling the terrorism arena in Syria are either ISIS or al-Nusra, mainly, and some other smaller factions.
Question 14: So, in the end, the solution for Syria is a military solution, and not a negotiated peace?
President Assad: No, actually, what we have been doing recently, as long as we don’t have a party to make negotiations with who can influence the militants on the ground, we went to make reconciliation with the militants in some areas, and that worked, and this is a very realistic political solution. Actually, that is how you exclude the military solution, by discussing with them making a safe area.
Question 15: About the discussions, you have Geneva 1, Geneva 2, the Russian initiative, in all of that there are not, how shall I say, things in common. Is there anything, any issue that you know it is possible, why not start with them? Is there anything in common between you and them?
President Assad: If you want to talk about what happened in Moscow, it’s different from what happened in Geneva, because they invited some of the opposition, because we can’t talk about one opposition; we have many different oppositions. You don’t put them in one basket. You have some of them represent Syrians, some of them they don’t represent anyone, and so on. So, we have common things with some of the opposition that were invited to Moscow, so this is just the beginning of the dialogue. The dialogue may take a long time. But at the end, if you want to not talk about dialogue, talk about the end results on the ground, the question is, who of those parties that we call opposition, who of them represent Syrian people and can influence the militants on the ground in order to save Syrian blood? That is the question. We don’t have an answer yet, because they have to prove, we don’t have to prove. We know we have our army, the army will obey the government, if the government gives an order, it will follow the order. But what about the others? Who is going to control the terrorists? That is the question.
Question 16: You pointed out that some countries, like France, don’t want a peace conference to succeed. Why is that?
President Assad: Actually, you have two points, or two reasons, let’s say. First one is not related only to the French; it’s related to every official who is complicit and involved in the propaganda and the aggression against Syria during the last four years. It’s about the end of this war will unmask those officials in front of their public opinion, in a country where there is public opinion. I don’t mean Saudi Arabia and Qatar, where there is no public opinion anyway. But generally, they will be unmasked about the question “what is the revolution that you mentioned, that you talked about? How could a revolution collapse or fail if you have the support of the West, the support of regional countries, all this money and armaments and so on, and you supposed that he’s a dictator who is killing his good people, so the people are against him, regional countries are against him, and the West is against him, and he succeeded.It’s one of two options: you’re either lying to us, or you’re talking about a superman. Because you don’t a superman, he’s a regular president, it means he could withstand for four years only because he has the public support. It doesn’t mean full public support, one hundred percent, or absolute public support, but definitely have support from a part, a large amount of the Syrian people.” So, this is a lie that the public opinion in the West and in other countries will ask the officials about. What about the Arab spring that turned out to be – instead of budding flowers – blood and killing and destruction? Is that the spring that you talked about? This is one reason.
The other reason is more specific towards France. Not limited, but more specific, let’s say. It’s about the financial relation between France and the Gulf states. Maybe because they have financial difficulties, I don’t know why. But this financial relations, and I don’t have any proof whether this is about the vested interest of some officials in France or if it’s about public interest, I don’t have any proof, but at the end, these financial interests push those officials in France to exchange their values of liberty and fraternity and democracy, all the things that they used to preach, the exchange those values for petrodollars. So now those French officials and some others in the West, they don’t practice what they preach anymore.
Question 17: But the tide seems to change a little bit. You had French MPs here. It was an organized visit, or it came as a surprise to you?
President Assad: No, no. It wasn’t a surprise, because it wasn’t the first delegation to come to Syria.
Question 18: French delegation?
President Assad: French and from other countries. Different kinds of delegations, activists, mediators, some officials came to deal with us under the table, not-
Question 19: This was organized with your government and…?
President Assad: Yes, it was officially organized, and they had a schedule when they came. It was weeks before, it wasn’t a surprise.
Question 20: With French diplomats as well or not?
President Assad: We had the impression, and it’s a strong impression, that most of the government, the main officials in the government, they know about it in advance, and they didn’t oppose.
Question 21: So, did they send you any message?
President Assad: No, there wasn’t a message, and they came to see the reality on the ground, and I think that’s the reflection – not just this delegation; the delegations that came to Syria recently from different countries, especially from the West, is a reflection of not believing, not taking in with the narrative, the insidious narrative about Syria in the West by their officials. They want to know the truth, I mean it’s a kind of suspicion about the whole propaganda in the West.
Question 22: So, in a sense, the tide is changing because probably there are some people thinking that even though it’s a bad solution, it’s better to deal with Bashar al-Assad than to deal with the worse solution which is going to be the Islamic State.
President Assad: I don’t think the general public thinks about the second part, it’s about the first part, about what’s happening and how everything we said in Syria at the beginning of the crisis they say later. They said it’s peaceful, we said it’s not peaceful, they’ve killing – these demonstrators, that they called them peaceful demonstrators – have killed policemen. Then it became militants. They said yes, it’s militants. We said it’s militants, it’s terrorism. They said no, it’s not terrorism. Then when they say it’s terrorism, we say it’s Al Qaeda, they say no, it’s not Al Qaeda. So, whatever we said, they say later. That created a lot of suspicion in the West. They want to come to understand this part. Why are you saying whatever Syria was saying in the beginning? Of course, in the West, the propagandists, whether officials or media, the added something only to the real story; that ISIS and al-Nusra was created of Assad, or it’s because of his policy, and so on.
Question 23: But you freed a lot of jihadists from the prisons that went to ISIS, to the Islamic State.
President Assad: No, that’s before the crisis. They were sentenced for a few years, and when the sentence ended, they left prison. We didn’t. We never did. So no, we have institutions, we have a judicial system in Syria.
Question 24: Anyway, Europe is facing more and more threats of terrorism linked to jihadist movements, some of them with connections here in Syria, I mean Al Qaeda or the Islamic State. And the question here: is Syria able to help the European countries in fighting these threats of terrorism?
President Assad: This is like a building; you cannot build a building without having the foundation, so what is the foundation that you need in this this case? First, you need officials in Europe to have the will to fight terrorism. This is something that we don’t have to this moment. Second thing, to have prudent policies. We cannot have arrogant, stubborn officials that only adopted egotistical policies. Third, which is very important, fighting terrorism should be a value, should become a value. It cannot be a sort of opportunism, like because now you are suffering in Europe from terrorism, you’re scared, you want to fight terrorism in this region. What about a few years ago? You didn’t suffer.
Question 25: But can you help the…?
President Assad: If they don’t help themselves first, we cannot. If they help themselves, we are ready to help. If you build this foundation, if you have this foundation, you can go to the building. This is where you can talk about how to integrate the community in your country, how to have exchange of information with intelligence, you have many ways. Of course we can, but you need to have the foundation in order to succeed.
Question 26: Mr. President, let me quote, “the Syrian people aspire more freedom, justice, human rights. They aspire to more plurality and democracy.” Your Foreign Minister said this in the Geneva conference. However, the state of Syria is perceived differently in the West. Till now, it’s perceived as brutal, ruthless, dictatorial, and it’s not just a question of image, so how is it possible to convince the people that…?
President Assad: This is illogical and unrealistic, because how can somebody who kills his people and oppresses his people be supported by the same people? How? Tell me about this contradiction. Look at it from the outside. Is it palatable, can you understand? It doesn’t.
Question 27: But, Mr. President, the reality is that if you allow me to go backwards, and try to-
President Assad: Before the crisis.
Question 28: Let me just try to… you started four years ago with peaceful demonstrators that were repressed, then you are blamed, your government is blamed, for a lot of allegations of human rights violations in your own ranks, repression. You have the Cesar reported, defected from the army, with photos of massacres, of torture of the opposition. You have allegations that you have used chemical weapons. You have allegations of using the barrel bombs till now, and so, the human rights reports watcher about Syria, they are not very good for you, your government, and the Syrian Army.
President Assad: You are talking about massive propaganda for four years. We cannot answer every one in one interview, but I will say the demonstrations never were peaceful, because in the first week, we lost many of our policemen. How? How could a peaceful demonstration kill a policeman? It wasn’t peaceful, so, this is the beginning of the lies, it’s the beginning of the propaganda.
Question 29: All lies, all the time? Four years of lies, Mr. President?
President Assad: Exactly, that’s what happened. Because, how do you have ISIS? Suddenly? You don’t have ISIS suddenly, you don’t have armaments suddenly, you don’t have al-Nusra Front suddenly. It’s a long process, you can’t have it just in few weeks. Suddenly, everybody is talking about ISIS. Go back to our statements from the very beginning, and you can see that the evolution of the events was going in that regard from the very beginning, and we said that. They didn’t want to listen; they wanted to listen to their statements.That’s what I say. It’s impossible to only tell lies in the West. How can you tell the truth if you don’t have an embassy in this country? How can you tell the truth if you listen to Qatar and Al-Jazeera that were paying the money to those terrorists?
Question 30: So you blame Turkey, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia for being the backbone of the jihadists? You have the proof?
President Assad: Very simple; what is the ideology of ISIS? What is the ideology? It’s the Wahhabi ideology. Do we have it in Syria? Do we have it in Morocco? In the western Arab world? Actually, it existed in Saudi Arabia.
Erdogan is Muslim Brotherhood
Question 31: It’s the same as in Saudi Arabia.
President Assad: Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This is the Wahhabi ideology. Second, Erdogan is Muslim Brotherhood. He’s a very staunch advocate of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology which was the first organization in the history of Islam, in the beginning of the last century, who promoted violence in implementing political agenda. So, you have those, and that’s enough. Going back to the Western media, in the Western media, and the American media in particular, they say 80% of the terrorists are coming from Turkey. You have another realistic one, what you called in your media Kobani which is called Ayn al-Arab. It took four months to be liberated, in spite of the attack of the alliance. Why? Actually, a similar city, the same size, and the same terrain, it took the Syrian Army two to three weeks. Why? Because it was supported logistically through Turkey on the border. They send them everything, armaments, all kinds of support. The recent event when Turkey-
Question 32: Did you support the Kurds? Did the Syrian Army support the Kurds?
President Assad: Of course.
Question 33: Because they are also fighting the Syrian Army.
President Assad: Before the issue of Kobani. Before that, we did. Before Kobani, we supported the Kurds, because it didn’t start there. It started before, and before the alliance started supporting the Kurds, we did. We sent them armaments. Of course, they’re going to say no, because the Americans said “say no, and we will help you.” If they say yes, the Americans will be angry, just to be cautious, to take precautions about any statement they may say now that we didn’t, we have all the documents about the armaments that’s been sent to them, beside the air raids and so onand the bombardments and everything else.
Question 34: New Syrian troops are being trained in the framework of the “Free Syrian Army” supported by the Americans to fight against the Islamic State. Do you think you will have to fight them as well?
President Assad: You know, and I know, and everybody knows that those 5,000 were announced by the Americans, and this this is my proof that the Western officials don’t have the will to fight terrorism. That is the proof. I told you, the base, the foundation, is to have the will. It means they don’t have the will. If Obama said the moderate opposition is fantasy, so who do you send the money and armaments to? Reality. You don’t send to the fantasy, you send it to the reality, and the reality are the extremists. And those 5,000 are going to be another support to those terrorists, because the same grassroots of the organization that’s been supported by the West, by money and armaments, they joined ISIS with their armaments and with themselves.
Question 35: Two questions to finish this interview. This is your first interview with a journalist from a Portuguese-speaking country. Do you expect anything from these countries?
President Assad: I don’t expect; I hope. I hope the first thing, which is very simple, just for the officials to tell their people the truth, the unbiased truth, without any preconceptions. Just tell your people the truth, and they’ll be able to analyze it. Second, we hope from Portugal as part of the EU to look at the Czech Republic. A small country, ten millions, but it was very wise in dealing with the crisis in Syria. They have their embassy, they can tell what’s going on on the ground, because isolationism is not a policy. When you isolate yourself, when you try to isolate a country by removing your ambassadors or closing your embassies, you isolate yourself from the reality. You shouldn’t isolate yourself, as Europe, from reality. We hope can play that role in the EU to shift this trend that started with the American administration of Bush; when they have a problem with somebody or some area, instead of being more involved, they cut their relation with it. This is not policy.
Question 36: Just one last question, Mr. President. You’re a key player for any possible peace deal. Don’t you feel sometimes doubts, anguish, with this tremendous responsibility? Don’t you feel what history might say about you?
President Assad: Of course, this is the most important thing that any politician or leader must think about, and it’s about, first of all, about having good will and good intention to help your country. Whether you do mistakes or you do right, you do wrong; this is not the issue. People will judge you by your will, by how much you were related to your country, related to your country, how much you are a patriot, not a puppet or a marionette that’s being moved from the outside. This is the most important thing; how much you do, what’s the best you can do to protect your country and protect your people.
Question 37: Thank you, Mr. President, for this interview, and thank you for being with RTP.
President Assad: Thank you.
The War on Syria, Who is Behind the Terrorists?
President Bashar Al-Assad. Paris Match Interview
The Full Paris Match interview of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granted in Damascus on November 28th, 2014
Paris Match: Let’s talk about ISIS. Some people say that the Syrian regime encouraged the rise of Islamic extremists in order to divide the opposition. How do you respond to that?
Bashar el Assad :
In Syria we have a state, not a regime. Let’s agree on the terms first.
Second, assuming that what you are saying is true, that we supported ISIS, this means that we have asked this organization to attack us, attack military airports, kill hundreds of soldiers, and occupy cities and villages.
Where is the logic in that? What do we gain from it? Dividing and weakening the opposition, as you are saying?
We do not need to undermine those elements of the opposition.
The West itself is saying that it was a fake opposition. This is what Obama himself said.
So, this supposition is wrong, but what is the truth?
The truth is that ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006.
It was the United States which occupied Iraq, not Syria.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in American prisons, not in Syrian prisons.
So, who created ISIS, Syria or the United States?
Paris Match: Mr. President, three years into this war, and considering how things have turned out, do you regret that you haven’t managed things differently at the beginning, with the appearance of the first signs of the revolution in March 2011? Do you feel that you are responsible for what happened?
Bashar el Assad: Even in the first days of the events, there were martyrs from the army and the police; so, since the first days of this crisis we have been facing terrorism. It is true that there were demonstrations, but they were not large in number. In such a case, there is no choice but to defend your people against terrorists. There’s no other choice. We cannot say that we regret fighting terrorism since the early days of this crisis. However, this doesn’t mean that there weren’t mistakes made in practice. There are always mistakes. Let’s be honest: had Qatar not paid money to those terrorists at that time, and had Turkey not supported them logistically, and had not the West supported them politically, things would have been different. If we in Syria had problems and mistakes before the crisis, which is normal, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the events had internal causes.
Paris Match: Your army is blamed for its excessive use of force during this war. Why are civilians shelled?
Bashar el Assad : When a terrorist attacks you with weapons, how do you defend yourself and your people, with dialogue?! The army uses weapons when the other side uses them. For us in Syria, it is impossible to have our objective as shelling civilians. There’s no reason to shell civilians. If we are killing civilians, in other words killing our people, fighting terrorists at the same time, and fighting the states which stand against us and which support terrorists, like the Gulf countries, Turkey, and the West, how could we stand for four years? If we haven’t been defending the people, we wouldn’t have been able to stand all this pressure. Consequently, saying that we are shelling civilians doesn’t make any sense.
Paris Match: Satellite imagery of the cities of Homs and Hama show completely destroyed neighborhoods; and the United Nations, of which your country is a member, talks about 190,000 people having been killed in this war. Were all the people in those neighborhoods terrorists?
Bashar el Assad : First of all, you need to verify the figures provided by the United Nations. What are the sources of these figures? The figures being circulated in the world, particularly in the media, are exaggerated and inaccurate. Second, images of destruction are not only obtained through satellite images, they are there actually on the ground, and they are accurate. When terrorists enter a certain region and occupy it, the army has to liberate it, and there is a battle. So, naturally, there is destruction. But in most cases, when terrorists enter a certain area, civilians flee from it. In fact, the largest number of victims in Syria is among the supporters of the state, not the other way round; and a large number of those were killed in terrorist attacks. Of course, when you have war and terrorism innocent people die. This happens everywhere in the world. But it is impossible for a state to target civilians.
Paris Match: According to the United Nations too, there are three million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, what amounts to one eighth of Syria’s population. Are all those allied with terrorists?
Bashar el Assad : No, no. Those who left Syria are generally people who left because of terrorism. There are those who support terrorism, and there are those who support the state but left because of the security situation. There is also a significant number of those who do not support any side.
Paris Match: From a military perspective, do you have the means which enable you to win this war?
President Assad: Now we are fighting states, not only gangs. Billions of dollars are spent on those gangs. They receive arms from different countries, including Turkey. So, it is not an easy war from a military perspective. Nevertheless, the Syrian Army is winning in many places. On the other hand, no one can say how this war will end or when. But the major war for them in the beginning was how to win the hearts of the Syrians; and they have lost this war. The communities which embraced terrorists have become very small, and that is the reason why the army is winning. So, we have to look at this war militarily, socially, and politically.
Paris Match: But they haven’t lost yet, since half your territories are out of your control.
Bashar el Assad : The Syrian Army doesn’t have a presence everywhere, and it’s impossible for it to be everywhere. Consequently, in any place that the Syrian Army doesn’t have a presence, terrorists cross the borders and enter that region. But the Syrian Army has been able to regain control over any region it decided to enter. This is not a war between two armies where you can say that they took a certain part and we took another part. The war now is not like that. We are talking about terrorist groups which suddenly infiltrate a city or a village. That’s why it’s going to be a long and difficult war.
Paris Match: Many people say that the solution lies in your departure. Do you believe that your departure is the solution?
Bashar el Assad : The president of any state in the world takes office through constitutional measures and leaves office through constitutional measures as well. No President can be installed or deposed through chaos. The tangible evidence for this is the outcome of the French policy when they attacked Gaddafi. What was the result? Chaos ensued after Gaddafi’s departure. So, was his departure the solution? Have things improved, and has Libya become a democracy? The state is like a ship; and when there is a storm, the captain doesn’t run away and leave his ship to sink. If passengers on that ship decided to leave, the captain should be the last one to leave, not the first.
Paris Match: This means that the captain is prepared to die. You talked about Gaddafi. Do you fear facing the same fate and to meet your death like Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi?
Bashar el Assad : A captain doesn’t think of life and death, he thinks of saving his ship. If the ship sinks, everybody will die, so we would rather save the country. But I want to stress an important point here. Remaining president had never been my objective, before, during, or after the crisis. But we as Syrians will never accept that Syria become a western puppet state. This is one of our most important objectives and principles.
Paris Match: Let’s talk about ISIS. Some people say that the Syrian regime encouraged the rise of Islamic extremists in order to divide the opposition. How do you respond to that?
Bashar el Assad : In Syria we have a state, not a regime. Let’s agree on the terms first. Second, assuming that what you are saying is true, that we supported ISIS, this means that we have asked this organization to attack us, attack military airports, kill hundreds of soldiers, and occupy cities and villages. Where is the logic in that? What do we gain from it? Dividing and weakening the opposition, as you are saying? We do not need to undermine those elements of the opposition. The West itself is saying that it was a fake opposition. This is what Obama himself said. So, this supposition is wrong, but what is the truth? The truth is that ISIS was created in Iraq in 2006. It was the United States which occupied Iraq, not Syria. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was in American prisons, not in Syrian prisons. So, who created ISIS, Syria or the United States?
Paris Match: The Syrians we meet in Damascus talk about sleeping Jihadi cells in the West more than they talk about the war against ISIS. Isn’t that strange?
Bashar el Assad : Terrorism is an ideology, not an organization or a structure; and ideology doesn’t acknowledge any borders. 20 years ago, terrorism used to be exported from our region, particularly from Gulf countries, like Saudi Arabia. Now, it is coming to our region from Europe, especially from France. The largest percentage of the European terrorists coming to Syria are French; and you had a number of incidents in France. There was also an attack in Belgium against a Jewish museum. So, terrorism in Europe is no longer asleep, it is being awakened.
Paris Match: The Americans, in their war against ISIS, are tactical allies. Do you still think that their intervention constitutes a violation of national sovereignty?
Paris Match: According to Agence France Presse, your air forces made at least 2,000 sorties in 40 days, and this is a huge number. When your aircraft cross the alliance’s aircraft, for instance on their way to shell Raqqa, do you coordinate or do you have a non-aggression agreement?
Bashar el Assad : There is no direct coordination. We attack terrorism everywhere, regardless of what the United States, or the alliance it leads, is doing. You might find it strange that the number of daily Syrian air strikes against terrorists is larger than that launched by the alliance. There’s no coordination; and at the same time you need to realize that the alliance’s airstrikes are merely cosmetic.
Paris Match: But these airstrikes are helping you, and one reason why U.S. Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel resigned is that he believed that they support your government and your positions.
Bashar el Assad : Don’t you see that this question contradicts the earlier question, in which you said that we support ISIS? This means that we are ISIS’s enemies.
Paris Match: I said that some people say, sometimes, that you have supported ISIS to divide the opposition.
Bashar el Assad : And I didn’t mean “you” by my remark, I meant “those” people.
Paris Match: Since one result of the alliance’s airstrikes, from an American perspective, was Chuck Hagel’s resignation, do you think that the alliance’s airstrikes are helping you?
Bashar el Assad : Terrorism cannot be destroyed from the air, and you cannot achieve results on the ground without land forces who know the geographical details of the regions and move in tandem with the airstrikes. That’s why, and after two months of the alliance’s airstrikes, there are no tangible results on the ground in that direction. And that’s why saying that the alliance’s airstrikes are helping us is not true. Had these airstrikes been serious and effective, I would have said that they would be certainly useful to us. But we are the ones fighting the battles against ISIS on the ground, and we haven’t felt any change, particularly that Turkey is still extending direct support to ISIS in those regions.
Paris Match: On July 14th, 2008, you stood on the presidential podium in the Champs Elysees on the sidelines of the Mediterranean summit. Today, the French government considers you an outcast. How do you feel about that?
Bashar el Assad : The good relationship which extended from 2008 to 2011 was not based on a French initiative. It had two sides: the first was an American effort to make the French government influence the Syrian role, particularly in relation to Iran. The second side was a result of Qatar urging France to improve relations with Syria. So, the good relations with France had American and Qatari motives and were not the product of an independent will. Today, there is no difference since both administrations, I mean those of Sarkozy and Hollande, are not independent.
Paris Match: Francois Hollande still considers you an opponent. Do you believe that you can revive relations with him some time in the future?
Bashar el Assad: The issue has nothing to do with personal relations, for I don’t know him to start with. It has to do with relations between states and institutions, relations based on the interests of two nations. When there is any French official, or French government, seeking mutual interests, we will deal with them. But this administration is acting equally against the interests of our people and against the interests of the French people. As for him considering me a personal enemy, I don’t see the logic of that. I’m not competing with Hollande for anything. I believe that Hollande’s competitor in France now is ISIS, because his popularity is close to that of ISIS.
Paris Match: Are there chemical weapons in Syria today, yes or no?
Paris Match: But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accuses you of violating the agreement because you used chlorine. Is that true?
Bashar el Assad : You can find chlorine in any house in Syria. Everyone has chlorine, and any group can use it. But we haven’t used it because we have traditional weapons which are more effective than chlorine, and we do not need to use it. We are fighting terrorists, and using traditional weapons without concealing that or being shy about it. So, we don’t need chlorine. These accusations do not surprise us; for when did the Americans say anything true about the crisis in Syria?
Paris Match: Have you used chemical weapons?
Bashar el Assad : We haven’t used this kind of weapons; and had we used it anywhere, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people would have died. It’s impossible for these weapons to kill, as it was claimed last year, only one hundred people or two hundred people, particularly in areas where hundreds of thousands, and maybe millions, of Syrians live.
Paris Match: In your latest visit to Paris in November 2010, I conducted an interview with your wife, Mrs. Asmaa al-Assad. Do you miss traveling outside the borders of your country?
Bashar el Assad : Traveling is not one of my hobbies anyway; and my visits were not for tourism, but for work. What I truly miss is Syria as it was. This is what we miss. And of course we miss the existence of a different world, a world which has logical and moral relations. At that time, we used to have great expectations for the development of our region, for more intellectual openness. We used to believe that France, with its cultural heritage, is the country which is most capable of playing this role with Syria in the Middle East.
Paris Match: Your wife used to consider herself an ambassador of modernity. How does she live in Syria, and how does she feel about what is happening in Syria, particularly that she hasn’t left the country?
Bashar el Assad : Like all Syrians, she feels pain. Both of us feel pain for the destruction and the blood we see in Syria, to see Syria going backwards decades and not years. It’s painful to see the country which used to be one of the top five countries in the world in terms of security become a safe haven for terrorists. It is also painful for both my wife and I to see our belief that the West will help us in our bid for development and openness go in the opposite direction, and what is even worse, to see the West having allies among these medieval states in the Gulf, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Paris Match: People describe you as being very close to your children. How do you explain to them what is happening to your country when you return home in the evening?
Bashar el Assad : Of course, this discussion goes on in every Syrian house now; and the most difficult thing in this discussion is when you deal with children whose social consciousness has developed during this crisis. There are two basic questions asked, not only in our family but in many families. The first question: how can people who believe or say they are defending God and Islam kill and murder? This is a case which is not easy to explain, and children ask whether these people know that they are wrong. And the answer here is that there are those who know but make use of religion for private purposes, and there are ignorant people who do not know that religion is good. They think, instead, that religion means killing.
The second question: why does the West launch an aggression against us, and why does it support terrorists and destruction? Of course, they do not say the West in general, they specify certain countries, including the United States, France, and Britain. Why do they do that? Have we done anything to hurt them?
We also explain to them that people are something, and states are something else.
Original Global Research URL:
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