Bashar al-Assad, Etats-Unis, Le Monde, Russia, Syria, Syrie, United States, War Against Terrorism
President Bashar al-Assad said in an interview with Russia Today TV broadcast on Friday that the results of any foreign invasion of Syria will be too dire for the world to bear, and that it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific, adding that the enemies of Syria are terrorism and instability.
Answering a question on who Syria’s enemies are, President al-Assad said “Our enemy is terrorism and instability in Syria. It is not about persons. The whole issue is not about me staying or leaving. It is about the country being safe or not. So, this is the enemy we have been fighting as Syrians.
“For the president to stay or leave is a popular issue. It is not related to the opinion of some people. The only way can be done through the ballot boxes. So, it is not about what we hear, it is about what we can get through that box and that box will tell any president to stay or leave very simply.”
President al-Assad went on to say “I was not the target right from the beginning; I was not the problem anyway. The West always creates enemies; in the past it was the communism then it became Islam, and then it became Saddam Hussein for different reasons. Now, they want to create a new enemy represented by ‘Bashar’. That’s why they say that the problem is the president so he has to leave. That is why we have to focus of the real problem, and not waste our time listening to what they say.”
Answering a question on whether he personally thinks he is the only man who can hold Syria together, President al-Assad said “We have to look at it from two aspects. The first aspect is the constitution and I have my authority under the constitution. According to this authority and the constitution, I have to be able to solve the problem. But if we mean that there isn’t any Syrian who can be a president, then the answer is no, any Syrian could be a president. We have many Syrians who are eligible to be in that position. You cannot always link the whole country only to one person.”
Every Syrian is involved in defending his country now
On whether President al-Assad thinks he is the man who can put an end to the conflict and restore peace, his Excellency said “I have to be the man who can do that and I hope so, but it is not about the power of the President; it is about the whole society. We have to be precise about this. The President cannot do anything without the institutions and without the support of the people. So, the fight now is not a President’s fight; it is the Syrians’ fight. Every Syrian is involved in defending his country now.”
Answering a question on how to win this war in light of the death of many civilians and how to reconcile with the people, the President said “Let’s be precise once again. The problem is not between me and the people; I do not have a problem with the people. The United States, the West, Turkey and many Arab countries are against me. If the Syrian people are against me, how can I be here? If a big part of the world, and the people, are against me, how can I stay here, I’m not Superman, I’m a human being, this is not logical. It is not about reconciling with the people and it is not about reconciliation among the Syrians; we do not have a civil war. It is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilize Syria.”
On whether President al-Assad believes there is no civil war in Syria, the President pointed out that ” there are divisions, but divisions don’t mean civil war, it is completely different. Civil wars should be based on ethnic or sectarian problems. Sometimes you may have ethnic or sectarian tensions but this do not make them a problem. So, if you have division in the same family or in a bigger tribe or in a city, it does not mean there is a civil war. What is happening is completely different and that is normal. We should expect that.”
Answering a question on whether the Syrian people will still want him as their President after the huge damage that affected the country, President al-Assad said “This is a hypothetical question because what the people think is the right thing, and regarding what they think, we have to ask them. I am not afraid about what some people think; I am afraid about my country. We have to focus on that.”
On the reason behind the failure of the Syrian army and security forces in eliminating the enemies and in putting an end to the terrorist attacks, his Excellency said ” In normal circumstances when we have the army and the secret services and the intelligence, we focus on the external enemy even if we have an internal enemy like terrorism, because the society is helping us at least not to provide terrorists’ incubator. Now in this case, it is a new kind of war; terrorism through proxies, either Syrians living in Syria or foreign fighters coming from abroad. So, it is a new style of war, we have to adapt to this style and it takes time, it is not easy. And to say this is as easy as the traditional or regular war, no, it is much more difficult.
“Second, the support that has been offered to those terrorists in every aspect, including armaments, money and political aspect, is unprecedented. So, you have to expect that it is going to be a tough and difficult war. You do not expect a small country like Syria to defeat all those countries that have been fighting us through proxies just in days or weeks.”
On the presence of fractions of terrorists who are not unified and have no unified strategy, President al-Assad said “This is not the problem. The problem is that those terrorists are fighting from within the cities, and in the cities we have civilians. When we fight this kind of terrorists, we have to be aware that we should do the minimum damage to the infrastructure and minimum damage to the civilians, but we have to fight, we cannot leave terrorists just killing and destroying. So, this is the difficulty in this kind of war.”
As long as you have continuous supply in terrorists, armaments and logistics, it is going to be a long-term war
On the time that Syria needs to defeat the enemy, President al-Assad said “We cannot answer this question because no one claimed that he had the answer on when to end the war unless when we have the answer to when they are going to stop smuggling foreign fighters from different parts of the world, especially the Middle East and the Islamic world, and when they are going to stop sending weapons to those terrorists. If they stop, this is when I can answer you; I can tell that in weeks we can finish everything. This is not a big problem. But as long as you have continuous supply in terrorists, armaments and logistics, it is going to be a long-term war.”
On how to win such war in light of Syria’s extensive borders, President al-Assad said “No country in the world can seal the border, even the United Stated cannot seal its border with Mexico for example. The same can be applied to Russia which is a big country. So, no country can seal the border. You can only have a better situation on the border when you have good relations with your neighbor and this is something we do not have at least with Turkey now. Turkey supports more than any other country the smuggling of terrorists and armaments.”
On the Turkish citizens’ fears over what could happen between Syria and Turkey and if he believes that a Syrian-Turkish war is a plausible scenario, President al-Assad said “Rationally, no I do not think so – for two reasons. The war needs public support and the majority of the Turkish people do not need this war. So, I do not think any rational official would think of going against the will of the public in his country and the same goes for the Syrian people. So, the conflict or difference is not between the Turkish people and the Syrian people; it is about the government and officials, it is between our officials and their officials because of their politics. So, I do not see any war between Syria and Turkey on the horizon.”
On when President al-Assad last spoke to Erdogan and how that conversation went, his Excellency said it was in May 2011, after he won the election and President al-Assad congratulated him, and that was the last time.
Answering a question on who’s shelling Turkey, President al-Assad said “In order to find the answer, you need a joint committee between the two armies in order to know who shells who because on the borders you have a lot of terrorists who have mortars; so, they can do the same. You have to go and investigate the bomb in that place itself and that did not happen.
“We asked the Turkish government to have this committee but they refused; so, you cannot have the answer. But when you have these terrorists on your borders, you do not exclude them from doing so because the Syrian army does not have any order to shell the Turkish land because we do not find any interest in this, and we do not have any enmity with the Turkish people. We consider them as brothers, so why do it; unless that happened by mistake, then it needs investigation.”
On whether the shelling of Turkey could have been done by mistake by government forces, President al-Assad said “That could happen. This is a possibility and in every war you have mistakes. You know in Afghanistan, they always talk about friendly fire if you kill your soldier; this means that it could happen in every war, but we cannot say yes.”
Erdogan thinks that he is the new Ottoman sultan and he can control the region
Answering a question on how Turkey transformed from a friendly country to a foothold for the opposition, President al-Assad said “Not Turkey, but only Erdogan’s government in order to be precise. Turkish people need good relations with the Syrian people. Erdogan thinks that if Muslim Brotherhood takes over in the region and especially in Syria, he can guarantee his political future, this is one reason. The other reason, he personally thinks that he is the new Ottoman sultan and he can control the region as it was during the Ottoman Empire under a new umbrella. In his heart he thinks he is a caliph. These are the main two reasons for him to shift his policy from zero problems to zero friends.”
Many countries support Syria in their hearts but they do not dare to say that explicitly
On why Syria has so many enemies in the Arab world, President al-Assad said “They are not enemies. The majority of Arab governments support Syria in their heart but they do not dare to say that explicitly,” asserting that this is because they are under pressure by the West, and sometimes under pressure of the petrodollars in the Arab world.
“Many countries support Syria in their hearts but they do not dare to say that explicitly. First of all, Iraq which played a very active role in supporting Syria during the crisis because it is a neighboring country and they understand and recognize that if you have a war inside Syria you will have war in the neighboring countries including Iraq. I think there are other countries which have good position like Algeria, and Oman mainly and there are other countries I would not count all of them now but I would say they have positive position without taking actions,” he added.
The problem between Syria and many countries is that we say “no”
On why Saudi Arabia and Qatar are so adamant about him resigning and how would an unstable Middle East fit their agenda, President al-Assad said “Let’s be frank, I cannot answer on their behalf. They have to answer this question but I could say that the problem between Syria and many countries whether in the Arab world or in the region or in the West, is that we kept saying no when we think that we have to say no, that is the problem. And some countries believe that they can control Syria through orders, through money or petrodollars and this is impossible in Syria, this is the problem. May be they want to play a role. We do not have a problem, they can play a role whether they deserve this or not, they can play a role but not to play a role at the expense of our interests.”
Answering a question on whether it’s about controlling Syria or about exporting their vision of Islam to Syria, his Excellency said “You cannot put it as a government policy sometimes. Sometimes you have institutions in certain country, sometime you have persons who try to promote this but they do not announce it as an official policy. So, they did not ask us to promote their, let’s say, extremist attitude of their institutions but that happened in reality whether through indirect support of their government or through the foundation from institutions and personnel. So, this is part of the problem, but when I want to talk as a government, I have to talk about the announced policy. The announced policy is like any other policy; it is about the interest, it is about playing a role, but we cannot ignore what you mentioned.”
Iran is a very important country in the region. If we are looking for stability, we need good relations with Iran
On whether Syria should choose between cutting ties with Iran and peace, and if he would make such a decision, President al-Assad said “We do not have contradicting options in this regard because we had good relations with Iran since 1979 till today, and it is getting better every day, but at the same time we are moving towards peace. We had peace process and we had peace negotiations. Iran was not a factor against peace. So, this is misinformation they try to promote in the West that if we need peace, we do not have to have good relation with Iran. There is no relation; it is two completely different subjects. Iran supported Syria, supported our cause, the cause of the occupied land and we have to support them in their cause. This is very simple. Iran is a very important country in the region. If we are looking for stability, we need good relations with Iran. You cannot talk about stability while you have bad relations with Iran, Turkey and your neighbors and so on.”
In response to a question on whether he has information that Western intelligence is financing opposition fighters in Syria, President al-Assad said “so far what we know is that they are offering the know-how support for the terrorists through Turkey and sometimes through Lebanon mainly. But there is other intelligence, not the Western, but the regional intelligence which is very active and more active than the Western one under the supervision of the Western intelligence.”
Al Qaeda’s final aim is to have an Islamic Emirate in Syria
On the role Al Qaeda in Syria and whether it controls any opposition forces, his Excellency said ” I do not think they are looking to control; they are looking to create their own kingdoms or emirates in their language, but they mainly try now to scare the people through explosions, assassinations, suicide bombers and things like this to push the people towards desperation and to accept them as reality. So, they go step by step but their final aim is to have this, let’s say, Islamic Emirate in Syria where they can promote their own ideology in the rest of the world.”
Regarding who would he talk to from the opposition and from those who are fighting, President al-Assad said “We talk to anyone who has genuine will to help Syria, but we do not waste our time with anyone who wants to use our crisis for his own personal interests.”
We are fighting terrorism and implementing the constitution by protecting the Syrian people
On acknowledging that government forces committed war crimes against Syrian civilians, President al-Assad said “We are fighting terrorism. We are implementing our constitution by protecting the Syrian people. Let’s go back to what happened in Russia more than a decade ago when you faced terrorism in Chechnya and other places; they attacked people in theaters and schools and so on, and the army in Russia protected the people, would you call it war crimes? No, you would not.”
His Excellency added “two days ago, Amnesty International recognized the crimes that were committed few days ago by the armed groups when they captured soldiers and executed them. Also Human Rights Watch recognized this. Human Rights Watch recognized more than once the crimes of those terrorist groups and few days ago it described these crimes as war crimes, this is the first point.
“The second point, if you have an army that committed a crime against its own people, this is devoid of logic because the Syrian Army is made up of Syrian people. If you want to commit a crime against your people, then the army will divide, will disintegrate. So, you cannot have a strong army while you are killing your people. Third, the army cannot withstand for twenty months in these difficult circumstances without having the embrace of the public in Syria. So, how could you have this embracement while you are killing your people? This is a contradiction.”
Answering a question on when was the last time he spoke to a Western leader and whether they gave conditions stating that if he left the post of presidency then there will be peace in Syria, President al-Assad said that the last time he spoke to a western leader was before the crisis, and as for the second point, he said “No, they did not propose it directly, no, but whether they propose that directly or indirectly, it is a matter of sovereignty; only the Syrian people will talk about this. Whoever talks about this in the media or in a statement directly or indirectly has no meaning and has no weight in Syria.”
On where would he go if he wanted to leave, President al-Assad said “To Syria. I would go from Syria to Syria. This is the only place where we can live. I am not a puppet. I was not made by the West to go to the West or to any other country. I am Syrian, I was made in Syria, I have to live in Syria and die in Syria.”
On whether there is any chance for diplomacy or talks at this point or if only the army can resolve the crisis, President al-Assad said “I always believe in diplomacy and I always believe in dialogue even with those who do not understand or believe in it. We have to keep trying. I think that we will always achieve a partial success. We have to look for this partial success before we achieve the complete success.
“But we have to be realistic. You do not think that only dialogue can make you achieve something because those people who committed these acts are of two kinds: one of them does not believe in dialogue, especially the extremists, and you have the outlaws who have been convicted by the court years ago before the crisis and their natural enemy is the government because they are going to be detained if we have a normal situation in Syria. The other part of them is the people who have been supplied by the outside, and they can only be committed to the governments which paid them the money and supplied them with the armament; they do not have a choice because they do not own their own decision. So, you have to be realistic. And you have the third part of the people whether militants or politicians who can accept the dialogue. That’s why we have been in this dialogue for months now even with militants and many of them gave up their armaments and they went back to their normal life.”
The price of invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford
Answering a question on whether he believes that a foreign invasion of Syria is imminent, President al-Assad said “I think the price of this invasion if it happened is going to be more than the whole world can afford because if you have a problem in Syria, and we are the last stronghold of secularism and stability in the region and coexistence, let’s say, it will have a domino effect that will affect the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific and you know the implication on the rest of the world. I do not think the West is going in that direction, but if they do so, nobody can tell what is next.”
On whether he blames himself for anything, President al-Assad said ” Normally you have to find mistakes you do with every decision, otherwise you are not human… I do not remember now to be frank. But I always, even before taking the decision, consider that part of it will be wrong but you cannot tell about your mistakes now. Sometimes, especially during crisis, you do not see what is right and what is wrong until you overcome the situation that you are in. I would not be objective to talk about mistakes now because we still in the middle of the crisis… When everything is clear, you can talk about your mistakes, and definitely you have mistakes and that is normal.”
Answering on whether he would do anything differently if it was March 15 2011 again which is when the protest started to escalate and grow, President al-Assad said “I would do what I did on March 15: ask different parties to have dialogue and stand against terrorists because that is how it started. It did not start as marches; the umbrella or cover was the marches, but within those marches you had militants who started shooting civilians and the army at the same time. May be on the tactical level, you could have done something different but as a president you are not tactical, you always take the decision on a strategic level which is something different.”
On where he sees himself in ten years’ time, President al-Assad said “I see myself through my country; I cannot see myself but through my country.”
On whether he sees himself in Syria in ten years, his Excellency said “Definitely, I have to be in Syria. It is not about the position, whether a president or not. This is not my interest. I can see myself in this country as a safe country, stable country and more prosperous country.”
M. Nassr / H. Sabbagh – SANA – 9/11/2012
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