Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad had a lengthy interview with Syrian Ikhbariya News Channel on the occasion of Syria’s Independence Day 17 April, 2013. He discussed all matters of concern and below is the translation to the entire 1 hour interview, to the best of our personal abilities. Video embedded below is with English subtitles.
Interview full transcript translation:
Presenter: Welcome Mr. President on the Syrian Ikhbariya News Channel
President Assad: You’re welcome and I welcome the Syrian News Channel (Ikhbariya TV)
Presenter: Greeting Mr. President, we are now living the joy of Independence Day. What can you tell and address the Syrian people with today, in such a day, especially with events Syria is going through?
President Assad: It’s natural to link Independence Day with the foreign forces from the homeland, from any homeland, but the first question we ask in such circumstances, and the Arabian circumstances preceding this crisis, what if the colonialist left and took with him sovereignty and (independent) decision? Independence will have no value.
The real independence is when the colonialist leaves the land and we retrieve sovereignty, with all the meanings of this word.
If there was an occupied land but a free people is much better than having liberated land and people without sovereignty and a state without national (independent) decision, this is how we should understand independence in its full meaning. And I believe that Syria, in such circumstances this occasion is now passing by, is exposed to a new colonization attempt by all means and methods, there’s an attempt to invade Syria with forces coming from abroad from different nationalities, even though it’s following a new tactic different than what typical colonization, we used to call modern colonization which used to come with its own forces to the region and the latest of it was the US occupation of Iraq & Afghanistan, and there’s also an attempt to occupy Syria, culturally, intellectual invasion in 2 directions either by taking Syria into subservience and submission by major powers, specifically the West or in another direction which is submission (of Syria) to the dark and Takfiri forces.
I believe on this occasion we need much more to hold on the meaning of independence since we were children, this holiday meant a lot to us, it meant a lot of pride today, this position should remain and elevate so independence holiday would mean the pride past and dignity present.
Q: Mentioning what Syria is going through, Mr. President, of conditions events have developed in this country, from a crisis that went through security events, then what you called once as war, today, what is exactly happening? How do you describe it?
President Assad: Actually what’s happening is a war, it’s not security events, maybe at the beginning it appeared to be security events and some till this moment is still dealing with it, asking questions and presenting evaluations as what is happening is security events; in reality it’s a war in every sense of the word there are major powers, and specifically western powers led by the USA historically it does not accept the existence of countries with its independence, even in Europe, it wants Europe submissive, so how about countries from the 3rd world or small countries?
It must be submissive in order to serve the interests of those countries, at the same time, Syria is in a very important geo-political position so the desire to control Syria is historical and traditional in the policies of the colonial powers these countries are playing a role in this battle, through offering political and media support at the beginning and recently they moved to publicly presenting financial and logistical support and we believe there’s even also support in arming there are regional Arab and non-Arab countries, as Turkey for instance, these countries sold and bought a lot, and found itself a position on the Islamic & Arabic arena through superficial support of the Palestinian cause, and seems this role went further than what they were allowed by their masters, ie major powers, so there was a need to retreat from this role here, the Syrian transparent position from the different causes, including the Palestinian cause and including the cause of rights and dignity, exposes these countries so the existing of the Syrian role as it is embarrasses them, therefore the Syrian case, the Syrian subject or the Syrian crisis is a cause of embarrassment for them and a life or death, political wise, for these countries so they hurled with all their strengths to strike Syria, nation and people there are internal causes, there is a group of thieves, there’s a group of mercenaries which receives money from abroad to carry out particular sabotage and there are the Takfiris, or Al-Qaeda, or Nusra Front, all of them are under the same ideology umbrella. What we really are basically facing now is these Takfiri forces, the first & second elements practically received severe hits, they either were eliminated in some areas or they forcibly moved to work under al-Qaeda umbrella against their will to be part of it so practically we are now fighting Takfiri forces.
Q: Mr. President, you always said that Syria is causing an embarrassment for them
President Assad: They always find a new chord they play it, a new chord whenever they fail at any stage now the talk is much that Syria is witnessing sectarian and doctrinal fighting some spoke of manifestations here and there
Q: Frankly, Mr. President, don’t you fear sectarianism started to sometimes appear in Syria?
President Assad: In each community there are groups of individuals carrying a limited thinking, a narrow horizon and has a weak national feeling, in all communities and these groups appear in all crises, it appears on the scene with its harming ideology and performance it might not be harmful on a wide scale but it appears as foci & this what happened in Syria during the 1980s, through the crisis of the Muslim Brotherhood, who also used the sectarianism ideology at that time, despite the unavailability of internet & satellite channels at that time, despite that they managed to promote the sectarianism ideology & these foci appeared but when the Muslim Brotherhood were defeated, the situation in Syria returned to its nature of the Syrian community in such a case we should bargain on the people’s awareness, the only thing we bet on is the people’s awareness and the Syrian people actually proved throughout unprecedented 2 years it’s a conscious people and if it wasn’t for that we would have seen the situation in Syria a lot different therefore, if I directly get to answer the question, I can tell without exaggerating, and I do not like verbal words that the situation now in Syria is better than at the beginning of the crisis, the sectarian rhetoric at the beginning of the crisis and these foci appeared strongly, some were worried due to that, and many lost balance, by time there was more awareness to the dangers of what’s going on and an understanding of the falsification done in media and an awareness of the meaning of Syria we were living in, but maybe we didn’t realize the importance of what we were living in, safety, security, harmony and I don’t say coexistence, it’s not a precise term, the harmony we were living, therefore, I can say after 2 years, the Syrian people that managed to withstand in the face of that media assault (campaign) with satellite channels promoting Takfir (accusing others of infidelity), discrimination and sectarianism. I say this Syrian people is a great people and no need to worry about it from this ().
Q: By this meaning, Mr. President isn’t at all worried of such talks promoting & maybe consolidating?
President Assad: Not at all, I say it’s the opposite, just like vaccination, vaccination is a weak germ, if it doesn’t kill it’ll grant you immunity we can consider many examples we lived through which showed the national unity the last example was the martyrdom of Dr. Buti, showed exactly the grieve felt by everyone without any exception from all (religious) communities and we saw that in the spontaneous solace councils, the state has no role in this case and Dr. Buti was not in touch with many of those, in spite of that we saw solace councils and we saw the grieve by Christian brothers, not only Muslims, this means there’s a real national unity, & these sectarian hot spots with limited thinking individuals do not scare us, I’m absolutely not worried from it.
Q: Mr. President, frankly, we hear a lot in media and from Arab & foreign speakers that there are ’liberated areas’ which means it’s out of the state’s control, and we see the situation in Aleppo, Raqqa, Homs sometimes are there really areas out of the state’s control in Syria?
President Assad: Sometimes we deal with this case militarily like how we deal with a traditional enemy when an enemy traditionally come to occupy a piece of land, the national forces attack this enemy defend the nation and expel the enemy out, it doesn’t matter if it eliminate the enemy or not maybe (the enemy) leaves without being eliminated, what’s important in that case is liberating the land but in this case we are dealing with a totally different situation, a new war, a new method we are dealing with groups entering cities, some of it are not Syrian, foreigners, Arabic and some are Syrian, enters cities and neighborhoods and sabotage at the beginning of the military operations carried out by the Armed Forces, it was expelling the terrorists from the cities sometimes it would take only a few hours, we see those terrorists leaving a place and going into another, fleeing or maneuvering, which means you’re spending all the time liberating lands endlessly to be precise about this point, we are now not liberating land, to speak about ‘liberated areas’ now we are eliminating the terrorists, the difference is big between the first and the second if we do not eliminate the terrorists, there’s no meaning of liberating any area in Syria if we understand this point, we understand what’s going on the ground, there’s another side when the Armed Forces, or the state draws military plans, it base its plans on a number of bases like the political and media importance of the area, humanitarian side, citizen’s suffering, the military side, military logistic details. The priority for us always, in the Armed Forces, is the humanitarian side, protecting the lives of the citizens and lift the suffering in places where terrorists enter; media and political side is not our first priority, maybe the other side benefits from it, doesn’t matter, what matters is the reality sometimes we ignore the media fact so they go drumming and tooting to show victories (propaganda), this doesn’t concern us, but in many times, the nature of the battle imposes not to have a consensus between the military and the humanitarian importance but temporarily and partially in some areas there are matters imposed by the battle but for us, the main priority is the humanitarian side.
Q: The problem is there are many talks being promoted, there’s a talk of geographic division, sectarian and even doctrinal, Mr. President, is this considered a reality or just as intimidation and the psychological warfare which is still a fundamental pillar of the war launched against Syria now?
President Assad: Since we do not fear sectarianism, I don’t believe there are foundations of division, division needs religious, sectarian or ethnic borders practically these borders do not exist, the Syrian community is integrated in each area in Syria and sometimes in each of the small villages, sometimes in smaller than villages what we call farms, it doesn’t exist on municipal maps we see this integration, in marriages and families, so it’s hard to divide without lines of such kind, but I believe what is being spread of maps or marketed in different ways, and is leaked to the Syrians at different levels, it’s part of the psychological warfare and part of the defeat I always mention which I call the virtual defeat or the free defeat, like, they send a message to the Syrians and convince them that you won’t be after now able to live as you were living in the past in a united nation, you are not able to live with each other, you are a divided nation by nature an imply in order to consecrate this belief among the Syrians, I’m not concerned about this method as well as long as the first method, the sectarian one, which was the most dangerous has failed, therefore, there’s no foundations practically to build these maps upon or any leaks or ideas conveyed to us similarly.
Q: But Mr. President, there’s a talk about separating some of the main cities from its countrysides like in Aleppo, separating Aleppo from its countryside, in northern and north eastern areas also there’s a talk about Raqqa and also Qamishli, it’s all said that there are factual lines separating it and it might be outside the state’s control and maybe in an isolated corner, even in this matter the same description you provided applies.
President Assad: No, this is not in the division frame, it’s basically not built on ethnic or sectarian lines, it’s built on places where terrorists are and practically if we want to talk about the state’s control, meaning its presence, there’s no place the Armed Forces tried to enter and couldn’t enter, therefore, there’s no fixed lines, that’s why I say for us the humanitarian and military priorities is what impose the presence and military tactic, we have to look at Syria as one block, just like the communicating vessels, if we put liquids in a number of vessels & connect it with pipes, the change of the water level in one place affects all the other vessels, the same for the terrorists, when they’re hit in one place, it affects positively on other places so the military tactic sometimes imposes on the state to interfere in one place before the other to be present in one place before another place, a time delay for mere military goals, but it has absolutely no connection with the division matter or the buffer zones.
Q: Seems that Turkey is going to a crisis with the Kurds problem, and there’s a talk that Erdogan might give a state to the Kurds, and maybe also a concession in regards with some demands, also reaching to dividing the country Turkey, giving ‘rights’ to the Kurds, there would be a state (for the Kurds) in exchange of him getting to presidency. What is the situation in Syria, particularly about the Kurds?
President Assad: For Erdogan he’s ready to present his entire country for himself, that’s right, the first part of your question and you already gave the answer within it, but as for the Kurds in Syria, I want to always reiterate about this subject the Kurds in Syria are a natural and basic component of the Syrian fabric and they are in this area since many and far centuries like the Arabs, Turks, Persians and like others existing in this region, they are not guests and they are not incidental most of the Kurds in Syria are patriotic Syrians, but like in each society, there are always opportunist individuals they tend to use certain banners for their personal interests that’s why we saw some gatherings which called itself Kurdish parties in Syria and it was always bidding on the so called Kurdish cause or Kurdish oppressing in Syria and this is absolutely untrue, they were talking about naturalization of Kurds about 110,000 which was done nearly two years ago, they were considering it a cause naturalization was done, they moved to another issue, the language subject the state approved, months ago, the Kurdish language & Kurdish literature as a class in faculties of Arts in Syria among other procedures, but they will keep looking from time to time for something that can be used to find a place for them on the national arena, this case we see from time to time, of course, this is not a matter of concern, the majority are with the Syrian nation to avoid talking virtual talks, I will not mention their role in the Syrian revolution & their struggle against the colonialism in different stages I will talk about the current events, many of the families of martyrs I met were Kurds I don’t know they are Kurds or Arabs or.., we don’t care about this matter, but through their talks with us they tell us we are the family of the martyr and we are Kurds so is it possible for someone who does not believe in a nation and seek secession as claimed from time to time, to sacrifice his life or his sons lives for this nation? This is not logical.
Q: Mr. President, but when we talk about this very sensitive point, the Turkish government recently used many cards, but it is said that the Kurdish card might be the last cards in the hands of Erdogan, precisely, which he will not be dropped easily he will be meaner, at least to achieve a result in Syria, and at this very time seeking a settlement to which extent the Syrian leadership eye is on this point? And what did it prepare to face such a thing against this state?
President Assad: This is an important issue, it’s not a simple one, it’s not possible to simplify it, Erodgan has an internal goal and an external goal, the external goal as you mentioned is Syria to embarrass Syria in this matter, taking in consideration that the Kurdish issue in Syria totally differs from that in Turkey in regards with the history of the relations, we did not commit massacres against the Kurds we did not oppress the Kurds as what happened with them since the collapse of the Ottoman state, in Syria the issue is totally different, there is harmony and real fraternity what was presented as the Kurdish matter in Syria was presented since few decades only through some of the opportunist forces, and our relation with the Kurds is always good even with the parties which were struggling for its rights in Turkey as for the other goal for Erdogan, it’s an internal one, after his political losses inside Turkey on the background of his failure in what’s called Zero Problems policy and the zero problems turned into zero politics, zero vision, zero friends, zero credibility and zero ethics zeros in all other directions but in problems, so he lost a lot even among his loyalists so there was a need to use the Kurdish issue to benefit from the large Kurdish bloc in Turkey in order to get votes, maybe in the coming constitution he seeks through to become the president of Turkey with powers that’s why we care about this issue, because whatever happens in any neighboring country will affect us positively or negatively, without being concerned besides Erdogan’s credibility in this subject towards the Kurds, which we learned recently, days ago via friendly Kurdish forces working in the Turkish or Syrian arena that they do not trust Erdogan.
Q: There is also 2 contradicting points the Syrian state is recently accused of a view says the Syrian state is a secular state fighting the religion and some others say no, Syria retreated from its secularism in compliant with recent events and on the contrary became more religious, what is the reality of this Mr. President?
President Assad: We always drown in terminology and do not discuss the contents, drown in the linguistic meaning and what’s important is the practicing. There were socialism(s), but all were called socialism. There are some who practice secularism as non-religious, and it turns, like what happened in Turkey in different stages, against the religion and fighting it and there is secularism which we understand, which is for us the freedom of religions we are a diverse society, so each followers of a sect or religion are free to follow and perform their rituals in the way they deem suitable this also means that we as a state do not act based on a religion when a number of individuals apply for a job, for instance, we don’t ask which religion they are, not our concern, or to which race, religion or ethnicity, we must not discriminate based on the religion or the ethnicity this is the concept (of secularism), I believe this is a positive and good concept as long as it is not the anti-religion secularism that means it must not be against the religion as long as we talk about the freedom of religions, this means this secularism supports the religions and do not stand against it. Totally the opposite, the religion is ethics, we are in need of ethics thus we need the religion development process for instance, many were asking why was it stumbling in different places? I tell them you are looking at the development process in Syria as a set of laws while it’s laws built on ethics, when there’s no ethics in any field, the community cannot develop to be secular means not to discriminate between individuals, but doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be a Muslim and a believer or a Christian and a believer, totally the opposite, this picture is totally wrong, like the picture put before of the conflict between Arabism and Islam, you’re either a nationalistic or Islamic, no, I’m an Arab and I’m a Muslim, Arab and a Christian therefore the contradiction between the two is untrue. Or to say we moved from secularism towards religious, in Syria since 1970 till date 18,000 mosques were built, so if secularism was against the religion, or we practice it as such, how did we allow the building of 18,000 mosques? 220 religious schools were built, religious, religious high schools and others, tens of institutions to prepare preachers were built therefore, the religious side in Syria was always an important one, most importantly if we want to say that secularism is anti-religious as what happens in a number of countries, or how other countries interpret it this is impossible, because the state is the mirror of the society if the society was conservative in its religion, the state must be built on religious foundations if it was secular there can’t be a non-religious state and a religious society and vise versa there can’t be a state with a religious form and a non-religious committed society we are the mirror of the society; therefore, both the first and second claims are untrue and inaccurate and presents lack of understanding to the nature and meaning of the Syrian state and the meaning of the secularism of the Syrian state
Q: But Mr. President, we are talking here about decisions and procedures taken during the crisis we have the approval for a religious TV channel, allowing female preachers to publicly preach?
President Assad: This was discussed, either in person and directly with me through discussions with individuals or through some writings, and this points to the ignorance of who writes about it because these matters have nothing to do with the crisis at all, in reality, the first signs of the danger started after the invasion of Iraq and precisely in the year 2004 when signs of extremism started to appear on the Syrian arena but it was mostly at that time a movement of extremist individuals and thinking passing by Syria first in Iraq and later, Lebanon and it tried to spread in Syria at that time it was basically combated by way of security the first concerning incident was the attack on the Radio and TV building in 2006 by some of the misguided whom were told by the extremist Wahhabi cleric that this place is a center of immorality and infidelity, so they attacked it but the biggest sign was when the first suicide bombing occurred in Syria in 2008, in the month of Ramadan by Syrian individuals. This was a major alarm sign.
On the basis of this bombing, I met a number of top religious scholars in Syria we discussed the matter and said the security resolution is not enough any more this terror is basically an intellectual terror, of an intellectual origin it should be fought, and the religious terror or extremism cannot be fought except by the real religion this is the first remedy, and the other methods are complementary a number of ideas were presented and one of them was Noor Cham TV channel at that time, of course, it wasn’t called Noor Cham (then), but we were in need of a method to face the Takfiri channels which started to invade the space in both the Arab and Islamic worlds.
Why were we late from 2008 till 2011, 3 years? Because the idea was initially to have the private sector launch this channel for different reasons it was delayed, so we took the decision to launch it, by the state to be a universal Islamic channel not to represent a certain religious thinking or a particular religious current as for the female preachers, also in 2008 it was on of the similar procedures especially preaching for women at that time was a secretive work in the houses or to avoid saying secretive, at least it was not under the supervision of the state being unofficial the idea was this is not a political job, we are with preaching, religious preaching is a positive thing but when religious preaching is under the state supervision, and the state is responsible for all the society sectors including the religious one this holds the state the responsibility, and at the same time if there’s any attempt to abuse the preaching for goals outside the essence of the religious preaching, then the state can correct this deviation and this experiment proved to be a good and useful experience these procedures and others had absolutely nothing to do with the crisis, on the contrary, the crisis came from the first day to prove that the religious institutions were the most discipline and to prove that the religiously committed in Syria, Muslims and Christians, were the most patriotic during this crisis and who talked about sectarianism weren’t from these strata they were either from the group deviated from the religion towards religious extremism or from the group of bidders in secularism while the moderate and committed were in fact patriotic therefore these procedures are not connected to the crisis
Q: Mr. President, if we want to remain in the internal issue, we’ll talk about the political dialogue and since the political government was assigned to execute the 3 stages of this dialogue started now to execute the first stage, as you know, eliminating violence and to prepare for the dialogue, what is going on now are consultations but, Mr. President, till now, the street isn’t aware what are the ‘taboos’ in the dialogue, what are the limitations of this dialogue in regards to subjects and persons and this dialogue with who, at the end?
President Assad: There’s a lot of mixing happening now in regards with dialogue, in regards with citizens there’s first the national dialogue conference which is part of the political solution I mentioned in my last speech in December. This dialogue is not between the state and another party, it’s a dialogue among all components of the Syrian society, especially the political components about the future of Syria What is the desired political system? Parliamentarian? Semi-Presidential? Any other form? What about the constitution, what about the political and media laws? etc. any subject. And then the state executes what the conferees agree upon. There is what’s going on through the meetings by the governmental committee headed by the Prime Minister with different parties in Syria some think this is the dialogue, this is not the dialogue. These are consultation sessions in order for these sessions to specify how to begin the dialogue. If we wanted to go to the national dialogue conference, who will be invited to the conference? And on which basis he’s invited? And how is he represented? Is he represented by a person? 10 persons? Is the representation connected to the number of members of a specific party? How? Who to invite? Tribes, activities, who to invite?
There is not any vision, and we do not want to build this conference only on the state’s visions, we want everybody to contribute. By these consultations we are browning the dialogue. How is a subject presented? How is it voted? And a lot of other details If we go to the national dialogue conference and these bases are not matured it would be a failed conference before it starts.
There’s another side in regards with the state’s dialogue, regardless of this initiative we can have dialogue with any side, but first who to talk to? To talk to who cares for Syria, we talk with whoever didn’t deal with Israel not covertly and not publicly, and whoever didn’t flirt with Israel, with whoever didn’t receive money to sell the homeland, and whoever confirms Syria’s independence these are the general bases. I consider these as national (patriotic) bases.
Q: Patriotic opposition?
President Assad: Patriotic opposition in the way it’s mentioned became something different, with all regret, since the beginning of the crisis, some suffer an inferiority complex and some feel defeated from the inside, so he started distribution patriotism on everybody for free calling everybody as patriotic opposition. For example, there is who appears on TV channels, and on each channel speaks differently and in each stage he speaks differently, is this a patriotic opposition or a wobbling opposition? Patriotism cannot be other than stable, we in the state and since day one we spoke the same language, we said we fight extremism we fight who tries to interfere in our internal matters from abroad, we reject hegemony, and at the same time the doors are open for dialogue. There are forces who rejected dialogue at the beginning, and later accepted dialogue if they made a mistake, let them come out and say they made a mistake, we made a wrong evaluation.
When we exited Lebanon, I said we made a mistake, we had mistakes in Lebanon at the beginning of the crisis I made a speech and said there were mistakes as for those, they only change their words. Is he changing his words, I’m not specifying who, because he received money and it specifies the direction of his words? to speak frankly and clearly. Is it because this person or that party was having specific bids, that the state will fall within weeks or months so he’ll not talk to who is going to fall and will find himself a place with the comers? As some were thinking. Whom among those was silent when terrorist operations commenced, didn’t denounce the terror that started, rather found justifications for the terrorists. Whom among those didn’t support the army? All countries and all people on earth are proud with their armed forces because it represents its unity and the nation, in all its components whom from those was attacking the army instead of standing beside it in a crisis that targeted the army before anything else, because it’s the nation’s address and address of resilience? All this oscillation and variegated like a chameleon I cannot include in patriotism. We should ask obvious questions: someone barely used to earn his daily income we see him today in airplanes from one place to another and sitting in fancy hotels, who finances this person and that party?
Let’s talk away from diplomacy, there’s no place for diplomacy now, who finances him? If there is financing, and this is confirmed, this means his decision is subject to the decision of who pays so how is he patriotic if his decision is abroad? In addition to that, each opposition sitting abroad by choice, they’ll claim it’s by force, they’re sitting (abroad) by own will cannot be a patriotic person, especially during crises, if you were an expatriate in normal days, you should come and stand by your country especially when you give lessons in patriotism on TV stations. How can you claim patriotism and you are running away abroad? Where is the patriotism? You lecture people with patriotism and they are suffering each day inside Syria while you are comfortable abroad? And from where (you got) this relaxation? God knows. There are many questions we should ask, that’s why I’m expanding on this topic a lot of questions to ask before saying a patriotic opposition that’s why in this subject there is no place for compliments and no place for hypocrisy we will not be hypocritical with anybody, we should call a traitor he’s a traitor, and the agent he’s an agent and to the defeated he’s a defeated, and to the non-patriotic we will tell he’s not a patriotic no, it’s not correct that all the opposition is a (patriotic) national opposition as of the opposition, who is the opposition by definition? If there were a million Syrian opposing the state in its policies, does that mean these are called opposition? We cannot talk with the million persons, we cannot partner with the million persons in a cabinet, for instance the opposition, practically in its political definition, in all the world’s countries, is an elected opposition with a popular base, who call themselves opposition, where are the elections that specified their sizes? There are so many questions we need to ask before we specify who are those. So, if the question was with who? We have parties in Syria now, it’s still arising parties, but it’s patriotic parties it don’t change its colors, didn’t pledge itself to the outside, there are patriotic forces inside, there are plenty of patriotic Syrians, the case doesn’t stop on who called himself or put himself in the position of a patriotic opposition, which represents the people, and we know they do not represent except themselves.
Q: The boundaries and basics of dialogue are clear, will the form of government in Syria remain parliamentary or there would be a presidential parliament?
President Assad: Just for the boundaries, it’s open, anything can be discussed, there’s no red lines except 2 things: Syria’s independence and this means no foreign intervention in any internal matter, this matter is out of question for us and to stand by the terrorists, there’s no leniency for standing by the terrorists, other than that, how do you want Syria to be: a parliamentary, presidential system, there’s no problem, this is to be decided by the people; for us, what the people decide we approve.
Q: Including the position of the president? I mean even yourself, Mr. President?
President Assad: The position is something, and myself is something else, the position is linked to the political system the political system define the authorities of each post, and when the political system changes, the authorities of the post must change in whichever direction, this is obvious, of course, it includes everything even the powers of the president, as for the president and what’s discussed, that’s linked to the person, it’s different than the authorities. I always say each person seeks a position is despised, that’s how I see things the position is just a tool and not a goal, the goal is the project a person presents to the society, and the people’s support for this project and the goal of this project and this support is to reach a better situation for Syria, what the foreign media and the opponent media in general, Arabic and others to show the problem is not a foreign project, neither forces coming from outside nor extremism it’s a president rejected by the people and this president is holding on power and he’s killing his people for the power, that’s what is continuously presented and that’s why they came up with the stepping down. Actually the position has no value, if there was no public support the position doesn’t grant the person any thing what an official should fight for is the popular support and the public satisfaction that’s why I say what the people decide in this matter is the base for keeping a president or his departure
Q: Some used the term negotiation with the regime and not dialogue with the regime, and we understood from some of the Syrian officials they rejected this term, what did you understand from the term negotiating with the regime and negotiations?
President Assad: I always resemble the country, the state, the society or the nation with a family when a family head sits with the children, or children together, they do not negotiate, they discuss, so when we sit with each other as Syrians we discuss, we say dialogue among Syrians and not negotiations between Syrians, if someone assumes himself as a stranger, he can say negotiation and if he assumes himself following foreign powers, as the case is for some, they can use the term of negotiations, and even for us to accept it, it has bases and boundaries to negotiate with your counterparts, if you were a state you negotiate with a state, states do not negotiate with individuals. If you were a party you negotiate with parties, but you do not negotiate with individuals. If you were a party with a (popular) base, you do not negotiate with individuals who call themselves a party, a current or whatever but they do not have a (popular) base, there should be a sort of symmetry when you talk of negotiations for who calls for negotiations should first specify himself, a Syrian discussing with Syrians or a foreigner? And who he represents?
Q: A quick tour over the region, we see a tour for Kerry, Israel’s apology to Turkey, the resignation of the Lebanese government and assigning Tammam Salam to form a new government, what’s interesting is Daraa, and what was said of a Jordanian role in the events there, are the diplomatic and political events accompanied by events on the ground mere coincidence in Syria today?
President Assad: I believe there’s an unanimous agreement that what happened recently is not a coincidence, I believe if you ask any person in this region, and in Syria in particular, uninformed and not following politics he will tell you these events are interrelated chronologically, and practically there’s one master who runs them all, this matter is obvious in the media it’s not a covert act, Obama came and visited, and Kerry coming and visiting the same countries involved in this escalation and especially what’s going on in Daraa, if we link the subjects together, this indicates two things first, it indicates that the foreign element is an essential one to what’s happening in Syria since day one, and this was difficult to convince people with, second, the more we accomplish achievements we will witness more escalation because those foreign powers will not give up. I’m with you, it’s not a coincidence, but it’ll be wrong not to anticipate it before hand or not to see it clearly.
Q: Mr. President, Jordan, talks are increasing recently that Jordan has become a main player in the war against Syria, training camps, meeting centers, and even military commanders for the terrorists on the ground and maybe the large numbers of terrorists and weapons entering through the borders (into Syria) this might also explain the return of the situation in Daraa to square one after a period of calm, what is the role Jordan is playing, in reality?
President Assad: We received a lot of this information officially, some of it through media, we all read and heard, some through diplomatic channels, and some through security channels, and it all lead to the same direction, we immediately dispatched a political envoy from ministry of foreign affairs, unspoken, to Jordan less than 2 months ago, to discuss this data with the officials in Jordan and to warn that the dangers of what’s happening will not affect Syria alone of course he heard all that denies these data. Escalation happened in Daraa, and we saw that thousands of terrorists with their weapons and munitions are coming from Jordan, so we sent a security official, since around a month or a little less, and also he met his security counterparts in Jordan, he explained to them the data we have, and also he heard total denying by them about the involvement of Jordan with all what’s happening, let’s assume first there are no camps, because what was mentioned of training camps are only unverified information by us, but what is verified and confirmed and from the terrorists confessions and by our observation is their entering through the Jordanian borders, it is not possible to believe that thousands enter with their equipment into Syria at the time when Jordan was able to stop, or arrest a single individual carrying a simple weapon to resist in Palestine throughout the past years, this is unconvincing, we wish for some Jordanian officials who are unaware of the dangerous situation in Syria and what it means to Jordan, as for the other countries, to be more aware in evaluating this issue because the fire will not stop at our borders, and everybody knows that Jordan is exposed to it as Syria is we wish they learn from the lessons we learned from the time of the Muslim Brotherhood that dangerous period of time, we wish they learn from what the Iraqi officials learned who completely understand the importance of stability in Syria, regardless of some difference we had in previous years, but due to this awareness and the learned lessons they learned that the fire in Syria must move to neighboring countries, this is what we wish.
Q: Mr. President, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, most of the Gulf countries, also we speak about a faction in Lebanon and other governments also in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and in Yemen, we’re talking about governments and not the people, is it possible that all of them are wrong and you are right?
President Assad: Let’s ask it in a different way, these countries used to meet, and we were part of them, in the Arab Summits at least since the first Arab summit in the year 2000 due to the 2nd Palestinian uprising and after that in the war on Iraq, in different chapters, during the invasion of Iraq, and after that when putting forward the Middle East project and the road map at that time after US’s victory in invading Iraq as what was marketed at that time, and the summits due to the Israeli war against Lebanon in 2006, and after that in 2008 against Gaza, and all these chapters, you as an Arab citizen, and you as a Syrian citizen, did you have confidence in any of those summits? Didn’t you hear from the all the Arab citizens all kinds of slander for these summits, and for us as Arab officials sitting in this (Arab summit) chambers? This makes us ask a question, based on your question, is it possible that 300 million Arabs are wrong and few dozen of officials in the hall right? This gives us the answer clearly. Another point, these countries you’re talking about, we shouldn’t blame it much, it’s not independent, its decision is not in its hand, some of it exist by the power of the American master some of it came recently through NATO, and some are on a tipping point living in a turbulent country and its people are not satisfied with them they need legitimacy before they grant us legitimacy, and as I said a few days ago, the Arab League as a whole requires legitimacy. But let’s put all this aside and trash it in the bin for a simple reason, all of those do not concern us, who determine whether we are right or wrong is the Syrian people.
I personally, and each Syrian official are responsible before the Syrian people, the Syrian people say if we did right or wrong, whether we are right or wrong, only, any other party does not concern us,
Q: Also if we go from these countries to the neighboring Iraq, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, sir, declared recently that Jabhat Nusra (Al-Nusra Front) belongs to it, and Al-Nusra Front in exchange pledged allegiance to Ayman Al-Zawahri now in Syria, Mr. President, who are we fighting? We’re fighting Alqaeda? Armed terrorist groups? Or we’re fighting with moderate fighters?
President Assad: Whoever carries a weapon and assault civilians is a terrorist, whether from Al-Qaeda or not, if we want to segregate the terrorists if from Al-Qaeda or not, that is possible, and that’s a fact even though Al-Qaeda is the overwhelming case in Syria under the banner of Al-Nusra Front.
As for the term ‘moderate fighters’, it’s an American method to justify to their people. America fought Taliban after 2001 war, and after several years it discovered it did not achieve a thing in Afghanistan the American losses are numerous and hatred towards America is on the rise, and terror is spreading more in the world, so it wanted to justify talking with these groups and using them against each other, or maybe for other political goals, so it said there’s a good Taliban and a bad Taliban and now for them the moderate terrorist, there is no moderate terrorist he’s a terrorist, they call him armed groups, armed opposition, this term is presented to their people in the media, because they went far in imaging the situation as between a ruler and an oppressed ruled, this was the picture. Terror appeared, and later the identity of this terror appeared, and it’s an extremist terror, and western media couldn’t hide this fact, how would they justify supporting the opposition? How would they justify sending weapons and money and logistic support under different banners: non-lethal support, non-lethal aid, civilian aid, at the end they cannot justify it except under the banner of ‘moderate armed men’.
Q: But you said a short while ago that Al-Qaeda is the dominating force in Syria now by numbers and equipment, so in this meaning the west is arming Al-Qaeda and is financing it, how to understand that?
President Assad: In reality, the west always uses any element appearing on the stage even if it was against this element, and the proof is they fight it in Mali and support it in Syria, and they support it in Libya, it’s the same extremist groups fighting in Syria which fought in Libya and it’s the same groups that support Mali and they fought it in Mali this is what’s called double standards, and I call it triple standards, and quadrant standards, and if there was a thousand standards they wouldn’t mind, they use any card that harms any country they’re not happy with, thus in Syria’s case, they’re happy that Al-Qaeda comes to Syria, first they get rid of these individuals in different locations, whether they’re fighting them in Libya, or in Mali, or in Afghanistan, or in any place it comes to Syria and this releases the pressure in other locations, and on another side this results in devastation in Syria, disregarding who wins, the state won or Al-Qaeda or whomever, at the end Syria will pay the price and it will be a hefty price and we see now the results of the devastation in the infrastructure and to damage the thinking in Syria this means, even if the state wins it’ll be a weak state, that’s what the west wants to achieve from this support, but at the same time, this west doesn’t know, or maybe knows but doesn’t understand now that this terror will go back to it in Europe, and the western newspapers started talking about the danger of the return of those, but this is a reality, just like how they financed Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan at its beginnings and paid the expensive price later now they support it in Syria and in Libya and in other locations, and they will pay the price later in the heart of Europe and in the heart of the United States.
Q: Another term we hear about for some time which is ‘humanitarian intervention’
President Assad: Humanitarian intervention was put forward and we saw practical samples of this humanitarian intervention, we saw it in the west’s standing by the Palestinian people for more than 60 years against the Israelis in favor of the Palestinian people we saw the humanitarian intervention in Vietnam, we saw it in the Korean war. In the Korean war I read about several figures, at least 3 million were killed and in some sources I read the number of those killed by American fire were 9 million in North Korea alone, and we saw it in Iraq, and you know more than any other person about this subject, by its results, and we saw it recently in Libya and we’re seeing it now in Syria, in parallel to the humanitarian intervention another term was put forward, now the ‘moral responsibility’. I believe that the only goal of the humanitarian intervention is to destroy the Syrian human, simply. And the moral responsibility they are talking about, also recently, is a responsibility to withdraw the bases of ethics and destroying the basics of ethical the Syrian community is built upon and at the forefront of it is dignity and preserving the rights, meaning we should be subservient people and know it is not possible to defeat the major powers the consecration of this idea and the consecration of the subservient principal we should know that these terms consecrate for us the opposite thing, to always say no to subservience, no to dependency, no to surrender and no to defeatism.
Q: Mr. President, since more than 2 years and the crisis continues, what in your opinion you think prolonged the crisis till now?
President Assad: Different factors, there are external and internal factors, the external factors we spoke about, the internal factor, whenever you act on the national arena you need a national consensus, no doubt we faced a problem at the beginning to convince many Syrians with the reality of what’s going on and you know and remember my first speech at the parliament and the criticism directed at it, what is he talking about? What conspiracy? Whenever something happens you tell us it’s a conspiracy although I spoke about it in a simple way and I said at the end of the speech we are ready for confrontation and they said it’s an emotional issue, if you just went to Daraa the problem would have been solved and I told many at that time, the issue did not start by emotion to end by an emotion this is a plot, true there are problems, factors and internal gaps to build upon, but the issue in its core is an external plot.
We were in facing a problem to convince them that what’s shown on TV is forgery, that who is killing the protesters is not the state, and there are other sides shooting at both sides to inflame passions, it was difficult at a later stage to convince them that these armed men are not Free Army, it’s a tied army and not free, work by money and kill with money, it was difficult to convince them that the majority of the protests were paid for imagine the stages. When Al-Qaeda appeared it was difficult to convince many that Al-Qaeda is part now (of the events), until they saw all these things with their own eyes. With all regret we have segments that see the things late and when it see it late, it’ll be too late.
National consensus in many of the cases was important, there’s an important point, how much time it took us to convince them that the state does not destroy mosques? And the last incident, few days ago, was the Omari Mosque, we saw on TV screens how they blew up the minaret. The massacres, each massacre was blamed on the Syrian Arab Army. With all regret, we have a segment that moves in the opposite, which created a base for chaos in Syria this helped, if not by weapons it by ideology, there’s who stood by the terrorists without knowing so I do not accuse him with bad intentions, but by ignorance and without knowing so, with pen, thinking, talks, and by faulty logic, those helped and hampered. Some of them, or let me say the majority of them discovered it was wrong but some until now did not discover the truth. This is the main obstacle.
Q: These are the elements of the sustainability of the crisis, Mr. President, but what about the elements of the steadfastness of the state so far despite all of this incitement?
President Assad: I do not say the state has withstood, I say the people withstood, this is a great people to withstand in such a war, 2 years in circumstances, even the people itself do not know the size of the attack many of the people do not realize the size of the attack but they feel its repercussions and even with that they withstood, this in reality is a great people, and this emphasizes the essence of Syria, and if it wasn’t for this people, everything would have collapsed not in weeks as they marketed, I would say in days, I do not say the state withstood, the state’s power is from the power of the people and its weakness is from the weakness of the people. Resistance in Lebanon triumphed in 2006 by its people before its fighters without the people supporting it and withstanding with it, it couldn’t win and this is the case in each country, and Syria is no exception.
Q: Mr. President, we spoke about all political and field matters, but allow me to move to the humanitarian side, you’re a father, what do you explain to your kids about what’s going on in Syria, what do you tell them?
President Assad: By the way I have 3 and not 5 as some say, this is a general subject and I share as a father with all other fathers no doubt that the events that Syria went through, its repercussions, it’s economical, psychological and social effects, what we saw on TV screens, what discussions and debates children hear in schools different from what they were accustomed to prior the crisis will leave dangerous and negative effects on Syria’s future, because they will be the coming generation, and this is one of the goals of the attack, as I mentioned a while ago, destroying the human.
I believe firstly we need to focus on this Syrian child, in general, to get out of this crisis with more faith in God, because the term used mostly in destruction acts was ‘Allah u Akbar’ (God is the greatest), how to explain to this child that there’s no link between the term ‘Allah u Akbar’ and between the absolute evil which is killing an innocent human being and this will not be an easy subject, we need to explain to them how much this word means in good, love, national unity and all the absolute good in it because from this faith we can get to the other faith, which is faith in the country, in the power of the nation, and its unity, and if he believes in God and in the nation, his believe in self will be solid and empowered, then we will be assured about Syria. I believe the responsibility comes within this frame, if we need to maintain our nation to work on the children, because we are now in front of a generation fed with a lot of wrong, wrong and evil conceptions.
Q: How much do you seem optimistic at the end, Mr. President?
President Assad: If there was no optimism in Syria in general, and especially among those carrying their souls in their hands, as we say in slang, and fighting so we all can live, if there was no optimism, we wouldn’t have fought primarily, and we wouldn’t have withstood as Syrians, but this optimism we, as officials and as a state, draw from the people, and I personally draw from my meetings with people, but in particular from the families of the martyrs, these families are tremendous, with all the meanings of the word tremendous, when you sit with a mother or a father, with brothers or children, and they say we presented the first and we’re ready to present the second, the third and the fourth, this is boundless patriotism, this is what pushes us towards optimism, and we have no other option but to win.
If we do not win, Syria will end and I believe this option is not acceptable by any citizen in Syria.
Presenter: Thank you very much, thank you very much Mr. President.
President Assad: Once again I want to thank you and greet all the workers in Syrian Ikhbariya channel and convey through you my greetings to each Syrian citizen on this precious and uniting occasion the Day of Independence, which I hope, in God’s will, to come in next year and Syria have passed its crisis and bandaged her wounds.
Presenter: Thank you very much for this exclusive interview on Syrian Ikhbariya channel.
President Assad: You’re welcome.