Following is the full text of the interview:
TeleSUR: Welcome TeleSUR viewers to this special program covering the events in Syria. Our distinguished guest has managed to capture the attention of the whole world – President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. President, thank you for giving this interview to TeleSUR, which we hope will provide an opportunity for our viewers in Latin America to understand your perspective and your views. Welcome to the program.
President Assad: I would like to welcome you and TeleSUR in Syria and to extend my good wishes to you on your recovery from your leg injury. I believe that my interview with a journalist who has witnessed terrorism first hand will be pragmatic and rich. Once again, I welcome you as a journalist whose blood has been mixed with the blood of soldiers from the Syrian Arab Army.
TeleSUR: Thank you. Indeed, there are many common factors between us, including this blood. You mentioned terrorism – a car bomb exploded in Damascus yesterday, killing and injuring many civilians. What is the terrorist’s message particularly in these circumstances facing Syria and the world? And how do you see the current efforts to confront terrorism in Syria?
President Assad: These terrorists have only one message, which is the dark ideology they carry in their minds; for them, all those who do not think like them do not deserve to live. Every so often, they carry out these acts of terror to either attract people to their cause or to frustrate them. In other words, they want people to lose hope – and when you lose hope, life has no meaning. So in one way or another you become closer to them. From another perspective, these terrorist operations are financed, planned and instigated by people outside Syria with the aim of pushing Syrians towards complete despair, making them believe that there is no hope in their homeland and that the Syria which has existed for centuries no longer exists. Loss of hope pushes people towards defeat, which in turn makes them stop defending their country. What you saw yesterday was only one of hundreds of attempts in that direction; in fact they have all had the opposite effect – Syrians today are more committed than ever before to defending their country.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis American policy has been based on lies
TeleSUR: Mr. President, yesterday we heard US President Barack Obama speech reflecting on what the United States has done in different parts of the world, he spoke specifically about the situation in Syria; Syria was also a major issue at the United Nations. President Obama, more or less agreed on the need for a political solution in Syria, however, he called on the United Nations or the Security Council to pass a tough resolution against Syria and against your government if you do not continue to fulfill requirements of the chemical weapons agreement. He also stressed that, as far as the United States is concerned, your government was responsible for the chemical weapons attack against civilians.
President Assad: His speech yesterday was more of the same – full of allegations based on fabrications and lies. In general, most statements made by American officials, whether in the current or previous administrations, do not have the least bit of credibility. Their statements are often similar and repetitive, and as such we do not feel it is necessary to comment.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, American policy, whether knowingly or unknowingly, has been based on lies. I believe that they were aware of most of these lies, which increased in intensity, and the administration played a direct role in these fabrications after the chemical weapons issue was raised on August 21st. The administration has not provided any evidence to support its claims, which implies that it was lying to the American people. From the beginning, we challenged them to present their evidence, which they didn’t; when they failed to convince the American people of their allegations, they couldn’t retreat and so became more determined.
As for their talk about invoking Chapter Seven, this does not concern us in Syria. First since independence, it is well known that Syria has always committed to all agreements it signs. Second, today there is balance in the Security Council which prevents the United States – as was the case in the past, from using the Security Council as an instrument to achieve its special agendas, including toppling regimes and destroying states as was the case in 1990s. As I said, these American allegations are nonsense and have no realistic or logical foundation.
The actions of the US, through wars and interventions, completely contradict their interests
TeleSUR: Back to President Obama’s speech, we saw that he was confused and didn’t know what he wanted. Sometimes he speaks about the use of force and sometimes he speaks about a political solution. He says that the Israeli aggression against Syria is in defense of American interests in the region. What are America’s interests in the region, and what is it looking for in Syria? Taking into account what’s happening at the Security Council concerning Syria, are you able to rule out an American aggression against Syria?
President Assad: With regards to the contradiction you mentioned, this has become the hallmark of every statement made by every American official, be it the President, his Secretary of State or others. For instance, they say that Syria’s military capabilities do not pose any concern to the American army should it decide to carry out any military action or aggression against Syria; however, at the same time, they say that Syria is a threat to American national security. This is just one of many examples in this regard.
As for the possibility of an American aggression, if you look back at the wars waged by the United States and American policies – at least since the early 1950s, you find that it has always been a policy of one aggression after another – starting with Korea, then Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq; this is the American policy. We also cannot forget American policy in South America where it instigated military coups and caused the deaths of millions; tens of governments were toppled as a result of American policy. For decades this has been their policy, which continues today – unchanged, it is also unlikely to change in light of the current American domestic situation. So the possibility of aggression is always there, this time the pretext is chemical weapons, next time it will be something else.
The more important element in all of this is that for decades, the United States has been superseding the Security Council, superseding the UN Charter, superseding the sovereignty of states and superseding all human and moral conventions. So, maybe all of us in the world need to keep this possibility in our minds – and this what we are doing in Syria. Is there a possibility of aggression? It might not be now, but nobody knows when it could happen. It remains a possibility, and we shouldn’t rule it out.
As for the interests of the United States, I believe that for decades, the actions of the United States, through wars and interventions, completely contradict their interests. It is a superpower and as such has political, economic, military and other interests. It can achieve these interests through mutual respect, good relations, trust, credibility and promoting science and knowledge instead of spreading terrorism, destruction and fear. There’s no doubt that as a superpower it has interests. Most of the big powers have interests around the world, but these interests need to be based on achieving stability in the world first. You cannot have any interests in an unstable region full of wars and terrorism. So yes, it has interests, but everything the United States is doing and all its policies, contradict its interests and the interests of the American people.
Violence destroys any chance for political action
TeleSUR: As Your Excellency said, the speech of the American President is in line with this great degree of contradiction, which characterizes the American empire. Yesterday he talked about a political and peaceful solution for the Syrian crisis; nevertheless he left the door open for you to step down. He literally said that the time has come for Russia and Iran to know that President Assad remaining in power means giving extremist groups a wider space to step up their activities. What do you think of what Obama said, and do you consider it likely that you will step down?
President Assad: As for your first point, this is another example of American contradictions; it’s like saying that we are seeking war and peace on the same issue and we are using the same roadmap to resolve the matter. This logic means promoting violence in the world and legitimizing violence as a means to reach a political solution. This is illogical. There is nothing in common between violence and political action. Violence destroys any chance for political action. We reject this logic, which the United States has recently tried to promote in order to justify aggression on Syria.
As to the question of stepping down, American officials – or some of their European allies, have been raising this issue for over a year. It doesn’t concern us for a simple reason: Syria has been independent for generations – for more than five decades, the United States has not toppled a president in Syria and has not brought any official to a position of power. So the United States cannot presume now that it has the right to decide, on behalf of the Syrian people who is in power and who isn’t. This issue is decided upon one hundred percent by the wishes of the Syrian people; even friendly countries have no say in this matter. This is determined by the desires of the Syrian people, which are solely expressed through the ballot box. When the Syrian people don’t want you, you should leave immediately; and the opposite is true. Regardless of what the United States says or does in this regard, it has no role whatsoever. That’s why these statements are of no significance to us.
The world is better when the United States stops interfering
TeleSUR: Let’s finish this discussion about Obama with what he said: “the world is better now thanks to the United States.” How do you think that the world is better thanks to the United States?
President Assad: Let’s talk about facts. Has Iraq become better with the American presence? Has Afghanistan become better? Is the situation in Libya better? Is the situation in Tunisia better? Is the situation in Syria better? In which country is the situation better? Was Vietnam better when the Americans interfered or when it was left alone to become independent and develop on its own? Look at the situation in South America: is it better now or when the United States used to interfere? The truth is that the world is better when the United States stops interfering – we don’t want it to help anyone. He (Obama) said yesterday “we cannot solve the problems of the whole world” – well, I say that it is better if the United States does not solve the problems of the world. In every place it tried to do something, the situation went from bad to worse. What we want from the United States is for it not to interfere in the affairs of other countries, then, the world will certainly be better.
However, if he meant that the spread of terrorism everywhere is better, this confirms what some Americans are saying in the American media – that the Obama policy is based on supporting extremism and terrorism. If this is the case, then what he said in this regard was accurate – that the world is better because of the spread of terrorism throughout the world.
The Iranian position towards the Syrian crisis is very objective
TeleSUR: Did you found anything new in Obama’s position towards President Rohani when he quoted President Rohani as saying that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis, and that the chemical weapons were passed to the armed groups fighting in Syria by Western countries? And how do you see President Rohani’s position when he calls for the cessation of financing and arming of the opposition?
President Assad: The Iranian position towards the Syrian crisis is very objective because they know the reality of what is happening in Syria. At the same time, they understand that this is one region, and consequently if there is a fire in Syria, it is bound to spread to neighboring countries and later to countries further away, including Iran. Iran bases its policies on these foundations and also on the grounds that it is the Syrian people’s right to solve their own problems.
As to American remarks on the Iranian position: first, as I said before, regardless of whether American statements are positive or negative, whether they praise, criticize, condemn or denounce – nobody believes them. In the same token, the Iranians are not naive to be deceived by the American position; Iran’s experience is similar to Syria’s experience with successive American administrations, at least since the Islamic Revolution in Iran. That’s why what concerns us is not the American remarks, what is important for us is the essence of Iranian policy towards Syria; and once again I stress that in essence it is objective and achieves stability for our region, if different parties in Syria have adopted the Iranian vision.
TeleSUR: In fact, in Iranian statements at the United Nations, there was a proposal about Iran’s relations with the United States to the effect that a meeting will be held between the Iranian president and the American administration. Such meetings have not taken place for a long time. How do you see the rapprochement? Is the United States really engaging Iran, or is it just an attempt to push Syria’s friends away from it? Or is this position another way of saying that the United States has no choice but negotiations rather than the use of force to protect its interests?
President Assad: First, unfortunately even the United States’ closest allies do not trust them; so the Iranian-American rapprochement does not mean that Iran trusts the United States. Our relations with the United States have been through various stages of ups and downs, but trust has never existed at any of these stages. However, in politics, you need to try all methods and means and to knock on all doors in order to reduce tension in the world. So, communication and dialogue are necessary in relations between states. We believe that the rapprochement between Iran and the United States, whether regarding the Iranian nuclear program or regarding anything else, is positive and good for the region, if the United States has a real and genuine desire to deal with mutual respect with Iran, not to interfere in its domestic affairs, and not to prevent it from acquiring nuclear technology.
On the other hand, I can’t imagine that the United States has abandoned its principle of resorting to military force. I think the opposite is true; when the United States saw that it had competitors on the international arena – or let’s say partners, if not competitors, in the form of great and emerging powers in the world, – it started to resort more to the principle of force, although this same administration was elected on the basis of rejecting the Bush doctrine of using force; now, it returns to the same doctrine. I believe that they are trying to co-opt the Iranian position as they tried to do with Syria a few years ago, but the Iranians are fully aware of this game.
TeleSUR: Mr. President, going back to Syria and the chemical weapons issue. What are the real guarantees provided by your government that the list you submitted on your chemical arsenal is truly representative of the weapons you possess? And what are the guarantees you provide to the UN investigators in order that they do their job, inspect the sites and put the chemical weapons under international control?
President Assad: Our relationship on this issue will be with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syria is not required to provide guarantees to the world or to the organization, it is required to deal with specific mechanisms or to abide by specific mechanisms stipulated in the chemical weapons convention. And as I said before, Syria is committed to all agreements it signs.
Syria has recently sent the required data to the OPCW. Shortly, OPCW’s experts will visit Syria to familiarize themselves with the status of these weapons. As a government, we do not have any serious obstacles. However, there is always the possibility that the terrorists will obstruct the work of the investigators in order to prevent them from reaching the identified sites, either because they have their own motives or because they are acting on instructions from the states that support and finance them. Either way, we expect that their objective is to blame the Syrian government for not cooperating with the investigators. But as far as we are concerned as a government, we have no problem with agreeing to the mechanisms provided by in this agreement.