Telesur: Hello. The TV channel "Telesur". This is our special program dedicated to the events in Syria. Our distinguished guest has managed to attract the attention of the whole world. This is Syrian President Bashar Al-Asad. Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity to interview you. We hope that our channel will give our viewers in Latin America the opportunity to understand your point of view, your views. Welcome to our TV.
President: I would like to welcome you and the TV channel Telesur in Syria and express my best wishes to you personally, in particular, I wish you recovery from a leg injury. I believe that my interview to a journalist who witnessed the first crimes of terrorism will be balanced and informative. Once again, I welcome you as a journalist whose blood was mixed with the blood of the soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army.
Telesur: Thank you. Indeed, there are many factors that unite us, including this blood. You mentioned terrorism. A car bomb exploded in Damascus yesterday, killing and wounding many civilians. What does such a message from terrorists mean, in particular, in these conditions faced by Syria and the world? And how do you see the current efforts to combat terrorism in Syria?
President: These terrorists can send only one message, which is a reflection of their dark ideology, which they carry in their minds: for them, all those who do not think like they do not deserve the right to life. Very often they commit these acts of terror, trying to either attract people to their side, or kill them. In other words, they want people to lose hope — and when hope is lost, life has no meaning. Thus, in one form or another, people become more susceptible to their dark ideas. On the other hand, these terrorist operations are funded and planned outside Syria. Those who instigate terrorist attacks, seek to bring the Syrians to complete despair, forcing them to believe that they have no hope in their homeland, that Syria, which has existed for centuries, no longer exists. Loss of hope pushes people to defeat, which in turn encourages them to stop defending their country. What you saw yesterday was only one of the hundreds of attempts carried out in this direction. In fact, all these attacks have the opposite effect - the Syrians today, more than ever before, are committed to defending their country.
Telesur: Mr. President, we heard that US President Barack Obama in his speech reflects on what the United States has done in different parts of the world. He spoke specifically about the situation in Syria. Syria is one of the most important issues for the United Nations. President Obama, reluctantly agreed on the need for a political settlement in Syria, but called on the United Nations or the Security Council to adopt a tough resolution against the SAR and against your government if you do not comply with the requirements of the chemical agreement arms. He also stressed that, according to the United States, your government is responsible for the attack using chemical weapons against civilians.
President: In his speech, there were usually accusations that were fully based on fabrications and lies. In general, the majority of statements by US officials, from the current administration or from previous ones, have not the slightest confidence. Their statements are often similar to each other, they are repeated, so we do not consider it necessary to comment on them.
Since the beginning of the Syrian crisis, American politics, consciously or not, was based on lies. I believe that they were aware that all this is a lie. Now, after raising the issue of chemical weapons 21 of August, the lie has increased, and the US administration plays a direct role in these fabrications. The administration did not provide any evidence to substantiate their claims. That means she lies to the American people. From the very beginning we presented our evidence, which they did not do. They could not convince the American people of the truth of their statements.
As for their talk about a reference to the 7 chapter, this does not concern us. First, it is well known that since Syria gained independence, it has been fulfilling all the agreements that it signs. Secondly, there is a balance of power in the UN Security Council today. This does not allow the United States to use the Security Council as a tool to achieve its goals, including for overthrowing power and destroying states, as it was in the past, in the 1990s. As I have already said, the American accusations are absurd and have no real or logical basis.
Telesur: Let's return to the speech of President Obama. We saw that he was confused and did not know what he wanted. Sometimes he talks about the use of force, and sometimes he talks about a political decision. He claims that Israeli aggression against Syria is the defense of American interests in the region. What are US interests in the region? What is he looking for in Syria? Considering what is happening in the Security Council, can you rule out American aggression against Syria?
President: As for the controversy you mentioned, this has become the hallmark of every American official, whether it is the president, his secretary of state, or another person. For example, they say that the military potential of Syria does not interest the American army if it decides to carry out any military actions or aggression, but at the same time declares that Syria is a threat to US national security. This is just one of many examples in this regard.
As for the possibility of American aggression - if you look at the wars that the United States waged, at least since the beginning of the 1950s, you will find that this has always been the policy of aggression. One war after another - starting with Korea, then Vietnam, Lebanon, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq. This is American politics. We also cannot forget about US policy in South America, where they provoked military coups, which caused the death of millions of people. As a result of American politics, dozens of governments were overthrown. For decades, this was their policy, which continues today - unchanged. It is unlikely that it will change in the light of the current American domestic situation. So the possibility of aggression is always there. This time the pretext is chemical weapons, next time there will be something else.
More importantly, for decades the United States replaced the Security Council, replaced the United Nations, replaced the sovereignty of states, replaced all human and moral principles. So maybe all of us in the world should take this into account. Is there a possibility of aggression? Maybe not now, but no one knows when this can happen. This possibility remains, and we should not exclude it.
As for the interests of the United States, I believe that wars and interventions that they have been carrying out for decades completely contradict their interests. This superpower as such has political, economic, military, and other interests. It can achieve them on the basis of mutual respect, good relations, trust, authority, promoting the development of science and knowledge, instead of spreading terrorism, destruction and fear. There is no doubt that as a superpower, it has interests. Most major powers have interests around the world. But these interests should be based on achieving, above all, stability in the world. It is impossible to realize the interests in an unstable region full of wars and terrorism. So yes, they have interests. But everything that the United States and its politicians do is against the interests of their country and the American people.
Telesur: As you said, the speech of the American president is to a large extent contradictory, and this characterizes the American empire. Yesterday he spoke about a political, peaceful settlement of the Syrian crisis. Nevertheless, he again openly offered you to resign. He said literally the following: that the time has come for Russia and Iran to know that if President Assad remains in power, this means that extremist groups will have a wider space for revitalizing their activities. What do you think about what Obama said? And do you think your retirement is likely?
President: As for your first point, this is another example of American inconsistency. It is just the same as saying that we are looking for both war and peace. This logic means propaganda of violence in the world and the legitimation of violence as a means to achieve a political solution. This is illogical. There is nothing in common between violence and political action. Violence destroys every chance for political action. We reject this logic that the United States recently tried to promote to justify aggression against Syria.
As for the issue of care. US officials and some of their European allies raised this issue for a year. This does not concern us for one simple reason: Syria has been independent for several generations, for more than five decades. The United States cannot overthrow the president in Syria, and their position of strength has not brought results. The United States cannot decide on behalf of the Syrian people who should be in power and who should not. This question is one hundred percent dependent on the wishes of the Syrian people, and even friendly countries do not have the right to vote on this issue. This is determined by the desire of the Syrian people, which are expressed only through the ballot box. If the Syrian people do not want to see me in power, then I must immediately leave the post, and vice versa. Regardless of what the United States says in this regard. It does not play any role. That is why these statements do not matter to us.
Telesur: Let's end this discussion about Obama. He said: "The world has become better thanks to the United States." Do you think the world is better because of the USA?
President: Let's talk about the facts. Has Iraq become better from the American presence? Has Afghanistan become better? Has the situation in Libya become better? And the situation in Tunisia? Has the situation improved in Syria? In which country has the situation become better? When did Vietnam become better: when did the Americans intervene there, or when did it become independent and able to develop independently? Look at the situation in South America: when is it better, now or when the United States intervened? The truth is that the world is better when the United States ceases to interfere. We do not want them to "help" anyone. Obama said: “We cannot solve the problems of the whole world.” I say that it’s better when the US doesn’t solve the problems of the world. In every place where they tried to do something, the situation got worse and worse. States so that they do not interfere in the affairs of other countries. Then the world will certainly be better.
However, if he meant that the more terrorism spreads around the world, the better - then this confirms the words of some Americans who say in their media that Obama’s policy is based on support for extremism and terrorism. If this is so, then his words were accurate - then, from his point of view, the world became “better”, because terrorism had spread throughout the world.
Telesur: Rouhani said that there is no military solution to the Syrian crisis, and also that chemical weapons were transferred to armed groups by Western countries. How do you see the position of President Rouhani, when he calls to stop funding and arming the "opposition"?
President: Iran’s position on the Syrian crisis is very objective, because it knows the reality of what is happening in Syria. At the same time, Iran understands that this is one region. Consequently, if there is a fire in Syria, it will inevitably spread to neighboring countries, and then to countries that are even further, including Iran. On this basis, Iran and builds its policy, as well as on the grounds that the Syrian people have the right to solve their problems.
As for the American comments on the Iranian position: first, as I have already said, regardless of whether the American statements are positive or negative, whether they praise or criticize, condemn or not condemn - no one believes them. Iranians are not naive to be deceived by the American position. Iran’s experience with the US administration is similar to that of Syria. At least from the time of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Therefore, what concerns us is not American comments. The essence of Iran’s policy towards Syria is very important to us. Once again, this position, in essence, is objective and contributes to the achievement of stability in our region.
Telesur: In fact, Iran’s statements to the UN suggested that there could be a meeting between the Iranian president and representatives of the American administration. Such a meeting was not for a long time. How do you look at the possibility of convergence? Does the US really want to cooperate with Iran, or is it just an attempt to push Syria's friends to turn away from it? Or is this position another way of saying that the United States has no choice but to negotiate, and not use force to protect its interests?
President: First, unfortunately, even the closest allies of the United States do not trust them. So Iran-US rapprochement does not mean that Iran trusts the United States. Our relations with the United States went through various stages of ups and downs, but never, at any of these stages, did they have any credibility. Nevertheless, in politics you need to try all the methods and means, knocking on all doors to reduce the tension in the world. So, communication and dialogue are necessary in relations between states. We believe that a rapprochement between Iran and the United States, whether on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program or something else, is positive, and this is good for the region. Of course, if the United States has a real and sincere desire to deal with Iran on the basis of mutual respect, and not to interfere in its internal affairs under the pretext of a nuclear issue.
On the other hand, I cannot imagine that the United States abandoned the principle of using military force. I think the opposite is also true: when the US saw that they had competitors in the international arena — or, say, partners, if they were not competitors — in the form of big powers, whose influence in the world is growing, they started even more degree to resort to the principles of power. This is despite the fact that this administration built its electoral program on the basis of the rejection of the Bush doctrine on the use of force. Now she is returning to the same doctrine. I believe that they are trying to influence the position of Iran, just as they tried to do this with Syria a few years ago. But the Iranians are fully aware of the essence of this game.
Telesur: Mr. President, returning to Syria and the problem of chemical weapons. What are the real guarantees provided by your government that the list of chemical arsenals you provide is accurate? And what guarantees do you give to the UN inspectors so that they can do their job, inspect facilities, put chemical weapons under international control?
President: Our cooperation on this issue will be with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Syria is not obliged to give guarantees to other organizations. All necessary mechanisms are provided for in the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. And as I said, Syria is committed to fulfilling all the agreements that it signs.
Syria recently sent all necessary data to the OPCW. Soon, OPCW experts will visit the country to familiarize themselves with the state of these weapons. We as a government do not create any obstacles. However, there is always the possibility that terrorists will impede the work of inspectors - either because they have their own motives, or because they act on behalf of the states that support and finance them. In any case, we expect their goal to lay the blame on the Syrian government for not cooperating. But we, as a government, agree with the mechanisms provided for in this Agreement.
Telesur: International inspectors will return to Damascus to identify other places where chemical weapons were used, in addition to the August 21 incident. What are the guarantees that experts will do their work freely and independently?
President: This group arrived in Syria not at the initiative of the United Nations or any other country. It was an initiative of the Syrian government, which invited inspectors to come to Syria in March of this year, when terrorists used toxic gases in a suburb of Aleppo in the north of the country. In fact, the United States creates obstacles to prevent this investigation. We invited them, since we are interested in their visit, to establish the truth about the use of chemicals in Syria. So, it is illogical to assume that we invited them, and we will create obstacles in their work. Even when the commission left Syria a few weeks ago, we wanted it to make visits to areas of alleged use of chemical weapons. But the US insisted that they complete their mission. Now that they are back, the Syrian government certainly supports their mission. And, as I have already said, there are no obstacles, except in cases where terrorists obstruct the work of the commission, especially in places where the militants are in large numbers.
Telesur: Despite claims that the Syrian government allegedly used chemical weapons, Russia presented to the UN evidence that it was armed groups that used chemical weapons. What evidence do you have? What are the governments of Russia and Syria doing to prove that it was the terrorist groups, and not the Syrian state, that used chemical weapons?
President: We, of course, have both evidence and testimony Regarding the evidence that toxic gases were used in Khan Al-Asal - we took soil samples, blood samples from victims, as well as fragments of shells and other materials. Later, during operations conducted by the Syrian army, a number of caches were discovered, where there were containers of various sizes with chemicals. In some cases, these were toxic substances. In addition, there were materials needed for their manufacture. We passed the evidence to the Russian government before the UN mission arrived in Syria. We also have confessions of terrorists who transported chemicals from neighboring countries to Syria. These confessions were shown on television.
Why did the Syrian authorities not use these substances? First, the Syrian troops made progress. They did not use these substances a year ago, when the terrorists were much stronger, so why should they use them now? Syrian forces did not use them in remote areas, where there are far more terrorists than in the suburbs of Damascus, so why should they use them here? You cannot use these substances in residential areas, where they can probably kill tens of thousands of people, and not that a few hundred or thousands. You can not use them near your own army, because the soldiers themselves will be killed. Thus, if we argue from a logical, practical, military point of view, these substances could not be used in these conditions.
In any case, when there is a crime, then one of the first questions that any detective will ask is who is interested in this crime? Who benefits from the use of this weapon? It is obvious that terrorists are interested in this crime. Especially when you consider that these statements coincide with the arrival of inspectors to Syria. Can you really believe that the Syrian government invites a mission to investigate and use chemical weapons? This is incredible, it is completely illogical. All data shows that the Syrian government did not use these weapons, all the evidence suggests that they were terrorists who used chemical weapons to get close to Damascus.
Telesur: What is the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in supplying armed groups with chemical weapons?
President: To be precise, we have no evidence that they delivered chemical weapons to these groups. But it is well known that these countries have been supporting terrorists since the very beginning of the crisis in Syria. They provided them with all kinds of modern weapons. It is proven and well documented. Thus, it should be expected that if these countries openly and publicly support these groups and provide them with all types of weapons, then they, especially Saudi Arabia, could deliver this type of weapon to the terrorists, which will be used against the Syrian army. Moreover, these terrorist groups could not boast to their masters outside Syria of any real achievements militarily. Of course, they were able to destroy much in Syria, they destroyed the infrastructure, it affected the economy and had a negative impact on the lives of civilians. We have no doubt that these terrorist groups caused a lot of suffering, but I mean that they did not achieve the military goals that were set for them. In this respect, they failed miserably, so they were forced to resort to weapons of various kinds. With the help of these weapons, they sought to either defeat the Syrian army or exert political pressure to achieve foreign intervention, so that the US and its allies could launch an aggression against Syria to weaken its army. Of course, the second option is a more likely scenario.
Telesur: There is a hidden chess game. It is known that there are certain agreements made "under the table". They involved Israel, which plays a certain role in what is happening in Syria. Why do they talk about chemical weapons in Syria, about nuclear weapons in Iran, but not about Israel’s nuclear weapons?
President: Israel is an aggressive state. It was created on the basis of expansion. He occupies foreign lands and kills people living nearby. He killed many Palestinians for more than six decades. He killed many Lebanese, Egyptians, Syrians and representatives of other countries. He used bombing, terrorism and other methods. Today, it plays the same role, helping the terrorists directly in the areas adjacent to the Syrian front, that is, alongside the occupied Golan. He provides them with logistical and medical support, and also helps with information, weapons, and ammunition.
Telesur: There are also reports that in some parts of Syria, Israel has oil interests?
President: This is said, especially with regard to oil on the east coast of the Mediterranean. But this is just an analysis and we do not have specific information. As for Israel’s nuclear weapons, as you said, no one talks about it, because Israel is an aggressive state, a rogue state, enjoys the full support of the United States. They cover all his crimes. While this process continues in the USA, in the UN Security Council, in international organizations, including the IAEA, it is not surprising that any weapon anywhere in the world can be discussed, but not Israeli weapons. Such is the logic prevailing in the world - the logic of hegemony, the logic of colonialism, the logic of force.
Telesur: Mr President, while they are trying to reach a political solution to the crisis at the international level, what are you doing in Syria to reduce tensions? Are there any attempts to reconcile the various parties in Syria? Is there any hope for an internal solution in Syria, at the Geneva Conference?
President: No matter how intense the attacks have become, no matter how bad the situation is, we must continue to initiate political measures to solve any problem. We believe in it and pursued this goal from the very beginning, despite the escalation of terrorist acts. Political action requires, first of all, stopping the flow of terrorists from neighboring countries and stopping their support with weapons, money and all the necessary material and technical means that help them carry out their attacks.
At the same time, dialogue between the Syrians is inevitable. All Syrian parties must agree on the future of Syria. This dialogue should begin with a discussion of the political system in the country: which system the Syrians want. Consequently, laws and legal acts that are based on this system must be developed. There are many other details. When the Syrians at the negotiating table reach any decisions, this should be put to a national referendum. The Geneva Conference is an important point, it will provide an opportunity for dialogue between the various layers of the Syrian people. Of course, we do not assume that the terrorists who commit acts of terrorism and murders will take part in it. We also do not recognize that dialogue can be conducted with individuals who are calling for foreign intervention. By law and by the mood of the people, those who call for foreign intervention are traitors, and dialogue with them is unacceptable for anyone.
As for the Geneva Conference, it is an important and necessary step towards paving the way for dialogue between the Syrians. But the Geneva Conference cannot replace the internal Syrian dialogue. And, of course, it does not replace the opinions of the people, who must have their say in a referendum. These are the general features of our vision of political action to resolve the Syrian crisis. All of these elements will not lead to real results on the ground, unless support for terrorism stops.
Telesur: You emphasized that you would not negotiate in Geneva with armed groups and terrorists. Which parties will you negotiate with? How can the results of the dialogue be achieved at the international level, and what is the timeline for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis?
President: I can answer the part of the question that is connected with what is happening inside Syria, with those who represent the Syrian people. There are various types of parties - opposition parties; intermediate parties; parties supporting the state. As for the parties outside Syria, we should ask them about those countries that support them. These countries - the United States, France, Britain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others - support those who do not represent the Syrian people. If these countries order them to go to Geneva, they will go. They will say and do what they are told. If we want to get an answer to this part of the question, then we should ask these countries whether they intend to send these persons or not. Since they do not represent the Syrian people, neither the Syrians nor the government can send them anywhere. That is why I said that by dialogue I mean interaction with various opposition groups, mainly based in Syria, as well as with other influential parties and movements that do not necessarily belong to the opposition.
Telesur: I cannot finish this interview without mentioning leader Hugo Chávez, who visited Syria, who was with you in Malula, which was attacked by extremists just a few days ago. When he was in Maaloule, he stated that no human or humanitarian pretext could be used to justify aggression against Syria. "How can we not support the Syrian government?" How can we not support the government of President Bashar Al-Assad? How can armed groups be supported? ”Chavez said. Could you tell us about the impressions and memories of President Chávez’s visit to Syria? And what do you think about the position of Venezuela and the ALBA countries, which are fighting for the freedom of Syria and the protection of the rights of the Syrian people?
President: We have always said that the developing countries, to which both our states belong, have gone through a series of stages in their quest for independence. The first stage is the evacuation of foreign troops from our territories, when most countries were able to achieve independence. The second stage, which is more important, is the independence of political, economic and military decisions. This has been achieved over the past two decades in Latin and Central America. The two symbols of the struggle for this independence are President Castro, five decades ago, and President Chavez. When we remember President Chávez, we remember that he fought in the second stage. The efforts we are making in our Middle East region are similar to those that you went through earlier in Latin America.
When you reached an independent national decision, the situation in South America and even Central became much better. Political stability began to bring economic benefits. When you started economic development, some countries became industrialized powers and became important economic powers. This is the natural result of independence. Today in the Arab region, we have achieved minimal independence in political decisions in a limited number of countries. Conflict with the West is now a struggle to obtain this decision-making independence.
I believe that South America as a whole, Venezuela and President Chavez, and before him President Castro, are important role models. It is necessary to follow their example on the road to independence and freedom. Nations are trying to get rid of the hegemony of the West, which for many decades has been a direct colonization, and today it is an indirect colonization.
There is much in common in temperament, in emotions, in warmth, in feelings between the citizens of your country and ours. There are also similarities in our stories. There are many presidents in Latin America who can walk the path of Chávez today.
I would also like to highlight my friend and brother Maduro, the president I know. We had a number of meetings during my visit to Venezuela and during his visits to Syria. We are very pleased that the Venezuelan people decided to choose this person so that they continue the political line chosen by President Chávez. He is a strong and worthy leader who has a clear view of our region. I am sure that he will continue to lead Venezuela and lead it along the path of independence.
We all know that the United States and some of its allies had high hopes that without Chávez, Venezuela would return to the arms of America. But with the coming to power of President Maduro, these dreams have evaporated. I believe that we, the Arab states, should follow the path of Latin America if we want to leave a mark on the world and be independent and developed.
Telesur: Thank you very much, Mr. President, for all that you said. Answer the people of Latin America: will Syria remain unshakable? Will she achieve victory?
President: If we had other options, I would share them with you. But we have no choice but to hold on, because the political future of this region is related to what is happening in Syria. We not only defend Syria, we do not just defend our interests and principles. We protect the future of our children and the future of the entire region - and this region is the heart of the world. Instability in the Middle East undermines the stability of the whole world, even its remote areas. We can not treat such regions as Latin America, North America or East Asia as something far away. The modern world is a “big village,” and what happens in Syria will affect the surrounding areas. And what happens in these areas will affect remote parts of the world.
I do not want to say that we want the people of Latin America to support us only for this reason. They always support the Arab peoples with no less warmth and objectivity than our people living in this region. We hope that relations between us will be strengthened in order to increase the territory of independence and reduce the territory of colonization carried out by the West, in particular, the United States.
Telesur: Thank you very much, Mr. President. This was a special interview with President Bashar Al-Asad. Thanks to our friends in Latin America for their time with us. Be sure that our goal is to unite the nations.