The participation of Russian VKS in the antiterrorist operation in Syria can fundamentally change the balance of power not only in the Middle East, but throughout the world. And the attention of the entire international community has been riveted on the actions of Russia. They are mainly concerned about the United States, which has its own plan for Syria and does not agree with Moscow on the crucial issue of supporting the regime of Bashar al-Assad. Neighboring Turkey is also excited, which also plays a special role in this conflict.
Over the past weeks the actions of the Russian aviation generated a wave of discussions and rumors, the most common of which is that air strikes fall on the positions of the so-called moderate opposition, which is supported by the United States and its allies. To find out what the situation really is, how serious the terrorist threat is, and whether there are ways for a political settlement of the Syrian crisis, the newspaper VZGLYAD talked with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Syrian Arab Republic, Riad Haddad.
VIEW: The day before, US President Barack Obama said that the approach of Iran and Russia to the situation in Syria "did not work and would not work" because "the overwhelming majority of Syrians do not consider the regime (Bashar al-Assad) legitimate." What do you think about it? On which side are the Syrians?
Riad Haddad: First, no country has the right to interfere in the internal affairs of other states, active members of the UN. Secondly, any president gets legitimacy from his people, not from a third country. President Bashar Asad is the legitimate leader, and he went through a procedure of democratic elections last year. Then 80% of Syrians participating in the elections voted for him. Ballot boxes are a determining factor of democracy.
Many nations of the world recognized the elections. However, some countries continue to implement policies aimed at establishing hegemony in its favor, it is far from democratic principles. It does not concern us.
VIEW: On the eve of the Syrian army, launched an attack on the position of the IG, reported on the first successes. There are advances in the areas of Homs, Hama, Aleppo, Derr, Quneitra, etc. Perhaps these are the first major military successes of Syria in recent years. What is the role of the videoconferencing system in Russia? And why has Syria not previously requested assistance from Moscow?
R.Kh .: Real counter-terrorist operations in our country began after the Russian Air Force joined. Now we can say that operations against terrorists are organized.
Indeed, some might say that the request of the Syrian government to Moscow for assistance came with some delay. But Russia, unlike in many other countries throughout this time maintained relations with all parties to the crisis in Syria, as well as with regional and international players. Russia has stepped up its efforts to prevent the war in Syria. Moreover, Moscow has directed efforts to solve the Syrian problem through political means.
Let us recall at least Geneva-1 and the final communiqué of this international forum. Then Syria, at the initiative of Vladimir Putin, joined the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of weapons - approx. SIGHT). Negotiations continued at the Moscow-1 and Moscow-2 conferences. The peak of Russia's diplomatic and political activity in resolving the Syrian crisis was Vladimir Putin’s statement about creating a real anti-terrorist coalition with the participation of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Iraq and Turkey. Of course, the creation of such a coalition would be a miracle.
Some viewed this initiative as a manifestation of weakness. Therefore, the terrorists have stepped up their efforts against the Syrian army, which is fighting on the ground. DAISH (IG - approx. LOOK), “Dzhebhat al-Nusra”, “Jaish al-Fath” and “Jaish al-Islam” joined forces against us.
It was clear to the whole world that the ultimate goal of the terrorists is not only to destroy the Syrian government. There is another goal, and it is to destroy the axis of resistance, which consists of Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria and the resistance forces. Therefore, all countries have joined forces to win the war in Syria.
At that time, the Russian Federation was working to resolve the issue by political means and to give all parties the opportunity to find political ways out of the crisis. But ultimately, Russia realized that this terror, which sows fear in our country, will adversely affect the national security of the Russian Federation. Therefore, Moscow joined our operation - to help its allies in the face of Syria in the fight against terrorism.
VIEW: The Kurds are also fighting with IG in Syria. What role is now the Kurds have in the Syrian conflict? What are currently the relations between Kurds and the Syrian authorities, whether direct cooperation?
RH: The Kurds are an important component of society in Syria, the same as everyone else who lives on our territory. Naturally, we support the Kurds in confronting terrorists. We, through our army, arm them, so the actions of the Kurds against the terrorists were able to achieve success, and they managed to liberate several settlements. We constantly support them. At the moment they are fighting along with the Syrian army, and they are doing it actively.
Of course, our army and the government will support them as long as they do not have a desire to secede from Syria and the efforts of separatist sentiment. Because ultimately our government is working to preserve the territorial integrity of the state, independence and unity.
VIEW: Earlier, NATO expressed concern and called on Russia to “stop targeting moderate opposition” in Idlib, Hama and Homs. Who are these areas occupied with?
RH: First, I want to remind you that there are no moderate and unlimited terrorists. Terror is terror. Every person who holds weapons in his hands, sowing fear among civilians, is clearly a terrorist. Therefore, the Syrian army is fighting against those militants who hold weapons, kill people and join terrorist organizations.
This is about terror. As for the opposition, these are healthy elements of society. The opposition does not hold weapons and does not kill people. Our government is negotiating with the opposition in Syria. We met with them at Geneva-1, Geneva-2, as well as the Moscow-1 and Moscow-2 consultative meetings. The situation in Syria has two directions: the first track is the destruction of terrorists to the end, and the second track is political negotiations.
If we talk about the areas that you mentioned in your question, then there are militants of the IG, “Dzhebhat al-Nusra”, “Jaish al-Fatha” and “Jaish al-Islam”. And there is no "moderate opposition" against which military operations would be conducted by our armed forces or the forces of the Russian Federation. All these conversations are going on within the framework of the information war being waged by the West against Russia and Syria.
VIEW: A few more words about the opposition. Khalid Khoja, the leader of the National Coalition of Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (NCHROS), came to Moscow. People from the old school who worked with Hafez Asad were still alive were close to him. Is it possible to try to include people like Mustafa Tlas, Abdul Halim Haddam or their conditional followers in the dialogue? Do you need to have a dialogue with someone Damascus?
R.Kh .: The policy pursued by the West and the so-called international community is a mistake in relation to our region. When we participated in the Geneva-2 negotiations, the West declared that NKSROS is the only representative of the Syrian people. In Russia, it has always been stated that there is another opposition in Syria; therefore, it cannot be said that NKSROS is the only representative of the Syrian people. But for five years, the West cannot believe it.
Our land is open to Americans and their allies in the Arab countries that raise their planes and bombs without permission from Syrian territory to destroy our government. But we see that they have totally failed in this. The West tried to use the so-called moderate opposition, and even the radical opposition. They are arming them, gave them a training camp, funded them, but all to no avail.
“It was clear to the whole world that the ultimate goal of the terrorists is not only to destroy the government of Syria. There is another goal, and it is to destroy the axis of resistance, which consists of Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria "
That is why we say that the political track resolution of the Syrian crisis is the most important. We are always ready to cooperate with moderate forces that nationally oriented and really want to solve the crisis in our territory. President Bashar Assad has repeatedly said that he is ready to cooperate with the nationally oriented opposition, and not with the opposition, which is financed from abroad and pursuing narrow interests of foreign countries.
VIEW: From whom is the IG in Syria? And some groups, in addition to the IG, pose the greatest threat to the Syrian government?
RH: IG as a terrorist organization was created in Iraq. Naturally, no one thinks that such a huge organization like the IG was created in one day. Therefore, we declare that IG is a “subsidiary” of the West. He created it, prepared it, financed it and armed it - in order to expand its geographic territories on earth, and to threaten regimes in the region. As a result, the organization got out of the control of the West, and therefore they began to create threats to everyone.
They entered Syria from Iraq. They began to engage in slaughter, intimidation, began to force residents to leave their homes. Some other terrorist groups began to join the IG out of fear, so the force of the IG has grown. These are the groups that were supported by Saudi Arabia and Turkey - they financed them and gave them weapons, the strength of the IG grew because of this. She also increased her budget because she started selling oil illegally in the north of the country, with the support of Saudi Arabia.
VIEW: After Russia began to participate in the anti-terrorist operation, the Internet began to appear information about the fact that the country was anti-Russian sentiment. Were pickets, demonstrations, really?
R.Kh .: All this talk is going on within the framework of the information war of the West. This war began with the Ukrainian crisis, and its pace increased several times after Russia joined the operation in Syria. I want to confirm that all the Syrian people support the Russian operation, which aims to destroy the terrorists on our territory. And there is not a single Syrian who is against Russia's accession to this operation.
When the IG and Dzhebhat en Nusra began to flee under the pressure of Russian strikes in the direction of Turkey, some of them laid down their arms and surrendered to our army. Others were mostly killed. And civilians from villages liberated from terrorists took to the streets to greet our army. Women even removed the clothes that covered the whole body from top to bottom, showing that it was them who made them wear it. They greeted us very happily - as if people who were in prison and were released. Therefore, do not believe the propaganda machine of Western countries - this is a false information war.
VIEW: What is the role of Turkey in this conflict? Who is supported by Ankara and how does Syria relate to the idea of a “buffer zone” on the border with Turkey, which Turkey is lobbying?
R.Kh .: Unfortunately, the role of Turkey can be described as extremely negative in relation to our country. We have a border area of 900 km. They opened this border for the penetration of all the terrorists so that they would come and kill civilians here in Syria. They set up camps for their training.
One of their goals is to remove Kurds who live in cities and villages on the border with Turkey. They want to create a buffer zone so that anyone could live there - IS, Dzhebhat al-Nusra, and Jaish al-Islam, if only there were no Kurds. Therefore, Ankara is lobbying for the idea of a buffer zone, which, by the way, did not find a response either in Syria, or in the United States, or among Europeans, or in the Russian Federation. No one agrees with them. Syria denies this, and we will fight to the last drop of blood in order to destroy all the terrorists on our territory.
Everyone saw on TV a stream of refugees who rushed towards Europe. Where did they come from? They did not come from Syria. They are from those camps that Erdogan opened for them even before the crisis in Syria began. When no country agreed with Erdogan to create a buffer zone in Syria, he opened these camps so that the refugees would rush to Europe as an instrument of pressure on Europeans. So the refugee problem is not humanitarian. This is a political issue.
LOOK: In your opinion, how long will the anti-terrorist operation against the IG and other terrorists last? Do you think the option is possible that the United States, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar will manage to get Bashar Assad to leave?
RH: If the operation continues in this spirit and pace, then we will need several months. And if the so-called international community adheres to the UN decision and continues the fight against terrorism, then we will need even less than a few months.
I can tell you that the representatives of the United States and other Western countries are now in some confusion. Some said they agreed that President Assad would remain for a while, until he was finished with terrorism. Others say that he cannot be in power. But we absolutely do not pay attention to such statements. We want Mr. Bashar Assad to lead the country and govern the government in Syria. We will never accept dictation from the outside. Therefore, they can declare anything — we will not pay any attention to it.