DAMASCUS_ H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad underscored that the Syrians have no "alternative but victory" as to safeguard Syria from the "new form of colonialism".

In an hour length interview with the Syrian TV Wednesday evening, in tandem with Syria's Independence Day, President Al-Assad pointed out that Syria has been witnessing a "war" with all what this word entails, and not "security-related incidents", citing the flocking of foreign forces from different nationalities to the country.

H.E. President Al-Assad spoke of the western powers', led by the US, targeting of the Syrian strategic geopolitical position as to dominate it, providing every logistic support to, mercenary thieves, al-Qaeda, takfiris and al-Nusra front.

"the priority for us is always the humanitarian aspect as to protect the civilians and alleviate their suffering," said President Al-Assad, in reference to the ongoing operations by the Syrian hero Army, the title of  Syria's national unity and steadfastness, as to purge Syria from the foreign-backed Takfiris and terrorists.

President Al-Assad underlined that escalation is increased once success and accomplishments are achieved on the ground, in reference to the negative role of foreign factors in the crisis.

In reply to a question about Jordan's role in the events, President Al-Assad underscored the importance of stability in Syria, asserting that the "fire"  is to spread to neighboring countries and is never to stop at the borders of Syria, asserting the impossibility to believe that thousands of the armed to teeth men are able to enter Syria without any one of them being  arrested by Jordanian authorities, which are able at the same time to arrest but one resistance man entering to Palestine.

H.E. President Al-Assad reiterated that Syria is being the target for a foreign scheme under false mottos like "humanitarian intervention", "humanitarian responsibility" as to destroy the Syrian Man and the moral foundations of the Syrian Society.

Syria is never to knell down, surrender nor to be subjugated, underlined President Al-Assad, blasting the western hypocrisy and pleasure over the flocking of al-Qaeda terrorist to Syria as to destroy Syria and down scale pressures on the west in other regions, asserting that those who support al-Qaeda in Syria would pay the price in the heart of Europe and the United States.

"Everyone who carries arms and uses them against civilians is but a terrorist. Al-Qaeda is now the prevailing case in Syria,'' said H.E. President Al-Assad, lashing out at the US labeling  of some terrorists as "moderate" and at the western support for terrorists in Syria and Libya while fighting terrorists in Mali!

In reply to another question about the involvement of some Arab countries in the conspiracy against Syria, H.E. President Al-Assad asserted that these countries aren't independent, and don't own their decision, which is but of their US master, and that they  do need legitimacy.

Regarding the Turkish role in the ongoing crisis in Syria, President Al-Assad pointed out that the political failure of Turkish government of Erdogan has changed his country from "zero-problems" into zero-morals, zero-politics, zero-vision, zero-credibility and zero-friends, and that Erdogan would offer all of his country for his own interests.

In reply to a question about national dialogue, H.E. President Al-Assad pointed out that the coming National Dialogue Conference is part of the political solution and the ongoing consultations sessions held by the ad-hoc committee, chaired by the Premier, are to define how to start the dialogue with everyone who didn't sell his/her homeland for money, didn't talk with Israel, and who didn't bet on the independence of Syria.

"dialogue isn't between the State and other sides; it is among all spectra of the Syrian Society. The State is to implement the outcomes of the dialogue,'' declared H.E. President Al-Assad.


President Al-Assad added that all issues are open for the dialogue except those pertaining to foreign intervention, Syrian independence, and to standing with terrorists.

"opposition is an elected one with a popular base," said President Al-Assad, questioning the presence of popular support to those who claim to be opposition and represent only themselves.

President Al-Assad pointed out that opposition should be an independent one as to be national.

Not all the opposition is a national one, underscored H.E. President Al-Assad, asserting that those who fluctuate and change their colors like a chameleon aren't national opposition.

President Al-Assad, answering a question about the Syrian Kurds, asserted that they are a fundamental and original component of Syria and for centuries, citing the presence of many hero martyrs among them , and the recent measures taken, including nationality, language and literature.

In reply to another question, president Al-Assad pointed out that secularism means freedom of religion, which is but manners, citing the building of 18000 thousand mosques in Syria since 1970, and 220 religious schools, asserting that those who are committed to religion, Moslems and Christians, are most nationalists.

In reply to another question, H.E. President Al-Assad highly appreciated the awareness and steadfastness of the Syrian cohesive and united society, and People, the essence of Syria, asserting that the popular support of the Syrians can only decide its leadership and that the strength of the State  is but derived from the strength of the Syrian people.

H.E. President Al-Assad voiced his optimism, derived from the Syrian People, and his meetings with the Syrians and the great  Martyrs families who are ever ready to offer the more sacrifices for Syria.


Here is the full text of the Interview


Question: Good evening to our viewers from the heart of the Syrian capital, Damascus. Tonight we bring you an exclusive interview with Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. Mr President welcome to al-Ikhbariya TV station.

 President Assad: It is a pleasure for me to be here.

 Question: Today is our National Day. What is your message to the Syrian people on this occasion, especially in light of the current situation in Syria?

 President Assad: Simply put, National Day is usually associated with the evacuation of foreign forces from any country. But what if occupying forces leave and take with them our national sovereignty? Well then, independence becomes irrelevant. Free people on occupied land, is a far better situation, than suppressed people on liberated land. Real independence can only be achieved when there are no foreign forces on national territory and when a country regains its full sovereignty. This is how we should interpret independence and sovereignty – in the broadest sense. I believe that the situation in Syria is a form of neo-colonialism but with new means and resources. There is an attempt to invade Syria with forces from different nationalities, instead of using national armies, as was the case with the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is also an attempt to invade Syria culturally and intellectually. Pressure is being applied in two forms: the first is to force Syria into a state of submission to global powers, particularly Western powers; the second is to subject it to obscurantist ideologies. Since we were children, this day has always been a symbol of national pride. I believe that, in these times more than ever before, we need to hold onto the real meaning of national sovereignty and independence. That way, we can insure that our National Day will always symbolize a proud history and a dignified presence.

 Question: With regards to the current events in Syria, the situation has evolved from sporadic security incidents, to what you yourself have described, as a war. What exactly is happening in Syria today? How would you describe it?

 President Assad: As you said, in the beginning, the crisis did take the form of various security incidents. But in fact what is happening now is a war. Even though some people still refuse to see it as such, it is a war in every sense of the word. Some large powers, mainly Western and led by the United States, have not historically been inclined to deal with independent nations. Even if they are European, they are required to be submissive, so what can we expect for third world or small countries? At the same time, Syria occupies a very important geopolitical position. The desire to control Syria is both a historical and typical component of the policies of colonialist powers. In the beginning, the role of these powers was primarily to mobilise political and public opinion. This soon evolved into material and logistical support and we also have reason to believe that they are now supplying armaments. There are countries in the region, Arab and others like Turkey for instance, which have bartered a position for themselves on the Arab and Islamic arena through their ostensible support for the Palestinian cause. It appears that this position has gone far beyond the boundaries allowed by their masters - the large powers, thus forcing them to find a credible retreat. Syria’s transparent position on different issues, including the Palestinian issue and the cause of rights and dignity, exposes these countries and is a source of embarrassment for them. The Syrian crisis has become a matter of political life or death for these countries and that is why they have used all their might to strike at the Syrian state and people. There are also internal factors of course. There are groups of looters and mercenaries who receive money from foreign countries in return for destroying infrastructure and carrying out acts of sabotage. There are also other groups like al-Qaeda or Jabhat al-Nusra that all fall under one category. We have been very successful in neutralizing the first group. Those left behind have taken refuge within the al-Qaeda subsets and we are now primarily dealing with these al-Qaeda groups.

Question: Mr. President, you have said that Syria is a source of embarrassment for them and so try to cover their failures by harping on bogus claims. There is a lot of talk about Syria being embroiled in a sectarian conflict; and some have spoken of specific incidences. Mr President, frankly speaking, are you concerned about sectarianism emerging in Syria?

 President Assad: In every society there are pockets of people, limited in their thinking with weak patriotic sentiments. These groups appear in all crises and do a great deal of harm with their actions and ideologies. The harm may not be widespread but they do impact certain areas. This is what happened in Syria in the 1980s during the crisis caused by the Muslim Brotherhood. They also used sectarian ideology at that time. Despite the fact that there were no satellite TV stations and no Internet, they were nevertheless able to promote sectarian thinking. But when the Muslim Brotherhood was defeated, the Syrian society returned to its original nature. In such a case, we need to place our bets on people’s awareness. In fact, the only bet is people’s awareness; and the Syrian people have proven during the unprecedented past two years, that they are highly intelligent and aware of what is being hatched against them. Had this not been the case, we would have seen a completely different situation in Syria. As a straightforward response, I can say, without exaggeration, that the situation in Syria now is better than it was at the beginning of the crisis. At the beginning of the crisis, sectarian discourse was used and tried to spread in certain areas. There was a great deal of concern, and many people lost their balance over this issue. With time, people became more aware of the dangers of what was happening, and they better understood the falsifications they had been fed by the media. They started to gain a better understanding of the real Syria we used to live in and realized the value of the safety, security and harmony, which we used to enjoy – I use the word harmony not coexistence because it is more accurate. That’s why I can say now that for this great Syrian people to stand their ground for two years in the face of this fierce media campaign using satellite TV stations to promote takfiri ideas, division and sectarianism, this means that the Syrian people are a great people and that there’s no need for concern in this regard.

 Question: Within this context Mr. President, are you not concerned about such ideas being promoted and sometimes instilled in people’s minds?

 President Assad: Not at all. I see it completely the opposite. If we take the example of a vaccination, it is a weak form of a virus. If it does not kill, it gives immunity. We have been through many difficult episodes, which have enforced our national unity. The most recent was the martyrdom of Dr. al-Bouti, who was mourned by everybody from all sects, without exception, as was evident in the spontaneous gatherings that were organised by the public to share their grief. The state was not involved in these gatherings nor had Dr al-Bouti known all these people, yet the sadness was not only felt by Muslims, but also by our Christian brothers and sisters; this is clear national unity. These isolated groups of shortsighted and narrow-minded individuals do not frighten us. They do not concern me at all.

 Question: Mr. President, frankly speaking, recently we have been hearing many Arab and international commentators in the media claiming that there are areas that have been liberated, i.e. outside the control of the state; we see the situation in Aleppo, in Raqqa and in Homs sometimes. Are there really areas outside the control of the Syrian state today?

 President Assad: Sometimes this issue is addressed from a military perspective in the same way that we would deal with a typical enemy. When an enemy invades and tries to occupy a piece of land, the national army attacks, defends the land and expels the enemy. It doesn’t matter whether the enemy is destroyed or not, it may withdraw without being completely destroyed; what is important in this case is the liberation of the land. But the situation today is completely different. This is a new type of war with new methods. We are dealing with groups of fighters – foreign, Arab and Syrian – that go into cities and neighborhoods and carry out acts of sabotage and terrorism. At the beginning, the Syrian armed forces focused on expelling these groups from the cities, sometimes taking only a few hours. We soon learned that these terrorists leave – either fleeing or tactically - one place, only to enter another. This means that you spend all your time expelling terrorists in an endless manner. To be precise, it is inaccurate to talk about liberated areas, because we are not conducting military operations to liberate lands. We are in the process of expunging terrorists, and there’s a big difference between the two cases. If we do not eliminate the terrorists, it is meaningless to liberate any areas in Syria. By understanding this point, we can understand what is happening on the ground. Also, there is another aspect: when the armed forces develop military plans, they take into account a number of factors, including the political and media significance of the area, humanitarian considerations and the suffering of the civilians, and military and logistical details. Our priority, in the armed forces, is always the humanitarian side: protecting people's lives and alleviating the suffering in the areas infiltrated by terrorists. We do not give any priority to the political and media considerations, meaning that sometimes the other side is able to take advantage of this, but that doesn’t matter. What is important is the reality on the ground. Sometimes by ignoring the media aspect, it gives them an opportunity create the illusion of victory on the ground; this doesn’t concern us. Unfortunately though, there are times when the nature of the battle does not permit the alignment of military and humanitarian priorities, albeit temporarily. So aside from the nature of the battle, for us the priority is always the humanitarian aspect.


Question: The problem is that there is a lot of talk amongst the public of geographical divisions, or sectarian divisions. Is this really the case, or is it within the framework of frightening people as part of psychological warfare, which, we all know, is a major component of the war in Syria right now?


President Assad: I don’t think that there are real foundations for division. Division needs certain religious, sectarian or ethnic boundaries. In reality, these lines do not exist. The Syrian society is integrated in every region of Syria. Sometimes we can even find this integration in tiny villages and farmlands, which are so small they do not appear on administrative maps. We can also see this integration in marriages between families. It is difficult to have divisions with all this assimilation. But I believe that the maps that are being published or promoted in various ways and are directed at Syrians at all levels are part of the psychological warfare attempting to create what I have often called a ‘virtual’ defeat or an illusionary defeat. By sending these messages they aim to slowly coerce Syrians into believing that they will no longer be able to live together in a unified country and that they are a divided people by nature. Since the attempts at sectarian division found no foundations, and they were the more dangerous, I am not concerned by these maps, ideas or any other attempts at division.


Question: But Mr. President, there is talk about separation between major cities and surrounding rural areas, Aleppo being an example; and in the northern and northeastern regions, like Raqqa and Qamishli. There is also talk that these areas are outside the control of the authorities, and possibly completely separated from the rest of Syria. Does your description and assessment apply to these regions as well?


President Assad: No this is not for the purpose of division. These so called divisions have not been formulated along ethnic or religious lines, but rather by the presence of terrorists. If we want to talk about state control in terms of state presence, there is no area that the armed forces attempted to enter and failed. So, there are no fixed lines. This is why I have said that for us the humanitarian and military priorities come first; they determine our presence and what military tactics we use. We should look at Syria as a whole in the same way we look at communicating vessels or pounding utensils. If we pour a liquid into some of the vessels and connect them with pipes, we find that the level in certain vessels has an affect on the levels in the others. The same applies to the terrorists. When they are hit in a certain area, this has a direct and positive impact on other areas. Military tactics sometimes force intervention in one area before the other, or require you to be present in one place before the next. These delays are purely due to military considerations and have nothing to do with the issue of division or buffer zones.


Question: Turkey seems to be heading towards a crisis on the Kurdish issue. There is talk that Erdogan might give a state to the Kurds, that he might make concessions on certain demands and in the end divide Turkey. The Kurds will be given their right to a state in return for paving the way for Erdogan to run for the presidency. What is the situation is Syria, particularly with regards to the Kurds?


President Assad: As you imply in the first part of your question, Erdogan, is prepared to offer his whole country in return for his personal ambitions. As for the Kurds in Syria, I want to repeat what I have always said on this issue. The Kurds in Syria are a natural and essential part of the fabric of our society. Like the Arabs, the Turks, the Persians and others who live in this region, they have been here for centuries. They are not guests and their presence is not fleeting. Most of the Kurds in Syria are Syrian patriots, but as in every society, there are those opportunists who seek to use certain causes for their own personal gain. We have a number of groups that call themselves Kurdish parties in Syria, yet they have always patronized other Kurds. They consistently attempt to create a Kurdish issue relating to the alleged oppression of the Kurds in Syria, which is not the case at all. They have tried to use the issue of naturalization for some time – well 2 years ago, about 110,000 Kurds were naturalized and granted Syrian nationality. They then shifted gear and started to talk about the language – as part of the measures taken, the Syrian government has added the Kurdish language and literature as one of the subjects taught at Syrian faculties and universities. So as I said they are always looking for an angle to use to create a position for themselves on the national arena; this is evident from time to time, but does not cause us any concern. The majority of the Kurds consider Syria to be their homeland. In order not to be accused of being too romantic, I won’t go back in time and detail their fighting role in the Syrian revolution against French colonization, but rather focus on their role in the current situation. Many of the families of the martyrs I have met have been Kurds. This became apparent during our conversations rather than being a prerequisite for the meeting. Many times I have heard how proud they were that their sons and husbands were Kurds yet had died fighting for Syria. Is it possible for someone who does not believe in this homeland and who seeks separation, to sacrifice his own life or the life of his children for this nation? This is illogical.


Question: Mr. President, allow us to talk about this highly sensitive issue. We have been observing the policies of the Turkish government and they have played many cards. It is said that the Kurdish card is the last in Erdogan’s hand and that he won’t give it up easily. He will be fiercer so that it gives him some advantage in Syria at least. It is striking that he seeks settlement at this particular time. To what extent is the Syrian government keeping an eye on this issue and what are you preparing in the eventuality of a clash?


President Assad: This is an important issue and cannot be oversimplified. Erdogan has both an internal and an external objective. The external objective, as you suggest, is Syria. Even though the Kurdish issue in Syria differs completely from that in Turkey, he aims to use it to apply pressure on Syria. In the history of our relationship with the Kurds, we have never perpetrated massacres against them or oppressed the Kurds in the way that they have been since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire: so the situation in Syria is completely different. In Syria, there is full harmony and brotherhood. It is only in the last few decades that this issue has been stoked in Syria by opportunistic forces. Despite this, our relationship with the Kurds is good, including the Kurdish parties that have been fighting for their rights in Turkey. The other objective Erdogan seeks to achieve is internal. He incurred political losses inside Turkey on the backdrop of his failure in what was called the ‘zero problems’ policy. The zero problems turned into zero policies, zero vision, zero friends, zero credibility and zero moral values. He gained zeros in every domain except zero problems. He lost a great deal, even among those loyal to him, so it was inevitable that he use the Kurdish issue to his advantage; maybe in order to benefit from the large Kurdish population bloc in the next constitution through which he is hoping to become president of the republic with broad powers. However, Erdogan has a problem of credibility in relation to the Kurdish question, amongst those active in this area in both Syria and Turkey; they don't trust Erdogan. This is why we are interested in these developments, because whatever happens in any neighboring country, whilst may not necessarily cause concern, but it will affect us - both positively and negatively.


Question: There are two contradictory points the Syrian state has been accused of recently. One view is that the state is secular and anti-religion; whilst the other view implies that Syria has retracted from its secular foundations in order to cope with the recent developments, and that it has become even more religious. What is the reality, Mr. President?


President Assad: We are always bogged down by terminology and do not discuss the substance of the term. By this I mean that we get bogged down with the definitions rather than focus on the practice. For instance, there have been different kinds of socialism, but they all had the same name. There are those that practice secularism as non-religion and turn against religion, as was the case in Turkey during different periods. And there is secularism, as we understand it to be freedom of belief. We are a diverse society, so the followers of every religion or creed have the freedom to worship in the way they deem appropriate. This means that as a state, we do not discriminate on the basis of religion. For instance, when people apply for government jobs, we do not ask them their religion; this doesn’t concern us. Neither do we concern ourselves with the ethnic origin of individuals. We shouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion or ethnicity. I think this practice of secularism is positive and beneficial. So long as it is not hostile to religion or the freedom of belief, it means that this type of secularism supports religions and does not fight them. Religions uphold moral values, and since we are in need of values, then we are in need of religion. Take development for instance. Many people have often asked why development is delayed or obstructed in certain places. The answer is that we need to look at development as a set of collective moral values as defined by laws, rather than just a set of laws. In areas where there are no moral values, society cannot develop. To be secular is not to discriminate. It does not mean that I cannot be a Muslim believer or a Christian believer. This is a wrong perception. Exactly the same as the perceived contradiction between pan-Arabism and Islam, in other words that you should be either an Arab nationalist or a Muslim. No, I am an Arab and a Muslim, an Arab and a Christian; so there’s no contradiction between the two concepts. But to answer those who claim we have abandoned secularism and embraced religion, well then since 1970, how can one explain that 18,000 mosques, 220 sharia schools and tens of institutes for training religious preachers have been built. More importantly, if we say that to be secular is to be against religion, as interpreted by some countries, in our instance this is impossible because the state is a mirror image of society. If society is religiously committed, the state is bound to be based on religious foundations. You can’t have an irreligious state and a religious society in the same country and vice versa. So, we are a mirror image of our society, and consequently neither proposition is true or accurate. This shows a lack of understanding of the truth and the real meaning of the Syrian state and secularism in Syria.


Question: But Mr. President, we are talking about decisions and measures taken during the crisis. The government approved a religious TV station and allowed female preachers to practice publically.


President Assad: This issue has been raised several times, whether with me directly during meetings with the public or in our written media. Unfortunately it reflects an ignorance of those who write unreliable articles. These examples you cite have nothing to do with the crisis at all. In fact, the first warning signs or alarm bells were sounded after the invasion of Iraq, particularly in 2004 when elements of extremism started to surface in Syria. At that time, they were in the form of extremist individuals or extremist thought passing through Syria; it started in Iraq, moved to Lebanon, and then tried to spread in Syria. At that time we fought it primarily through security measures. The first worrying incident was the attack on the Syrian radio and television building in 2006 by a number of brainwashed individuals who had been told by their Wahhabi extremist sheikh that the building was a magnet for corruption and atheism; so they attacked it. But the more serious alarm bell sounded when the first suicide bombing happened in Syria in 2008, during Ramadan, and was perpetrated by Syrians. That was a significant warning sign. On the backdrop of that suicide bombing, I met a number of leading religious scholars in Syria and we discussed the issue. We agreed that the security response to the problem was no longer sufficient. This type of terrorism was, first and foremost, ideological and could only be dealt with in the same manner. Terrorism or religious extremism can only be fought with true religion, all other methods would follow as complimentary to this. In this regard, a number of ideas were proposed, and one of them was the Nour al-Cham TV station. Of course at the time it wasn’t called Nour al-Cham. We needed to find a way to counter the takfiri TV stations that had started to invade the satellites in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Why did it take from 2008 to 2011? In the beginning, the idea was for the TV station to be launched by the private sector; for different reasons there were delayed, and so the government took the decision to launch it as a comprehensive and inclusive TV station. Also in 2008, the issue for female preachers was part of the same set of measures, particularly since female preachers were working covertly at that time, mainly in homes and hence were not officially recognized. Since these calls for religion are not aimed at politicizing religion they are positive and should be officially recognized by the state to ensure the correct supervision and prevent any attempts to politicize or sabotage the calling. The experience proved to be constructive and beneficial. These measure and others had nothing at all to do with the crisis. On the contrary, from the outset of the crisis, the religious institutions have proven to be the most disciplined in Syria, and the most devout Muslims or Christians, have proven to be the most patriotic during this crisis. Those who talked about sectarianism did not belong to these institutions. They belonged to one of two categories: either they had deviated from religion towards religious extremism or they had gone to the other extreme and embraced atheism.


Question: Mr. President, if we remain with the domestic issues, I would like to talk about the political dialogue. The government was mandated to conduct the three stages of this political dialogue. It has started to implement the first stage, which is focused on putting an end to the violence and preparing the ground for dialogue, and is conducting consultations in this regard. But Mr. President, the Syrian street is not clear on the limitations of the dialogue or on its guidelines, whether in relation to issues or individuals. Also it is not clear whom this dialogue will ultimately be with?


President Assad: There is a great deal of confusion, on the part of Syrian citizens, as to what is happening in relation to the dialogue. First, there is a national dialogue conference, which is part of the political solution I talked about in my speech in January. This dialogue is not between the state and other parties. It is a dialogue between the different sections of Syrian society, particularly the political players, on the future of Syria. What is the desired political system? Is it a parliamentary system, a presidential system, something in between or any other system? What about the constitution, political laws, media laws and other related issues? The state will implement what the participants in that conference agree on. At the moment, the ministerial committee headed by the prime minister is meeting different stakeholders in Syria. Some people have mistakenly believed this to be the dialogue. These consultative meetings are aimed at deciding how we should begin the dialogue. Who should be invited to the national dialogue conference and on what basis? How should they be represented - by one individual or tens of individuals? Should their representation be based on the number of members in each political party? Tribes, communities - who should be invited? There is no final agreement yet, however we did not want to answer these questions based entirely on the views of the state, we wanted to engage everyone. Through these consultations, we are trying to bring this dialogue to maturity. How should an issue be proposed for discussion? How do we vote on it? There are many other details. If we go into the national dialogue conference without clear answers to these questions, it will fail even before it starts. There is another issue. Regardless of this initiative, we have often stated that we are prepared to conduct a dialogue with any party, but with whom can we engage? We are prepared to engage with those who are concerned for Syria, all those who haven’t had any public or secret dealings with Israel, all those who haven’t flirted with Israel, all those who have not received money in return for selling their homeland, and all those who uphold Syria’s independence. These are the general principles. For me, they are the principles of patriotism.


Question: You mean the patriotic opposition?


Mr. President: Patriotic opposition, in the sense the term is used now, has taken on an entirely different meaning. Unfortunately, since the beginning of the crisis, some people with an inferiority complex and others who have felt defeated internally, have been peddling patriotism free of charge to everyone. Everybody refers to them as patriotic opposition. Let’s cite some examples. There are those that appear on television using a different language for every channel and a different language for every stage. Is this patriotic opposition or unprincipled opposition? It cannot be patriotic without being consistent. The state has been using the same language from day one of the crisis. We have stated that we are fighting terrorism, fighting those who are trying to interfere in our internal affairs from the outside, that we reject hegemony, and at the same time, that our doors are open to dialogue. There are forces that rejected dialogue in the beginning, but later agreed to get involved. If they were wrong in the beginning, let them acknowledge that they were mistaken, that their assessment was wrong. When we left Lebanon, I made a speech in 2005 and said we were wrong, that we had made mistakes in Lebanon. In my speech at the beginning of the crisis I said that mistakes had been made. They, however, only change their discourse. I’m not mentioning any names. Do they change their words, because they have been paid and that dictates which language they use? I am very clear and frank, is it because this person or this party was betting on a certain outcome, that the state would fall within weeks and months, and consequently didn't want to get involved with those who would fall? They wanted to book a place with the newcomers, as some people used to think. Some remained silent when the terrorist acts started, didn’t condemn the terrorism but rather looked for justifications for the terrorists? Some didn’t support the army. All states and all peoples around the world are proud of their armed forces because they represent national unity and all its components. Some confronted the army instead of supporting it, in a crisis that targeted the army before it targeted anything else, again because it is a symbol of our national unity and steadfastness? All those who have fluctuating positions and take on different colors like a chameleon cannot be considered as patriotic. We need to ask some obvious questions. A person, who in the past could barely make a living, is seen today traveling from one place to another and staying in luxurious hotels; who is funding such people and groups? Let’s be candid, there’s no room for diplomatic language now, who is funding them? If there is funding, and certainly there is, it means that their decision has been sequestered by those who are paying them. So, how can they be patriotic when their decisions are made for them outside Syria? Additionally, every opposition remaining outside the country voluntarily – because they will tell you that they are staying outside forcibly – those who are staying out voluntarily, particularly in times of crisis, cannot be patriotic. Even if you are an expatriate, you should come back to stand with your country, particularly if you lecture others on television about patriotism. How can you claim to be patriotic when you are a runaway abroad? Where is the patriotism in that? You call on people to mobilise themselves and lecture them on patriotism, whilst they suffer on a daily basis in Syria and you are living comfortably outside the country; God knows who is providing that comfort. There are many questions that need to be asked and that’s why I’m talking at length about this issue. These questions need to be raised before we categorise people as belonging to patriotic opposition. In this issue, there’s no place for pleasantries or hypocrisy. We should call traitors as traitors, proxies of foreign powers as proxies, defeatists as defeatists, and the unpatriotic as unpatriotic. It is not true that all the opposition is patriotic. As to opposition per se, how do we define it? If we have a million Syrian individuals opposing the policies of the state, does that mean that they constitute an opposition? We cannot conduct dialogue with a million people; neither can we involve a million people in a government. Opposition, in the political sense, in all countries around the world, is an elected opposition with a popular base. For those who identify themselves as opposition, where are the elections that have identified the size of your support? As I said, many questions need to be asked before we identify the opposition. If the question is with whom we should engage in a dialogue, the answer is that we have political parties in Syria. Yes, they are still emerging parties, but they are patriotic parties. They do not assume different colors under different circumstances. They have not sold themselves to the outside. There are patriotic forces inside the country, and there are numerous patriotic Syrians. The situation is not confined to those who call themselves opposition or those who have appointed themselves as patriotic opposition and claim to represent the people, whilst we all know that they only represent themselves.


Question: So, the guidelines and the principles of the dialogue are clear. Will the political system in Syria remain presidential or will it become a parliamentary system?


President Assad: All the guidelines are open to discussion. There are no red lines except Syria’s independence meaning no foreign interference in any internal issue – this is not open for discussion. The other red line is support for terrorists; we have no tolerance for those who support terrorists and their activities. Otherwise, there is no problem with either a parliamentary system or a presidential system. This will be decided by the people. As far as we are concerned, we will endorse whatever decision the people make.


Question: Including the office of the President, I mean even you yourself, Mr. President?


President Assad: The office I hold is one thing, the individual I am is another! What I mean is that the position is part of a political system, which like any other, defines the authorities of every office. So when a political system changes, the authorities are bound to change, including those of the President. As to the discussions revolving around the President as an individual, this is very different from the powers he exercises. I have often said that anybody who seeks office for their own benefit is despicable. Public office should always be considered as a means to an end and not the end goal. Our goals should be based on our vision for a better Syria, the required programs to realize that vision and most importantly, mobilizing the right public support to achieve these two components. From the beginning the story being spun by foreign media channels, especially hostile ones – Arab or otherwise, is that the problem in Syria is not driven by foreign intervention or the spread of extremism and terrorism, but rather that it stems from a President rejected by the people, who is willing to do anything, even killing innocent civilians, to cling to power; hence the need for him to step down. In fact, the office is of no real significance. Without popular public support, the office itself offers very little. So instead of fighting for the position, one should focus on fighting for popular support and public approval. Ultimately, only the people can decide whether a President remains in office or not.


Question: Some people have floated the idea of negotiating with the regime rather than conducting a dialogue with the regime. We understood from some Syrian officials that they have rejected this concept. What is your understanding of the concept of negotiations with the regime?


President Assad: Any country, state, society or homeland is like a family. When the family comes together, they do not negotiate, they engage in dialogue. So, when we sit with each other as Syrians, we engage in a dialogue and say that there is a dialogue among Syrians. We do not say that there are negotiations between Syrians. If some see themselves as foreign then they can say that they want to negotiate; if they see themselves as being attached to foreign powers, as is the case for some people, then they can talk about negotiations. But there are principles and determinants before this can be accepted. Usually, you negotiate with your peers. If you are a state, you negotiate with a state; a state does not negotiate with individuals. If you are a party, you negotiate with parties; you do not negotiate with individuals. If you are a party with a popular base, you do not negotiate with individuals who call themselves parties or movements but have no popular base. When you talk about negotiations, you need a certain kind of parity. So those who propose the idea of negotiations need to identify themselves, whether they are Syrians conducting dialogue with other Syrians or foreigners; and they need to identify whom they represent.


Question: A quick round on regional affairs. John Kerry made a tour of the region, Israel apologized to Turkey, the Lebanese government resigned and Tammam Salam was asked to form a new government. What is striking is the current situation in Daraa and what has been said of the Jordanian role in these events. Are the diplomatic activities and the political developments taking place in the region and the events on the ground mere coincidences?


President Assad: I believe that there is a consensus that what is happening now is not a coincidence. I believe that if you were to ask anybody in the region in general, and in Syria in particular, even if they were not politically informed, they would say that all these events are related and that the master orchestrating all these developments is one. It is clear from the media, this is not a covert act. Obama visited the region; Kerry visited the same countries concerned with this escalation, especially in relation to what’s happening in Daraa. If we connect these together, they signify two things: first that the foreign factor is essential in what has happened in Syria from day one, although it has been difficult to convince people of this. Second, the more successes we achieve, the more escalation we will see because the foreign powers will not give up. So, I agree, what has happened is not a coincidence, but it would be a mistake not to expect this or not to see it with the clarity it merits.


Question: Mr. President, can we talk about Jordan. There has been increasing talk about Jordan becoming a major player in the war against Syria, training camps, meeting facilities and the hosting of the military leadership of the terrorist groups on Jordanian territory, as well as large numbers of arms and armed groups entering Syria through the Jordanian borders. It could be said that the situation in Daraa has gone back to square one after a period of calm. What is the reality about the role Jordan is playing?


President Assad: We have received a lot of information from official sources, some through the media, and others through diplomatic and security channels. They all point in the same direction. Less than 2 months ago, we sent a political envoy from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on an unannounced visit to discuss this information with Jordanian officials and to warn them of the dangers and that was is happening won’t be limited to Syria alone. Of course all we heard were denials of the information presented. Events escalated in Daraa, and thousands of armed individuals entered with their armaments and ammunition from Jordan. Less than a month ago, we sent a security attaché to meet with their counterparts in Jordan to discuss the information available to us. Again all we heard was total denial on their part about any Jordanian involvement in what was happening. Let’s assume for a moment that there are no camps and that all the information we received about training camps is unverified. However, what is verified and certain, based on the confessions of terrorists and from what we can see on the ground, is that they are coming through the Jordanian borders. It is impossible to believe that thousands are entering Syria with their armaments and equipment supposedly without being seen by the Jordanians, while in the past they have been able to arrest one individual carrying a simple weapon wanting to join the resistance in Palestine. This is not convincing at all. We hope that those Jordanian officials, who do not realize the dangers of the situation in Syria and what it means for Jordan and other countries, are more careful in assessing the situation, because the fire will not stop at our borders and everyone knows that Jordan is as susceptible to these events as Syria. We hope that they learn from the lessons we learned from the period of the Muslim Brotherhood - that dangerous period. We hope that they learn what the Iraqi officials have learned, because they fully understand the importance of stability in Syria, and they publicly state this, regardless of the differences that existed between us in the past. As a result of this awareness and the lessons learned, the Iraqi’s are very aware that the fire in Syria will inevitably spread to neighboring countries. This is what we hope for.


Question: Mr. President, governments in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and most of the Gulf countries, a certain faction in Lebanon, governments in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Can they all be wrong and you right?


President Assad: Let’s put the question differently. Since 2000, these countries used to meet during the Arab Summits, which we also attended. We met on the backdrop of the second Palestinian Intifada and then at different junctures: when Iraq was invaded, we met for the Middle East project and the Road Map, we met on the backdrop of the US victory in Iraq as it was portrayed then. And of course there were the Arab Summits that were held on the background of the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006 and then in 2008 on Gaza. In all of these junctures, did you as an Arab citizen or you as a Syrian citizen, have any confidence in these summits? Did you not hear all types of condemnation from the Arab street on every one of these summits and on all of us Arab officials sitting in those halls? Based on your question, we should ask ourselves - can 300 million Arabs be wrong and a few scores of Arab officials be right? I think this gives us a clear answer. The second point, concerning these countries you referred to. We shouldn’t blame them because they’re not independent, they don’t make their own decisions. Some of them exist because of the power of their American masters, others have come into existence through NATO. Some are very vulnerable; they have a lot of instability and their people are not satisfied with them. They lack legitimacy and are not in a position to bestow legitimacy. As I said a few days ago, the Arab League as a whole needs legitimacy. But let’s throw all of this out, for a simple reason – none of them mean anything to us. The only entity that has the right to determine whether we are right or wrong is the Syrian people. I personally, and every other Syrian official, am accountable to the Syrian people. The Syrian people can determine whether we did the right thing or the wrong thing. No other party concerns us.


Question: If we take Iraq for instance, al-Qaeda in Iraq recently announced that it has merged with Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria. In return, Jabhat al-Nusra has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda’s leader Aiman al-Zawahiri. Mr. President, whom are we fighting today in Syria? Are we fighting al-Qaeda, armed terrorist groups, or moderate fighters?


President Assad: Anybody carrying an illegal weapon and using it to assault innocent civilians is a terrorist, regardless of whether they belong to al-Qaeda or any other group. Whilst it is possible to differentiate between al-Qaeda affiliated and non-al-Qaeda affiliated, the predominant group in Syria today is the al-Qaeda affiliated, Jebhat al-Nusra. As to the term ‘moderate fighters’ this is an attempt by the Americans to justify their actions to the American people. After 9/11, the United States waged a costly war against the Taliban, only to discover several years later that it had actually achieved very little in Afghanistan; America’s losses were huge, hatred towards America continues to grow and terrorism is becoming even more widespread. The only way to justify a dialogue with these groups, and possibly play them against each other, was to introduce the notion of ‘good’ Taliban and ‘bad’ Taliban. The same is being done today with ‘moderate’ terrorists. There are no moderate terrorists, just terrorists. The terminology used to describe them – armed insurgents, armed opposition – is an attempt to portray this conflict to the American people, as a conflict between an oppressed people and a dictator. However, today it is crystal clear that they are in fact terrorists with extremist ideologies. In the end, the only way for the Americans to justify their logistical, military and financial support, - aptly labeled non-lethal aid or humanitarian aid, - is by coining the term ‘moderate fighters.’


Question: But you mentioned earlier that al-Qaeda is the predominant group in Syria in terms of numbers and armaments. In that case, is the West arming and funding al-Qaeda. How can we understand this?


President Assad: In reality, the West’s enemy one day is easily their ally the next. They do not have a problem switching sides when it suits their interests. Mali is a clear case in point. They are fighting al-Qaeda in Mali, yet supporting al-Qaeda in Syria and in Libya. In Mali today the West is fighting the same groups it once supported in Libya; these same extremists groups are fighting in Syria today. This is what is called double standards, even triple standards or quadruple standards. Even if there are a thousand standards, they don’t mind using them. They are happy to play any card against a country not meeting their requirements. Therefore, they are quite happy with al-Qaeda coming into Syria for two reasons. Firstly, it removes some of these elements from other parts of the world where they are fighting them – Libya, Mali, Afghanistan – and so alleviating some of the military pressure on their forces. Secondly, the fighting in Syria causes a lot of destruction. So regardless of who wins in the end, whether it is the state, al-Qaeda or any other group, Syria will pay the price, a hefty price. And we can already see the results of this destruction on our infrastructure and on people’s outlooks. So even if the state wins, it will be weakened, and hence the West would have achieved its objectives. But at the same time, what the West doesn’t know, or might know but does not realize, is that this terrorism will spread and find its way back into Europe; the western media is already rife with reports on the dangers of these terrorists returning to Europe. The West has paid heavily for funding al-Qaeda, in its early stages. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States.


Question: Another term we have been hearing recently is humanitarian intervention.


President Assad: Yes, it has been used recently. We have seen practical examples of the West’s ‘humanitarian intervention’ towards the Palestinians over the past 60 years; we have seen it also in Vietnam and in North Korea, where according to some figures, at least 3 million people were killed by the Americans. We have seen the results in Iraq – and you are more aware of these than anyone else (President points to interviewer) – in Libya and now in Syria. I believe that their humanitarian intervention has one aim - the destruction of humans - of Syrians: plain and simple. The term is also being used in parallel with ‘moral responsibility.’ And the moral responsibility they are advocating lies in destroying the moral foundations of Syrian society, particularly its dignity and national rights. In other words, they want to enshrine in us that we are submissive to them and that they control our destiny. What they should be aware of, is that this does the complete opposite – we shall always stand against submission, against dependence, against defeatism.


Question: Mr. President, the crisis has been on-going for more than two years. In your opinion, why has it continued for so long?


President Assad: There are various factors, external and internal. We have already discussed the external factors. The internal factors can be summed up with the need for national consensus for any issue. There’s no doubt that in the beginning we had a problem convincing many Syrians of the truth of what was happening. You will remember my first speech at the Parliament and the criticism it received. “What is he talking about? What conspiracy? Every time something happens you call it a conspiracy;” even though I was very straightforward in my speech and I also said that we are prepared for any confrontation. It was said at the time that the issue has captured people’s emotions. That if we had gone to Daraa the problem would have been solved. At the time I consistently said that this issue did not start with emotions for it to end with emotions. Yes there are problems, misgivings and internal factors, but essentially this was a foreign plot. We had a real challenge convincing people that a lot of what was being aired on TV was fabricated, that those people killing the demonstrators are not associated with the state and that there were other parties firing on both sides in order to enflame emotions. Later on, it was difficult later to convince them that the armed groups didn’t constitute a free army but rather an enslaved army working for money and killing for money. It was difficult to convince them that the majority of demonstrators were paid. Imagine the stages this has passed through. When al-Qaeda first appeared, it was difficult to convince many people that al-Qaeda was involved. They weren’t convinced until they saw all these things with their own eyes. There is an important point one must mention: how long did it take us to convince people that the state does not destroy mosques? The latest incident was al-Omari Mosque where we saw on our TV screens how they destroyed the minaret. Every massacre committed was blamed on the Syrian Arab army. Unfortunately, there are sectors of our society who are late in seeing things as they are, and when they do, it is usually too late. National consensus in this instance was necessary. There is a group of people in our society that works on reversed logic, which helped create an environment of chaos in Syria. This helped the terrorists, if not with arms but with opinion. There are those who supported the terrorists unknowingly. I’m not accusing them of doing this intentionally or in bad faith, but as a result of this ignorance and without knowing it, they supported them with their words and viewpoints, hence the reversed logic. This obstructed the state’s efforts. The majority has realized that they were mistaken, but others have yet to see the truth. This is the biggest obstacle.


Question: These are the reasons why the crisis has continued. But what are the reasons for the steadfastness of the state, up until now, and despite all this mobilization?


President Assad: I wouldn’t say the state was steadfast, but rather the people are steadfast. This great people who were resolute for two years, without knowing the magnitude and ferocity of this attack in its entirety, yet feeling its consequences, nevertheless remained steadfast. This is a great people and this confirms the real essence of Syria. Without this people, everything would have collapsed, not in weeks as they kept saying, but rather in days. As I said, the state was not steadfast, the state derives its steadfastness from the steadfastness of the people, and vice versa, it becomes weak when the people are weak. In 2006, the resistance in Lebanon won the war with popular support first, and then with its fighters. Without the people who were steadfast in their support, it wouldn’t have withstood the attack. This is the situation in every state, and Syria is no exception.


Question: We have talked about the politics and the situation on the ground. But let me shift the focus to the humanitarian side. You are a father; how do you explain what is happening in Syria to your children? What do you tell them?


President Assad: By the way, I have three children, not five as some have said! As a father, I share this challenge with all fathers. No doubt the events that Syria has witnessed and their economic, psychological and social consequences; what we have seen on our TV screens, what children hear and learn in school today compared to what they were used to previously, all of this will have a negative and dangerous impact on the next generation and hence the future of Syria. I mentioned earlier that one of the main goals of this crisis is the destruction of the human being. To reverse this, we need to do everything we can to ensure that our children prevail with a stronger belief in God because the term “Allahu Akbar” was used most often in the terrorist and destructive acts that were carried out. How can we explain to our children that there’s no connection between the term “Allahu akbar” and the absolute evil embodied in killing an innocent human being; this is not going to be easy. We need to help them understand the altruistic meaning of this term: compassion, love and national unity. By doing this, they will have a stronger belief in Syria and its unity. With a stronger belief in God and in Syria, they will have a stronger belief in themselves. This is where our responsibilities lie if we want to safeguard the future of Syria and help her children overcome the many negative and evil concepts they have borne witness to.


Question: Finally Mr. President, how optimistic are you?


President Assad: If we didn’t have hope in Syria in general, particularly those who are fighting and putting their lives on the line to keep the rest of us alive, then we wouldn’t have fought in the first place and we wouldn’t have remained so steadfast. I personally derive hope from my meetings with the public, particularly families of martyrs. These families are phenomenal in every sense of the word. When you sit with fathers, siblings and children of martyrs and they tell you that they are willing to sacrifice a second, third and fourth, this is infinite patriotism. This is what keeps us optimistic. There is no choice, but to triumph. If we don’t, Syria will be finished and I don’t believe that this option is acceptable to any Syrian citizen.


Question: Thank you very much, Mr. President.


President Assad: Thank you, I would like to extend my greetings to all those working in the Syrian al-Ikhbariya TV station and to every Syrian citizen on this dear and inclusive occasion, Syria’s National Day. I hope by next year’s celebration Syria would have overcome her crisis and healed her wounds.





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