Syrian Arab News Agency
October 31, 2019
October 31, 2019
— Bashar al-Assad
: Hello and welcome to this special interview with the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, His Excellency Dr Bashar al-Assad. Thank you for receiving us Mr President. Your last interview with Syrian media was several years ago and therefore we have a lot of questions. We will begin with political questions and then move into internal issues.
: You are welcome, and as always let us speak with full openness.
: Mr President, thank you very much for receiving us. Since the political issues are pressing at the moment we will start with politics, Mr President. The United States announced a few days ago that the leader of the terrorist organization ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed. And it thanked Russia, Syria, Iraq, the Turks and the Kurds for helping kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Trump thanked Syria, but we have not heard any comment from Damascus. What is your take on Trump thanking Syria? Did Syria really take part in this operation?
: Absolutely not, we heard about this only through the media. Maybe, the reason behind including a number of countries as participants in this operation is to give it credibility so these countries will feel not embarrassed, but have the desire to be that they are part of a “great” operation, as the Americans have tried to portray it. And in this way, they are credited with fighting terrorism. We do not need such credit. We are the ones fighting terrorism. We have no relations and have had no contact with any American institutions.
More importantly, we do not really know whether the operation did actually take place or not. No aircraft were detected on radar screens. Why were the remains of Baghdadi not shown? This is the same scenario that was followed with Bin Laden. If there are going to use different pretexts in order not to show the remains, let us recall how President Saddam Husain was captured and how the whole operation was shown from A to Z; they showed pictures and video clips after they captured him. The same happened when they killed his sons several months later; they showed the bodies. So, why did they hide everything about the Bin Laden operation and now also the Baghdadi operation? This is part of the tricks played by the Americans. That is why we should not believe everything they say unless they come up with evidence. American politicians are actually guilty until proven innocent, not the other way around.
: Mr President, if Baghdadi has actually been killed, does it mean the end of his organization, or is it as usual that there will be new leaders and new organizations which are being prepared for the moment when the cards of their predecessors have been burned out?
: First, Baghdadi represents ISIS, and ISIS represents a type of doctrine, which is the extremist Wahhabi doctrine. This type of thought is more than two centuries old. As long as this thought is alive and has not receded, this means that the death of Baghdadi, or even the death of ISIS as a whole, will have no effect on this extremist thought.
Regarding Baghdadi as an individual, it is well-known that he was in American prisons in Iraq, and that they let him out in order to play this role. So, he is someone who could be replaced at any moment. Was he really killed? Was he killed but through a different method, in a very ordinary way? Was he kidnapped? Was he hidden? Or was he removed and given a facelift? God only knows. American politics are no different from Hollywood; it relies on the imagination. Not even science fiction, just mere imagination. So, you can take American politics and see it in Hollywood or else you can bring Hollywood and see it through American politics. I believe the whole thing regarding this operation is a trick. Baghdadi will be recreated under a different name, a different individual, or ISIS in its entirety might be reproduced as needed under a different name but with the same thought and the same purpose. The director of the whole scenario is the same, the Americans.
: Questions have been raised about the Russian-Turkish agreement, particularly the item related to maintaining the status quo in the region which was subject to the Turkish aggression, Tal Abyadh and Ras al-Ain with a depth of thirty-two kilometers. What some people understood from this was that it legitimized the Turkish occupation, particularly that the agreement did not include any Syrian role within these areas which were discussed in the agreement. What is your response to that?
: First, the Russian principles have been clear throughout this war and even before the Russian base that started supporting the Syrian army in 2015. These principles are based on international law, Syrian sovereignty and Syria’s territorial integrity. This has not changed, neither before, nor after, nor with changing circumstances. However, Russian policy deals with the realities on the ground. These realities on the ground have achieved two things; the withdrawal of armed groups from the north to the south in coordination with the Syrian Army, and as such the advance of the Syrian Army to the north, to the area not occupied by the Turks. These two elements are positive, but they do not cancel out the negative aspects of the Turkish presence until they are driven out one way or another. This agreement is a temporary one, not permanent. If we take for example the de-escalation areas at a certain period of time, some people believed that they were permanent and that they will give terrorists the right to remain in their areas indefinitely. The fact was that it was an opportunity to protect civilians, and also to talk to the terrorists with the objective of driving them out later. So, we have to distinguish between ultimate or strategic goals on the one hand, and tactical approaches on the other.
In the short term, it is a good agreement – and let me explain why; the Turkish incursion, not only reflects Turkey’s territorial greed but also expresses American desire. The Russian relationship with Turkey is positive because it reigns in Turkish aspirations. On the other hand, it outmaneuvers the American game in the north. Let me explain this. The recent German proposal which was immediately supported by NATO – and the Germans would not make this except on behalf of the Americans, NATO is the same thing as America. The proposal talked about restoring security to this region under international auspices. This means that the area would be outside the control of the Syrian state and thus making separation a reality on the ground. Through this agreement, the Russians reigned in the Turks, outmaneuvered the Americans and aborted the call for internationalization which was proposed by the Germans. That is why this agreement is a positive step. It does not achieve everything, in the sense that it will not pressure the Turks to leave immediately. However, it limits the damage and paves the way for the liberation of this region in the future, or the immediate future, as we hope.
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