President al-Assad’s interview with CBS News: Legitimacy comes from the inside, Syrians are more united – Part 2
President Bashar al-Assad made an interview with the U.S. CBS News. Following is second part of the full text:
Question 29: How much territory do they control in Syria? ISIS controls how much territory, 50%?
President Assad: It’s not a regular war, you don’t have criteria. It’s not an army that makes incursions. They try to infiltrate any area when there’s no army, and when you have inhabitants. The question is how much incubator they have, that is the question; how much hearts and minds they won so far.
Question 30: How do you measure that?
President Assad: You can’t measure it, but you can tell that the majority of the people who suffered from ISIS, they are supporting the government, and of course the rest of the Syrian people are afraid from ISIS. I don’t think they win; I think they lost a lot of hearts and minds.
Question 31: They’ve lost a lot?
President Assad: They have lost, except the very ideological people who have Wahhabi states of mind and ideology.
Question 32: Explain to me why are people fleeing to go to refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. What are they fleeing from? The Syrian Army?
President Assad: No, those camps started being built before there was any real conflicts in Syria, so it was premeditated to be used as a humanitarian headline and title, to be used against Syria to be a pretext a military intervention. That’s how it started. Later, they started giving incentives to people to flee there. Now, the majority of those, they fled because of the terrorism, and I’ll give you an example. In the elections, the presidential elections, most of the refugees in Lebanon, for example, and even in Jordan, they voted for the president, not against the president. That’s a concrete indicator, you cannot ignore it. So, they did not flee the Syrian Army; if they fled from the Syrian Army, they will be in the other.
Question 33: I have interviewed some of them in the Jordanian refugee camps, and they were fearful of the Syrian Army. And they were fearful of repercussions if people knew they were being interviewed, so they were reluctant to give their name and where they were from, but they had fled in fear of the Syrian Army.
President Assad: That could happen. Of course, you have different kinds of people, you have different perceptions, you have that perception. We don’t say that everybody fled just because of the terrorists. Some people fled just because of the situation, not from the Syrian Army not from the terrorists, they want to go to a safer place. So, they have different reasons for the refugees.
Question 34: There is another number that is alarming to me. It is that 90% of the civilian casualties, 90%, come from the Syrian Army.
President Assad: How did you get that result?
Question 35: There was a report that was issued in the last six months.
President Assad: Okay, as I said earlier, the war is not a traditional war, it’s not about capturing land and gaining land; it’s about winning the hearts and minds of the Syrians. We cannot win the hearts of the Syrians while we are killing Syrians. We cannot sustain four years in that position as a government, and me as a president, while the rest of the world, most of the world, the great powers, the regional powers, are against me, and my people are against me. That’s impossible. I mean, this logic has no legs to stand on. This is not realistic, and this is against our interest, as a government, to kill the people. What do we get? What is the benefit of killing the people?
Question 36: Well, the argument is that you… there are weapons of war that have been used that most people look down on. One is chlorine gas. They believe that it has been used here. They said that there is evidence of that and they would like to have the right to inspect, to see where it’s coming from. As you know, barrel bombs have been used, and they come from helicopters. The only people that have helicopters are the Syrian Army. And so, those two acts of war, which society looks down on, as-
President Assad: Let me fully answer this, this is very important. This is part of the malicious propaganda against Syria. First of all, the chlorine gas is not a military gas, you can buy it anywhere.
Question 37: But it can be weaponized.
President Assad: No, because it’s not very effective, it’s not used as a military gas. That’s self evident. Traditional arms are more important than chlorine, and if it was very effective, the terrorists would have used it on a larger scale. Because it’s not very effective, it’s not used very much.
Question 38: Then why not let somebody come in and inspect and see whether it was used or not?
President Assad: We allowed.
Question 39: You’d be happy for that?
President Assad: Of course. We always ask that a delegation, an impartial delegation, to come and investigate, but I mean logically and realistically, it cannot be used as a military. This is part of the propaganda, because, as you know, in the media, when it bleeds, it leads, and they always look for something that bleeds, which is the chlorine gas and the barrel bombs. This is very important, the barrel bombs, what are barrel bombs? They say barrel bomb as a bomb that kills people indiscriminately, because it doesn’t aim. This is not realistic for one reason: because no army uses a bomb that doesn’t aim, and the proof to what I’m saying is that, you don’t talk about the shape of the bomb to call it a barrel or cylindrical or whatever. The state-of-the-art drones, American drones, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, in Yemen, with state-of-the-art precision missiles have killed more civilians and innocents than killing terrorists. So, it’s not about this bomb that doesn’t aim, that kills people indiscriminately; it’s about the way you use it.
Question 40: But you’re acknowledging then that you do use it? You do use barrel bombs?
President Assad: No, no. There’s no such thing called barrel bombs. You have bombs, and any bomb is about killing, it’s not about tingling people.
Question 41: Most people understand what a barrel bomb is. I mean, they understand how it’s put together, what’s put inside of the barrel, and they understand how it’s dropped from helicopters.
President Assad: No, we have had a very good military industry for years, for decades, in Syria. We don’t have to make bombs, very primitive ones, very malicious ones. This bomb, this term, was used only to demonize the Syrian Army. That’s it. This is part of the propaganda.
Question 42: If barrel bombs were used by the Syrian Army, would you order the Syrian Army to stop using barrel bombs?
President Assad: Again, what is this term, what is the barrel bomb? I mean do you describe the missile that you have by-
Question 43: It’s a bomb that inflicts terrible civilian casualties.
President Assad: Any bomb and missile and even bullet is made to make casualties, but not civilian. There’s no military means made in order not to kill. But how you use, it’s again about the way you use it, it’s not about the bomb. I mean, if you want to talk about casualties, that’s another issue. Every war is malignant, every war is bad. You don’t have benign war. That’s wars are bad because you always have casualties. That is not related to certain kinds of bombs or bullets or whatever. This is completely another issue.
Question 44: So in fact, are you denying that barrel bombs are being and inflicting great casualties.
President Assad: Again, I always say, we use a bomb, we use missiles, we use everything, we use bullets. You don’t describe what we use by the shape, whether it called barrel, spherical, cylindrical missile, you don’t describe it this way. You use armaments, if you have casualties, it’s a mistake that could happen in every war, but you aim always to kill terrorists, not to kill your people, because you have support by your people, you can’t kill them.
Question 45: But you acknowledge that they come from helicopters, barrel bombs.
President Assad: This is a technical issue, a military issue. How to throw-
Question 46: But only one-
President Assad: No, no. You can throw bombs by any airplane. You can throw them by missile. You don’t have to use helicopters, you can use them anyway you want.
Question 47: But, if I hear you correctly, you acknowledge that barrel bombs are being used, but they’re like other bombs in your judgment, and they are not necessarily any different than other weapons. That is what you seem to be saying.
President Assad: We don’t have a bomb that is called barrel bomb. This came from the media, we don’t have it. What you call our bombs, that is related to the media. And that is used by the militants, then adopted by the West, in order to demonize the Syrian Army. We don’t have something barrel bombs that kill indiscriminately. If you have a strong bomb or weak bomb, or whatever, I mean you could call it whatever you want. I mean, we have regular bombs, traditional armaments. That’s what we have.
Question 48: What do most people consider barrel bombs more brutal than others?
President Assad: You have to ask the one who created that term, as I said, for the media, for the propaganda. This is part of the propaganda. If you want to refute the propaganda that’s been going on for four years, you have many things to refute.
Question 49: You have often spoken about the danger of a wider war in the Middle East. Let me talk about the parties involved, and characterize how you see them. Let me begin with Saudi Arabia.
President Assad: Saudi Arabia is an archaic autocracy, medieval system that is based on the Wahhabi dark ideology. Actually, I say it’s a marriage between the Wahhabi and the political system for 200 years now. That is how we look at it.
Question 50: And what is their connection to ISIS?
President Assad: The same ideology, the same background.
Question 51: So ISIS and Saudi Arabia are one and the same?
President Assad: The same ideology, yes.
Question 52: The same ideology.
President Assad: It’s the Wahhabi ideology. Their ideology is based on the books of the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia.
Question 53: So you believe that all Wahhabis have the same ideology as ISIS.
President Assad: Exactly, definitely. And that’s not just by ISIS; by al-Qaeda, by al-Nusra. It’s not something we discovered or we try to promote. I mean, they use the same books to indoctrinate the people.
Question 54: What about Turkey?
President Assad: Turkey, let’s say, it’s about Erdogan. He’s a Muslim Brotherhood fanatic. That doesn’t mean that he’s a member, but he’s a fanatic.
Question 55: President Erdogan is…?
President Assad: A Muslim Brotherhood fanatic. And he’s somebody who’s suffering from political megalomania, and you think that he is becoming the sultan of the new era, of the 21st century.
Question 56: You think he could stop the border if he wanted to?
President Assad: Yes, of course, definitely. He doesn’t only ignore the terrorists coming to Syria; he supports them logistically and militarily, directly, on daily basis, and if you take the example of Kobani, what you call Kobani, we call it Ayn al-Arab, the city where the Kurds were fighting ISIS and where the campaign started, the American military campaign started there. It took them four months to liberate that small city, not only because the airstrikes were cosmetic as we said, but because of the direct support of the Turks to ISIS.
Question 57: They were supporting them directly?
President Assad: Directly.
Question 58: You were quoted as saying that the Syrian Army could have eliminated ISIS in Kobani in three weeks.
President Assad: Actually, similar cities with the same terrain and the same size were liberated in a few weeks, without even using the airstrikes.
Question 59: Why have you spent more time attacking Aleppo than Raqqa?
President Assad: We didn’t attack Aleppo. We try to get rid of the terrorists everywhere.
Question 60: Were they terrorists in Aleppo, or were they moderates?
President Assad: In Aleppo? No, you don’t have any moderate militants in Syria.