Question 1: Mr. President, as of the 31st of March 2018, the total sum of funding that the British government supplied to the White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defense, is GBP 38.4 million. At the same time, Russia accuses Britain of helping stage the attack that took place in Douma via this organization, the White Helmets. Do you, as Syria’s President, believe that’s true?
President Assad: Definitely, without a doubt. Britain, France, and the US are following and adopting the same policy. That said, to be completely frank and stark, Britain and France are political satellites to the US. The UK publicly supported the White Helmets that are a branch of Al Qaeda, al-Nusra, in different areas of Syria. They (Britain) spent a lot of money, and we consider the White Helmets to be a PR stunt by the UK. So yes, definitely, it was staged by these three countries together, and the UK is involved.
Question 2: British Prime Minister Theresa May said she had no doubt the Syrian regime was behind the April 7 chemical attacks and told her critics that Britain’s participation had been right and legal and permitted under international law to alleviate humanitarian suffering. Do states not have a responsibility to protect against war crimes? How is the UK participation in strikes against Syria not justified under international law?
President Assad: So, according to her statements, when Britain and the US attacked Iraq illegally in 2003, killed millions, caused mass destruction, let alone the number of widows and amputees – according to May’s logic, any government has the right to attack the UK or the US if it thought the act was justified, legal and allowed under international law to alleviate human suffering. This is first.
Second, they told a lie; they didn’t provide their own public opinion – the British public – any evidence. After we liberated al-Ghouta, where the alleged attack happened, many foreign journalists, some of them against the Syrian government, asked local people about the chemical attack, and they said “we didn’t see any chemical attack, it didn’t happen.” It was a lie, especially after we liberated that area, our information confirmed that that attack did not take place. The British government should first prove with evidence that the attack happened, and then they should prove who is responsible – of course this did not happen.
There was no attack; this is where the lie begins. Again, it wasn’t about the attack; the crux of the issue is that they need to undermine the Syrian government, as they needed to change and topple the Syrian government at the beginning of the events of the war in Syria. They keep failing, they keep telling lies, and they continue to play a war of attrition against our government.
Question 3: Unconfirmed reports have circulated that the Syrian government captured Western regular forces, as well as British fighters. Can you confirm this or shed light on these reports?
President Assad: There are fighters from all over the world helping the Jihadists. I wouldn’t say we have British fighters who are alive. Most of those fighters, they are dead, they came here to die and to go to paradise, that’s their ideology.
Journalist: But you confirm that they’re dead, and they were from these countries?
President Assad: Yes.
Question 4: Have there been any attempts, even through mediators or third parties, by the British government or its intelligence branches to establish communications with Syria for intelligence for whatever reason?
President Assad: No. We did have communications from different intelligence agencies in Europe, but it was stopped recently because they’re not serious. They want to exchange information despite their governments being politically against ours, so we said when you have a political umbrella for this kind of cooperation, or let’s say when you change your political position, we’re ready. Now, there’s no cooperation with any European intelligence agencies including the British.
Question 5: But there’s been no attempts by Britain to try and open lines of communication, as far as you know, even through mediators?
President Assad: Even if there is a kind of an attempt, we don’t discuss it; it’s trivial, whether there is or not.
Question 6: What are your views on May and Trump’s handling of issues in the Middle East, and in Syria specifically, and what’s the difference between their interventions in the region and those of Putin?
President Assad: Big difference: The Russians were invited by the Syrian government, their existence in Syria is a legitimate existence, the same for the Iranians. While for the United States, the UK, it is illegal, it is an invasion, they are breaching the sovereignty of Syria – a sovereign country. So, their existence is not legal at all, it is an illegitimate existence.
Journalist: But in your view, how have they handled Syria, both May and Trump?
President Assad: It’s not about May and Trump; it’s about the Western politicians in general, the Western regimes in general. They don’t accept anyone who has a different point of view, any country, any government, any personality. That’s the case with Syria; Syria is very independent in its political positions, we work for our national interests, we’re not a puppet state. They don’t accept this reality. So, the whole approach toward Syria in the West is “we have to change this government, we have to demonize this president, because they don’t suit our policies anymore.” This is the situation, everything else is like flavors; they tell lies, they talk about chemical weapons, they talk about the bad president killing the good people, freedom, peaceful demonstration; all these lies are flavors for the main goal, which is regime change.
So, my answer to your question about how I see it is: this is colonial policy, that’s how we see it, and this is not new. They have never changed this policy since the old way of colonialism that existed in the beginning of the 20th century and the 19th century and before, but today it’s covered by, let’s say, a new mask, or different masks.
Question 7: Your main global adversaries today are Trump, Netanyahu, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, a lineup of unusual, unpopular characters. Are you suddenly looking good by comparison?
President Assad: I cannot compare myself to anyone, because I wouldn’t be objective judging myself, so you better ask this question to others. But when you want to have an objective answer, you have to look for the real facts, not the propaganda that’s been circulating in the Western media now for seven years. So, at the end, for me I don’t care how I look in comparison to those; for me it’s important how I look in the eyes of the Syrian people, that’s my focus.
Question 8: In 2013, you told me “Syria lies at the fault line geographically, politically, socially, and ideologically,” and warned that playing with this fault line will have serious repercussions across the Middle East and Europe.
President Assad: Yes, we’re at the fault line, the last five years have proven that I was right, because look at the repercussions all over the world, look at the terrorism spreading all over the world because of the chaos that is supported by the West in Syria. Look at the different attacks in Europe, in UK, in France, other countries. Look at the refugee crisis in Europe. That’s because of the fault line that I talked about five years ago.
Question 9: Five years on since you told me this, or since you said that, during which ISIS was born, you seem to see yourself as the main bulwark against it, why is that?
President Assad: For ISIS, we are the main party who’s been fighting ISIS with support by the Russians and Iranians during the past years. No other party is doing the same, even partially. If you want to talk about the West and the Western military alliance led by the Americans, actually it has been supporting ISIS, because they’ve been attacking the Syrian Army whenever we attack or we’ve been attacked by ISIS; the last incident happened only days ago, when ISIS attacked the Syrian Army and of course we defeated them, and in response the Americans attacked our troops in the eastern part of Syria.
Question 10: Was the world wrong in isolating you for the last seven years?
President Assad: The concept of isolating a country in general is wrong. In the world, in the modern politics, even in the olden days’ politics, you need communications. When you isolate a country, you isolate yourself from the reality in that country, so you’re becoming politically blind. So, the concept is wrong.
Question 11: Mr. President, some regard you as an international pariah, a dictator, with blood on your hands, give me an argument for why you are not, when in the past seven years, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have been killed, arrested, imprisoned, and even tortured?
President Assad: So, the story that you’re talking about, or let’s say the Western narrative, that this is a bad president; he’s killing his own people, and the whole world is against him because he’s an international pariah, but he’s been in his position for seven years while he’s fighting everyone in this world. Can you convince your readers about this story? It doesn’t even hold together, I mean the different factors of this narrative, it’s not logical, it’s not realistic. So, this president is in his position because he has the support of his own people, so how could he have this support while he’s killing these same people? So, the story is not correct. We are fighting the terrorists, and those terrorists are supported by the British government, the French government, the Americans and their puppets whether in Europe or in our region. We are fighting them, and we have public support in Syria to fight those terrorists. That’s why we are advancing. We cannot make these advances just because we have Russian and Iranian support; they cannot substitute the popular support, and the proof of what I’m talking about: Shah of Iran, the Western puppet, he couldn’t withstand the backlash of the Iranian people, and he collapsed, the whole system collapsed in a few weeks, and he had to flee his country.
Question 12: But despite having support of many Syrians, the fact remains that there are thousands, tens of thousands of people that were killed, and have been imprisoned.
President Assad: Of course, you’re talking about a war; there is no good war, there is no peaceful war. That’s why war is bad. So, when you talk about war, the natural and the self-evident result is death and blood everywhere, but the question is: who started this war, and who supported this war? The West. The West supported the war from the very beginning, and it supported the terrorists who started exploding everywhere and killing everywhere and everyone and beheading. The West supported Al Qaeda. So, it’s not enough to say there is killing. Of course, there is killing; that’s self-evident, but who started? The West is responsible first of all.
Question 13: The West is responsible, but some also say that Mr. Assad or President Assad should bear responsibility as well.
President Assad: Any Syrian could bear responsibility because of what’s happening in Syria. That’s another issue, this is a Syrian issue, we don’t discuss it with the West. It’s not the role of the West to tell us who’s responsible in Syria, the president or the government or the army or the terrorists, this is a Syrian issue; we decide who. The West is in no position to tell us, at the end, it’s not its role, but it interfered in a sovereign country and is responsible of the killing in our country, regardless of its narrative and its lies.
Question 14: Russia appears to be making a lot of decisions about Syria, whether about foreign troops withdrawing to deals being struck with Israel over southern Syria, to which weapons you may or may not have. Does Russia now make your decisions?
President Assad: Russia is fighting for the international law, and part of this international law is the sovereignty of different countries, of the sovereign countries, Syria is one of them. Their politics, their behaviors, their values are not about interfere or dictate; they don’t. We’ve had good relations with Russia for more than six decades now, nearly seven decades. They never, during our relation, try to dictate, even if there are differences; because there is a war and because there’s high dynamism now in the region, it’s natural to have differences between the different parties, whether within our government or other governments; Russia-Syria, Syria-Iran, Iran-Russia, and within these governments, that’s very natural, but at the end the only decision about what’s going on in Syria and what’s going to happen, it’s a Syrian decision. No one should have any doubt about this, regardless of the statements that you may hear, because I know on which base the question is.
Journalist: Based on various statements.
President Assad: Exactly.
Question 15: So, why has Russia not given you the S300 they promised for years, at a time when Israel is striking Syria practically every week, and why is Russia coordinating these strikes’ targets behind the scenes with your enemies?
President Assad: Russia never coordinated with anyone against Syria, either politically or militarily, and that’s contradiction; how could they help the Syrian Army advancing and at the same time work with our enemies in order to destroy our army?
Journalist: But they usually know in advance where the attacks are going to happen…
President Assad: No, no, that’s not true, that’s not true, definitely. We know the details. Regarding the S300, why they announced it and then they stopped talking about it, you better ask the Russian officials. It’s a political statement, they have their own tactics. But whether they send it or they’re going to send it or not, this is a military issue; we don’t talk about it.
Question 16: Senior Pentagon officials have warned they will militarily retaliate should you mess with their alliance. Are you ever going to get rid of the US military presence in Syria, are you prepared to fight them directly?
President Assad: Since the beginning of the war, the Americans and their allies haven’t stopped threatening Syria, they haven’t stopped supporting the terrorists, and they haven’t stopped attacking us directly on numerous occasions. But in spite of this we have been advancing against the terrorists, and we have said that we’re going to liberate every inch of Syria regardless of any statement or any attack. This is our land and this is our duty; it’s not a political opinion, it’s a national duty. We’re going to advance in that direction regardless of the military or political position of our adversaries.
Question 17: You’ve said that you will take back every inch of Syrian territory, how long you anticipate this will take you?
President Assad: This is not only about the Syrian Army and the terrorists, or about the events within the border of our country, otherwise I would have given you, let’s say, maybe a precise timeframe. But I have always said that in less than a year we can solve this conflict, it’s not very complicated. What has made it complicated is the external interference. The more we advance, the more support the terrorists have from the West. Look, for example, we were about to achieve reconciliation in the southern part of Syria only two weeks ago, but the West interfered and asked the terrorists not to follow this path in order to prolong the Syrian conflict. So, we think the more advances we make politically and militarily, the more the West, especially US, UK, and France, will try to prolong it and make the solution farther from the Syrians. But in spite of this, we are closing the gap between the two.
Question 18: Mr. President, in three years’ time, you will come to the end of your presidency term now, and it’s been a long seven years and the next two years, do you think you will be running again as president, or you will call it a day and decide that it’s time for you to take a break?
President Assad: It’s still early to talk about it; you’re talking about three years from now. Three years on, no one knows how the situation is going to be in our country. If I’m going to run for the presidency, there are two factors: First of all, will – personal will to take responsibility, and second – which is the most important, the will of the Syrian people. Do they accept that person? Is the mood about me as president still the same, or will the Syrian people change their position? So, in three years, we will have to look at these two factors and then decide whether it’s appropriate or not.
Question 19: How do you think history will remember you?
President Assad: It depends on which history: The Western history? It’s going to be skewed; it’s going to tell lies and lies and lies; the same lies that we have heard not only about our present but also about the past. Our history on the other hand, which I care about, I hope it will remember me as somebody who fought the terrorists to save his country, and that was my duty as president.
Question 20: With the World Cup around the corner, do you have a favorite team?
President Assad: In these circumstances, yes,
My favorite team is the Syrian Army, to fight the terrorists.
Journalist: Any favorite British teams, football teams?
President Assad: No, I don’t follow.
Question 21: It’s been seven years of war, what do you do to let off steam, any hobbies?
President Assad: Sports is not a hobby, it becomes a part of your health, and a part of your daily routine, because good health is important to staying active. So, we cannot look at it as entertainment; there’s no time or mood for entertainment. You’re living with the war, the killing, with terrorism. So, this is the only hobby that has become a habit, a daily habit depending on the time and circumstances.
Question 22: Your wife is British, and you’ve lived in London for many years, is there anything in particular that you miss from your days there?
President Assad: I lived in London, I learned as a doctor. It’s impossible for you to live in a city and you don’t feel there is a special link with that city or with the people that you work with on a daily basis. So, you miss maybe this relation, but you live sometimes in contradiction; that the same city that you like is the same country that’s been attacking your country, which is not good.
Journalist: Thank you very much Mr. President.
President Assad: Thank you.