President Bashar al-Assad said that all the political decisions that have been taken by the west in the last ten years have been in support of al-Qaeda, intentionally or inadvertently.
In an interview with the German Der Spiegel News Magazine, President al-Assad said that through Western support, now there are thousands of al-Qaeda fighters from 80 countries in Syria.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Der Spiegel: Mr. President, do you love your country?
President Assad: Of course, and in this I am no different from most people. This is not merely about emotions, but rather about what one can do for his country if he has the power and especially in times of crisis; and at this particular time, I realize more than ever how much I love my country and so I must protect it.
Der Spiegel: Wouldn’t you be more patriotic if you stepped down and allowed for negotiations over an interim government or for a cease-fire with the armed opposition?
President Assad: The Syrian people determine my fate; no other party can determine this issue. As for the armed opposition or factions, who do they represent – the Syrian people? If so, this can be proven only through the ballot box.
Der Spiegel: Are you prepared to run in the next elections?
President Assad: My term ends in August next year. The presidential elections should take place before that time. I cannot decide now whether I am going to run; this depends on what the Syrian people want. If people are not behind me, I won’t stand in the elections.
Der Spiegel: Will you seriously consider giving up power?
President Assad: This is not about me or what I want. It’s about what people want. The country is not mine alone, it’s the country for all Syrians.
Der Spiegel: But some people say that you are the cause of the rebellion, because people want to get rid of corruption and tyranny. They call for a true democracy; and according to the opposition, this is not possible with you in power.
President Assad: Do these people speak for themselves, or do they speak on behalf of the Syrian people or on behalf of the countries that are backing them? Do they speak on behalf of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Saudi Arabia or Qatar? Let me be clear about this: this conflict is being brought to our country from the outside world. These people live in five-star hotels, they are dictated to by their financial backers and have no grass roots in Syria.
Der Spiegel: Do you deny that there is a strong opposition against you in your country?
President Assad: There is certainly an opposition in our country. What country doesn’t have opposition? It’s impossible for all the Syrians to be on my side.
Obama has no right to tell the Syrian people whom to choose as their president
Der Spiegel: It’s not only us who deny the legitimacy of your presidency. U.S. President Barack Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York that a leader who kills his people and gases children to death has forfeited any right to rule his country.
President Assad: First, he is the president of the United States and has no right to pass judgment on Syria. Second, he has no right to tell the Syrian people whom to choose as their president. Third, what he says in realty has no foundation whatsoever. He has been calling for me to step down for one and a half years. What next? Have his statements made any impact? None whatsoever.
Der Spiegel: For us, it seems that you are ignoring reality. By stepping down, you save the people a great deal of suffering.
President Assad: This has nothing to do with me being president. Killing innocent people and terrorizing them by explosions and car bombs, brought to our country by al-Qaeda, is what causes pain to the Syrian people. What does that have to do with me being in office?
Der Spiegel: It is relevant because your forces and security services have committed some of these atrocities and you are responsible for that.
President Assad: Despite the fact that the protests were not peaceful at all, it was our policy from the beginning to respond to the demands of the demonstrators. In the first weeks, we lost soldiers and policemen who were killed in those protests. Nevertheless, a specialized committee changed the constitution to meet protesters’ demands and a referendum was held. On the other hand, we also needed to confront terrorism; it’s the duty of the government to defend the country and take the relevant decisions to that effect. In the context of implementing these decisions, mistakes were made. We must acknowledge that.
Der Spiegel: The rebellion started with demonstrations in Dara’a and the victims were not only members of your security forces. The other side also suffered a great deal. The protesters were beaten and fired at. This harsh treatment was one of the regime’s mistakes.
President Assad: When political measures are implemented – anywhere in the world – mistakes are made; we are only human.
Der Spiegel: So, you acknowledge that the harsh treatment meted out at the protesters was a mistake.
President Assad: There were individual errors. We all make mistakes. Even the president might make mistakes. Even if mistakes were made in on the ground, our principal decisions were the right ones.
Der Spiegel: Was the Houla massacre also the result of mere individual failure?
President Assad: Neither the government nor its supporters are to blame for that, because it was the armed gangs and the extremists who attacked the families who supported the government. This is exactly what happened. If you want to assert something to the contrary, you need to provide the evidence and this is what you cannot do. We, however, and contrary to your claims, can give you the names of the victims who were killed because they stood against terrorism.
Der Spiegel: We have evidence. Our reporters were in Houla and talked to the victims and carried out thorough investigations. The U.N. experts reached a conclusion, after investigating the case, that 108 people in the village were killed, including 49 children and 34 women, victims of your regime. How can you deny responsibility and accuse the so-called terrorists.
President Assad: With respect to your reporters, we Syrians, know our country better, know the truth better and can fully document that.
Der Spiegel: The culprits were ‘shabiha’, members of the militias with links to your regime. President Assad: Do you have any evidence to prove that?
Der Spiegel: We heard this from people we consider credible.
President Assad: I’ll be candid and even blunt with you: your question is based on wrong information. What you are asserting has no ground in reality. A lie is a lie, no matter how you phrase it or present it.
Der Spiegel: That’s right. So, you don’t acknowledge that your ‘shabiha’ took part in the massacre.
President Assad: What do you mean by ‘shabiha?’
Der Spiegel: The militias close to your regime.
President Assad: This name is actually of Turkish origin, in Syria don’t know ‘shabiha.’ The reality is that, when armed groups attack remote areas, and the army and police cannot provide sufficient protection to citizens, villagers arm themselves and create patrols in self-defense. It’s true that some of those fought with our forces, but these are not militias formed to protect the president. What concerns these people is their country, which they are defending against al-Qaeda terrorists that have been attacking them for months.