On 12 February 2016, the much-maligned-in-the-West Mr. Bashar al-Assad, President of Syria, was interviewed by Agence France Presse — a reportorial coup, of which AFP were justifiably proud, because their 26 numbered questions to him (and the follow-ups) were substantive and were focused on providing to the publics in Western nations the perspective by Assad (which one might thus characterize as his “defense” case), against the virtually uniform chorus of condemnation of Assad by Western governments, which governments demand his overthrow and support the tens of thousands of foreign jihadists who have been flocking into Syria to provide the “boots on the ground” to achieve such an overthrow, of him — overthrow of the President of the sovereign nation of Syria — overthrow of him by these foreign fighters. (It’s an invasion of Syria, but the Western press don’t report its being that.)
Only two news-sites published in English this widely-distributed-to-the-press news-item: AFP itself, and France24 News. All of the ’news’ media in other countries ignored it — didn’t publish it, nor even quote from it — though, as you will see here, they shouldn’t have: they should have published it, or at least quoted extensively from it (as will be done here). Mr. Assad is accused by Western governments of numerous heinous crimes, some of which are demonstrably lies against him that Western ‘news’ media and Western politicians nonetheless repeat interminably, as if they weren’t already exposed to be hoaxes from his enemies, and based on frauds that were set up by the very same governments that are trying to overthrow him. (The link that was just provided here brings a reader to the evidence, just in case the reader might happen never to have seen the evidence on the given matter: the charge that Assad’s forces, instead of the U.S. government, was behind the notorious sarin gas attack in Ghouta Syria on 21 August 2013. Anyone who is closed-minded to the actual evidence regarding that matter should cease reading right here, because no such reader will be able open-mindedly to read AFP’s interview of Assad; it would just be a waste of such a person’s time.)
Here are some highlights of their interview, courtesy of AFP:
Question 1: How do you feel when you see tens of thousands of your citizens starving, running away from hunger, from their areas which are being shelled by your Russian allies, and trying to cross the borders to Turkey? And how do you feel when you see the pictures of them drowning in their attempt to cross the seas?
President Assad: If we talk about emotions, I belong to this people; and it is self-evident that I have the same feelings my people have. Any scene of suffering is painful to all of us as Syrians. But as an official, the question for me is less about emotions than about what I, as an official, should do, being responsible before my people.
However, when the cause of this suffering is the terrorists, not the Russian shelling as claimed by Western media, and when one cause for migration is the almost five-year-old embargo against the Syrian people, naturally my, and every Syrian official’s first task is to fight terrorism essentially using Syrian capabilities, but also using our friends’ support in the fight against terrorism. That’s why I say the problem of Syrian refugees abroad, as well as the problem of hunger inside Syria, as you referred to it, is a problem caused by terrorism, Western policies, and the embargo imposed on the Syrian people.
Question 2: Mr. President, can we talk about the possibility of putting an end to shelling civilian populations and also lifting the blockade imposed on certain areas?
President Assad: The conflict has been, since the beginning of the crisis in Syria, about who wins the support of the people in Syria. Consequently, it doesn’t make sense for us to shell civilians if we want to win them to our side. This is in theory. Practically, while moving around in Syria, you will find that in any area under the control of the state, all sections of Syrian society, including the families of the militants, are being cared for by the state. What is more is that in a city like Raqa, which is under the full control of Daesh (ISIS), the state continues to pay the salaries of employees and send vaccines for children. So it doesn’t make sense for the state to shell civilians while doing all the above, unless we are talking about mistakes which happen in every battle. …
Question 5: Do you think, Mr. President, that you can regain control over all Syrian territory?
… [The West’s] continuing supplies to terrorists through Turkey, Jordan, and partly from Iraq – because Daesh (ISIS) exists in Iraq with Saudi, Turkish, and Qatari support -– naturally means that the solution will take a long time and will incur a heavy price. So it is difficult to give a precise answer about the timeframe.
Question 6: Can’t you say precisely how many years you need to restore peace to Syria?
President Assad: The question is: for how many years will Turkey and Saudi Arabia continue to support terrorism? That is the question. And when will the West put pressure on these countries to stop supporting terrorism?
Question 7: Who is your main enemy? Is it the so-called moderate opposition and the Islamists, or is it Daesh (ISIS)?
President Assad: I don’t think that the term “opposition” can be used, in France or anywhere else in the world, to describe somebody carrying a weapon. Opposition is a political act. Suppose that you mean to say “moderate terrorists”, this is a different term. Saying that, you mean that they do not belong to Daesh (ISIS), Al-Nusra, or to these extremist groups. … The moderate opposition is a fantasy. … Most of the militants belong to extremist groups, such as Daesh (ISIS), Al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham, and others. So, my answer is that every terrorist is an enemy. We respect every political opposition; and we do have political opposition inside Syria. They adopt tough positions against the state, and we are not attacking them. … The state will confront all those who carry weapons. It will not ask them about their ideology. But the difference is that the extremist groups refuse to have any dialogue with the state. They believe that they will fight, die, and go to heaven. This is their doctrine. …
Question 9: Mr. President, what do you think of Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham? They did negotiate with you, and went to Geneva.
President Assad: They went as part of the opposition formed by Saudi Arabia, because it is Saudi Arabia which supports terrorism worldwide. So it is only natural for the representatives of Saudi Arabia to be terrorists, not politicians.
Question 10: So you will not negotiate with those?
President Assad: In principle, direct negotiations were not supposed to take place in Geneva 3. They were supposed to take place through de Mistura [of the UN]. And here we should be precise: we are not negotiating with Syrians, but with representatives of Saudi Arabia, France, the UK, and others. So, if you mean Syrian-Syrian dialogue, the answer is naturally no. Dialogue with these people is not a Syrian-Syrian dialogue at all. …
Question 11: All those who went to Geneva were based outside Syria. Can you explain?
President Assad: No, some of them are based inside Syria, and some live outside Syria but they are involved in politics and have supporters in Syria. I’m not talking only about terrorists, I’m talking about people who have been formed in a foreign state and act on behalf of a foreign state.
Question 12: Don’t you think that had you been more tolerant in dealing with this opposition in the past, you would have avoided this conflict? Don’t you bear part of the responsibility?
President Assad: We do not claim that we did not make mistakes in Syria. This is natural in any state. And we do not claim that we, in the Middle East, have reached a stage of significant political openness. We were moving in that direction, not very quickly, and maybe slowly. Back to your question, the more radical segments of the opposition inside Syria, which attack the state, have not been imprisoned or prosecuted by the state, neither before or after the crisis. So, I don’t know what is meant by tolerance in this case.
Question 13: Maybe it was difficult for the opposition inside Syria before. Maybe they did not have a margin for movement?
President Assad: You are talking about a general condition in the Middle East. … The question is: what is the institutional action that we should take in order to move forward. This has legal, social, or cultural aspects, because democracy is more of a culture than a law. You cannot proceed with laws while remaining culturally in your place.
Question 14: Mr. President, do you think that there might be a Turkish intervention in Syria now? And do you think the Saudi threats are serious?
President Assad: Logically, intervention is not possible, but sometimes reality is at odds with logic, particularly when there are irrational people leading a certain state. That’s why I don’t rule that out for a simple reason: Erdogan is a fanatical person with Muslim Brotherhood inclinations. He is living the Ottoman dream. … He believes that he has an Islamist mission in our region. The same applies to Saudi Arabia. The collapse of the terrorists in Syria is a collapse of their policies. I tell you that this process is surely not going to be easy for them, and we will certainly confront it.
Question 15: Mr. President, are you prepared to give northern Syria to the Kurds for self-rule after the crisis?
President Assad: This question is directly related to the Syrian constitution; and as you know, the constitution is not given by the government, all sections of Syrian society have a say in it, and it is put to public referendum. That’s why this should be a national question, not a question put to any Syrian official, whether it has to do with self-rule, federalism, decentralisation, or any similar thing. All these things are part of the political dialogue in the future; but I would like to stress that the Kurds are a Syrian national group.
Question 16: Is it true that the Russians tried to persuade you to step down? Don’t you fear a Russian-American deal on this issue?
President Assad: If we look at Russian policies and Russian officials in the same way we look at unprincipled Western officials and policies, this is a possibility. But the fact is the exact opposite, for a simple reason: the Russians treat us with great respect. They do not treat us as a superpower dealing with a minor state, but as a sovereign state dealing with a sovereign state. That’s why this issue has not been raised at all in any shape or form.
Question 17: Mr. President, are you prepared to give Russia and Iran permanent bases on your territory? Do you fear that Syria will become a satellite to these powers?
President Assad: Having military bases for any country in Syria does not mean that Syria will become a satellite state to these countries. They do not interfere in issues related to the law, the constitution, nor to politics. In any case, the Russian base exists already, while the Iranians have not asked to have one. But in principle, we do not have a problem.
Question 18: So if the Iranians raise this possibility, will you accept?
President Assad: The issue hasn’t been raised, and consequently this is hypothetical. But as I said, when we accept it in the case of Russia, it means the principle is acceptable. But this also depends on the capabilities of every state and their role on the regional and international arena.
Question 19: Has Russia asked your permission to build new bases on your territory?
President Assad: No. …
Question 21: Mr. President, do you intend to be a president for life? And if you don’t, are you in the process of grooming a successor, perhaps one of your sons?
President Assad: First, the presidency is not a hobby that we enjoy. It is a responsibility, particularly in these circumstances. As to my selecting a successor, this country is neither a farm nor a company. If I want to remain president, that should be dependent on two factors: first, my desire to be president, and second, the desire of the people. When the next elections come and I feel that the people don’t want me, I shall not stand. That’s why it’s too early to talk about this. We still have years before the next elections. …
Question 22: Mr. President, you know that there have been many accusations made about your government and you personally, most recently by the UN investigation committee which accused you of genocide, which is a crime against humanity. Aren’t you concerned that you will one day face an international court?
President Assad: … What refutes the reports of these organisations is that, first, they do not provide any evidence, and this is the case in general. Second, there is a logic for things: if Western states and rich Gulf states are against an individual, and this individual is killing his people, how would he withstand for five years in these circumstances? That’s why I’m not concerned about these threats or these allegations.
Question 23: But don’t you believe that these reports are correct? There are eyewitnesses in this case.
President Assad: No, there is a difference between individual crimes having been committed and having a state policy of systematic killing. I said that innocent people die in the war. That is true, but war crimes are committed when orders are given to follow a policy of committing massacres for certain purposes. Had this been true, people would have fled from state-controlled areas to the areas controlled by armed groups. What is happening is the exact opposite — everybody moves to the state-controlled areas.
Question 24: Mr. President, how do you think you will figure in history: as a man who saved Syria or a man who destroyed it?
President Assad: This depends on who will write the history. If it is the West, it will give me all the bad attributes. What’s important is how I think. Certainly, and self-evidently, I will seek, and that is what I’m doing now, to protect Syria, not to protect the chair I’m sitting on.
Repeated Western polling of the Syrian population shows that overwhelmingly they would elect Assad in any free and fair internationally monitored election, and that they despise ISIS and blame the U.S. Government for it. This makes clear why (until recently at least) U.S. President Obama has insisted that Assad must be overthrown before there are any elections in Syria (and Hillary Clinton still does insist upon that): it’s the only way for the West’s tyrants to get rid of him, so as to serve their own financial backers.
The reason why Western ‘news’ media ignore many important news-events (such as the AFP’s superb interview of the man whom the U.S. aristocracy and its allied aristocracies are determined to overthrow) is that informing the public truthfully so that voters will be able to vote on the basis of truths instead of on the basis of delusions that are inculcated into them by the media, isn’t actually their purpose, at all — especially not when the topic is international relations. Those delusions of the public are placed into the public’s mind, by the profession that knows how to do that. It’s what the aristocracy hires them to do. That’s the way to succeed in this profession. Specifically, in the present instance: any news-editor who would have decided to accept and publish this AFP article (and none did) would risk his career by that.
Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.