Transcript: Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – Part I

Part I: Partial transcript of Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The interview was broadcasted on Sept. 9, 2013.

Charlie Rose: Mr. President thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you at a very important moment because the President of the United States will address the nation this week and, as you know an important conversation is taking place in Washington and important things are happening here in your country. Do you expect an airstrike?

President al-Assad: As long as the United States doesn’t obey the international law and trample over the Charter of the United Nations we have to worry that any administration – not only this one – would do anything. According to the lies that we’ve been hearing for the last two weeks from high-ranking officials in the US administration we have to expect the worst.

Charlie Rose: Are you prepared?

President al-Assad: We’ve been living in difficult circumstances for the last two years and a half, and we prepare ourselves for every possibility. But that doesn’t mean if you’re prepared things will be better; it’s going to get worse with any foolish strike or stupid war.

Charlie Rose: What do you mean worse?

President al-Assad: Worse because of the repercussions because nobody can tell you the repercussions of the first strike. We’re talking about one region, bigger regions, not only about Syria. This interlinked region, this intermingled, interlocked, whatever you want to call it; if you strike somewhere, you have to expect the repercussions somewhere else in different forms in ways you don’t expect.

Charlie Rose: Are you suggesting that if in fact there is a strike; there will be repercussions against the United States from your friends in other countries like Iran or Hezbollah or others?

President al-Assad: As I said, this may take different forms: direct and indirect. Direct when people want to retaliate, or governments. Indirect when you’re going to have instability and the spread of terrorism all over the region that will influence the west directly.

Charlie Rose: Have you had conversations with Russia, with Iran or with Hezbollah about how to retaliate?

President al-Assad: We don’t discuss this issue as a government, but we discuss the repercussions, which is more important because sometimes repercussions could be more destroying than the strike itself. Any American strike will not destroy as much as the terrorists have already destroyed in Syria; sometimes the repercussions could be many doubles the strike itself.

Charlie Rose: But some have suggested that it might tip the balance in the favor of the rebels and lead to the overthrow of your government.

Any strike will be as direct support to Al-Qaeda

President al-Assad: Exactly. Any strike will be as direct support to Al-Qaeda offshoot that’s called Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. You’re right about this. It’s going to be direct support.

Charlie Rose: This is about chemical warfare. Let’s talk about that. Do you approve of the use of chemical warfare, the use of deadly chemicals? Do you think that it is an appropriate tool of war, to use chemicals?

President al-Assad: We are against any WMD, any weapons of mass destruction, whether chemical or nuclear.

Charlie Rose: So you’re against the use of chemical warfare?

President al-Assad: Yes, not only me. As a state, as a government, in 2001 we proposed to the United Nations to empty or to get rid of every WMD in the Middle East, and the United States stood against that proposal. This is our conviction and policy.

Charlie Rose: But you’re not a signatory to the chemical warfare agreement.

President al-Assad: Not yet.

Charlie Rose: Why not?

President al-Assad: Because Israel has WMD, and it has to sign, and Israel is occupying our land, so that’s we talked about the Middle East, not Syria, not Israel; it should be comprehensive.

Charlie Rose: Do you consider chemical warfare equivalent to nuclear warfare?

President al-Assad: I don’t know. We haven’t tried either.

Charlie Rose: But you know, you’re a head of state, and you understand the consequences of weapons that don’t discriminate.

President al-Assad: Technically, they’re not the same. But morally, it’s the same.

Charlie Rose: Morally, they are the same.

President al-Assad: They are the same, but at the end, killing is killing. Massacring is massacring. Sometimes you may kill tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands with very primitive armaments.

Charlie Rose: Then why do you have such a stockpile of chemical weapons?

President al-Assad: We don’t discuss this issue in public because we never said that we have it, and we never said that we don’t have it. It’s a Syrian issue; it’s a military issue we never discuss in public with anyone.

Charlie Rose: This is from the New York Times this morning: Syria’s leaders amassed one of the world’s largest stockpiles of chemical weapons with help from the Soviet Union and Iran as well as Western European suppliers, and even a handful of American companies. According to American diplomatic cables and declassified intelligence records, you have amassed one of the largest supplies of chemical weapons in the world.

President al-Assad: To have or not to have is a possibility, but to depend on what media says is nonsense, or to depend on some of the reports of the intelligence is nonsense and that was proven when they invaded Iraq ten years ago and they said “Iraq has stockpiles of WMD” and it was proven after the invasion that this was false; it was fraud. So, we can’t depend on what one magazine wrote. But at the end, I said it’s something not to be discussed with anyone.

Charlie Rose: You accept that the world believes that you have a stockpile of chemical weapons?

President al-Assad: Who?

Charlie Rose: The world. The United States and other powers who also said that you have chemical weapons.

President al-Assad: It isn’t about what they believe in, it’s about the reality that we have, and this reality, we own it, we don’t have to discuss it.

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