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

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

President al-Assad: First of all, we have the precedent of Colin Powell ten years ago, when he showed the evidence, it was false, and it was forged. This is first. Second, you want me to believe American evidence and don’t want me to believe the indications that we have. We live here, this is our reality.

Charlie Rose: Your indications are what?

President al-Assad: That the rebels or the terrorists used the chemical weapons in northern Aleppo five months ago.

Charlie Rose: And on August 21st?

President al-Assad: No, no, no. That was before. On the 21st, again they used it against our soldiers in our area where we control it, and our soldiers went to the hospital, you can see them if you want.

Charlie Rose: But Ghouta is not controlled by your forces, it’s controlled by the rebel forces. The area where that attack took place is controlled by rebel forces.

President al-Assad: What if they have stockpiles and they exploded because of the bombardment? What if they used the missile by mistake and attacked themselves by mistake?

Charlie Rose: Let me move to the question of whether a strike happens, and I touched on this before. You have had fair warning. Have you prepared by moving possible targets, are you moving targets within civilian populations, all the things that you might have done if you have time to do that and you have had clear warning that this might be coming?

President al-Assad: Syria is in a state of war since its land was occupied for more than four decades, and the nature of the frontier in Syria implies that most of the army is in inhabited areas, most of the centers are in inhabited areas. You hardly find any military base in distant areas from the cities unless it’s an airport or something like this, but most of the military bases or centers within inhabited areas.

Charlie Rose: Will there be attacks against American bases in the Middle East if there’s an airstrike?

President al-Assad: You should expect everything. Not necessarily through the government, the governments are not the only player in this region. You have different parties, different factions, you have different ideologies; you have everything in this region now. So, you have to expect that.

Charlie Rose: Tell me what you mean by “expect everything.”

President al-Assad: Expect every action.

Charlie Rose: Including chemical warfare?

President al-Assad: That depends. If the rebels or the terrorists in this region or any other group have it, this could happen, I don’t know. I’m not a fortuneteller to tell you what’s going to happen.

Charlie Rose: But we’d like to know more, I think the President would like to know, the American people would like to know. If there is an attack, what might be the repercussions and who might be engaged in those repercussions?

President al-Assad: Okay, before the 11th of September, in my discussions with many officials of the United States, some of them are Congressmen, I used to say that “don’t deal with terrorists as playing games.” It’s a different story. You’re going to pay the price if you’re not wise in dealing with terrorists. We said you’re going to be repercussions of the mistaken way of dealing with it, of treating the terrorism, but nobody expected 11th of September. So, you cannot expect. It is difficult for anyone to tell you what is going to happen. It’s an area where everything is on the brink of explosion. You have to expect everything.

Charlie Rose: Let’s talk about the war today. A hundred thousand people dead. A million refugees. A country being destroyed. Do you take some responsibility for that?

President al-Assad: That depends on the decision that I took. From the first day I took the decision as President to defend my country. So, who killed? That’s another question. Actually, the terrorists have been killing our people since the beginning of this crisis two years and a half ago, and the Syrian people wanted the government and the state institutions and the army and the police to defend them, and that’s what happened. So we’re talking about the responsibility, my responsibility according to the Syrian constitution that said we have to defend ourselves.

Charlie Rose: Mr. President, you constantly say “it’s terrorists.” Most people look at the rebels and they say that Al-Qaeda and other forces from outside Syria are no more than 15 or 20 percent of the forces on the ground. The other 80% are Syrians, are defectors from your government, and defectors from your military. They are people who are Syrians who believe that their country should not be run by a dictator, should not be run by one family, and that they want a different government in their country. That’s 80% of the people fighting against you, not terrorists.

President al-Assad: We didn’t say that 80%, for example, or the majority or the vast majority, are foreigners. We said the vast majority are Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda offshoot organizations in this region. When you talk about Al-Qaeda it doesn’t matter if he’s Syrian or American or from Europe or from Asia or Africa. Al-Qaeda has one ideology and they go back to the same leadership in Afghanistan or in Syria or in Iraq. That’s the question. You have tens of thousands of foreigners, that’s definitely correct. We are fighting them on the ground and we know this.

Charlie Rose: But that’s 15 or 20% of this. That’s a realistic look at how many.

President al-Assad: Nobody knows because when they are dead and they are killed, they don’t have any ID. You look at their faces, they look foreigners, but where are they coming from? How precise this estimate is difficult to tell, but definitely the majority are Al-Qaeda. This is what concerns us, not the nationality. If you have Syrian Al-Qaeda, or Pakistani Al-Qaeda or Saudi Al-Qaeda, what’s the difference? What does it matter? The most important thing is that the majority are Al-Qaeda. We never said that the majority are not Syrians, but we said that the minority is what they call “free Syrian army.” That’s what we said.


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – Part V

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