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

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

Charlie Rose: Do you believe this is becoming a religious war?

President al-Assad: It started partly as a sectarian war in some areas, but now it’s not, because when you talk about sectarian war or religious war, you should have a very clear line between the sects and religions in Syria according to the geography and the demography in Syria, something we don’t have. So, it’s not religious war, but Al-Qaeda always use religions, Islam – actually, as a pretext and as a cover and as a mantle for their war and for their terrorism and for their killing and beheading and so on.

Charlie Rose: Why has this war lasted two and a half years?

President al-Assad: Because of the external interference, because there is an external agenda supported by, or let’s say led by the United States, the West, the petrodollar countries, mainly Saudi Arabia, and before was Qatar, and Turkey. That’s why it lasted two years and a half.

Charlie Rose: But what are they doing, those countries you cited?

The West wanted to undermine the Syrian positions

President al-Assad: They have different agendas. For the West, they wanted to undermine the Syrian positions. For the petrodollar countries like Saudi Arabia, they’re thinking undermining Syria will undermine Iran on sectarian basis. For Turkey, they think that if the Muslim Brotherhood take over the rest of the region, they will be very comfortable, they will be very happy, they will make sure that their political future is guaranteed. So they have different agendas and different goals.

Charlie Rose: But at the same time, as I said, you used Hezbollah and got support from Iran, from Russia. So, what is happening here. Is this a kind of war that exists because of support from outside Syria on both sides?

President al-Assad: This is cooperation, I don’t know what you mean by support. We have cooperation with countries for decades. Why talk about this cooperation now?

Charlie Rose: Then you tell me, what are you receiving from Iran?

President al-Assad: Political support. We have agreements with many countries including Iran, including Russia, including other countries that are about different things including armament. It’s cooperation like any cooperation between any two countries, which is normal. It’s not related to the crisis. You don’t call it support, because you pay money for what you get. So, you don’t call it support, it’s cooperation, call it whatever you want, but the word “support” is not precise. From Russia for example, we have political support, which is different from the cooperation. We have cooperation for 60 years now, but now we have political support.

Charlie Rose: Well, the Russians said they have ongoing support for you, but beyond just political cooperation. I mean they have treaties that existed with Syria.

President al-Assad: Exactly.

Charlie Rose: And they provide all kinds of defensive weapons.

President al-Assad: You said treaties, and a Russian official said; we have not agreement… contracts, that we have to fulfill, and those contracts are like any country; you buy armaments, you buy anything you want.

Charlie Rose: But do you believe this has become a conflict of Sunni vs. Shia’a?

President al-Assad: No, not yet. This is in the mind of the Saudis, and this is in the minds of the Wahabists.

Charlie Rose: And in the minds of the Iranians?

President al-Assad: No, no, actually what they are doing is the opposite. They tried to open channels with the Saudi, with many other Islamic entities in the region in order to talk about Islamic society, not Sunni and Shi’ite societies.

Charlie Rose: Was there a moment for you, when you saw the Arab spring approaching Syria, that you said “I’ve seen what happened in Libya, I’ve seen what happened in Tunisia, I’ve seen what happened in Egypt, it’s not gonna happen to Bashar al-al-Assad. I will fight anybody that tries to overthrow my regime with everything I have.”

President al-Assad: No, for one reason; because the first question that I ask: do I have public support or not. That is the first question that I asked as President. If I don’t have the public support, whether there’s the so-called “Arab spring” – it’s not spring, anyway – but whether we have this or we don’t, if you don’t have public support, you have to quit, you have to leave. If you have public support, in any circumstances you have to stay. That’s your mission, you have to help the people, you have to serve the people.

Charlie Rose: When you say “public support” people point to Syria and say a minority sect, Alawites, control a majority Sunni population, and they say “dictatorship” and they do it because it because of the force of their own instruments of power. That’s what you have, not public support, for this war against other Syrians.

President al-Assad: Now, it’s been two years and a half, ok? Two years and a half and Syria is still withstanding against the United States, the West, Saudi Arabia, the richest countries in this area, including Turkey, and, taking into consideration what your question implies, that even the big part or the bigger part of the Syrian population is against me, how can I withstand till today? Am I the superhuman or Superman, which is not the case!

Charlie Rose: Or you have a powerful army.

President al-Assad: The army is made of the people; it cannot be made of robots. It’s made of people.

Charlie Rose: Surely you’re not suggesting that this army is not at your will and the will of your family.

President al-Assad: What do you mean by “will of the family?”

Charlie Rose: The will of your family. Your brother is in the military. The military has been… every observer of Syria believes that this is a country controlled by your family and controlled by the Alawites who are your allies. That’s the control.

President al-Assad: If that situation was correct – what you’re mentioning – we wouldn’t have withstood for two years and a half. We would have disintegration of the army, disintegration of the whole institution in the state; we would have disintegration of Syria if that was the case. It can’t be tolerated in Syria. I’m talking about the normal reaction of the people. If it’s not a national army, it cannot have the support, and if it doesn’t have the public support of every sect, it cannot do its job and advance recently. It cannot. The army of the family doesn’t make national war.


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