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

Part VII: Partial transcript of Charlie Rose’s interview with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The interview was broadcasted on Sept. 9, 2013. Charlie Rose: Some will argue that you didn’t have this support because in fact the rebels were winning before you got the support of Hezbollah and an enlarged support from the Iranians, that you were losing and then they came in and gave you support so that you were able to at least start winning and produce at least a stalemate.

President al-Assad: No, the context is wrong, because talking about winning and losing is like if you’re talking about two armies fighting on two territories, which is not the case. Those are gangs, coming from abroad, infiltrate inhabited areas, kill the people, take their houses, and shoot at the army. The army cannot do the same, and the army doesn’t exist everywhere.

Charlie Rose: But they control a large part of your country.

President al-Assad: No, they went to every part there’s no army in it, and the army went to clean and get rid of them. They don’t go to attack the army in an area where the army occupied that area and took it from it. It’s completely different, it’s not correct, or it’s not precise what you’re talking about. So, it’s completely different. What the army is doing is cleaning those areas, and the indication that the army is strong is that it’s making advancement in that area. It never went to one area and couldn’t enter to it – that’s an indication. How could that army do that if it’s a family army or a sect army? What about the rest of the country who support the government? It’s not realistic, it doesn’t happen. Otherwise, the whole country will collapse.

Charlie Rose: One small point about American involvement here, the President’s gotten significant criticism because he has not supported the rebels more. As you know, there was an argument within his own counsels from Secretary of State Clinton, from CIA Director David Petraeus, from the Defense Department, Leon Penetta, Secretary of Defense, and others, that they should have helped the rebels two years ago, and we would be in a very different place, so the President has not given enough support to the rebels in the view of many people, and there’s criticism that when he made a recent decision to give support, it has not gotten to the rebels, because they worry about the composition.

President al-Assad: If the American administration want to support Al-Qaeda – go ahead. That’s what we have to tell them, go ahead and support Al-Qaeda, but don’t talk about rebels and free Syrian army. The majority of fighters now are Al-Qaeda. If you want to support them, you are supporting Al-Qaeda, you are creating havoc in the region, and if this region is not stable, the whole world cannot be stable.

Charlie Rose: With respect, sir, most people don’t believe the majority of forces are Al-Qaeda. Yes, there is a number of people who are Al-Qaeda affiliates and who are here who subscribe to the principles of Al-Qaeda, but that’s not the majority of the forces as you know. You know that the composition differs within the regions of Syria as to the forces that are fighting against your regime. The American officials should learn to deal with reality.

President al-Assad: The American officials should learn to deal with reality. Why did the United States fail in most of its wars? Because it always based its wars on the wrong information. So, whether they believe or not, this is not reality. I have to be very clear and very honest. I’m not asking them to believe if they don’t want to believe. This is reality, I’m telling you the reality from our country. We live here, we know what is happening, and they have to listen to people here. They cannot listen only to their media or to their research centers. They don’t live here; no one lives here but us. So, this is reality. If they want to believe, that’s good, that will help them understand the region and be more successful in their policies.

Charlie Rose: Many people think this is not a sustainable position here; that this war cannot continue, because the cost for Syria is too high. Too many deaths – a hundred thousand and counting, too many refugees, too much destruction; the soul of a country at risk. If it was for the good of the country, would you step down?

President al-Assad: That depends on the relation of me staying in this position and the conflict. We cannot discuss it just to say you have to step down. Step down, why, and what is the expected result? This is first. Second, when you’re in the middle of a storm, leaving your country just because you have to leave without any reasonable reason, it means you’re quitting your country and this is treason.

Charlie Rose: You say it would be treason for you to step down right now because of your obligation to the country?

President al-Assad: Unless the public wants you to quit.

Charlie Rose: And how will you determine that?

President al-Assad: By the two years and a half withstanding. Without the public support, we cannot withstand two years and a half. Look at the other countries, look what happened in Libya, in Tunisia and in Egypt.

Charlie Rose: You worry about that, what happened to Gaddafi?

President al-Assad: No, we are worried that rebels are taking control in many countries, and look at the results now. Are you satisfied as an American? What are the results? Nothing. Very bad – nothing good.


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