SYRIAN President Al-Asad said that through Western support, now there are thousands of Al-Qaeda fighters from 80 countries in Syria and that terrorism must be eliminated.
He was giving an interview to the German Der Spiegel News Magazine an extract of which is printed below:
Der Spiegel: ‘Do you think you can regain control of the areas you lost?’
President Al-Assad: ‘It is not about winning or losing in territorial terms. We are not two states, one controlling an area belonging to the other, as in the case with Israel, which occupies our Golan Heights.
‘This is about terrorism, which should be eliminated.
‘When we liberate a certain area, as we have done in many areas of Syria, it doesn’t mean that we are winning, because the terrorists withdraw to another area and destroy it.
‘That’s why we are also concerned about our citizens’ security. It is also important for us to win the support of our population: we win with their support and vice versa.’
Der Spiegel: ‘Do you still control the chemical weapons stockpiles?’
President Al-Assad: ‘Yes, certainly. Furthermore, to assure you, I would like to add that the stored materials haven’t been activated; and no one can use them before they are prepared for that purpose.’
Der Spiegel: ‘This doesn’t rule out that the army was responsible for the attack. Western intelligence services intercepted phone calls in which your commanders urge the general command to use poisonous gas.’
President Al-Assad: ‘This is complete fabrication and forgery and I will not waste my time with such allegations.’
Der Spiegel: ‘Isn’t it puzzling that we, in the West, have a completely different assessment of the situation?’
President Al-Assad: ‘In fact, your region is always late in recognising reality and is extremely slow in understanding this reality.
‘In the beginning, we talked about violent protests, while you talked about peaceful demonstrations.
‘When we started talking about extremists, you were still talking about “some militants.”
‘When we talked about Al-Qaeda, you were still talking about a few terrorists, although they are actually the majority.
‘Now you realise that it is about 50/50. Take, for instance, Secretary of State Kerry who still sticks to the past and talks about 20 per cent. This is exactly what I meant with the reality deficit you have.’
Der Spiegel: ‘Is the reluctance of the West to trust your assessments due to the lack of confidence in you. Where does the reason lie?’
President Al-Assad: ‘I think the West prefers to trust Al-Qaeda rather than to trust me.’
Der Spiegel: ‘This is absurd!’
President Al-Assad: ‘I mean it. Maybe you didn’t mean it, but it looks like it: all the decisions you have taken in the West for the past ten years have been in support of Al-Qaeda.
‘Some might have done that intentionally and some inadvertently. In any case, and through Western support, now we have thousands of Al-Qaeda fighters from 80 countries.
‘We have to deal with them. I am referring to those who have come from outside Syria.’
Der Spiegel: ‘You are losing many soldiers, those who defect to the opposition. Are you telling us that they became Al-Qaeda affiliates overnight?’
President Al-Assad: ‘No, I am not saying that they are all Al-Qaeda, but most of them are.
‘The minority are defectors or criminals. At the beginning of the crisis, we had over 60,000 outlaws at large.
‘Those alone could form a whole army. How many are fighting us? I cannot give a specific figure. Most of them cross the border illegally for jihad.
‘They come to Syria in the belief that they will go to heaven by waging war on atheists and non-Muslims.
‘Even when we get rid of thousands of them, their ranks are replenished by other jihadists.’
Der Spiegel: ‘Yet, you believe you will win in this conflict?’
President Al-Assad: ‘Even if there was no chance of winning the fight, we have no other choice but to defend our country.’
Der Spiegel: ‘On the subject of trust, we want to remind you that you have always denied that you possessed chemical weapons, while now you acknowledge that you have them.’
President Al-Assad: ‘We never stated that we had no chemical weapons. We always phrased our statements “if we had” “then” But we never lied.’
Der Spiegel: ‘It is reported that German companies supplied you with chemical materials, which you used to make chemical weapons. Do you have more specific information about this? President.’
Al-Assad: ‘No, because these are technical issues. But, in principle, we didn’t receive outside help to make these weapons, because we didn’t need assistance. We are experts in the field. We are committed to making the whole Middle East a WMD free zone.’
Der Spiegel: ‘Then, how many tons of Sarin gas or other agents do you have?’
President Al-Assad: ‘This remains classified information until it is provided to OPCW.’
Der Spiegel: ‘According to intelligence agencies, you have a thousand tons in your stockpile.’
President Al-Assad: ‘What’s important is the principle not the figure. We have these weapons, yes, but we are committed to making the whole Middle East a WMD free zone.’
Der Spiegel: ‘This is also a matter of trust. You say you have 32 stores, while Western intelligence services put the figure at 50.’
President Al-Assad: ‘This is a technical issue better determined by specialists. As president, my focus is on the political track.
‘We are transparent and the experts can access any facility. We’ll provide them with the data, which they can examine and verify and then judge our credibility.’
Later in the interview Der Spiegel asked: ‘Don’t you need the West?’
President Al-Assad: ‘Of course, but not to replace the Syrians, or the Russians who are real friends.
‘They understand better than the West the truth about what is happening here in reality
‘If I am praising them now, this is not because of the close ties that have linked us for years, but because, frankly, the Russians are more independent than you are in Europe.
‘You rely too much on the United States in your policies and easily adopt its policies.’
Der Spiegel: ‘The fact of the matter is that the Russians have strategic interests in Syria.’
President Al-Assad: ‘You can discuss that with President Putin.
‘But I will say that some Europeans have come and signalled that they are convinced with our political position and that they share our analyses and explanations of the situation.
‘But they cannot say this in public because it’s difficult for them at this moment in time.’
Der Spiegel: ‘And this applies to the poisonous gas attack?’
President Al-Assad: ‘Of course. I say some, not all. To make this clearer, I’ll elaborate on the accusations against us.
‘Both Obama and Kerry presented lies. But Obama couldn’t convince his people with his lies. According to one opinion poll, 51 per cent of the American people reject a military strike against Syria.
‘The British Parliament was against the strike too; and there was a tough debate in the French parliament. The whole “atmosphere” in Europe was against the strike, including the Vatican. Why? Because most people didn’t believe Obama’s story.’