IN AN an interview given to al-Manar TV, President Bashar Assad said the essence of the crisis in Syria is foreign interference by the US and its allies.
He also defended the Lebanese state and stressed the importance and strength of Syria’s alliance with Iran and Russia. President Assad said that if there hadn’t been hope of victory among its citizens, then Syria wouldn’t have persevered for four and a half years.
‘This hope is the incentive for confronting terrorists and confronting the plot devised against Syria and applied as it was applied in a number of other Arab countries. ”We rely firstly on people’, he continued, adding: ‘If you don’t have public support then there is no value for any political or national direction you adopt as a president or official or state.
‘First, you rely on the people, and second on friends who stand firm alongside Syria, and support in the region and in the world . . . ‘The essence of this problem is foreign interference, the paying of funds, and sending weapons and terrorists to Syria . . . ‘Let those forces that present themselves as representatives of the Syrian people come and prove that they represent them or have influence, and we would hold dialogue with them without hesitation. This is what is called the political track.
‘But in fact, for this political track to have an effect, it must be between Syrian independent political forces that belong to the Syrian people and have their roots in Syria and Syria alone, unlike what we see now in several of the forces we hold dialogue with that are bound financially and politically to foreign sides.’
Regarding the repeated Israeli aggressions on Syrian territories that took place recently, Assad said: ‘If we look at Lebanon’s experience during the past few decades, what emboldened Israel against the Lebanese? It was the fact that some of the Lebanese were connected to foreign sides.
‘Some of them were connected to Israel. Some called and begged for foreign interference in its various forms. . . . Today, the main Israeli tool that is more important than that aggression are the terrorists in Syria, meaning that what they do is much more dangerous than what Israel does from time to time to support them. They are the basis of the problem.
‘So, if we want to confront Israel, first we have to face its tools within Syria. You cannot confront an external enemy when you have an internal enemy. This matter must be resolved within Syria, and then things will be back to the way they were, and no-one would dare act against Syria; not Israel nor anyone else.’
On Russian efforts now that Geneva 3 is looming, President Assad said: ‘We have great trust in the Russians, and they proved throughout this crisis since four years ago that they are honest and transparent with us in relations and that they are principled. These are important points.
‘So, when they meet various sides, we don’t feel concern that these sides might distort the true image for the Russians. The Russians have close relations with Syria and are capable of finding out about all that is happening accurately. We believe the goal of the Russians is to bring political sides towards dialogue to cut off calls for war.
‘This is the goal, but in the end there won’t be an agreement over anything unless we Syrians sit with each other and hold dialogue with each other. It won’t be the Russians who impose any solution, so we encourage them to meet all forces and we are relieved when a Russian official meets any figure, without exception.’
Regarding proposals such as revising the constitution or holding elections under international supervision, Assad asked: ‘which international side is authorised to give us a certificate of good behaviour? We don’t accept that’.
On the relation between the crisis in Syria and the Iranian nuclear deal, he said: ‘Was Syria presented as an offering? Certainly not, but we could say that Syria made offerings.’
He added: ‘In this context, the steadfastness and unity of the Iranian people regarding the nuclear issue are the two most important factors that led to this achievement. As for the Syrian factor, perhaps I can’t be certain; the Iranians are best suited to specify this point, but it could have been one of the contributing factors.’
Assad said that the alliance between Syria and Iran is 35 years old, and so being allied to Iran and vice versa is nothing new, noting that when Iran was subjected to an unjust war, Syria stood by its side, and now that Syria is subjected to an unjust war, Iran is standing by its side.
He said that Syria and Iran share viewpoints and have mutual principles, and they form the axis of resistance, and so the principles will not change; only some tactics may change, or maybe some results on the ground.
Assad went on to say: ‘The Arab identity isn’t a choice; to belong to a religion and a nationality is your identity, and when you reach this point, this is what the enemies want: for us to disavow ourselves of our identity. The essence of the cause now, and the wars that are happening, isn’t about toppling regimes; rather this is a stage and a tool, nor is it about undermining states and economies. All those are tools. The final goal is undermining the identity, and when we reach that point preemptively, we’re giving the enemies a free present that precludes their need later for military intervention or for using terrorists.’
Regarding the difference between the presence of Hezbollah fighters in Syria and the other side having foreign fighters, Assad said that the difference lies in legitimacy. He stressed that Hezbollah entered Syria through agreement with the Syrian state which is the legitimate, elected representative of the Syrian people and is supported by their majority, so the state has the right to invite forces to defend the Syrian people, while the other forces are terrorists who came to murder Syrians and against the will of the people and the state.
On his relations with Hezbollah leader Sayyed Nasrallah, Assad said: ‘The relationship is one of a resistant state and a true resistant figure who gave his son in defence of Lebanon.’ On US training of Syrian opposition figures Assad said: ‘The track of events in Syria wouldn’t stop at this group . . . there is another thing which is bigger and more dangerous that we should worry about, it is the west’s disregard of the danger of terrorism in the whole region.’
Assad said Turkey’s leader Erdogan has ‘big dreams to be a leader, to be a Muslim brotherhood sultan . . . he wants a merger between the experiment of Sultanate and that of the new Muslim brotherhood that he has built his big aspirations on. . . . Those dreams have collapsed now . . . the thing that remains to him now is that his masters respond to him. Erdogan and Davutoglu have proven in this crisis that they are mere puppets which have a big dream in Syria which is the dream of a buffer zone . . . it is the last dream after the failure of all their previous dreams in Syria.’
Assad said the relations between Syria, Egypt and Iraq are the base of Arab civilisations throughout history – ‘There are a number of institutions in Egypt that refused to sever relations and continued communication with Syria, and we have listened to a national and pan-Arab discourse from them . . .
‘I don’t want to hold the brothers in Egypt responsible . . . perhaps the conditions are very pressing . . . what we want, in the first phase, is for Egypt not to be a launch-pad against Syria or against others in the Arab countries, but in the second phase we want Egypt to play the role of the important country which helps the other Arab countries . . .
‘Syria believes that it stands in the same trench as the Egyptian army and the Egyptian people against terrorists who change their names.’ As for additional measures to ease some livelihood crises regarding Syrian citizens, Assad said: ‘We have begun projects of reconstruction . . . they are most important for any country destroyed by war . . . these projects run with steady steps forwards and there are productive projects on hand.’