SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad has given a comprehensive interview to Phoenix Television in which he stressed that America is stealing Syria’s oil and selling it to Turkey, which is an accomplice with all terrorist groups in stealing and selling oil.
He emphasised that there is no prospect for any American presence in Syria, and, if they remain, there will be a popular resistance and they will pay the price. Ultimately, the Americans will leave.
Question: ‘Mr President, allow me to start straight away … Syria has been able to make great achievements in fighting terrorism and large areas of Syrian territories have been restored. Now, where will you begin the reconstruction of Syria?’
President Assad: ‘In fact, we are not waiting for the end of a particular stage of the war in order to start reconstruction; reconstruction starts immediately after the liberation of any area, whether it is big or small, a village or a city. Reconstruction has stages, the first of which is rebuilding the infrastructure, particularly in the areas of water and electricity. Later, the state shifts its focus to schools, health centres and hospitals.
‘However, the most important stage in reconstruction, which comes later and constitutes the most serious challenge for us, is restoring daily activity especially economic livelihood. This requires a great deal of effort and is affected by internal factors and the external environment – namely the embargo imposed by Western countries on Syria, which has a negative effect and slows the process down. So, reconstruction has already started, but we need more investments from within and outside the country in order to scale it up.’
Question: ‘And here we ask, Mr President, what are the most important areas in which Syria needs the help of friendly countries, including China?’
President Assad: ‘China specifically provides assistance in reconstruction particularly in the humanitarian domain. As I mentioned earlier, life’s necessities are water and electricity and China is providing support in these areas through humanitarian grants which we apply to the areas most in need.
‘In the past, we did not engage in discussions with our friends – and at the forefront China, on reconstruction because the security situation did not allow us to initiate this process on a large scale. Now, with the liberation of most areas, we have started discussions with a number of Chinese companies experienced in reconstruction.
‘As I mentioned, the most important stage and the greatest challenge is the full restoration of the economic cycle. We would hope that Chinese companies start looking and studying the Syrian market which is improving quickly and constantly in terms of security.
‘It is essential that we start discussing investment opportunities, because it is well-known that rebuilding countries destroyed partially or totally by war is very profitable and has high returns-on-investment. The process is not limited to loans or providing aid without any returns, it is a profitable investment in every sense of the word.
‘We have started talking to a number of Chinese companies on finding ways to evade sanctions and have access to the Syrian market. They have shown an interest because the process is profitable, but investors and investment companies still have concerns about the way sanctions could impact them. We have found certain formulas, which will not be disclosed of course, for them to enter the Syrian market safely and consequently contribute to the reconstruction process in Syria.
‘I would like to emphasise that this support is not limited to the economy; reconstruction ultimately means contributing to Syria’s stability for two reasons. First, in the past two years, millions of Syrians have returned from abroad without finding sufficient job opportunities, which in itself is a factor that can be used by terrorists and outside powers.
‘Second, the reconciliation we have achieved in Syria, was in part with those who worked with the militants or the terrorists at a certain period. They agreed to lay down their weapons and return to their normal lives – this return requires job opportunities. So, the support from China and other friendly countries in Syria’s reconstruction, is as important as the military efforts to restoring stability in Syria, and striking and fighting terrorism.’
Question: ‘So, can we ask about the concrete measures that are being taken by the Syrian government in order to attract investors coming from China and other friendly countries?’
President Assad: ‘The first thing an investor needs is security. When we talk about a country coming out of war, we have achieved great milestones in this respect, but we are not completely finished. The first question an investor asks is about security, this is what we are doing on a daily basis – fighting terrorists and liberating areas one by one …’
Question: ‘Mr President, I would like to ask you about the Belt and Road Initiative. How do you see this initiative in general?’
President Assad: ‘From a strategic perspective, it constitutes a worldwide transformation, a transformation in the nature of international relations. If we look at the current situation in the world, we see that it is governed by Western attempts of domination, particularly on the part of the United States.
‘In the past during the Cold War, there was a period of conflict among states. This conflict was based on the degree of dominance of each pole, particularly the Western pole over a group of states, in order to achieve its interests against the other pole.
‘Before that, World War II and the preceding period of full colonialisation, states occupied other nations and wherever they did so, they defined the interests of those peoples under their domination. In most cases there were no mutual interests; those peoples were enslaved by the more powerful states.
‘Today, we see that there is a superpower – China, trying to strengthen its influence in the world. But what kind of influence? It is not the negative influence we have become accustomed to, but rather an influence in the sense of relying on friends and an influence based on mutual interests. When we in Syria think about being part of the Silk Road and Syria is a small country – by international, geographic, demographic, economic and military standards …’
Question: ‘Mr President, what is the number of the remaining American troops on Syrian territories now?’
President Assad: ‘The funny thing in American politics is that they announce the number between thousands and hundreds. When they say thousands, it is to make the the pro-war lobby – particularly the arms companies, happy that they are in a state of war. When they say hundreds: they are addressing the people who oppose the war by saying that they are only “a few hundred.” In actual fact, both figures are incorrect for a simple reason; even if these figures were correct, they are based on the number of American soldiers and not the number of individuals fighting with the American army.
‘The American regime relies significantly in its wars on private firms like Blackwater in Iraq and others. So even if they had a few hundred American soldiers in Syria, they still also have thousands – maybe tens of thousands, of civilians working for such companies and fighting in Syria. That’s why it is difficult to know the real number, but it is certainly in the thousands.’
Question: ‘The Americans say that they will protect oil wells in the east of Euphrates area in Syria; but in the end, what are they going to do with the oil produced from those wells?’
President Assad: ‘Before the Americans, in the early days Jabhat al-Nusra used these wells; after ISIS came and drove out al-Nusra – or rather when ISIS merged with al-Nusra and they all became ISIS, it also stole and sold oil. Where? It used to sell it through Turkey. Now America is the one stealing oil and selling it to Turkey. Turkey is an accomplice, with all these groups, in selling oil; it doesn’t have a problem – Turkey is ready. The Turkish regime plays a direct part in selling the oil, previously with al-Nusra, later with ISIS and today with the Americans.’
Question: ‘In this situation, what is the impact on Syrian oil returns?’
President Assad: ‘At a certain point at the beginning of the war, oil returns dropped to almost zero. Today – after restoring a small number of wells during the past two years – we have a little amount of oil. However, there is still limited positive impact on the Syrian economy from oil because most of the wells are either under the control of terrorist groups or groups acting outside the law and under American command. So, the situation with the oil has not changed much.’
Question: ‘Yes. So, how is the Syrian government going to face the question of American presence in the oil fields area east of the Euphrates?
President Assad: First, the Americans rely on terrorists. The terrorists must be attacked, this is a priority for us in Syria. Striking the terrorists weakens the American presence one way or another. At a later stage: there are Syrian groups acting under American command and these groups must be persuaded, one way or another and particularly through dialogue, that it is in all our interests in Syria that they embrace the homeland and join the Syrian state’s efforts to liberate all its territories.
‘At that point, it’s only natural that there will be no prospect for an American presence. However, if they remain, they have their experience in Iraq to consider; there will be a popular resistance and they will pay the price. Ultimately, the Americans will leave.’
Question: ‘Mr President, we have witnessed recently popular protests and riots in some neighbouring countries, including Iraq, Lebanon, and even Iran. In fact, these countries are considered, to a certain extent, Syria’s allies. How do you view what happened and is happening in these countries?’
President Assad: ‘Of course, neighbouring countries have a direct impact on us because there are direct family and economic relations, as well as other types of relations that exist between any two neighbouring countries. At the same time, the Middle East as a whole is one area; the social fabric is similar, beliefs are similar and interests are intertwined even when these countries are not direct neighbours.
‘If we assume that the movements taking place aim to address the problems faced by the population and that they would lead to improving economic, political and other conditions in these countries, then I can say that the impact will be positive.
‘However, if we think logically, would the Western countries and in particular the United States, leave these countries to continue spontaneously? They would definitely interfere and would certainly exploit every movement in order to create chaos, because American policy – at least since 2000 and since the Iraq war – is to create chaos. This is what they call “constructive chaos” that is how George Bush and Condoleezza Rice referred to it.
‘This “constructive chaos” which they are looking for, is a type of chaos that achieves their interests. That’s why when this chaos takes place in our region, or in any other region, it will have a negative impact on us. Chaos is contagious, it’s a disease, it spreads; so, we can only hope that these events remain in the internal, spontaneous, popular framework.’
Question: ‘Would it be possible to say that one should look for an American role wherever there is chaos?’
President Assad: ‘This is self-evident and has become well-known throughout the world. What is the difference between the policies of the superpowers? America, and those who stand with it (like France and Britain) believe or think – which we see as wrong but they see as right – that the interests of these countries or this axis lies in creating chaos; whereas Russia, China and most other countries believe that stability and international law are in the best interest of the world and its states, big or small.’