President Bashar al-Assad gave an interview to AFP in which he said what happened in Khan Shaikhoun is a fabricated story, stressing that Syria does not possess a chemical arsenal.

He made it clear that Syria can only allow any investigation in the Khan Sheikhoun incident when it’s impartial. He said that the United States is not serious in achieving any political solution. He stressed that Syria’s firepower and ability to attack terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.

Following is the second and concluding part of the interview which we have chosen from globalresearch.org.

Question 14: It is possible that the chemical attack could have been carried out by a rogue or fringe element from the army?

President Assad: Even if you have a rogue element, the army doesn’t have chemical materials. This is first. Second, a rogue army cannot send an airplane at their will, even if they want. It’s an airplane. It’s not a small car to take it from one place to another or a small machinegun to use it. You can talk about somebody who has been using his pistol on his behalf the way he wants and break the law that could happen anywhere in the world, but not an airplane. This is second.

Third, the Syrian Army is a regular army, it’s not a militia. It’s a regular army, it has hierarchy, it has very clear way of orders, so this kind of “rogue personnel tried to do something against the will of the leadership of the army” never happened during the last six years of the war in Syria.

Question 15: Did the Russians warn you before the US attack? And were they present in the airbase?

President Assad: No, they didn’t warn us because they didn’t have the time to warn, because the Americans called them maybe a few minutes before the launching, or some say after the launching, because it takes time to reach the base. But actually, we had indications that there was something that was going to happen, and we took many measures in that regard.

Question 16: Do you confirm that 20% of your air force has been destroyed in this attack as the Americans said?

President Assad: I don’t know what’s the criteria, what’s the reference of 20%, what’s the hundred percent for them? Is it the number of airplanes? Is it the quality? Is it, how to say, the active airplanes and stored airplanes? I don’t know what they mean by this. No, actually, what we and the Russians announced about a few airplanes being destroyed, most of them are the old ones, some of them were not active anymore. This is the reality, and the proof is that, since the strike, we haven’t stopped attacking terrorists all over Syria. So, we didn’t feel that we are really affected. Our firepower, our ability to attack the terrorists hasn’t been affected by this strike.

Question 17: You know, your government said in the beginning that you hit a chemical weapon depot. Is it true?

President Assad: It was a possibility, because when you attack any target related to the terrorists, you don’t know what’s in it. You know that this a target; it could be a store, it could be warehouse, it could be a depot, it could be a camp, it could be a headquarter, we don’t know. But you know that terrorists are using this place and you attack it, like any other place, and that’s what we’ve been doing since the beginning of the war on daily bases, on hourly bases sometimes, but you cannot tell what’s within this. So, that was one of the possibilities that the airstrikes attacked a depot of chemical materials, but this is conflicting again with the timing of the announcement, not because only the terrorists announced it in the morning, but because their media, their pages on Twitter and on the internet announced the attack a few hours before the alleged one, which is 4 in the mourning; they announced that there’s going to be a chemical attack, we have to be ready. How did they know about it?

Question 18: For the first time in six years, the US attack your army and after a brief honeymoon, Tillerson said that reign of Assad family is coming to the end, don’t you think that Khan Sheikhoun is a huge setback for you?

President Assad: There is no reign of Assad family anyway in Syria. He’s dreaming, or let’s say, he’s hallucinating, so, we don’t waste our time with his statement. In reality, no. Actually, during the last six years, the US has been directly involved in supporting terrorists everywhere in Syria, including Daesh, including al-Nusra, including all the other like-minded factions in Syria, this is clear, and this is proven in Syria. While if you want to talk about the direct attacks, actually only a few months ago, there was a more dangerous attack than the recent one, just before Obama left, I think a few weeks before he left, it was in Deir Ezzor in the eastern part of Syria when they attacked a very strategic mountain, it was a Syrian base, a regular Syrian Army base, and that helped Daesh to take over that mountain, and if the Syrian Army wasn’t resilient and strong enough to repel Daesh, the city of Deir Ezzor would have been now in the hands of Daesh, means a direct link between Deir Ezzor and Mosul in Iraq, which would have been a very strategic gain to Daesh. So, actually, the American government was directly involved. But this time, why did they attack directly? Because, as I said, the terrorists in that area were collapsing. So, the US didn’t have any other choice to support their proxies, the terrorists, but to directly attack the Syrian Army because they sent them all kinds of armaments and it didn’t work.

Question 19: So, for you, it’s not a huge setback?

President Assad: No, no, it’s actually part of the context, the same context for six years; it took different shapes, but the core of the American policy and the Western policy towards what’s happening in Syria, it hasn’t changed at all. Forget about the statements; sometimes we have high-pitch statements, sometimes you have low-pitch statements, but it’s the same policy.

Question 20: You have gradually pushed most of the rebels into Idlib, do you plan to attack it next?

President Assad: We’re going to attack terrorists anywhere in Syria, Idlib or any other place. What’s the timing, what’s the priority, this is a military issue and should be discussed on the military level.

Question 21: You said before that Raqqa is a priority for your government, but the forces advancing on the city are mostly US-backed Kurds, aren’t you afraid of being excluded from the liberation of Raqqa?

President Assad: No, we support whoever wants to liberate any city from the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean to be liberated from terrorists and being occupied by American forces, for example, or by another proxy, or another terrorists. So, it’s not clear who is going to liberate Raqqa. Is it really Syrian forces that are going to hand it over to the Syrian Army? Is it going to be in cooperation with the Syrian Army? It’s not clear yet. But what we hear is only allegations about liberating Raqqa. We’ve been hearing that for nearly a year now, or less than a year, but nothing happened on the ground. So, it’s just, let’s say, a hypothetical question, because there is nothing concrete on the ground.

Question 22: The US and Russia are the co-sponsors of Geneva process. Because of the tension between the two countries, do you think that this process can continue?

President Assad: Look, there’s a big difference between the process being active, which could happen anytime, to reactivate the process and to be effective. Till this moment, its’ not effective. Why? Because the United States is not serious in achieving any political solution. They want to use it as an umbrella for terrorists, or they want to get in this forum what they didn’t get on the ground in the battlefield. That’s why it wasn’t effective at all. Now, it’s the same situation, we don’t see this administration serious in that regard, because they still support the same terrorists. So, we can say yes, it could be reactivated, but we cannot say we expect it to be effective or productive. No.

Question 23: After six years, Mr. President, aren’t you tired?

President Assad: Actually, the only thing that could make pressure on you is not the political situation, not the military situation; actually the human situation in Syria, the daily blood-letting, the daily blood-shedding, the suffering and the hardship that inflicted every house in Syria, this is the only painful thing that could make you feel tired- if it is accurate to say “tired”- while if you talk about the war, about the politics, about the relation with the West, no, I don’t feel tired at all, because we are defending our country, and we’re not going to get tired at all in that regard.

Question 24: What makes you lose sleep?

President Assad: Again, the suffering of the Syrian people. The humanitarian interaction between me and every Syrian family directly or indirectly, this is the only thing that could deprive me from sleep from time to time, but not the Western statements and not the threat of the support for terrorists.

Question 25: Today, there are people from Foua’a and Kefraya who will move from their village to Damascus and to Aleppo. You are not afraid that in fact it will be a displacement of population, that the Syria after the war will not be the same Syria as before?

President Assad: The displacement in that context is compulsory. We didn’t choose it. We wish that everyone could stay in his village and his city, but those people like many other civilians in different areas were surrounded and besieged by terrorists, and they’ve been killed on daily basis, so they had to leave. But of course they’re going to return to their cities after liberation. That happened in many other areas where the people are going back to their homes. So, it’s temporary. Talking about demographic changes is not for the sake or in the interest of the Syrian society when it’s permanent. As long as it’s temporary, we wouldn’t worry about it.

Journalist: Mr. President, I want to thank you very much for this interview. It was very interesting, and thank you very much for talking with me.

President Assad: Thank you.

RM/ME

Apr 20, 2017 08:44 UTC
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