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Wednesday, December 2

"You cannot be the police and the thief at the same time"

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was interviewed in Damascus by Česká televize ("Czech TV"), a public broadcasting TV station in the Czech Republic that has a colorful history of its journalists battling being muzzled by censors. The interview, which was conducted in English, was also posted to YouTube in two parts on December 1 and transcribed in full in English by Syria's state news agency, SANA, and published there the same day.

Given the horrific November 13 attack in Paris, Assad speaks with what may seem brutal frankness about France, but he speaks in the manner of a physician giving a diagnosis. A habit from his days as a practicing physician that he's yet to shake. 

I also note he doesn't waste time contesting the figure of  250,000 Syrians killed in the war that the interviewer cites, but recently a reader at the Washington Post rubbished the highly misleading death toll figures that have been cited as if it's established fact:   
You push the same ill-informed figure of 300,000 deaths implying that all deaths in the conflict are somehow attributable to Assad. This is absurd and proves you are more susceptible to propaganda than to facts.
Approx. 100,000 deaths are of Syrian Arab Army regulars and Syrian gov't militias. Another approx. 125,000 are "moderate" terrorist rebels. Leaving approx. 25,000-75,000 dead civilians. Why anyone would blame the majority of those deaths on Assad rather than ISIS and Al Qaeda headchoppers requires some fancy rhetoric.
A great deal of fancy rhetoric has been deployed against Assad, but he recognizes that now is not the time to mud wrestle with propagandists. Now is the time to convey the central point to anyone willing to listen, which quite simply is that it's not possible to live a contradiction, and that trying is self-destructive and extremely dangerous to others. 

From the transcript at SANA


Question 3: You mentioned terrorism. It seems that in recent days, there have been huge developments in the Syrian crisis. What do you think was the most important date in the Syrian crisis: September 30th and the Russian intervention or November 13th and the Paris terrorist attacks?
President Assad: Now definitely the Russian participation, or what was announced as a front against terrorism, is the most important one. This is the practical thing against terrorism, while in Paris what happened on the political level is just to assuage the feelings of the French, like saying the French are going to attack ISIS in a very different way. What does that mean? Was not France serious before the attack on Paris? So, they are going to only assuage the feelings of the French, nothing serious, while the Russians are very serious in fighting terrorism and there is cooperation between them and the Syrian army.
Question 4: So you think that the increase in attacks by the western coalition or the coalition under the U.S. leadership is not helping?
President Assad: According to the facts, since the beginning of that coalition, if you want to talk about facts not opinions, ISIS has expanded, and their recruits from around the world have increased. While since the participation of the Russians in the same so-called fight against terrorism, ISIS has been shrinking and Al Nusra of course and other terrorist groups. So, this is reality. The facts are telling.
Question 5: Is not that because, militarily speaking, simply the Russian air force could work with the forces of the Syrian army?
President Assad:  Because there is cooperation, that is what I said. You cannot kill terrorists or destroy terrorism from the air, you cannot, it is almost impossible, the Americans have been trying this in Afghanistan for how long? More than 12 or 13 years. Did they achieve anything? Nothing. Terrorism is still strong in Afghanistan. So you cannot. You need cooperation from within that country, any power. The major power in Syria is the Syrian army and of course the government.
Question 6: The French president is trying to get together broader coalition against terrorism. Are you skeptical about his effort?
President Assad: Definitely, if they wanted to learn from what had happened recently in Paris, why did not they learn from Charlie Hebdo? The same principle and the same concept. We said at that time that this is only the tip of the iceberg. What is under the water is much bigger. They did not learn. This is first. Second, you cannot fight terrorism while you are supporting the terrorists directly with armaments and having alliance with most zealous supporters of terrorism in the world; which is the Saudi Kingdom. You cannot. This is contradiction. You cannot be the police and the thief at the same time. You have to choose either way to stand.
Question 7: But I did not hear about any western supplies to the Islamic State?
President Assad: You have them very clearly on the internet. French and other of course different parties but the French example existed. How could a country like France sell such weapons to a destination that it does not know, or that they do not know where they will go? That is impossible. They know through the Saudi Kingdom and Qatar and maybe from other countries, definitely.
Czech TV interview, Part 1

Part 2


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