F.A.Z.-Editor Rainer Hermann interviewing Bashar al-Assad in Damascus Bild: Syrisches Präsidialamt
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, talking to Middle East editor Rainer Hermann, warns European states not to supply weapons to the rebels fighting his regime.
Mr. President, the Syrian army has lost control over parts of Syria. Is your country collapsing?
We are not involved in a typical war in which we lose control over some parts of the country and gain control over other parts. It is not a war that pits one army against another army. Rather, our army is facing groups of gangs. It is correct to say that the army only wanted to move into an area if it could. If it wanted to do so, it indeed did so. As a result, we can control every area that we move into. The hunt for terrorists carries a high price. There is absolutely no doubt in our minds that we will completely wipe out the terrorists in our country. The problem is the destruction that is being caused in the process.
You use the word „terrorists“. Is every rebel a terrorist?
Does your country allow you to carry weapons, kill innocent people, terrorize citizens, destroy property and steal? In every country of the world, any person who carries weapons - with the exception of soldiers and police officers - for the explicit purpose of tormenting and killing people is considered to be a terrorist. And the people who are bearing arms in Syria are doing precisely this. No matter whether their intentions are extremist or criminal - they can be correctly labeled as terrorists. For this reason, we draw a distinction between terrorists and the opposition, which is political and has a political agenda. But the killing and slaughtering of people amounts to terrorism.
How long will the war last?
I have been asked from the very beginning when this crisis would come to an end. I have responded by saying that the crisis could last for a long time. After all, the external factor is obvious. An internal crisis will either be solved completely or it will evolve into a civil war. But neither the first scenario nor the second scenario has occurred. The reason for this is the external factor, which is determined to draw out the crisis both in political and military terms.
Aren’t you also partially responsible for the destruction of your country? In the beginning, the protests were purely political. They turned into an armed conflict only later.
From the very first days of the crisis, even several years before it broke out, we had begun to introduce reforms. We introduced a number of laws, the state of emergency was lifted, the constitution was amended, and a referendum on these changes was held. Perhaps, the West is aware of this and perhaps not. But what it refuses to see is this: Police officers were killed in the very first weeks of demonstrations - martyrs. How could police officers be killed during peaceful demonstrations? Armed people joined the ranks of demonstrators and fired at police officers. Sometimes, they took up positions not far from the demonstrations and fired on the protesters and police officers from there to make people think that one side was shooting at the other.
Centrifugal forces are at work in Syria at the moment. Some regions of the country are shifting their focus to neighboring countries. Will national borders in the Levant shift?
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