Unlike most media outlets, we’ve included the full interview which includes President Assad’s assessment of President Obama’s, “cosmetic approach” and President Assad’s cautious optimism that President Trump will be different, despite Pres Assad’s assessment that raids by the U.S. are illegal without permission from the Syrian government.
…at least during Obama’s administration, they dealt with ISIS by overlooking their smuggling the Syrian oil to Turkey, and this is how they can get money in order to recruit terrorists from around the world, and they didn’t try to do anything more than cosmetic against ISIS. The only serious party in that regard is Russia, which is effectively attacking ISIS in cooperation with us. – President Assad
President Assad: The first part that you mentioned about their hopes, when you pin your hopes on a foreign country, doesn’t matter which foreign country, it means you’re not patriotic, and this is proved, because they should depend on the support of the Syrian people, not any other government or administration.
Now, regarding the Trump administration, during his campaign and after the campaign, the main rhetoric of the Trump administration and the president himself was about the priority of defeating ISIS. I said since the beginning that this is a promising approach to what’s happening in Syria and in Iraq, because we live in the same area and we face the same enemy. We haven’t seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric, because we’ve been seeing now certain is a local kind of raids. You cannot deal with terrorism on local basis; it should be comprehensive, it cannot be partial or temporary. It cannot be from the air, it should be in cooperation with the troops on the ground, that’s why the Russians succeeded, since they supported the Syrian Army in pushing ISIS to shrink, not to expand as it used to be before that. So, we have hopes that this taking into consideration that talking about ISIS doesn’t mean talking about the whole terrorism; ISIS is one of the products, al-Nusra is another product, you have so many groups in Syria, they are not ISIS, but they are Al Qaeda, they have the same background of the Wahabi extremist ideology.
Question 5: So, Mr. President, you and Mr. Donald Trump actually share the same priority which is counter-terrorism, and both of you hate fake news. Do you see any room for cooperation?
President Assad: Yeah, in theory, yes, but practically, not yet, because there’s no link between Syria and the United States on the formal level. Even their raids against ISIS that I just mentioned, which are only a few raids, happened without the cooperation or the consultation with the Syrian Army or the Syrian government which is illegal as we always say. So, theoretically we share those goals, but particularly, not yet.
Question 6: Do you have personal contact with the President of the United States?
President Assad: Not at all.
Journalist: Direct or indirect.
President Assad: Indirect, you have so many channels, but you cannot bet on private channels. It should be formal, this is where you can talk about a real relation with another government.
Question 7: As we speak, top generals from Turkey, Russia, and the United States are meeting somewhere in Turkey to discuss tensions in northern Syria, where mutually- suspicious forces are allied with these countries. So, do you have a plan for a final attack on Daesh when the main players actually do need an effective coordination in order to clear Syria of all terror groups?
President Assad: Yeah, if you want to link that meeting with ISIS in particular, it won’t be objective, because at least one party, which is Turkey, has been supporting ISIS till this moment, because Erdogan, the Turkish President, is Muslim Brotherhood. He’s ideologically linked and sympathetic with ISIS and with al-Nusra, and everybody knows about this in our region, and he helped them either through armaments, logistically, through exporting oil. For the other party, which is the United States, at least during Obama’s administration, they dealt with ISIS by overlooking their smuggling the Syrian oil to Turkey, and this is how they can get money in order to recruit terrorists from around the world, and they didn’t try to do anything more than cosmetic against ISIS. The only serious party in that regard is Russia, which is effectively attacking ISIS in cooperation with us. So, the question is: how can they cooperate, and I think the Russians have hope that the two parties join the Russians and the Syrians in their fight against terrorism. So, we have more hopes now regarding the American party because of the new administration, while in Turkey nothing has changed in that regard. ISIS in the north have only one route of supply, it’s through Turkey, and they’re still alive and they’re still active and they’re still resisting different kinds of waves of attacks, because of the Turkish support.
Question 8: Now, US troops are in Manbej. Is the greenlight from your side? Did you open the door for these American troops?
President Assad: No, no, we didn’t. Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one. And we don’t think this is going to help. What are they going to do? To fight ISIS? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan, your neighboring country. They didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions…