The Sunday Times of London scored an interview with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad over the weekend and found him utterly devoid of regret for his brutal actions in the Syrian civil war, which has killed some 400,000 Syrians and driven millions more out of the country.
In fact, at one point in the interview, Assad literally shrugged off the body count, then laughed and assured the interviewer he has no problem sleeping at night.
“It’s the fault of terrorists and we are talking about war, not charity. In war you always have innocents hurt or killed. What do you do? You do your best. Terrorists are still in Aleppo and use civilians as human shields,” he said.
“We can’t just stand still and say, ‘Don’t destroy the city.’ More important than the city are the people, so we have to do the best for them,” he continued. The residents of Aleppo, if polled on the matter, would probably insist doing the best for them involves not destroying them.
Even as a Russian aircraft carrier moved into position for what the Sunday Times anticipated would be a “terrifying final onslaught on the besieged eastern half of Aleppo,” Assad was still blaming everything on the rebels and the Western powers that support them, while presenting himself as the only alternative to “extremist Islamists.”
“We’ve announced we’re ready for reconciliation with all those who put down arms. We’ve opened humanitarian corridors for people to leave, but the terrorists shoot them. Aleppo is an issue where terrorists have occupied part of the city, and we need to get rid of them,” he said of the devastated city.
Assad complained that “demonization” of him has “reached its peak.”
“This is a dictator, this is killing his people dropping barrel bombs… there’s nothing more they can say about me,” he complained, neatly eliding the question of whether he is dropping barrel bombs on civilians. During the course of the interview, he flatly denied using chemical weapons and claimed rebel fighters were using doctored photos to accuse him of such crimes against humanity.
“In the past if I said anything, people would say the Syrian president is disconnected from reality. Now it’s different. The West is becoming much weaker. They don’t have a leg to stand on explaining to people what’s going on,” Assad crowed.
“ISIS was smuggling oil and using Iraqi oilfields under American satellites and drones to make money, and the West was not saying anything. Whereas here the Russians interfered and Isis started to shrink in every sense of the word,” he added.
He claimed “no one has proposed anything” in the way of a political solution to the Syrian crisis, which would come as news to all the American, European, and Middle Eastern diplomats who have been scrambling to cobble such a solution together. Even Assad’s friends in Iran called for a political solution on Tuesday.
Of course, what Assad really means is that no one except his patrons in Russia and Iran has proposed a political solution that would give him complete victory, leaving him in power indefinitely. He tipped his hand by saying, “To talk about a political solution while the other side is controlled by masters in Saudi, Turkey, UK, USA and France is not realistic. The core of the problem is those countries are interfering. If they stop, then the terrorists will be weak and leave or be defeated, and then we can sit as Syrians and talk about solutions.”
Assad even sneered at the White Helmets, an internationally lauded, Nobel Peace Prize-nominated group of rescuers who have suffered significant casualties as they worked to save civilians caught in the crossfire.
“These ‘angels’ wearing these white helmets are the same people celebrating over the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers. They are militants who are suddenly changing their packaging,” Assad charged.
He was confident of his strength in Syria after a year of Russian and Iranian assistance, claiming that former opponents of his regime are coming back into the fold because “under the control of militants they have no judges, no local administration, no one collects garbage, no one takes care of you medically.”
Assad credits Russian assistance for turning the tide against what he portrayed as an international conspiracy between Western powers and terrorists to overthrow his regime.
“We call it a world war, but it’s a world war against Syria, tens of countries against us, sending those terrorists money and logistics, whereas our army is only Syrian, so we struggled,” he said. “At the end we were fighting an unlimited reserve of terrorists coming to Syria and we struggled, so Russian firepower and Iranian support has compensated.”
He is not as isolated as he used to be. Not only does Assad have help from Russia and Iran, but he just dispatched an envoy to congratulate the new president of Lebanon, Michel Aoun, who took office after 33 unsuccessful attempts to install a president over the past two years. Aoun is allied with Hezbollah and supports Assad. The envoy’s visit will be the first since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011.