Syrian dictator Bashar Assad said during an interview with Russian television on Monday that accusations of him using chemical weapons were a frame-up concocted by his opponents and hostile governments like Saudi Arabia, who allegedly “staged a play” with fake victims to fool the international community.
Assad told his Russian interviewers that he would have been foolish to use chemical weapons on the occasions when he was blamed for it and argued that, if he had done so, the death toll would have been far higher. He said the allegations against him were merely a “pretext to attack Syria.”
“They did not offer any tangible evidence to prove that there was such an attack, and there were many reports that have refuted that report or those allegations. So, it was only allegation; never, never has the Syrian army used chemical weapons before we handed over all arsenals to the international committee,” he insisted.
Assad portrayed the U.N. watchdog agency, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), as biased and corrupt. He dismissed the United Nations itself as a “puppet” of the United States.
Asked if video evidence of Syrian military gas attacks was “manipulated” by rebels who really were using chemical weapons, with assistance from the government of Saudi Arabia, Assad replied, “Yes, it is on YouTube, you can see it.”
“I mean they staged a play, full play, where somebody plays the role of the victim in many incidents, not only with the chemical weapons, even with bombardments, they stage a play that somebody is being the victim, and then at the end of the shooting, he is a normal person, he stands up and moves normally; you can see it on YouTube. It is very clear; we can offer you this evidence,” he said.
Assad was also fiercely critical of the White Helmets, the Syrian civil defense organization that accused his regime of perpetrating atrocities, including chemical weapons use.
“Again. it’s very simple to see the same faces of those ‘angels’ — the White Helmets — the same faces, the same one in the White Helmets was a fighter with Al-Qaeda. You can see him. The images are very clear. The same one who has been beheading, or cutting heads, and one of them was eating the heart of a soldier,” he claimed.
“I mean, this is very common to see on the internet. I mean no one in this region believe the stunt, the PR stunt of the White Helmets. They are off-shoot of Al-Nusra,” he charged, referring to al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
The British co-founder of the White Helmets, James le Mesurier, died under mysterious circumstances near his home in Istanbul over the weekend. Turkish security services reportedly believe he was killed by falling from the balcony of his home office and may have committed suicide.
Later in the interview, Assad expressed doubts that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is actually dead, suggesting the highly publicized U.S. special forces raid that killed him in late October could have been another theatrical production. He said that if Baghdadi really is dead, it was merely a case of the United States killing off a puppet who was no longer useful to it. He had a similar take on the 2011 death of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
Assad also dismissed widespread allegations that his forces dropped “barrel bombs,” indiscriminate explosive weapons effectively designed to inflict massive civilian casualties, on populated areas. As with his defense against using WMD and dismissal of torture allegations later in the interview, he claimed it would not have made sense for him to use such weapons on his own rebellious people.
“The war in Syria was about capturing the hearts of the people, and you cannot capture the hearts of the people by bombarding them,” he said. “The Syrian army was fighting the terrorists, whether there is side fire that affected some civilians, that could have happened and you can have investigations, but how could Syrian people support their state and their president and their army, if they are killing them?”
When his Russian interviewer was surprisingly insistent about pointing out that some of the cities Assad reclaimed with aerial bombardment have been blasted into rubble, he claimed al-Qaeda had somehow acquired an air force, bombed civilian areas, and blamed the atrocity on the Syrian military.
“Those Al-Qaeda groups in eastern Aleppo used to bombard the civilians on daily basis and killed hundreds of thousands of people in Aleppo,” he claimed. “So, the mission of the Army and the mission of the state is to protect those civilians from those terrorists. How can we do that without attacking the terrorists?”
The Syrian dictator likewise dismissed reports of Syrian and Russian “double tap” strikes — a bombing run that brings out civilian rescuers and emergency workers, who are then targeted for mass casualties by a follow-up bombing — as a fabrication by sources like the White Helmets.
“There are a lot of misleading narratives in the West just to show that the Syrian Army is intentionally killing civilians with no reason, and to show that those, that they called them, like White Helmets or any other hospital which is a headquarters for the terrorists, they say that the Syrian army is only attacking the humanitarian facilities in order for the civilians to suffer,” he said.
Assad’s conspiratorial anti-Western worldview portrayed the British seizure of an Iranian vessel this year as an act of “piracy” that deprived Syria of much-needed oil (which the Iranians were trying to smuggle despite international sanctions against his regime), the Islamic State and al-Qaeda as “proxies” for U.S. policy, and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as America’s “partner” in “looting Syrian oil.” Assad saw America, in turn, as controlled by the sinister Israelis.
“Israelis are our enemy, they occupy our land, and it’s self-evident, intuitive to be part of anything that could happen against Syria, any plan, any instigation, directly through their relation with the terrorists, and Netanyahu was visiting the terrorists who’ve been treated in their hospitals,” he claimed, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Every time the Syrian army advanced against those Al-Nusra terrorists in the south, Israel used to bombard our troops, and whenever we advance somewhere else in Syria, their airplanes started committing air strikes against our army. That’s what’s happening. So, the link is very clear. There was correlation between the Israeli operations and the terrorist’s operations,” he charged.