Outstanding interview on imminent international relations breaks new ground. Interviewer, Kevork Almassian, originally from Syria, currently living in Germany, knows what questions to ask formidably intelligent Vietnam Veteran and retired US State Senator, Colonel Richard Black. Black actually has answers. The interview starts with why Trump reversed his original policies on Syria and Afghanistan.
This interview actually gets to the nub of why Julian Assange (and David McBride) are being persecuted and why most Australians and the mainstream press have almost no idea of what is going on. McBride , who is a professional soldier and lawyer, and served in Afghanistan, lends credibility to John Shipton's explosive analysis.
Chris Hedges discusses ‘The Trial of Julian Assange,’ a new book by Nils Melzer, UN special rapporteur on torture, in this edition of Hedges show, On Contact.
You may have been wondering when and who would point out the silver lining in the current situation, where the interruption of decades of mass immigration has seen employment prospects and living standards for many ordinary people looking good in Australia for the first time in decades. If so, you will be very pleased to catch the following interview between 2GB's Michael McLaren and the Sustainable Australia Party's William Bourke, on this very issue. We are living through fascinating times.
On 10 May 2021, Michael Mclaren (2GB radio) was joined by William Bourke, President of the Sustainable Australia Party, to comment on the RBA’s report that suggests that the pause in immigration due to the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to higher living standards in Australia and could spark wage rises in some regions and industries - even though the economy will be smaller than previously expected. In its quarterly statement on monetary policy the preceding week, the RBA noted, “The Australian economy is transitioning from recovery to expansion phase earlier and with more momentum than anticipated.”
[Candobetter editor: Note that this was done via automatic transcript then corrected by a human editor. Please let us know if you find any mistakes.]
MICHAEL : Well, there has been a lot of side-effects from the Cornona Virus … we’re probably all sick to death of talking about it but, one that probably hasn’t been mentioned is that it has done a couple of people probably out of a job – at the very least, it has proved them right – I’m talking about the team behind the Sustainable Australia Party – because, if nothing else, COVID has closed the borders. There are now no real prospects of masses of migrants coming in to work or to fill job vacancies, or whatever the story was, prior to the pandemic.
However, as I said, I think it has proved the point, because, for many years, William Bourke and the whole team behind him at Sustainable Australia and people like Dick Smith, who’ve supported them, have been banging the drum of logic, saying that Australia does not need unsustainable levels of growth in the population to remain wealthy, to remain prosperous, indeed to grow.
And, sure enough, they have now got an ally, I don’t know if they meant to or not, in the form of the Reserve Bank. In their quarterly statement, on monetary policy – it was released on Friday - most people don’t read it of course – but they made the point that the level of GDP – Gross Domestic Product – is expected to remain a little below forecast before the pandemic – mostly due to the lower population growth – however, in per capita terms, GDP is expected to be on a higher trajectory, supported by higher per capita household income and a strong contribution from public demand. In other words, the pause to Big Australia will lead to higher living standards and could spark wage-rises in some regions and some industries according to the Reserve Bank.
Now, the Big Australia advocates said this was impossible. Many of us said they were wrong all along and motivated by greed.
Well, William Bourke is the President of the Sustainable Australia Party and on the line. William, nice to talk with you again.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Good to be with you, Michael.
MICHAEL: Sadly, I suppose, COVID has done you out of a gig. The borders are closed. The population will flatline for a while, and the experiment that you’ve called for will happen, for no other reason than medical science has demanded it happens. I suppose, if you are proved right, you will go out a happy man, won’t you?
WILLIAM BOURKE: Well Michael, obviously population growth is something we’ve been concerned about, since we’ve been going – probably a decade or so. We’ve got some other issues we do stand for, overdevelopment and environmental issues, but yes, absolutely, it’s amazing that COVID has revealed, once and for all, that high immigration is notnecessary to either keep the economy growing, or to create jobs.
So, it’s great to see the RBA coming to their senses. And many other mainstream economists are also saying things like, ‘Lower immigration is equalling higher wages.’ So there’s a great lot of things that are coming out of this unfortunate COVID pandemic.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: And it’s logical, is it not, because, when you flood the economy with workers, obviously the whiphand is that of the bosses. They can say to Bob, well, if you don’t want to work for that amount of money, I’ll go over there to Frank. He’ll do it. But when the number of people available for jobs is smaller, Bob and Frank both start, all of a sudden, to have a bit of bargaining power, don’t they!
WILLIAM BOURKE: Indeed, and obviously, when you bring in highly exploitable people, who really don’t have a lot of bargaining power, who aren’t part of … I guess, unions and so forth, then you can beat down wages. And we’ve seen a lot of – you know – probably the lowest growth in wages over the last decade in the last century.
These things are now starting to see a pick-up in wages, and that’s a good thing for the average Australian.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: They are. I saw that Tom Dusevic of the Australian said, and I quote,
”During recent years, when population growth averaged a rich, world-leading, one and a half per cent a year [...]"
- which is just madness -
“with two thirds of it due to net-overseas migration, per capita incomes fell, even though national output was expanding at a fast clip, compared to our peers.”
In other words, the nation was getting wealthier – that’s National GDP, the individuals that make up the nation, that do the work, were actually going backwards.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Exactly, and the point there being that GDP per capita is really the proxy for living standards. So, the aggregate growth in GDP really doesn’t matter, if all of us are going backwards on average. And we know that there has been a lot of discussion about, you know, this 20 plus year run of ‘no recessions’ and so forth, but if you look at it on a GDP per capita basis, there were three recessions over the last 25 or so years, where GDP per capita went backwards, two quarters in a row. So, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, and we really need to look at the per capita of GDP, not the aggregate level.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: Yep. Now, none of this is to gloat. There are some sections of the economy which are doing it particularly difficult. The business model was heavily reliant on the migrant labour workforce. Hospitality, for example, their business model has been disrupted. A lot of people are doing it tough, but on a per capita basis, the average Australian looks like they may come out in front. And, of course, again, to be completely up-front, a huge amount of stimulus from the Federal Government also helps in that respect, and to remove that might have created a different story, but it just goes to prove the point, does it not, William, that you don’t need record levels of migration to continue economic growth?
WILLIAM BOURKE: That’s exactly the point. There’s a lot of studies out there about the impact of immigration on the economy, but a lot of it is based on, you know, assumptions. This is empirical evidence. This is very very very clear now, that where there is no immigration, we are still growing our economy and we are still creating jobs, and we have actually reduced the unemployment rate. So we’ve gone from seven odd per cent down to about five and a half per cent, and we look like going down to around four and a half per cent. That’s because a lot of people who have been long-term unemployed are now getting an opportunity to get a job. And isn't that a great thing?
MICHAEL MCLAREN: Well, it is and the tighter labor market Also pushes an important extra emphasis on behalf of government, and even business, on the issue of skills or re-skilling the Australian population, including those that are unemployed.
Most unemployed people want to work. They take they take no pride in not having a job but they may not have the skills to do it, so, you know, it's great. We've got the budget, of course tomorrow night. There may be something in there about this too, but there is a greater emphasis on business and government to say, well, look, you're not going to get the fresh blood in anytime soon. There is a bit floating around here though that needs a gig. Train them up, get them in a job.
WILLIAM BOURKE: There's a much greater focus on training and education as you say Michael and I'm sure that Treasurer Josh will be mentioning much more investment in training and education in the budget, and I've seen, you know, some media reports to that extent. So that's it. That's a really encouraging thing, because at the end of the day, we do have the labour here in Australia. We do need to continue to evolve our economy and evolve our skills. And that's what's happening right now, and it's a good thing.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: And, Will, to add to all of this, the re-emphasis, or the newly emerged emphasis, on needing to be more self resilient, more independent, instead of relying on international supply chains and there. And, there again, all of a sudden, you are incentivising people to re-establish, or freshly establish, sovereign industries in this country, particularly manufacturing-oriented industries, which – again - will help mop up a percentage of the unemployed.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Exactly right. And, at the moment, you're probably aware, the Upper Hunter by-election is on in New South Wales. We've got a candidate running there and he works on the railways.
He's an engineer working on railway maintenance and, you know, we built the Tangara trains in Newcastle, you know, the Hunter area and now we're importing them from South Korea. So we need to turn back to making our own trains. And manufacturing, you know, our medical supplies. All of those issues that we thought we can just outsource overseas. I think we're now realizing finally that that's not a sustainable way to run an economy.
WILLIAM MCLAREN: Why then for so many years, we mention those record levels of immigration, despite the average Australian not wanting it. People are in favor of some immigration, sure, a bit of fresh blood doesn't hurt, but there's sort of nonsense of one-and-a-half percent growth per year. It was just a disaster on the property , on traffic – everything. Services. Why did it persist for so long? I mean, I'm a bit ignorant, I suppose, but I thought that democracy was basically the elected officials representing the will of the people, but on that issue, it couldn't have been more opposite. So, why did it persist for so long?
WILLIAM BOURKE: So, I think Michael there are some groups in our society, in our economy, in our political environment, they have a little bit more power than the average person. And obviously, you know, the property industry, you know, big business and so forth. You know, they have a fair bit of sway. They've been complaining, even very lately about skills shortages and, Immigration Minister Alex Hawk, has just allowed a doubling of the hours of foreign students from 20 to 40 hours a week. So they're having a lot of influence, you know, because of political donations and other aspects of the body politic. And I guess that it would be nice if we did have a plebiscite or a referendum. Do we want to grow our population at this extreme rate of 1.5 plus percent when the developed world really should grow at, you know 0.2 per cent at the most.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: I was a little facetious early when I said that covid had probably done you out of a gig. Sustainable Australia, as you quite rightly said, stands for more than just a population issue. Just talk us through a little of what else it is that interests your party.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Well, we're a fairly centrist party Michael. So, you know, we talk about the big picture issues that matter. Obviously sustainable is about protecting our environment, and we really do want to make sure that, you know, we're not sprawling our suburbs, over our agricultural farm land. For example, we really want to stop overdevelopment and return planning powers to local communities.
I'm running in the North Sydney council elections in a couple of months. So, you know, making sure that local people have a say on the character of and the heritage values of their neighborhood. So those are some of the issues.
Corruption is an increasingly big issue that we're focusing on and I think there's a bit of corruption in this Big Australia, where vested interests are influencing our politicians rather than the public interest being put first. So that's just a couple of things that we stand for.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: A lot of common sense. Always good to talk to you. We’ll speak again, soon, William. Thank you so much for all that time.
WILLIAM BOURKE: Thanks for having me. Michael.
MICHAEL MCLAREN: That's my pleasure William Burke. As I said the President of the Sustainable Australia Party
Monica Majioni of RAI Italia TV interviews Syrian President Bashar Assad. In the face of a politicized media and deluded self-censorship that undermine the remaining credibility of Italian public TV, it was the Syrian government that broadcast on state TV the interview we present to you on video and in the transcript edited by the Syrian State Press Agency SANA. There is a full transcript of the interview in English, plus the video is set or can be set to English subtitles (as well as the automatic arabic ones) on the youtube version.
Damascus, SANA-President Bashar al-Assad said that Syria is going to come out of the war stronger and the future of Syria is promising and the situation is much better, pointing out to the achievements of the Syrian Arab army in the war against terrorism.
The President, in an interview given to Italian Rai News 24 TV on November 26,2019 and was expected to be broadcast on December 2nd and the Italian TV refrained from broadcasting it for non-understandable reasons, added that Europe was the main player in creating chaos in Syria and the problem of refugees in it was because of its direct support to terrorism along with the US, Turkey and many other countries.
President al-Assad stressed that since the beginning of the narrative regarding the chemical weapons, Syria has affirmed it didn’t use them.
The President affirmed that what the OPCW organization did was to fake and falsify the report about using chemical weapons, just because the Americans wanted them to do so. So, fortunately, this report proved that everything we said during the last few years, since 2013, is correct.
Following is the full text of the interview;
Question 1: Mr. President, thanks for having us here. Let us know please, what’s the situation in Syria now, what’s the situation on the ground, what is happening in the country?
President Assad: If we want to talk about Syrian society: the situation is much, much better, as we learned so many lessons from this war and I think the future of Syria is promising; we are going to come out of this war stronger.
Talking about the situation on the ground: The Syrian Army has been advancing for the last few years and has liberated many areas from the terrorists, there still remains Idleb where you have al-Nusra that’s being supported by the Turks, and you have the northern part of Syria where the Turks have invaded our territory last month.
So, regarding the political situation, you can say it’s becoming much more complicated, because you have many more players that are involved in the Syrian conflict in order to make it drag on and to turn it into a war of attrition.
Question 2: When you speak about liberating, we know that there is a military vision on that, but the point is: how is the situation now for the people that decided to be back in society? The process of reconciliation, now at what point? Is it working or not?
President Assad: Actually, the methodology that we adopted when we wanted to create let’s say, a good atmosphere – we called it reconciliation, for the people to live together, and for those people who lived outside the control of government areas to go back to the order of law and institutions. It was to give amnesty to anyone, who gives up his armament and obey the law. The situation is not complicated regarding this issue, if you have the chance to visit any area, you’ll see that life is getting back to normal.
The problem wasn’t people fighting with each other; it wasn’t like the Western narrative may have tried to show – as Syrians fighting with each other, or as they call it a “civil war,” which is misleading. The situation was terrorists taking control of areas, and implementing their rules. When you don’t have those terrorists, people will go back to their normal life and live with each other. There was no sectarian war, there was no ethnical war, there was no political war; it was terrorists supported by outside powers, they have money and armaments, and they occupy those areas.
Question 3: Aren’t you afraid that this kind of ideology that took place and, you know, was the basis of everyday life for people for so many years, in some ways can stay in the society and sooner or later will be back?
President Assad: This is one of the main challenges that we’ve been facing. What you’re asking about is very correct. You have two problems. Those areas that were out of the control of government were ruled by two things: chaos, because there is no law, so people – especially the younger generation – know nothing about the state and law and institutions.
The second thing, which is deeply rooted in the minds, is the ideology, the dark ideology, the Wahabi ideology – ISIS or al-Nusra or Ahrar al-Cham, or whatever kind of these Islamist terrorist extremist ideologies.
Now we have started dealing with this reality, because when you liberate an area you have to solve this problem otherwise what’s the meaning of liberating? The first part of the solution is religious, because this ideology is a religious ideology, and the Syrian religious clerics, or let’s say the religious institution in Syria, is making a very strong effort in this regard, and they have succeeded; they succeeded at helping those people understanding the real religion, not the religion that they’ve been taught by al-Nusra or ISIS or other factions.
Question 4: So basically, clerics and mosques are part of this reconciliation process?
President Assad: This is the most important part. The second part is the schools. In schools, you have teachers, you have education, and you have the national curriculum, and this curriculum is very important to change the minds of those young generations. Third, you have the culture, you have the role of arts, intellectuals, and so on. In some areas, it’s still difficult to play that role, so it was much easier for us to start with the religion, second with the schools.
Question 5: Mr. President, let me just go back to politics for an instant. You mentioned Turkey, okay? Russia has been your best ally these years, it’s not a secret, but now Russia is compromising with Turkey on some areas that are part of Syrian area, so how do you assess this?
President Assad: To understand the Russian role, we have to understand the Russian principles. For Russia, they believe that international law – and international order based on that law – is in the interest of Russia and in the interest of everybody in the world. So, for them, by supporting Syria they are supporting international law; this is one point. Secondly, being against the terrorists is in the interest of the Russian people and the rest of the world.
So, being with Turkey and making this compromise doesn’t mean they support the Turkish invasion; rather they wanted to play a role in order to convince the Turks that you have to leave Syria. They are not supporting the Turks, they don’t say “this is a good reality, we accept it and Syria must accept it.” No, they don’t. But because of the American negative role and the Western negative role regarding Turkey and the Kurds, the Russians stepped in, in order to balance that role, to make the situation… I wouldn’t say better, but less bad if you want to be more precise. So, in the meantime, that’s their role. In the future, their position is very clear: Syrian integrity and Syrian sovereignty. Syrian integrity and sovereignty are in contradiction with the Turkish invasion, that is very obvious and clear.
Question 6: So, you’re telling me that the Russians could compromise, but Syria is not going to compromise with Turkey. I mean, the relation is still quite tense.
President Assad: No, even the Russians didn’t make a compromise regarding the sovereignty. No, they deal with reality. Now, you have a bad reality, you have to be involved to make some… I wouldn’t say compromise because it’s not a final solution. It could be a compromise regarding the short-term situation, but in the long-term or the mid-term, Turkey should leave. There is no question about it.
Question 7: And in the long-term, any plan of discussions between you and Mr. Erdogan?
President Assad: I wouldn’t feel proud if I have to someday. I would feel disgusted to deal with those kinds of opportunistic Islamists, not Muslims, Islamists – it’s another term, it’s a political term. But again, I always say: my job is not to be happy with what I’m doing or not happy or whatever. It’s not about my feelings, it’s about the interests of Syria, so wherever our interests go, I will go.
Question 8: In this moment, when Europe looks at Syria, apart from the considerations about the country, there are two major issues: one is refugees, and the other one is the Jihadists or foreign fighters coming back to Europe. How do you see these European worries?
President Assad: We have to start with a simple question: who created this problem? Why do you have refugees in Europe? It’s a simple question: because of terrorism that’s being supported by Europe – and of course the United States and Turkey and others – but Europe was the main player in creating chaos in Syria. So, what goes around comes around.
Question 9: Why do you say it was the main player?
President Assad: Because they publicly supported, the EU supported the terrorists in Syria from day one, week one or from the very beginning. They blamed the Syrian government, and some regimes like the French regime sent armaments, they said – one of their officials – I think their Minister of Foreign Affairs, maybe Fabius said “we send.” They sent armaments; they created this chaos. That’s why a lot of people find it difficult to stay in Syria; millions of people couldn’t live here so they had to get out of Syria.
Question 10: In this moment, in the region, there are turmoil, and there is a certain chaos. One of the other allies of Syria is Iran, and the situation there is getting complicated. Does it have any reflection on the situation in Syria?
President Assad: Definitely, whenever you have chaos, it’s going to be bad for everyone, it’s going to have side-effects and repercussions, especially when there is external interference. If it’s spontaneous, if you talk about demonstrations and people asking for reform or for a better situation economically or any other rights, that’s positive. But when it’s for vandalism and destroying and killing and interfering from outside powers, then no – it’s definitely nothing but negative, nothing but bad, and a danger on everyone in this region.
Question 11: Are you worried about what’s happening in Lebanon, which is really the real neighbor?
President Assad: Yes, in the same way. Of course, Lebanon would affect Syria more than any other country because it is our direct neighbor. But again, if it’s spontaneous and it’s about reform and getting rid of the sectarian political system, that would be good for Lebanon. Again, that depends on the awareness of the Lebanese people in order not to allow anyone from the outside to try to manipulate the spontaneous movement or demonstrations in Lebanon.
Question 12: Let’s go back to what is happening in Syria. In June, Pope Francis wrote you a letter asking you to pay attention and to respect the population, especially in Idleb where the situation is still very tense, because there is fighting there, and when it comes even to the way prisoners are treated in jails. Did you answer him, and what did you answer?
President Assad: The letter of the Pope was about his worry for civilians in Syria and I had the impression that maybe the picture in the Vatican is not complete. That’s to be expected, since the mainstream narrative in the West is about this “bad government” killing the “good people;” as you see and hear in the same media – every bullet of the Syrian Army and every bomb only kills civilians and only hospitals! they don’t kill terrorists as they target those civilians! which is not correct.
So, I responded with a letter explaining to the Pope the reality in Syria – as we are the most, or the first to be concerned about civilian lives, because you cannot liberate an area while the people are against you. You cannot talk about liberation while the civilians are against you or the society. The most crucial part in liberating any area militarily is to have the support of the public in that area or in the region in general. That has been clear for the last nine years and that’s against our interests.
Question 13: But that kind of call, in some ways, made you also think again about the importance of protecting civilians and people of your country.
President Assad: No, this is something we think about every day, not only as morals, principles and values but as interests. As I just mentioned, without this support – without public support, you cannot achieve anything… you cannot advance politically, militarily, economically and in every aspect. We couldn’t withstand this war for nine years without the public support and you cannot have public support while you’re killing civilians. This is an equation, this is a self-evident equation, nobody can refute it. So, that’s why I said, regardless of this letter, this is our concern.
But again, the Vatican is a state, and we think that the role of any state – if they worry about those civilians, is to go to the main reason. The main reason is the Western role in supporting the terrorists, and it is the sanctions on the Syrian people that have made the situation much worse – and this is another reason for the refugees that you have in Europe now. You don’t want refugees but at the same time you create the situation or the atmosphere that will tell them “go outside Syria, somewhere else,” and of course they will go to Europe. So, this state, or any state, should deal with the reasons and we hope the Vatican can play that role within Europe and around the world; to convince many states that you should stop meddling in the Syrian issue, stop breaching international law. That’s enough, we only need people to follow international law. The civilians will be safe, the order will be back, everything will be fine. Nothing else.
Question 14: Mr. President, you’ve been accused several times of using chemical weapons, and this has been the instrument of many decisions and a key point, the red line, for many decisions. One year ago, more than one year ago, there has been the Douma event that has been considered another red line. After that, there has been bombings, and it could it have been even worse, but something stopped. These days, through WikiLeaks, it’s coming out that something wrong in the report could have taken place. So, nobody yet is be able to say what has happened, but something wrong in reporting what has happened could have taken place.
President Assad: We have always – since the beginning of this narrative regarding the chemical weapons – we have said that we didn’t use it; we cannot use it, it’s impossible to be used in our situation for many reasons, let’s say – logistical reasons.
Intervention: Give me one.
President Assad: One reason, a very simple one: when you’re advancing, why would you use chemical weapons?! We are advancing, why do we need to use it?! We are in a very good situation so why use it, especially in 2018? This is one reason.
Second, very concrete evidence that refutes this narrative: when you use chemical weapons – this is a weapon of mass destruction, you talk about thousands of dead or at least hundreds. That never happened, never – you only have these videos of staged chemical weapons attacks. In the recent report that you’ve mentioned, there’s a mismatch between what we saw in the video and what they saw as technicians or as experts. The amount of chlorine that they’ve been talking about: first of all, chlorine is not a mass destruction material, second, the amount that they found is the same amount that you can have in your house, it exists in many households and used maybe for cleaning and whatever. The same amount exactly. That’s what the OPCW organisation did – they faked and falsified the report, just because the Americans wanted them to do so. So, fortunately, this report proved that everything we said during the last few years, since 2013, is correct. We were right, they were wrong. This is proof, this is concrete proof regarding this issue. So, again, the OPCW is biased, is being politicized and is being immoral, and those organisations that should work in parallel with the United Nations to create more stability around the world – they’ve been used as American arms and Western arms to create more chaos.
Question 15: Mr. President, after nine years of war, you are speaking about the mistakes of the others. I would like you to speak about your own mistakes, if any. Is there something you would have done in a different way, and which is the lesson learned that can help your country?
President Assad: Definitely, for when you talk about doing anything, you always find mistakes; this is human nature. But when you talk about political practice, you have two things: you have strategies or big decisions, and you have tactics – or in this context, the implementation. So, our strategic decisions or main decisions were to stand against terrorism, to make reconciliation and to stand against the external meddling in our affairs. Today, after nine years, we still adopt the same policy; we are more adherent to this policy. If we thought it was wrong, we would have changed it; actually no, we don’t think there is anything wrong in this policy. We did our mission; we implemented the constitution by protecting the people.
Now, if you talk about mistakes in implementation, of course you have so many mistakes. I think if you want to talk about the mistakes regarding this war, we shouldn’t talk about the decisions taken during the war because the war – or part of it, is a result of something before.
Two things we faced during this war: the first one was extremism. The extremism started in this region in the late 60s and accelerated in the 80s, especially the Wahabi ideology. If you want to talk about mistakes in dealing with this issue: then yes, I will say we were very tolerant of something very dangerous. This is a big mistake we committed over decades; I’m talking about different governments, including myself before this war.
The second one, when you have people who are ready to revolt against the order, to destroy public properties, to commit vandalism and so on, they work against their country, they are ready to go and work for foreign powers – foreign intelligence, they ask for external military interference against their country. So, this is another question: how did we have those? If you ask me how, I would tell you that before the war we had more than 50,000 outlaws that weren’t captured by the police for example; for those outlaws, their natural enemy is the government because they don’t want to go to prison.
Question 16: And how about also the economic situation? Because part of it – I don’t know if it was a big or small part of it – but part of it has also been the discontent and the problems of population in certain areas in which economy was not working. Is it a lesson learned somewhere?
President Assad: It could be a factor, but definitely not a main factor. Some people talk about the four years of drought that pushed the people to leave their land in the rural areas to go to the city… it could be a problem, but this is not the main problem. They talked about the liberal policy… we didn’t have a liberal policy, we’re still socialist, we still have a public sector – a very big public sector in government. You cannot talk about liberal policy while you have a big public sector. We had growth, good growth.
Of course, in the implementation of our policy, again, you have mistakes. How can you create equal opportunities between people? Between rural areas and between the cities? When you open up the economy, the cities will benefit more, that will create more immigration from rural areas to the cities… these are factors, that could play some role, but this is not the issue. In the rural areas where you have more poverty, the money of the Qataris played a more actual role than in the cities, that’s natural. You pay them in half an hour what they get in one week; that’s very good for them.
Question 17: We are almost there, but there are two more questions that I want to ask you. One is about reconstruction, and reconstruction is going to be very costly. How can you imagine to afford this reconstruction, who could be your allies in reconstruction?
President Assad: We don’t have a big problem with that. Talking that Syria has no money… no, actually Syrians have a lot of money; the Syrian people around the world have a lot of money, and they want to come and build their country. Because when you talk about building the country, it is not giving money to the people, it’s about getting benefit – it’s a business. So, many people, not only Syrians, want to do business in Syria. So, talking about where you can have funds for this reconstruction, we already have, but the problem is that these sanctions prevent those businessmen or companies from coming and working in Syria. In spite of that, we started and in spite of that, some foreign companies have started finding ways to evade these sanctions and we have started planning. It’s going to be slow, without the sanctions we wouldn’t have a problem with funding.
Question 18: Ending on a very personal note, Mr. President; do you feel like a survivor?
President Assad: If you want to talk about a national war like this, where nearly every city has been harmed by terrorism or external bombardment and other things, then you can talk about all the Syrians as survivors. I think this is human nature: to be a survivor.
Intervention: And you yourself?
President Assad: I’m a part of those Syrians. I cannot be disconnected from them; I have the same feeling. Again, it’s not about being a strong person who is a survivor. If you don’t have this atmosphere, this society, or this incubator to survive, you cannot survive. It’s collective; it’s not a single person, it’s not a one-man show.
Journalist: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
In this episode of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi speaks to ex-Australian deputy PM Barnaby Joyce about the persecution of Julian Assange. He strongly opposes his extradition to the US, saying this is a matter of Australian sovereignty, and that Julian Assange is no different to the other newspapers that published the same leaks.
Michael McLaren speaks with Clifford Hayes, Member of the Legislative Assembly – Sustainable Australia Party’s Southern Metropolitan region Victoria, about his private members bill which proposes significant changes to the Planning and Environment Act 1987 which will give local councils more control of local planning policy and maximum building heights in their municipal districts. Remember Clifford's important bill will be put to Parliament this Wednesday morning (13 November 2019) about 10 or so. Consider coming to show your support by sitting in the gallery for the vote.
In midst of an interesting and wide-ranging discussion on the Joe Rogan Experience, Democratic congresswoman and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard said that if elected president she would drop all charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“What would you do about Julian Assange? What would you do about Edward Snowden?” Rogan asked in the latter part of the episode.
“As far as dropping the charges?” Gabbard asked.
“If you’re president of the world right now, what do you do?”
“Yeah, dropping the charges,” Gabbard replied.
Rogan noted that Sweden’s preliminary investigation of rape allegations has just been re-opened, saying the US government can’t stop that, and Gabbard said as president she’d drop the US charges leveled against Assange by the Trump administration.
(Article by Caitlin Johnson, republished with thanks from https://caitlinjohnstone.com/2019/05/14/gabbard-says-shed-drop-all-charges-against-assange-and-snowden/.)
“Yeah,” Gabbard said when asked to clarify if she was also saying that she’d give Edward Snowden a presidential pardon, adding, “And I think we’ve got to address why he did things the way that he did them. And you hear the same thing from Chelsea Manning, how there is not an actual channel for whistleblowers like them to bring forward information that exposes egregious abuses of our constitutional rights and liberties. Period. There was not a channel for that to happen in a real way, and that’s why they ended up taking the path that they did, and suffering the consequences.”
This came at the end of a lengthy discussion about WikiLeaks and the dangerous legal precedent that the Trump administration is setting for press freedoms by prosecuting Assange, as well as the revelations about NSA surveillance and what can be done to roll back those unchecked surveillance powers.
“What happened with [Assange’s] arrest and all the stuff that just went down I think poses a great threat to our freedom of the press and to our freedom of speech,” Gabbard said. “We look at what happened under the previous administration, under Obama. You know, they were trying to find ways to go after Assange and WikiLeaks, but ultimately they chose not to seek to extradite him or charge him, because they recognized what a slippery slope that begins when you have a government in a position to levy criminal charges and consequences against someone who’s publishing information or saying things that the government doesn’t want you to say, and sharing information the government doesn’t want you to share. And so the fact that the Trump administration has chosen to ignore that fact, to ignore how important it is that we uphold our freedoms, freedom of the press and freedom of speech, and go after him, it has a very chilling effect on both journalists and publishers. And you can look to those in traditional media and also those in new media, and also every one of us as Americans. It was a kind of a warning call, saying Look what happened to this guy. It could happen to you. It could happen to any one of us.”
Gabbard discussed Mike Pompeo’s arbitrary designation of WikiLeaks as a hostile non-state intelligence service, the fact that James Clapper lied to Congress about NSA surveillance as Director of National Intelligence yet suffered no consequences and remains a respected TV pundit, and the opaque and unaccountable nature of FISA warrants.
Some other noteworthy parts of Gabbard’s JRE appearance for people who don’t have time to watch the whole thing, with hyperlinks to the times in the video:
- Rogan gets Gabbard talking in depth about what Bashar al-Assad was actually like when she met him and what he said to her, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone bother to do before.
- The two discuss Eisenhower’s famous speech warning of the dangers of the military-industrial complex, and actually pause their dialogue to watch a good portion of it. Gabbard points out that in the original draft of the speech, Eisenhower had intended to call it the “congressional-military-industrial complex”.
- Good discussion on internet censorship and the dangers of allowing monopolistic Silicon Valley corporations to control public speech, then later discussing the possibility of breaking up these corporations or treating them as public utilities.
- Rogan asks Gabbard what she thinks happens to US presidents that causes them to fail to enact their campaign promises and capitulate to the will of the warmongering establishment, and what as president she’ll do to avoid the same fate. All presidential candidates should have to answer this question.
- Rogan asks Gabbard how she’ll stand against the billionaires for the American people without getting assassinated. All presidential candidates should have to answer this question as well.
I honestly think the entire American political system would be better off if the phoney debate stage format were completely abandoned and presidential candidates just talked one-on-one with Joe Rogan for two and a half hours instead. Cut through all the vapid posturing and the fake questions about nonsense nobody cares about and get them to go deep with a normal human being who smokes pot and curses and does sports commentary for cage fighting. Rogan asked Gabbard a bunch of questions that real people are interested in, in a format where she was encouraged to relax out of her standard politician’s posture and discuss significant ideas sincerely and spontaneously. It was a good discussion with an interesting political figure and I’m glad it’s already racked up hundreds of thousands of views.
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Interview begins around 9.40 minutes into the show.Gung-ho interviewer, Bart Chilton, apparently hoping to recommend investing in Australian stocks, found out that Australia's economy is about as diverse as Uganda's and Ethiopia's, that it consists of holes and houses, and that Australian governments have stupidly marketised energy, making costs too high for Australian manufactures. "Energy and telecommunications are both being disastrously mishandled." Banks and mines dominate the Australian stock exchange, which reminds Keen of when they dominated the Japanese stock exchange - just before the 1990 bubble burst, with no important banks situated in Japan anymore. Our stock market is trivial compared to our bond market. Dr Keen also mentions the , which is worth a look.
Oksana Boyko (pictured right) in US vs UN? Ft. Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations her Worlds Apart interview of Sunday 24 June, generally discussed how the United Nations should handle conflicts between the United States and Russia its two most powerful members . The discussion included at least two issues which are of concern to this site, candobetter.net : 1. Border control in the United States and Europe, and 2. Syria.
Antonio Guterres attempted to put all the arguments by proponents of open borders and they were all effectively rebutted by Oksana Boyko. At one point in the discussion, after she stated that the United States as well as European countries, have the right to control their borders Oksana was accused of listening to Fox News, that is the station which features Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and other outspoken advocates for the effective control of the United States border with Mexico. The video, embedded below, is easily worth the 28 minutes of your time required to watch it.
Later in the program Oksana Boyko put to Antonio Guterres that the United Nations should oppose the United Sates' schemes to partition Syria and preserve Syria's territorial integrity. 
 The partitioning of Syria is also supported by the group Australians for Kurdistan. The group absurdly maintains that, with up to 20 U.S. military bases in Syria's Kurdistan (acccording to RT on 1 Mar 2018 and other sources) the YPG (an acronym for "People's Protection Units") is building a communist or anarchist society which is also a beacon of women's liberation. The convenor of "Australians for Kurdistan" is John Tully. In Hitler of the Middle East (6/2/18) | Tasmanian Times, ostensibly an attack on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Tully smears the popularly elected President of Syria, as "the Syrian dictator". Nowhere in his writings does Tully show any concern for the fate of Syria, including the 80,000 soldiers of the Syrian Arab Army, amongst the 400,000 citizens of Syria, who have been killed in the war against Syria since March 2011 in which which Erdogan has been complicit. That would come far closer to justifying Tully's emotive likening of Erdogan to Hitler than any of his actions against Kurdish secessionists in recent years.
The embedded video is from Occupational hazards? Daniel Ayalon, former deputy foreign minister of Israel, the 21 June Episode of RT's World's Apart In that program presenter Oksana Boyko (pictured left) interviews Daniel Ayalon (pictured right) about Israel's recent aerial bombardments of pro-Syrian-government forces inside Syria.
Oksana Boyko successfully challenged most, but not all, of Ayalon's lies and distortions.
Ayalon's supposed justification for Israel's violation of international law is that they were only attacking Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah who were supposedly there, not to help defend Syria against tens of thousands of terrorist invaders, but to attack Israel.
Oksana Boyko, however, pointed out that Iran and Hezbollah only intervened in Syria after many years of war against Syria by terrorist proxies of the United States and its allies.
Given that, by one estimate, 400,000 Syrians including 80,000 soldiers have died in that conflict since March 2011, the actual and potential consequences of that conflict for Israel are trivial in comparison. It's unfortunate that Oksano Boyko did not provide those figures.
Ayalon pushed the Big Lie, long ago refuted, that the war in Syria was a sectarian conflict between Sunni Islam and Shiite Islam.
Ayalon also claimed that Israel is the only democracy in the region, ignoring the fact that all elections held in recent years in Syria, particularly the Presidential election of 7 June 2014 in which 88.7% the 73.42% of eligible Syrian voters who voted, voted for President Bashar al-Assad, were verified by International observers. In Syria, unlike in Israel, where Palestinians are excluded, all residents - Sunni, Shiite and Alawite Muslims, Christians, Jews, Kurds, Armenians and others, are entited to vote.
No viewer aware of the facts about Israel can be left in any doubt that the criminality of Ayalon and the country he represents has not diminished since Israeli warplanes sank the USS Liberty in 1967 killing 34 crew members in an attempt to provide the United states with a pretext to join Israel in its war against Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
The antagonism towards Russia by U.S. media and foreign policy elites goes far beyond allegations of Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Paul Jay of The Real News interviews
Larry Wilkerson, retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson was the 2009 recipient of the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. This hour-long interview goes much further and wider than most on this issue. You won't agree with every idea expressed here, but you will be stimulated by many of them, because Wilkerson is intelligent, learned, and unfettered. I have not previously seen a debate cover so much history and geography. They look at the Middle East, Syria, of course, and at petro-politics and climate change. Russia's motives, attitudes. Bill Clinton's incursion into Georgia. Nazis in Ukraine and US encouragement of them. They look at the rise of China and the one belt road. At the reasons for conflict within Saudi Arabia. And they worry about the United States and MSN beating the war drums for Iran. At the end Wilkerson says what strategic advice he would give Trump, if he had the opportunity. Part of that advice is that America has too many enemies and how Trump might reduce the amount. And, finally, how the US, which is trillions of dollrs in debt, with about 20% of the productivity it had in its heyday, might go about partly sharing with and partly relinquising power to China.
Are Antifa just fascists fighting for turf with other fascists? Mark Bray, author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook discusses the movement's perception that it is countering the rise of the far-right and responds to Chris Hedges' critique of the violent tactics used by the activists. Chris Hedges suggests that Antifa's targets and strategies play into the hands of the corporate enemy. He also makes an odd mistake in suggesting that German Communists failed to counter Hitler as strongly as they might have because their leader had been jailed, but there is no history of the German Communist leader of the 1930s having been jailed at the time. (In fact Stalin advised the German Communists not to form a united front with the Social Democrats against the Nazis and they stupidly followed that advice.) Chris Hedges thinks Antifa is dehumanising fascists the way that fascists dehumanise their targets. (i.e. Antifa are actually fascists fighting for turf with other fascists.) Mark Bray thinks it is okay to shut presumed fascists up by making them too afraid to come out of their houses. The problem with this is, essentially, that just because an Antifa thinks someone is a 'fascist' does not mean that they are, especially when Antifa is shouting too hard to hear what someone may really be saying. Bray seems to be justifying the judgement and street-policing of people on the most superficial appraisal. Everyone is entitled to a defense, but not according to Antifa. [At the beginning of this program RT Correspondent Anya Parampil looks at the origins of Antifa and gets them terribly wrong. Just bear with it.] A critical point overlooked by Chris Hedges is that Antifa is funded by George Soros. Wonder why?
Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites.
"Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When Antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech, it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti capitalists. The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous task of building relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing, that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities. As long as acts of resistance are forms of personal catharsis, the corporate state is secure. Indeed the corporate state welcomes this violence, because violence is a language it can speak with a proficiency and ruthlessness that none of these groups can match." (Chris Hedges in conclusion).
Partial transcript of the interview, using You Tube's transcription service
CHRIS HEDGES: "[...] the danger comes from militarized police forces a system of mass incarceration. I teaching in a prison and my students were not put in those cages by neo Confederates, you know, from a trailer park. They were put in cages by the Democratic and the Republican Party. The wholesale surveillance the corporate kind of coup d'etat that's taken place that is eviscerating civil liberties, driving, essentially already has driven, the working class into poverty, destroying the middle class. These are the forces that already have power and that's a big difference from the 1930s."
CHRIS HEDGES: "Before the break my argument that the left, actually the anti-capitalist, that actually has moral capital and by engaging in the kind of street violence that characterizes the nativist and the neo-fascist and the - they're squandering their moral capital."
CHRIS HEDGES: The question is, who's the enemy, and how are we going to take the enemy down ? And the enemy is already in power. The corporate state. The coup is already over and, yes, they may use these figures, but we are in a situation that is in essence revolutionary. We are [incomprehensible]. If we are going to bring down this power structure, it's got to be through mass mobilization of hundreds of thousands of people into the streets. And you saw, for instance, in Berkeley, where - this is often the case - where most of the majority of the demonstrators were peaceful, nonviolent, there was a small activity of violence by a small group of black bloc Antifa , whatever, you but what was disseminated throughout the corporate media and why were those images useful to the corporate state? Because, number one, it demonizes the protest movement. We saw this with Occupy, which was a non-violent movement, and it frightens people away from the movement, and these are classic counterinsurgency techniques."
Bray not worried about 'dehumanizing fascists'
CHRIS HEDGES: "My fear with the left is that it adopts that abstract hatred, the abstract hatred that racists use towards people of color or the GBLT community or the Muslim community, is adopted by the left towards the fascists. So they know there's a dehumanization there and and a kind of belief that all rational discussion is impossible therefore. And I think you write in the book quite clearly the idea is to essentially not to reach out to them as other human beings, but to make them too frightened to come out of their houses."
MARK BRAY: "I guess I'm just not terribly concerned about people dehumanizing fascists personally and we can have a difference of opinion about that. I also the other question I would pose to you would be curious to get your responses so if if it is fine to organize popular self-defense under occupation how bad does the threat of violence have to get before that becomes legitimate? Right? And people's do disagree about that, but anti-fascists argue you have to stop it before it gets ...
CHRIS HEDGES: It's the wrong question.
MARK BRAY: Well then tell me what's the right question.
Revolution different now that the public cannot match the state's weapons
CHRIS HEDGES: If you are going to employ violence or, let's say use lethal force, then you have to have to have access to instruments and weapons of lethal force that can counter the state. So that no for instance rebel or guerrilla movement ever succeeds unless they are bordered by a state by which they can gather weaponry, carry out training. I mean this for instance was the role of Tunisia in the Algerian Civil War. And my argument and criticism of AntiFa and the black bloc is that the the language the state speaks and is increasingly speaking, of lethal force: militarizing our police departments, putting tanks on the streets of Ferguson, is one that we can never compete against. We're not going to create staging areas in Canada or Mexico to carry out an insurgency and therefore we have to find tactics that have worked in the past revolutions I believe are fundamentally nonviolent movements.
Crane Brinton and other historians, Davies, have written no revolution succeeds and lest a significant portion of the ruling apparatus - in particular the security apparatus - refuses to defend a discredited regime. That's something I watched with the with the collapse of the Stasi state in East Germany, where they, Honaker the Communist dictator, sent down an elite paratroop division in Leipzig and they wouldn't fire on the crowd. It was over same when they sent the Cossacks into to crush the bread riots in St. Petersburg and the Cossacks refused to. The Czar was over. That is just true in Revolution after revolution after revolution, and that only happens when you reach out - not to all - I'm not naive enough to tell you that - you know they're plenty of sadists and torturers and within the system - but enough people within the system to create paralysis.
MARK BRAY: Well you know anti-fascist are not trying to organize an armed uprising they're trying to stop small and medium-sized fascist groups before they advance and they recognize that the business of doing that is dangerous and that even if a group does it non-violently the consideration of being attacked by them and having to deal with that is very legitimate especially when we can see that the police are often more sympathetic to the right and that as the FBI has documented there has been extensive white power infiltration into local law enforcement so point taken on that the question of insurgencies but that's not really the politics that they're trying to promote here.
CHRIS HEDGES: Here what is I mean one of I think you've you read my article I mean one of the my criticisms was the idea of resistance as catharsis. It's not about how we feel is it?
MARK BRAY: Well I think that most anti-fascist and I interviewed 61 anti-fascist from 17 different countries most of the people that I spoke to don't fit the sort of media stereotype of some sort of crazy bloodthirsty of person but are people who are environmentalists and unionists and activists a variety of backgrounds who would much rather be doing that work than having to confront the far-right but they believe that there is a threat in their communities that they need to respond to and so I think the notion that these are thrill-seekers and that these people love to just sort of engage in violence isn't borne out by any evidence and certainly didn't reflect the interviews that I conducted.
CHRIS HEDGES: So what's the endgame? If you manage to get the fascists or the neo-fascists off the streets, we're still in trouble, right?
MARK BRAY: Right, which is why that many anti-fascists think of militant anti-fascism as essentially a firefighting operation dealing with an immediate emergency of the organized far-right on the streets and so if you push them off the streets, then you simply go back to doing the other kinds of movement building and organizing that you and I to some extent agree on what that could look like and and go back to that so we can see that the rise and fall of militant anti-fascism in the US and elsewhere over the past decades has everything to do with the rise and fall of the far-right so it's it's not generally conceived of as a politics that can solve all problems it's about addressing a specific.
Street violence and corporate power
CHRIS HEDGES: What role does violence have when we are confronting the true engines of oppression which is corporate power?
MARK BRAY: Well you know people will disagree with with what to do and Antifa is not designed to change all of society, right. It deals with this specific part of it, but I think the notion that the the ruling class will voluntarily hand over their wealth to create a social society is not true what we agree with and so I think that you know revolutionary politics does have to have it on the menu at a certain point. People will disagree on what that looks like when that comes but I think, you know, one of the historical lessons is it's often hard to turn on militant resistance when it's too late and so that that I think needs to be borne in mind as well.
CHRIS HEDGES: But it's also you know can be deeply counterproductive. Rosa Luxemburg who was assassinated in Berlin in the uprising did not support the uprising.
MARK BRAY: That's correct, and so uprisings are not always a good idea. In fact they're usually not a good idea but they can be sometimes and so the question is in my mind not to condemn a specific tactic or politics or strategy in the abstract universally but to look at the context.
Getting back to the superior weaponry of the state
CHRIS HEDGES: But I would go back to weaponry because you know in the French Revolution the the crowds, the san-culottes were carrying muskets and so was the Swiss Guard that were protecting the royalty, right? There's a disparity now in weaponry that doesn't make that possible.
MARK BRAY: Right. And so you're right from what you said before that some of it has to do with with the need to turn certain parts of the military against the state to have them put down their weapons to not not open fire on populations and in that sense it is a question of popular politics but what we're talking about here is not. Antifa is not a recipe for changing all of society. It's a politics aimed at self defense around a specific threat.
CHRIS HEDGES: I guess that definition of self defense is one we're gonna have to quibble over. I mean the Southern Poverty Law Center has said when these far-right groups, especially in open carry states, and these people are heavily armed, we could have had a bloodbath worse than we had. You know, just don't go.
MARK BRAY: Well I think that's terrible advice. I think we do need to organize against them. We can disagree on how to do that, but I think that one of the best takeaways from the politics of anti-fascism is to stand in solidarity with each other across different political and tactical and strategic lines, because when we get divided that's when we're weakest.
CHRIS HEDGES: Okay great mark thanks that was Mark Bray, author of Antifa the anti-fascist handbook.
CHRIS HEDGES: Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When Antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech, it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti capitalists. The focus on street violence diverts activists from the far less glamorous task of building relationships and alternative institutions and community organizing, that alone will make effective resistance possible. We will defeat the corporate state only when we take back and empower our communities. As long as acts of resistance are forms of personal catharsis, the corporate state is secure. Indeed the corporate state welcomes this violence, because violence is a language it can speak with a proficiency and ruthlessness that none of these groups can match. Thank you for watching you can find us on rt-dot-com slash On Contact see you next week
I have transcribed the text from an abbreviated version of President Bashar al-Assad's interview in the embedded video, which was released on 13 April 2017. The guts of President Bashar al-Assad's response to world allegations that Syria's national army attacked civilians with chemical weapons is that the Syrian Arab Army was not in the area at 6-6.30 am when Al-Quaeda alleges a chemical weapons attack took place, they were there around 11.30-12.00hrs. The area had no strategic value for them. Syria got rid of its chemical weapons arsenal in 2013, under international supervision, so what was the army supposed to have used? At the time of the alleged attack, the Syrian Army had the terrorists [Al-Quaeda/ISIS] on the run so why would they [invite punishment from the world community] in carrying out a senseless act with chemical weapons of no strategic importance, if they actually had chemical weapons, which they deny? The film of the alleged incident shows rescuers without any masks or other safety equipment supposedly dealing with people affected by toxic gas that is fatal on contact. Trump's U-turn on foreign intervention policy and US action on the fabricated incident shows that the president has no real power and that the United States is run by the Deep State. Text of statements are under the video inside this article. This transcription is provided because President Assad's English in the abbreviated version is not always completely clear. The entire interview, with English subtitles, is to be found at the bottom of my transcript of the shorter version. It is well worth listening to!
PRESIDENT ASSAD: "Al-Quaeda's forces say the attack happened at 6.00- 6.30 in the morning, while the Syrian [Army] attack was happening around noon, between 11.30 to 12.00. Let's suppose we have this [chemical weapons] arsenal and let's suppose we have the will to use it, why didn't we use it when we were retreating and the terrorists were advancing? Actually, the timing of that attack - or alleged attack - was when the Syrian Army was advancing very fast and actually the terrorists were collapsing in that area. So, why to use it, if you have it and if you have the will, why to use it at that timing and not when you are in a difficult situation? Logically, and this is second, if you have it and if you want to use it again, if we suppose, why do you use it and why do you use it against civilians, not use it against terrorists that we are fighting? Third, in that area we don't have army, we don't have battles, we don't have any object in Khan Sheikhoun and it's not strategic area, why to attack it? What the reason? Military? Of course, the foundation for us morally, we wouldn't do it if we have it [chemical weapons]. We wouldn't have the will because morally this is not acceptable. We won't have the support of the public.
INTERVIEWER: So you mean that you don't have chemical weapons.
PRESIDENT ASSAD: No, no, definitely. A few years ago, in 2013, we gave up all our arsenal and the chemical agency announced that Syria is free of any chemical materials.
INTERVIEWER: Because the Pentagon said that there are chemical weapon in the airbase. You deny.
PRESIDENT ASSAD: Yes. They attack that airbase and they destroy depots of different materials and there was no sarin gas. If they said that we launched the sarin attack from that airbase, what happened to the sarin when they attacked the depots? Did we have [unclear] sarin? Our chief of staff was there a few hours later. How could he go there if there was sarin gas? If the same fabricated videos that we've been seeing about Khan Sheikhoun when the rescuers tried to rescue the victims - or the supposedly dead people or inflicted people - but actually they weren't wearing any masks or any gloves. How? Where's the sarin? They should be affected. Right away. And so, actually, this is the first proof that it's not about the president of the United States, it's about the Regime and the Deep State, or the deep regime, in the United States. It's still the same, it doesn't change. The president is only one of the performers on their theatre. If he wants to be a leader, he cannot, because - as some say, he wanted to be leader, Trump wanted to be leader, but every president there, if he want to be real leader, he later is going to eat his words, swallow his pride, if he has pride at all, and make 180 degree U-turn, otherwise, he will pay the price politically.
Entire Interview with automatically generated transcript plus English subtitles is embedded below:
Recording of a timely and important interview with Tony Kevin, author of Return to Moscow UWA 2017. As a young Australian diplomat, Tony Kevin visited Brezhnev's Soviet Union in from 1969-1971. He returned on official business in 1985 when Chernenko was in power, then again, very briefly, in 1990. During these times he was not able to get to know the Russians due to the policy of both governments against fraternisation, thus Russia ironically became a source of growing fascination for him. He continued to inform his fascination from many sources, always at a distance. Concerned today by the threat to peace from US-NATO anti-Russian propaganda, and more fascinated by Russia than ever, he returned on his own to Russia (no longer the Soviet Union, of course) in 2016. Return to Moscow examines past and present attitudes to the people of Russia and to its leaders through empathic eyes and an understanding of the change in geopolitics from cold war to US interventionist.
On Putin: "Not since Britain's concentrated personal loathing of their great strategic enemy Napoleon in the Napoleonic wars was so much animosity brought to bear on one leader. Propaganda and demeaning language against Putin became more systemic, sustained and near universal in Western foreign policy and media communities than had ever been directed against any Soviet communist leader at the height of the Cold War. This hostile campaign evoked an effective defensive global media strategy by Russia. [...] A new kind of information Cold War took shape, with - paradoxically - Western media voices more and more speaking with one disciplined Soviet-style voice, and Russian counter voices fresher, more diverse and more agile." [Cited from Tony Kevin's book.] The interview in the video took place at Russia House in Fitzroy, Victoria, Australia. It was organised by Claire Woods of the Traveller's Bookstore. The interviewer was Associate Professor Judith Armstrong, former head of European Languages Department at Melbourne University.
An example of the afore-cited disciplined Soviet-style now dictating western newsmedia was to be found in another interview conducted by Australian ABC Victoria's Jon Faine on his Conversation Hour at around 25.25 minutes in: Jon Faine interview: http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/radio/local_melbourne/audio/201703/abi-2017-03-29.mp3. Faine seems to suggest that Russia is nothing much to worry about because:
JON FAINE: "Russia's found it can't match the west militarily. It can't match the west financially. It can't match the west in industrial design, invention and technology, but it can undo the west through the west's Archilles' heel - democracy."
TONY KEVIN: "No. Russia can match the west militarily. It has a huge nuclear deterrent. We tend to talk among ourselves as though that doesn't exist anymore. It's as if we've all said, 'if we don't talk about nuclear weapons, they won't be there.' But they are there. There are militaries on both sides of the frontier training all the time in how to use tactical weapons. This is the world we live in. And Russia has also gained the great command of this country that used to be clunky and used to be unable to keep up with the west technologically. They're now world leaders in handling information technology, as you know."
Back to the video of the Russia House talk: In response to a question from the audience, Tony Kevin concludes his interview with this statement:
"And I say it here and I say it because of Jon Faine: Syria is one of the points where World War 3 could start. The other two are Ukraine and the Balkan states, on the border of Russia, because, in all these situations, there's a lack of understanding, of comprehension of the other side's point of view. There's a self-righteousness and there's a - I think if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, we would already have war involving the west, Russia, and Syria. That's how bad it is. [...] I know Russia's got a very bad press on Syria, but my position is that Russia is there at the request of a sovereign government, which is run by a man called President Assad, which has a seat in the United Nations, and Russia is trying to help that government hold that country together. And, what are we doing in Syria? We seem to be supporting a change in cast of opposition elements, many of whom we don't really know what their politics are, some of whom are extremely unpleasant people, who do extremely unpleasant things. And, so Syria is a mess. But I'm glad that Russia is trying to help bring about some peace and order in Syria."
Yes, Return to Russia is a very important book, with its author in a position of unique authority, given the perspective of his age and his experience of different epoques in Russia and western deep state international policies. Fortunately it will be hard for the Establishment to completely bury his opinion, so lucidly expressed.
Disappointing to see that Trump's troops are in Syria without permission. Today, 11 March 2017, in a Chinese publication interview (conducted in English), Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad described the US incursion into Northern Syria from Raqqa as 'raids' which he did not think would succeed against ISIS because they are not coordinated with the Syrian government and army. He said that Russia's military manoeuvres against ISIS have been successful because Russia coordinated with the Syrian government and troops, and was invited. Assad said that he had been more hopeful about the Trump administration vis a vis Syria but that he has yet to have any direct (as opposed to indirect and unreliable) contact with Trump. Asked whether he had opened the door to these American troops, Assad said, "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."
Full transcript below:
11 March 2016
SANA (Syrian Arab News Agency)
(Damascus, SANA) President Bashar al-Assad said that the solution to the crisis in Syria should be through two parallel ways: the first one is to fight the terrorists, and this is our duty as government, to defend the Syrians and use any means in order to destroy the terrorists who’ve been killing and destroying in Syria, and the second one is to make dialogue.
The president added in an interview given to Chinese PHOENIX TV that 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.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Question 1: Thank you Mr. President for having us here in Dimashq, the capital of Syria. I think this is the first interview you have had with Chinese media after the national ceasefire and after so many fresh rounds of talks, both in Astana and in Geneva, and of course after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
And these days, as we have seen, your troops are making steady progress in battlefields, but peace talks do not seem just as productive. So, as far as the Geneva talks are concerned, your chief negotiator, Mr. Jaafari, was trying hard to find out who should be sitting on the other side of the negotiation table. So, according to your idea, who should be sitting there?
President Assad: This is a very crucial question. If you want those negotiations to be fruitful, we have to ask “who is going to be sitting there?” I mean, there could be a lot of good people with good intentions, but the question is: who do they represent? That’s the question.
In this situation, you have different groups, you have people who are, let’s say, patriotic, but they don’t represent anyone, they represent themselves. You have others who represent the terrorists, and you have terrorists on the table, and you have others who represent the agenda of foreign countries like Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, like France, UK and maybe the United States.
So, it’s not a homogeneous meeting. If you want it to be fruitful, going back to the first point that I mentioned, it should be a real Syrian-Syrian negotiations. In spite of that, we went to that meeting because we think any kind of dialogue could be a good step toward the solution, because even those people who are terrorists or belonging to the terrorists or to other countries, they may change their mind and go back to their normality by going back to being real Syrians, detach themselves from being terrorists or agents to other groups. That’s why I say we didn’t expect Geneva to produce anything, but it’s a step, and it’s going to be a long way, and you may have other rounds, whether in Geneva or in Astana.
Question 2: But anyway, it is intra-Syrian talks, right? But the matter of fact is, it is proxy dialogue. I mean, main parties do not meet and have dialogue directly.
President Assad: Exactly.
Journalist: Are you personally satisfied with the current negotiation format or mechanism?
President Assad: We didn’t forge this mechanism; it was forged by de Mistura and the UN with the influence of the countries that wanted to use those negotiations in order to make pressure on Syria, not to reach any resolution.
As you just said, each one represents a different agenda, even the opposition delegations, it wasn’t one delegation; different delegations of the opposition. So, if I’m going to – as a government – if I’m going to negotiate with someone, who’s it going to be? Which one? Who represents who? That’s our question.
So, you are right, this time there was no negotiations in Geneva, but this is one of the reasons, that’s why it didn’t reach anything. The only thing we discussed in Geneva was the agenda, the headlines, what are we going to discuss later, that’s it.
Question 3: But as we see, lot of time, money, energy have been put into this effort, and the clashes are still going on, people are still dying, and the refugees are still increasing.
President Assad: Exactly.
Journalist: What is the possible way of having a negotiation?
President Assad: Again, you are correct. The more delay you have, the more harm and destruction and killing and blood you’ll have within Syria, that’s why we are very eager to achieve a solution, but how and in which way? You need to have two parallel ways: the first one is to fight the terrorists, and this is our duty as government, to defend the Syrians and use any means in order to destroy the terrorists who’ve been killing and destroying in Syria.
The second one is to make dialogue. This dialogue has many different aspects; you have the political one, which is related to the future of Syria; what political system do you need, what kind? It doesn’t matter which one, it depends on the Syrians, and they’re going to have a referendum about what they want. The second part is to try to bring many of those people who were affiliated to the terrorists or who committed any terrorist acts to go back to their normality and lay down their armaments and to live a normal life in return for amnesty that has been offered by the government, and we’ve been going in that direction for three years, and it worked very well. It worked very well.
So, actually, if you want to talk about the real political solution since the beginning of the crisis, of the war on Syria, till this moment, the only solution was those reconciliations between the government and the different militants in Syria, many of them joined the government now, and they are fighting with the government. Some of them laid down their [weapons].
Question 4: But talking about the Syria war, you can never exclude the foreign factors. The Saudi-backed high negotiating committee, HNC, are saying that they are counting on the Trump administration to play a positive role instead of the mistaken policies under his predecessor Barack Obama. So, from your side, what do you expect from Trump’s Middle East policy, particularly policy on Syria?
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 [of the fighting] is a local kind of raids.
You cannot deal with terrorism on a 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 or 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 [ISIS]can get money in order to recruit terrorists from around the world, and [the United States] 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 green light 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.
Question 9: Talking about Russia and China, they just vetoed a new UN sanction on Syria last week. What do these Chinese vetoes mean exactly for your country?
President Assad: Let’s be very clear about their position, which is not to support the Syrian government or the Syrian president, because in the West they try to portray it as a personal problem, and as Russia and China and other countries and Iran support that person as president. It’s not the case. China is a member of the Security Council, and it’s committed to the Charter of the United Nations.
In that veto, China has defended first of all the Charter, because the United Nations was created in order to restore stability around the world. Actually, the Western countries, especially the permanent members of the Council as a tool or means in order to change regimes or governments and to implement their agenda, not to restore stability, and actually to create more instability around the world.
So the second part is that China restored stability in the world by creating some kind of political balance within the United Nations, of course in cooperation with Russia, which is very important for the whole world. Of course, Syria was the headline, the main headline, this is good for Syria, but again it’s good for the rest of the world.
Third, the same countries that wanted to use the UN Charter for their own vested interested are the same countries who interfered or tried to intervene in your country in the late 90s, and they used different headlines, human rights, and so on, and you know that, and if they had the chance, they would change every government in the world, whether big country or small country, just when this government tries to be a little bit independent. So, China protected the Chinese interests, Syrian interests, and the world interests, especially the small countries or the weak countries.
Question 10: If I’m not mistaken, you said China is going to play a role in the reconstruction of Syria. So, in which areas you think China can contribute to bring Syrian people back to their normal life after so many years of hardships?
President Assad: Actually, if you talk about what the terrorists have been doing the last six years, it’s destroying everything regarding the infrastructure. In spite of that, the Syrian government is still effective, at least by providing the minimum needs for the Syrian people. But they’ve been destroying everything in every sector with no exception.
Adding to that, the Western embargo in Syria has prevented Syria from having even the basic needs for the livelihood of any citizen in Syria. So, in which sector? In every sector. I mean, China can be in every sector with no exception, because we have damage in every sector. But if we talk about now, before this comprehensive reconstruction starts, China now is being involved directly in building many projects, mainly industrial projects, in Syria, and we have many Chinese experts now working in Syria in different projects in order to set up those projects.
But of course, when you have more stability, the most important thing is building the destroyed suburbs. This is the most important part of the reconstruction. The second one is the infrastructure; the sanitation system, the electricity, the oil fields, everything, with no exception.
The third one: the industrial projects, which could belong to the private sector or the public sector in Syria.
Question 11: Alright. And it seems no secret that there are some Chinese extremists are here, fighting alongside Daesh. I think it is a threat to both Syria and China. What concrete or effective measures do you have to control border and prevent these extremists from free movement in the region?
President Assad: When you talk about extremists or terrorists, it doesn’t matter what their nationality is, because they don’t recognize borders, and they don’t belong to a country. The only difference between nationality and nationality, is that those for example who came from your country, they know your country more than the others, so they can do more harm in your country that others, and the same for Syrians, the same for Russian terrorist, and so on. So now, the measures, every terrorist should be defeated and demolished, unless he changed his position to the normal life.
Second, because you’re talking about different nationalities --more than 80 nationalities -- you should have cooperation with the other governments, especially in the intelligence field, and that’s what’s happening for example with the Chinese intelligence regarding the Uyghur terrorists who are coming from China through Turkey. Unfortunately, the only means that we don’t have now and we don’t control is our borders with Turkey, because of the Uyghur in particular; they came from Turkey, the others coming maybe from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, form the sea, maybe, and the majority from Turkey, but the Uyghur terrorists coming mainly from Turkey.
Why? I don’t know why, but they have the support of the Turkish government, and they were gathered and collected in one group, and they were sent to the northern part of Syria. So, the mission now is to attack them, wherever they existed. Of course, sometimes you cannot tell which one… who is who, they mix with each other, but sometimes they work as separate groups from different nationalities. And this is very crucial kind of cooperation between the Syrian and the Chinese intelligence, and we did many good steps in that regard.
Question 12: Mr. President, as you may be fully aware that the “White Helmets” took an Oscar this year for the best documentary short, but folks are saying that the truth about this “White Helmets” is not like what Netflix has presented, so what is your take on this?
President Assad: First of all, we have to congratulate al-Nusra for having the first Oscar! This is an unprecedented event for the West to give Al Qaeda an Oscar; this is unbelievable, and this is another proof that the Oscars, Nobel, all these things are politicized certificates, that’s how I can look at it.
The White Helmets story is very simple; it is a facelift of al-Nusra Front in Syria, just to change their ugly face into a more humanitarian face, that’s it. And you have many videos on the net and of course images broadcasted by the White Helmets that condemn the White Helmets as a terrorists group, where you can see the same person wearing the white helmet and celebrating over the dead bodies of Syrian soldiers.
So, that’s what the Oscar went to, to those terrorists. So, it’s a story just to try to prevent the Syrian Army during the liberation of Aleppo from making more pressure on the attacking and liberating the districts within the city that have been occupied by those terrorists, to say that the Syrian Army and the Russians are attacking the civilians and the innocents and the humanitarian people.
Question 13: Right. Now Palmyra. I took a one-day trip to Palmyra this time. Now, the city is under your control, so as its strategic position is concerned, because Homs is the heart of Syria, it’s right in the middle. Now, when you have Palmyra, what is your next target? Are you going to expand a military operation into Raqqa and Dier Ezzor?
President Assad: We are very close to Raqqa now. Yesterday, our troops reached the Euphrates River which is very close to Raqqa city, and Raqqa is the stronghold of ISIS today, so it’s going to be a priority for us, but that doesn’t mean the other cities are not priority, in time that could be in parallel, because Palmyra is on the way to Dier Ezzor city in the eastern part of Syria which is close to the Iraqi borders, and those areas that have been used by ISIS as route for logistic support between ISIS in Iraq and ISIS in
Syria. So, whether you attack the stronghold or you attack the route that ISIS uses, it has the same result.
Question 14: How many days do you think this war is going to last?
President Assad: if we presume that you don’t have foreign intervention, it will take a few months. It’s not very complicated internally. The complexity of this war is the foreign intervention. This is the problem. So, in the face of that intervention, the good thing that we gained during the war is the unity of the society. At the very beginning, the vision for many Syrians wasn’t very clear about what’s happening. Many believed the propaganda of the West about the reality, about the real story, that this is against the oppression. If it’s against the oppression, why the people in Saudi Arabia didn’t revolt, for example? So, now what we gained is this, this is our strongest foundation to end that war. We always have hope that this year is going to be the last year. But at the end, this is war and you can’t expect what is going to happen precisely.
Question 15: Mr. President, you are President of the Syrian Republic, at the same time, you are a loving husband and a father of three. How can you balance the role of being a President, a father, and a husband?
President Assad: If you cannot succeed in your small duty which is your family, you cannot succeed in your bigger duty or more comprehensive duty at the level of a country. So, there is no excuse that if you have a lot of work to abandon your duties; it’s a duty. You have to be very clear about that, you have to fulfill those duties in a very good way. Of course, sometimes those circumstances do not allow you to do whatever you have to do, your duties, fully, let’s say.
Journalist: During a day, how much time you spend on work, and how much time you spend with your family members?
President Assad: Actually, it’s not about the time, because even if you are at your home, you have to work.
President Assad: Let’s say, in the morning and the evening, you have the chance, but in between and after those times, you have the whole day to work.
Question 16: Have you ever thought of leaving this country for the sake of your family?
President Assad: Never, after six years, I mean the most difficult times passed; it was in 2012 and 2013, those times; we never thought about it, how can I think about it now?
So, no, no, this is not an option. Whenever you have any kind of reluctance, you will lose. You will lose not with your enemies; you lose with your supporters. Those supporters, I mean the people you work with, the fighters, the army, they will feel if you’re not determined to defend your country. We never had any feeling neither me nor any member of my family.
Question 17: And how is Kareem’s Chinese getting along?
President Assad: He learned the basics of Chinese language, I think two years ago. Unfortunately, the lady and the man who taught him had to leave, because they were members of the Chinese Embassy. They went back to China. Now, he stopped improving his Chinese language.
Question 18: Do you think it is a good choice to learn Chinese for him?
President Assad: Of course, of course, because China is a rising power.
Journalist: You didn’t force him to learn Chinese? It’s his own option, right?
President Assad: No, no, we never thought about it, actually. I didn’t think that he has to learn Chinese, and I didn’t expect him, if I thought about it, that he would say yes, because for many in the world the Chinese language is a difficult language to learn. He took the initiative and he said I want to learn Chinese, and actually till this moment, I didn’t ask him why. I want him to feel free, but when he’s getting older, I’m going to ask him how? How did it come through your mind to learn this language, this difficult language, but of course important language.
Journalist: You didn’t ask him before?
President Assad: No, not yet.
Journalist: So, you think it’s a good choice?
President Assad: Of course, of course. As I said, it’s a rising power, it’s important. I mean, most of the world has different kinds of relations with China whether in science, in politics, in economy, in business, I mean, in every field you need it now. And our relations for the future are going to be on the rise. It was good, but it’s going to be on the rise because when a country like China proves that it’s a real friend, a friend that you can rely on, it’s very natural to have better relations on the popular level, not only on the formal level.
Journalist: Thank you Mr. President, thank you for your time.
President Assad: Thank you for coming to Syria, you’re most welcome.
For those rare individuals who like their news direct from the source instead of twisted by the biased mainstream media, this interview with Assad covers a new range of questions and answers. Assad denies that his family has any ownership of the presidency. He gives a clear account of how he came to be a presidential candidate. He attributes' Syria's ongoing problems to European and United States sponsorship of al-Nusra affiliated terrorists and ISIS. He says he would have no problems in stepping aside if someone else was elected as President of Syria. He says that 'the new U.S. administration' gave some cause for hope, during the elections and after. And much more. No Australian politician has ever been interviewed at this depth, to my knowledge.
During an interview on 19 October 2016 with Swiss TV SRF 1 TV Live, President Bashar al-Assad stressed that protecting civilians in Aleppo necessitates getting rid of the terrorists. He said, “Of course, it’s our mission according to the constitution and the law. We have to protect the people, and we have to get rid of those terrorists in Aleppo. That’s how we can protect civilians.” He added that it goes without saying that the way to protect the civilians in Aleppo is to attack the terrorists who hold the civilians under their control and are killing them. Full transcript inside:
President al-Assad to Swiss SRF 1 TV channel: Fighting terrorists is the way to protect civilians in Aleppo
Journalist: Mr. President, thank you very much for having welcomed Swiss Television and our program Rundschau here in Damascus.
: You are most welcome in Syria.
Question 1: First, please, allow me to clarify one thing: may I ask you every question?
: Every question, without exception.
Question 2: I’m asking because one of your conditions is that interview is being broadcast in its full version. Are you afraid that we might manipulate your statements?
: You should answer that question, but I think we should build this relation upon the trust, and I think you are worried about the trust of your audience, so I don’t think so. I think you have good reputation in conveying the truth in every subject you try to cover.
Question 3: Do you see it as a lie, that the world considers you as to be a war criminal?
: That depends on what the reference in defining that word. Is it the international law, or is it the Western agenda or the Western political mood, let’s say, that’s being defined by vested-interests politicians in the West? According to the international law, as a President and as government and as Syrian Army, we are defending our country against the terrorists that have been invading Syria as proxies to other countries. So, if you want to go back to that word, the “war criminal,” I think the first one who should be tried under that title are the Western officials; starting with George Bush who invaded Iraq without any mandate from the Security Council. Second, Cameron and Sarkozy who invaded and destroyed Libya without mandate from the Security Council. Third, the Western officials who are supporting the terrorists during the last five years in Syria, either by providing them with political umbrella, or supporting them directly with armaments, or implementing embargo on the Syrian people that has led to the killing of thousands of Syrian civilians.
Question 4: But we are here to talk about your role in this war, and the US
Secretary of State John Kerry called you “Adolf Hitler” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same breath. Does it bother you?
: No, because they don’t have credibility. This is first of all. Second, for me as President, what I care about first and foremost is how the Syrian people look at me; second, my friends around the world – not my personal friends as President, I mean our friends as Syrians, like Russia, like Iran, like China, like the rest of the world – not the West, the West always tried to personalize things, just to cover the real goals which is about deposing government and getting rid of a certain president just to bring puppets to suit their agenda. So, going back to the beginning, no I don’t care about what Kerry said, at all. It has no influence on me.
Question 5: You’re the President of a country whose citizens are fleeing, half of your fellow citizens. The people are not only fleeing because of the terrorists, of ISIS, or the rebels, but also because of you.
: What do you mean by me? I’m not asking people to leave Syria, I’m not attacking people; I’m defending the people. Actually, the people are leaving Syria for two reasons: first reason is the action of the terrorists, direct action in killing the people. The second one is the action of the terrorists in order to paralyze the life in Syria; attacking schools, destroying infrastructure in every sector. Third, the embargo of the West that pressed many Syrians to find their livelihood outside Syria. These are the main reasons. If you can see that the second factor and the third factor are related, I mean the role of the terrorists and the West in undermining and hurting the livelihoods of the Syrians, is one and, let’s say, is commonality between the terrorists and Europe.
Question 6: When you speak of terrorists, who do you mean by that? Surely ISIS, but also the “Free Syrian Army” or the Kurds?
: What I mean is like what you mean as a Swiss citizen, if you have anyone who carries machineguns or armaments and killing people under any titles, and committed vandalism, destroying public or private properties; this is a terrorist. Anyone who adopts a political way in order to make any change he wants, this is not a terrorist. You can call him opposition. But you cannot call somebody who is killing people or holding armaments, you cannot call him opposition, in your country, in my country as well.
Question 7: Well, you don’t have any free opposition in your country.
: Of course we have, of course we have. We have real opposition, we have people who live in Syria, whom their grassroots are the Syrian people, they’re not opposition who were forged in other countries like France or UK or Saudi Arabia or Turkey. We have them, and you can go and meet them and deal with them with your camera. You can do that yourself.
Question 8: How do you explain to your three children what is happening in
Aleppo? I’m sure that you are discussing about it at the family table.
: Yeah, of course if I’m going to explain to them, I’m going to explain about what is happening in Syria, not only in Aleppo, taking into consideration that my children are full-grown now, they understand what is going on Syria. But if you want to explain to them or to any other child what is happening, I’m going to explain about the role of the terrorists, about the role of Qatar, Turkey, Saudi Arabia in supporting those terrorists with money, with logistic support, and the role of the West in supporting those terrorists either through armament or through helping them with the propaganda and the publicity. I’m going to explain to them in full what’s going on.
Question 9: Do you, as a father, also say that you have nothing to do with the bombardments of the hospitals in Aleppo?
: Look, when they say that we are bombarding the hospitals, it means that we are killing civilians. That is the meaning of the word. The question is why would the government kill civilians, whether in hospitals or in streets or schools or anywhere? You are talking about killing Syrians. When we kill Syrians, as a government, or as army, the biggest part of the Syrian society will be against us. You cannot succeed in your war if you are killing civilians. So, this story, and this narrative, is a mendacious narrative, to be frank with you. Of course, unfortunately, every war is a bad war, in every war you have innocent victims, whether children, women, elderly, any other civilian, any other innocent who is not part of this war, he could pay the price, this is unfortunately. That’s why we have to fight terrorism. When we don’t say that, it’s like saying – according to that question or that narrative, that you may reflect in your question – that the terrorists, Al Qaeda, al-Nusra, ISIS, are protecting the civilians, and we as government are killing the civilians. Who can believe that story? No one.
Question 10: But who else got airplanes or bunker-busting bombs besides your army?
: It’s like you’re saying that everyone who is killed in Syria was killed by the airplanes or aircrafts, military aircrafts! The majority of the people were killed by mortars shelled by the terrorists on them while they’re at schools, in their hospitals, in the streets, anywhere. It’s not related to the aerial bombardment. Sometimes you have aerial bombardment against the terrorists, but that doesn’t mean that every bomb that fell somewhere was by airplane or by the Syrian Army. If you are talking about a specific incident, let’s say, we have to verify that specific incident, but I’m answering you in general now.
Question 11: But you have the power to change the situation also for the children in Aleppo.
: Of course, that’s why-
Journalist: Will you do that?
: Exactly, that’s our mission, according to the constitution, according to the law; that we have to protect the people, that we have to get rid of those terrorists from Aleppo. This is where we can protect the civilians. How can you protect them while they are under the control of the terrorists? They’ve been killed by them, and they’ve been controlled fully by the terrorists. Is it our role to sit aside and watch? Is that how we can protect the Syrian people? We need to attack the terrorists, that’s self-evident.
Question 12: May I show you a picture?
: Of course.
Journalist: This young boy has become the symbol of the war. I think that you know this picture.
: Of course I saw it.
Journalist: His name is Omran. Five years old.
Journalist: Covered with blood, scared, traumatized. Is there anything you would like to say to Omran and his family?
: There’s something I would like to say to you first of all, because I want you to go back after my interview, and go to the internet to see the same picture of the same child, with his sister, both were rescued by what they call them in the West “White Helmets” which is a facelift of al-Nusra in Aleppo. They were rescued twice, each one in a different incident, and just as part of the publicity of those White Helmets. None of these incidents were true. You can have it manipulated, and it is manipulated. I’m going to send you those two pictures, and they are on the internet, just to see that this is a forged picture, not a real one. We have real pictures of children being harmed, but this one in specific is a forged one.
Question 13: But it’s true that innocent civilians are dying, in Aleppo.
: Of course, not only in Aleppo; in Syria. But now you are talking about Aleppo, because the whole hysteria in the West about Aleppo, for one reason; not because Aleppo is under siege, because Aleppo has been under siege for the last four years by the terrorists, and we haven’t heard a question by Western journalists about what’s happening in
Aleppo that time, and we haven’t heard a single statement by Western officials regarding the children of Aleppo. Now, they are talking about Aleppo recently just because the terrorists are in a bad shape. This is the only reason, because the Syrian Army are making advancement, and the Western countries – mainly the United States and its allies like UK and France – feeling that they are losing the last cards of terrorism in Syria, and the main bastion of that terrorism today is Aleppo.
Question 14: Everything is allowed in this war for you.
: No, of course, you have the international law, you have the human rights charter, you have to obey. But in every war, every war in the world during the history, you cannot make sure a hundred percent that you can control everything in that direction. You always have flaws, that’s why I said every war is a bad war. But there’s difference between individual mistakes and the policy of the government. The policy of the government, to say that we are attacking civilians, we are attacking hospitals, we are attacking schools, we are doing all these atrocities, that’s not possible, because you cannot work or go against your interests. You cannot go against your duty toward the people, otherwise you are going to lose the war as a government. You cannot withstand such a ferocious war for five years and a half while you are killing your own people. That’s impossible. But you always have mistakes, whether it’s about crossfire, it’s about individual mistakes… bring me a war, a single war in the recent history, that it was a clean war. You don’t have.
Question 15: Do you have made any mistakes too in this war?
: As President I define the policy of the country, according to our policy, the main pillars of this policy during the crisis is to fight terrorism, which I think is correct and we will not going to change it, of course, to make dialogue between the Syrians, and I think which is correct, the third one which is proven to be effective during the last two years is the reconciliations; local reconciliations with the militants who have been holding machineguns against the people and against the government and against the army, and this one has, again, proven that it’s a good step. So, these are the pillars of this policy. You cannot talk about mistakes in this policy. You can talk about mistakes in the implementation of the policy, that could be related to the individuals.
Question 16: You still believe in a diplomatic solution?
: Definitely, but you don’t have something called diplomatic solution or military solution; you have solution, but every conflict has many aspects, one of them is the security, like our situation, and the other one is in the political aspect of this solution. For example, if you ask me about how can you deal with Al Qaeda, with al-Nusra, with ISIS? Is it possible to make negotiations with them? They won’t make, they’re not ready to, they wouldn’t. They have their own ideology, repugnant ideology, so you cannot make political solution with this party; you have to fight them, you have to get rid of them. While if you talk about dialogue, you can make dialogue with two entities; the first one, political entities, any political entities, whether with or against or in the middle, and with every militant who is ready to give in his armament for the sake of the security or stability in Syria. Of course we believe in it.
Question 17: There are news from Russia about a short humanitarian pause in Aleppo on Thursday, what does it mean this humanitarian pause, can you explain?
: It’s a short halting of operations in order to allow the humanitarian supply to get into different areas in Aleppo, and at the same time to allow the civilians who wanted to leave the terrorist-held areas to move to the government-controlled area.
Question 18: This is really a step, an important step?
: Of course, it is an important step as a beginning, but it’s not enough. It’s about the continuation; how can you allow those civilians to leave. The majority of them wanted to leave the area held by the terrorists, but they won’t allow them. They either shoot them or they kill their families if they leave that area.
Question 19: Russia is on your side, what does it mean for you?
: No, it’s not on my side. It’s on the international law’s side.
It’s on the other side which is opposite to the terrorists’ side. This is the position of Russia, because they wanted to make sure that the international law prevails, not the Western agenda in toppling every government that doesn’t fit with their agendas. They wanted to make sure that the terrorism doesn’t prevail in that area, that would affect negatively the Russians themselves, Russia itself as a country, and Europe and the rest of the world. That’s what it means for Russia to stand beside the legitimate Syrian government and the Syrian people.
Question 20: Mr. President, you use chemical weapons and barrel bombs in Syria against your own population, these are UN reports, you can’t ignore it.
: You are talking about two different issues. The chemical issue, it was proven to be false, and they haven’t a shred of evidence about the Syrian Army using chemical weapons, particularly before we give up our arsenal in 2013, now we don’t have it anyway. Before that, it was fiction because if you want to use such mass destruction armaments, you’re going to kill thousands of people in one incident, and we didn’t have such incidents. Beside that, we wouldn’t use it because you’re going to kill your own people, and that’s against your interest. So, this is a false allegation. We don’t have to waste our time with it. You live in Syria, there is a traditional war, but there is nothing related to mass destruction armaments.
Journalist: But the UN report is not a fiction.
: The UN report never has been credible, never, and because they put reports based on allegations, based on other reports, on forged reports, and they say this is a report. Did they send a delegation to make investigation? They sent one in 2013, and it couldn’t prove at all that the Syrian Army used chemical weapons. This is first. The second, which is more important, the first incident happened at the beginning of 2013 in
Aleppo, when we said that the terrorists used chemical weapons against our army, and we invited the United Nations to send a delegation. We, we did, and at that time, the United States opposed that delegation because they already knew that this investigation – of course if it’s impartial – is going to prove that those terrorists, their proxies, used chemical armaments against the Syrian Army. Regarding the barrel bombs, I want to ask you: what is the definition of barrel bomb? If you go to our army, you don’t have in our records something called “barrel bomb,” so how do you understand – just to know how I can answer you – what a barrel bomb is? We have bombs.
Journalist: The destruction… it’s the destruction, and it is against humanitarian law.
: Every bomb can make destruction, every bomb, so you don’t have bomb to make nothing. So, this is a word that has been used in West as part of the Western narrative in order to show that there is an indiscriminate bomb that has been killing civilians indiscriminately and that opposes the Western narrative, I’ll show you the contradiction: in other areas they say that we are bombarding intentionally the hospitals, and you mentioned that, and they are targeting intentionally the schools, and we targeted intentionally the convoys to Aleppo last month, those targets need high-precision missiles. So, they have to choose which part of the narrative; we either have indiscriminate bombs or we have high-precision bombs. They keep contradicting in the same narrative, this is the Western reality now. So, which one to choose? I can answer you, but again, we don’t have any indiscriminate bombs. If we kill people indiscriminately, it means we are losing the war because people will be against us; I cannot kill the Syrian people, either morally or for my interest, because in that case I’m going to push the Syrian community and society towards the terrorists, not vice versa.
Question 21: I would like to mention the subject of torture prisons, Mr. President. Amnesty speaks of seventeen thousands dead. Regarding the prison of Saidnaya, there are still horrible reports. When will you allow an independent observer into that prison?
: Independent, and Amnesty International is not independent and it is not impartial.
President Assad: We didn’t discuss it with the Red Cross, we didn’t discuss it. It should be discussed in our institutions, if you want to allow… if there is allegation, it could be discussed. We don’t say yes or no, but the report you have mentioned, it was a report made by Qatar, and financed by Qatar. You don’t know the source, you don’t know the names of those victims, nothing verified about that report. It was paid by Qatar directly in order to vilify and smear the Syrian government and the Syrian Army.
Journalist: But there are a lot of eyewitnesses.
: No one knows who are they. You don’t have anything clear about that. It’s not verified. So, no.
Journalist: Then open the door for organizations like Red Cross.
: It’s not my decision to tell you yes or no. We have institutions, if we need to discuss this part, we need to go back to the institutions before saying yes or no.
Question 22: Why are you sure that you are going to win this war?
: Because you have to defend your country, and you have to believe that you can win the war to defend your country. If you don’t have that belief, you will lose. You know, part of the war is what you believe in, so, it’s self-evident and very intuitive that you have to have that belief.
Question 23: If you walk through Damascus, your picture is everywhere, in every shop, in every restaurant, in every car, a symbol for a dictator, is this your way to fix your power?
: There is a difference between dictator and dictatorship.
Dictator is about the person. I didn’t ask anyone to put my picture in Syria, I never did it. This is first. Second, to describe someone as a dictator, you should ask his people, I mean only his people can say that he is a dictator or he is a good guy.
Journalist: Thank you Mr. President for having answered our questions for Swiss Television and the Rundschau.
: Thank you for coming to Syria.
Source of transcript: Syrian Arab Newsagency
People will be interested to see this interview with the Syrian president's wife, someone we do not often hear about in western media because she looks and sounds too good to suit its propaganda. In March 2011, Vogue magazine called Asma' al-Assad (née al-Akhras) "A Rose in the Desert". The same magazine smeared her years later as the wife of a war criminal. Asma' al-Assad has an English accent and British citizenship because she born and lived in England. Dr Bashar al Assad, now the president of Syria, met her when he was studying eye medicine in London in the 90's, and married her after he became the president. She was at the time contemplating going to Harvard as a post grad in banking finance. She drives alone in dangerous areas of Syria, meeting widows and orphans of the war, and the mothers of soldiers killed in action (known as 'martyrs' in Syria). She describes in detail the problems of injured soldiers and how she tries to assist. Her children attend school in Syria. She says she has received offers to leave Syria with her three children to a safer area (Gulf, Europe...) with her income guaranteed, but she did not think that would help Syria and she recognised these offers as a trick to undermine Syrian morale. Arabic MSM of the Gulf has carried many false rumors about the Assad family fleeing to Iran and Russia, meeting Russian submarines in the Mediterranean, that the Assads are divorcing, that their children hate them etc. Asma' al-Assad notes the biased treatment of displaced and wounded children in Syria in its almost exclusive reporting only of those who are in the areas occupied by the so-called 'rebels', ignoring the many deaths of soldiers in the Syrian Arab Army and that the majority of Syrians live in government held areas that the so-called 'rebels' constantly target.
Update: Above video has been deleted from YouTube - 18 August 2018
The interview of the Syrian First Lady, which 20 months ago, had been embedded above has since been deleted by YouTube. The interview embedded below was published on 18 October 2016, the day before this article was first published. It is possible that this is the same interview
Syria's First Lady Asma al-Assad's interview with Russia's Channel 24
Other videos of Asma al-Assad found on YouTube with the search terms "interview with asma al assad" (quotes omitted), include: Syria: Asma al-Assad gives first interview since start of Syrian conflict (1:57min - 1 year ago), Syria's First Lady on Gaza (5:48 min, 9 years ago), Asma al Assad full interview (23/10/16) - apparently the same interview, Syria's First Lady Asma al-Assad speech at the Paris Diplomatic Academy in 2010 (52:42 min, 14/9/16), Syrian president's wife slams Western media coverage of war - Daily Mail (1:47min, 15/3/18), …
Dr Marcus Papadopoulos was interviewed by BBC News about 'russophobia' in Britain and policy in Syria . Speaking very clearly, Papadopoulos gives a history of British resentment of Russia, dating from the Crimea and thinks that Britain is acting in part out of a feeling of being left-out in the region. Islamist terrorists in Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria are the only ones benefiting from this British ignorance and bias. It should be remembered that those Islamic terrorists that the west is backing, pose a huge threat to the people of Britain. The US-led coalition in Syria is not acting legally.