Interview to RT, May 31, 2018
Question: But with regards to retaking territories, it seems inexplicably whenever you eliminate one threat, say, be in Ghouta, another threat seems to materialize, and this has happened repeatedly. Now, we have the Israeli energy minister who is threatening that his country could, quote, “liquidate you and your government.” Are you afraid, and how do you take that threat?
President Assad: Since we were born – I’m talking about my generation and most of the generations now in Syria – we lived under the threat of the Israeli aggression. This is something in our unconscious feeling, so to say that you’re afraid while living with the same threat for decades, this is nonsense. The Israelis have been assassinating, killing, occupying for decades now, for around seven decades, in this region, but usually they do all this without threatening. Now, why do they threat in this way? This is panic, this is a kind of hysterical feeling, because they are losing the “dear ones,” the dear ones al-Nusra and ISIS, that’s why Israel is panicking recently, and we understand their feeling.
Question: Well, Israel is now seemingly striking across Syria, airstrikes, at will. They’re boasting publicly on camera again and again that your defenses, they’re powerless to stop them, that they can do in Syria whatever they want. Is that true, is there anything you can do to stop Israel carrying out its airstrikes in Syria?
President Assad: Actually, the first target of the mercenaries in Syria was the air defense, before attacking any other military base, it was the air defense, and you would be surprised at that time; why do they attack the air defense? The air defense will not deal with the “peaceful demonstrators” as they say or the “moderate forces,” and it cannot deal with extremists anyway. It’s another thing, it’s built to defend the country. This is the other proof that Israel was in direct link with those terrorists in Syria. So, they attacked those bases, and they destroyed a big part of our air defenses. Now, in spite of that, our position, let’s say, our air defense is much stronger than before, thanks to the Russian support, and the recent attacks by the Israelis and by the Americans and British and French proved that we are in a better situation.Now, my answer to your question, the only option is to improve our air defense, this is the only thing we can do, and we are doing that.
Question: Israel says that its strikes are, so far, that they aren’t targeted against you, the President or the government, that they’re targeted at Iran, and they’re to keep Iran – which is your ally – weak in Syria. It’s strange, but Iran being here, they are your allies, it’s no secret, they have helped, but them being here now puts you at threat. Would you ever consider asking Iran to leave?
President Assad: The most important fact regarding this issue, is that we don’t have Iranian troops. We never had, and you cannot hide it, and we’re not ashamed to say that we have, like we invited the Russians, we could have invited the Iranians. We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian Army as help, but they don’t have troops. And the starkest fact about their lies about this issue, the Iranian issue, that the recent attack a few weeks ago, they said that they attacked Iranian bases and camps, as they said, allegedly, and actually we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian. So, how could they say that we have it? So, it’s a lie. We always say that we have Iranian officers, but they work with our army, we don’t have troops. […]