‘Reality in Syria very different from what US says’ – Assad advisor
RT: Russia has joined the fight against Islamic State. How long have you been negotiating the move with Moscow?
Bouthaina Shaaban: The dialogue between us [Damascus] and Moscow has been ongoing since the beginning of the crisis. And, as you noticed, that Russia and China took a double veto four times against all that the West was trying to impose on Syria. Because the West didn’t understand what’s happening in Syria, while Russia understood all the way along. So, the dialogue between Damascus and Moscow is ongoing... [since] a decade ago; but during this crisis it has been intensive, it has been real, it has been continuous.
RT: Is the involvement of Russian aviation a game changer in the fight against IS?
BS: Well, there are no Russian troops on the ground as you heard Putin and Lavrov [saying] – “our assistance is only [fighter jets].” But it’s not only against IS. I don’t know why people… forget about Jabhat Al-Nusra, although the [UN] Security Council resolution spoke about or considered both Al-Nusra and ISIL as terrorist organizations.
Besides these, there are tens of terrorist organizations in Syria. There are thousands of mercenaries and terrorists coming from all over the world. So, we certainly hope that with the help of the Russian assistance we will be able to undermine terrorism in Syria and we’ll be able to restore peace and security in our country.
RT: The Pentagon accuses Russia of targeting not IS, but Western-backed rebels’ positions without providing any evidence behind that. How plausible are these allegations?
BS: ... What I know is that the way Russia did things, that it did it both in full cooperation with the Syrian government, in consultation with the entire world; Putin was asking any country in the world to join in fighting terrorism. Therefore, I think the style of fighting terrorism is very convincing by the Russians, while the alliance that was made by the US and the West did not either follow the rules of international legitimacy or coordinate with the Syrian government, and didn’t really mean to fight terrorism. Because they had been around for a few months and they weren’t really effective at all. I don’t think the intention of the other [US] alliance is to fight terrorism at all.
RT: The issue was high on the agenda of the UN Security Council and the US once again spoke of its reluctance to work with President Assad. US Secretary of the State John Kerry accused the Syrian government of not trying to stop terrorists on their territory while they are “raping, enslaving and murdering civilians” and that they “focused all of its military power on moderate opposition groups who were fighting for a voice in Syria.” How fair are those allegations?
BS: I think there’s no grain of truth in what John Kerry has said about Syria. I mean, could you imagine that the government wouldn’t target terrorist and would target the moderate opposition. After all, the Pentagon announced today that they’re not going to arm the opposition anymore because they discovered that this opposition [that] they have been arming were selling or giving arms to Al-Nusra and probably to ISIL.
Once you are in a terrorist area you’ll never be able to know who is who, whether this is Al-Nusra or ISIL, or whatever. One thing that is true is that all those carrying arms against the Syrian people, against the Syrian institutions are terrorists, and the Syrian army has been fighting them for the last five years, while the West is looking at our country being destroyed - at our hospitals, at our schools; our archeological heritage being absolutely destroyed. It’s very easy to sit in New York and talk about concepts, but it’s very different - the truth in Syria. And the reality is very different from what the Americans and from what John Kerry is saying.
RT: Why is West allowing their opinion of Assad to hinder the anti-IS effort?
BS: What needs to be done is to fight ISIL and to fight terrorism in Syria. You know, I really would love the West to review all their policies in Syria. The problem right from the beginning was not Assad - the target wasn’t Assad. Just as Libya is destroyed now and they were talking about Gaddafi, and Iraq is destroyed and they were talking about Saddam Hussein or about mass destruction weapons. These concepts, if you want, floated in the media. They are only used in order to destroy our countries; in order to destroy our civilization; in order to destroy our people. I really believe that the West should wake up and see what’s happening on the ground. I feel... all the Arab people feel that the Russians understand what’s going on in Syria; understand what’s going on in the Arab world and they’re committed to international legitimacy and to respect our country’s sovereignty. And that’s why I feel that the Russians are going to succeed what the West didn’t or didn’t want to succeed, probably – I’m not sure.
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