Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in an interview broadcast on Fox News, 18 September, vowed that Syria is fully committed to the Chemical Weapons Convention, and its included procedures for implementation, including the procedures for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal. “When you join the agreement, you have mechanisms and you have to obey these mechanisms. And according to the history of Syria, we never made an agreement with any party in this world and we didn’t fulfill what we have to do,” he said. Assad stressed that his government is committed to the “full requirements” of the treaty, to include international inspections by the Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons, without any preconditions.
The interview was arranged by former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, now a contributor to Fox News, who, according to the introduction by Fox News host Bret Baier, informed the network on Sept. 7 that he thought he could secure an interview with Assad. “We were presented with an opportunity for access to a volatile part of the world and felt that footage of Assad speaking would be of unique news value,” Baier said. The interview, conducted by Kucinich and Fox News senior foreign affairs correspondent Greg Palkot, was taped in Damascus on Sept. 17, using a Syrian camera crew and was broadcast, yesterday.
Assad made clear his view, in response to a series of questions from Kucinich, that it wasn’t the US threat of force that caused him to agree to join the CWC, but rather the Russian diplomatic initiative. “Actually, if you go back before the G-20, before the proposal, this initiative, the Russian initiative, the American threat wasn’t about giving — handing over the chemical arsenal. It was about attacking Syria in order not to use the arsenal again.” he said. “So, it’s not about the threat. Syria never obeyed any threat. We actually responded to the Russian initiative and to our needs and to our conviction.”
Palkot, when it came to his turn to ask questions, tried to nail Assad for the Aug. 21 alleged chemical weapons attack, but Assad denied government responsibility for that attack. He disputed the information in the UN report on that incident that allegedly shows that the government had to be responsible for the use of sarin gas. First, he said, any terrorist can make sarin gas, but more importantly, he noted that an army on the offensive would not use chemical agents because of the risk of harming its own troops. Thirdly, the government was in worse situations in 2012 than it was in the Damascus suburbs on Aug. 21, and didn’t use gas on those occasions. Finally, “we have evidence that the terrorist group has used sarin gas, and those evidence — those evidence handed over to the Russians,” He said. Assad also noted that it was his government that asked the UN to send an investigation team to Syria, in the first place, to look into allegations that chemical weapons had been used in the fighting. “And we have been asking them to come back to Syria, to continue their investigation because we have more places to be investigated,” he said. “The United States, the one who made pressure for them to leave recently before they finish their missions. When we invited the delegation, we wanted this delegation to have full authority to investigate everything — not only the use of the sarin or the gas or the chemical weapons, but to investigate everything about who did it and how.”
Videos of the full interview can be found, here.