Exclusive excerpts of Paris Match interview of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granted in Damascus on November 28th.
Are the coalition strikes helping you?
Bashar al-Assad: You can’t end terrorism with aerial strikes. Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential. That is why there haven’t been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition. It isn’t true that the strikes are helpful. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient. We are running the ground battles against Daech, and we have noticed no change, especially with Turkey providing direct support to these regions.
Are you afraid to suffer the same demise as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Gaddafi?
Bashar al-Assad: The captain doesn’t think about death, or life, he thinks about saving his ship. If he thinks about sinking, everyone will die. I am doing my best to save the country. But I would like to emphasize one thing. My goal has never been to remain President, neither before, during, or after the crisis. Regardless what happens, we as Syrians will never allow our country to become a toy in Western hands. It is a fundamental principle for us.
Bashar al-Assad and Paris Match reporter Régis Le Sommier © Paris Match
Paris Match: François Hollande continues to refer to you as an adversary. Do you think contact can ever be reestablished?
Bashar al-Assad: It is not a question of personal relations. As a matter of fact, I don’t even know him. It is about relations between states and institutions, and the interests of the two nations. We will work with any French dignitary or government in our common interests. But the current administration is working against the interest of our people and that of the French people. I am neither a personal enemy or rival of Hollande. I think that Daech is his rival, their popularity is very much the same.