Syria's Bashar al-Assad 'feels no guilt' over crackdown


Bashar al-Assad told ABC's Barbara Walters that he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters

Syria's president has said that he feels no guilt about his crackdown on a 10-month uprising, despite reports of brutality by security forces.

In an interview with the US network ABC, Bashar al-Assad said he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters but admitted "mistakes" were made.

He said he did not own the security forces or the country.

At least 4,000 people have been killed since the uprising began, the UN says.

However, Mr Assad said the UN was not credible.

Syria blames the violence on "armed criminal gangs".

The US later rejected President Assad's assertions that he did not order the killing of protesters.

"It is just not credible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

Start Quote

No government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person”

End Quote Bashar Assad Syrian president

"The United States and many, many other nations around the world who have come together to condemn the atrocious violence in Syria perpetrated by the Assad regime know exactly what's happening and who is responsible."

Mr Assad's interview comes a day after the US announced that its ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, would return to Damascus after he was withdrawn in October because of security concerns.

France's ambassador returned on Monday.

'Big difference'

Responding to questions from veteran presenter Barbara Walters about the brutality of the crackdown, Mr Assad said he did not feel any guilt.

"I did my best to protect the people, so I cannot feel guilty," he said. "You feel sorry for the lives that has [sic] been lost. But you don't feel guilty - when you don't kill people."

"We don't kill our people… no government in the world kills its people, unless it's led by a crazy person," he added.

The security forces were not his, nor did he command them, the Syrian president said.

"There was no command, to kill or to be brutal," he said.

"I don't own them, I am president, I don't own the country so they are not my forces."


President Assad's responses to ABC's questions about security showed that he was keen to deflect allegations of brutality levelled against his security forces.

By giving the interview in the first place, he was clearly concerned to reach out to American public opinion and policy-makers to correct the wrong impressions he believes they are being given about what is happening in Syria.

While not denying excesses, he challenged the "false allegations" on which much of the media - and the UN's Human Rights Commission - based their conclusions.

He appeared confident that his embattled regime would weather the internal challenge as well as outside pressures from sanctions.

He believed the majority of Syrians - who he said were neither for nor against the regime - would be won over by reforms which he said would give other parties a chance.

Instead he blamed the violence on criminals, religious extremists and terrorists sympathetic to al-Qaeda, who he said were mingling with peaceful protesters.

He said most of those killed were from government supporters, with 1,100 soldiers and police among the dead.

Those members of the security forces who had exceeded their powers had been punished, he said.

"Every 'brute reaction' was by an individual, not by an institution, that's what you have to know," he said.

"There is a difference between having a policy to crack down and between having some mistakes committed by some officials. There is a big difference."

When challenged about reports of house-to-house arrests, including of children, Mr Assad said the sources could not be relied upon.

"We have to be here to see. We don't see this. So we cannot depend on what you hear," he said.

The United Nations, which has said the Syrian government committed crimes against humanity, was not credible, Mr Assad said.

He described Syria's membership of the UN as "a game we play".

Asked if he feared sharing the fate of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Mr Assad said the only thing he was afraid of was losing the support of his own people.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I think he's absolutely right:
    He has no control over the military.
    The military controls him. He looks like a puppet whenever I see him on TV. Once the military realize they can't kill the entire population, they'll do away with him as the Egyptian military did away with Mubarak. And then establish military rule.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    I tend to believe Assad as to the scenario that has occurred in Syria. It is similar to what is suspected as having happened in Libya with those supporting government opposition, insurgency, willing to use any means to further their purpose & to gain international support. A significant number of the civilian deaths attributable to insurgent actions seeking to use those deaths as a means.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    @63 - what makes you think israel will attack Syria - i think you'll find israel has a mind of its own. ps - see @ 55 - you fit the bill!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    With a name like 'Basher', what do you expect?
    He should have stuck to Dentistry.

    Like most potentates, it's very difficult to part with power. As was discovered by Hussein and Ghaddafi.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    It is all seemingly going the way of Libya, but it will probably be one heck of a lot bloodier. That is discounting any intervention by America via Israel, which frightens the life out of me. The world is afraid to start something that it cannot stop, so the killings continue...

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Some of the traits associated with a Sociopath are a lack of concern for others and a marked lack for empathy. They also display a propensity to blame everyone else, and an inability to feel guilt or learn from experience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    @58 you're right which is why the west trying to impose democracy on societies which are not either ready for it or where it may not be appropriate is a mistake. Protect people from violence by all means, but dont expect our political structures to be transferable to any society. democracy may take years to evolve in these societies which will happen when they are ready - not when we say so

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    Just so you know, Russia has a permanent naval base in Syria since the Soveit government signed the agreeement. And the plans for the Russian aircraft carrier to go to Syria this year were made over 2 years ago.
    So do not talk about something you have no clue about...

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Surely the question being asked should be whether this is an armed insurrection by those opposed to the Assad regime and making the most of the Arab spring, or is this the slaughter of the innocent?
    No doubt the muddy in-between plays to both extremist viewpoints.
    Checkmate is a long way off to make this ‘game’ anywhere near predictable. In the meantime, more pawns will be sacrificed. Sick.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Arab society is structured around the tribe and family. Privileges, favours (perks) and advancement emanate from tribal and family heads. Assad is of the Bath Party. I expect that the opposition to him comes from rival tribes and tribal territories. Should he fall, another tribe will rise to the top to provide another autocracy. This is how it is in the Arab world; like a periodic cycle.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Always the same old arguments here:

    1)It’s all the West’s fault /Conspiracy ,etc …do the Syrian not have brains then?
    2)No Oil = No intervention …..not true ….Nato is suffering from over commitment of its military and lack of money right now

    The prime country to intervene would be Turkey, they have the resources

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    41. powermeerkat
    If Afolf HIlter lived to face Nurnberg Trial prosecutors I'm sure he'd claim that data pertaining to atrocicities in Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Majdanek etc. - were unreliable.
    Actually he'd probably attempt to justify it probably by recycling the same (poor) arguments he made in Mein Kampf. Virtually no nazi ever denied their crimes, they tried justifying them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    here's one for the mix - can anyone guess the one true democracy in the region and has always been - a clue - always regarded as the villain of the peace - has numerous trade sanctions against it - often villified by the rest of the world (and the bbc) for protecting itself - and - was amounst the first to offer aid to turkey after the earthquakes - eventually accepted. no so hard eh

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    I think we could learn something from a--Assad. We were far too soft on our rioters, and on the St Pauls protesters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    I witnessed the 1982 crack by senior Assad, this one is different as it Syrian lives in uk..I wish junior Assad would leave power, equally I ask myself the big question: who is going to lead such complex society (sunni, alawi, armenian, chistian, kurdish, turkish, palestenian, & recent 10 years iraqis) without ending in bloody civil war & divisions ? I am sure no1 outside Syria gives a sugar !

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    The Alawite sect controls the government, but is considered heretical by by Sunni clerics. Assad is not only fighting for his regime, he is fighting for the survival of his people. By the way, the joke of the UN is that Syria was a member of the security council was and a sure candidate for the UN Human Rights Council, so Assad knows what he is talking about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    one of the problems with these types of tyranical dictators is that they surround themselves with people who are too terrified to tell them the truth. so while we and his advisors can see what is actually happening they tell him what he wants to hear. that was true of Saddam and maybe gaddaffi. so while whats happening is clear to us - he genuinely has a different perspective albeit a wrong one.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Syria.... certainly not as clear cut as the media portray.

    The rebels are very vicious and have radical elements. Assad might not be a nice guy, but the rebels I think are just as nasty and probably more dangerous.

    Libya should have been left to it and Syria should sort this out. No foreign intervention!

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    CBS "Inside Syria" report, Fact or Fiction?
    Syrian Military Exercise: Real or Invented?
    Russian Missiles to Damascus, True or False?
    Details, see:

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    But have you people stopped to consider that Mr Assad wasn't a regular IRA (and others) supporter like Gaddafi.
    His govt was formed by the secular Baath Party.
    Wouldn't his overthrow be an open invitation to the Islamists to take over? It's one thing to overthrow a dictator, it's another to maintain order after he's gone and retain ur revolution, even more so when ure unused to democracy.


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