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comes a day after the US announced that its ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, would return to Damascus after he was withdrawn in October because of security concerns.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 127.

    We need to be careful about putting pressure on Assad to leave. If he does go the country is likely to fall into civil war (Iraq style) with the possible eradication of the christian poulation there oppression of women, which up to now have had a good life under Assad. Instead we should support Assad and encourage more movement to democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    The president's denial of complicity implies he was not informed, or his government had no good policies in this area, or he simply has incomplete control over the military forces. The latter would indicate that the military actually runs the country, which poses a high hurdle for diplomacy to do anything.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    @ 112 kristina.
    I'm afraid you are a good example of the saying that your fellow Russians use for their two newspapers. There is no Pravda (truth) in your Izvestia (news)

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    General Wesley Clark pointed out very clearly in 2007 the intent of the US miltary industrial complex to overthrow regimes in the middle east ! here is his exact quote ...."We're going to take out seven countries in 5 years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran" -- these are the sad facts ! we in the west and being manipulated by "media"

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    #112 kristina.

    Still shovelling your drivel i see.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Most good speculator - the United States. Blood on their hands ... Democracy - is built on the money in the Middle East.

  • rate this

    Comment number 121.

    How convenient!

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    The UN has not conducted an independent study and has relied upon the rebels themselves for evidence.There is also a lack of information as to if all the killings were done by government troops. It raises the question if there is substance to Damascus' claims that it is targeted by outsiders for its alliance with Iran under the guise of supporting democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    And Tony Blair was a friend of Saddam's and helped his son get through LSE (with a hefty donation to that organisation). I detect a pattern here which the BBC seem reluctant to report."

    Gnn - of course I meant Gaddafi... Curse the 10 minute rule!

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    103 - Russia will continue to support Assad while he continues to buy billions of poundsworth of Russian arms.
    106 - The "western media" have been banned from Syria, so don't get upset if they have to speculate.

    It's interesting to see Assad washing his hands of responsibility for 4,000 dead so far. His minions are therefore being put forward as pawns for sacrifice - if they stand for it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    I tend to believe Assad because he was always tolerant and beloved of his people; then suddenly, he is accused of issuing orders to kill & torture them.
    The UN has made endless accusations, but has not sent him one page of supporting documentation.
    To me this looks like Libya all over again, and don't forget Syria is the stepping stone to Iran - Syria is just in the way of the west & Israel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    @84 AnotherFakeName

    Comparing the UK government to that of Syria is at best dishonest and at worst a vast disservice to the Syrian people who every day fight and risk their lives for their freedom. Get a grip.

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    Seems like a lovely man?Far nicer than Gaddafi duck?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Completely mad this bloke.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

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

    But has he given orders *not* to use violence?

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    If Russia lose out to the Mediterranean port Tatus, our borders are too vulnerable .. Russia has remained since the Soviet Union as a nuclear weapons to bomb all the U.S. and close the coffin lid to express aggression gone hunting in other countries ....
    Russia has always played the role of mediator between aggression and intelligence.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    Controlled Pair

    Well the humble humanitarian and anti-war protester George Galloway was singing Assad's praises recently in a speech in Damascus"

    And Tony Blair was a friend of Saddam's and helped his son get through LSE (with a hefty donation to that organisation). I detect a pattern here which the BBC seem reluctant to report.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    People on here believe to much what gets grown in the western media Blaming assad for the bloodshed is like blaming Cameron for the Menezes death or the Ian Tomlinson death come on people don't be fooled by western propaganda The west are pushing this to get at Iran and to secure israel

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    Syria's boss al-Assad is emerging as lunatic as the dead Libyan dictator Gaddafi was...And he is trying to use a game of blaming on armed terrorists, al-Qaeda operatives, exactly the tactic that didn't work for Gaddsafi...And he [Assad] says he has no power over the security forces..if that's taken as true, then, there is no government in Syria, and it has descended into anarchism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    103.kristina4 Minutes ago "I am from Moscow. I have a question. How long will the American imperialism and stupid will unleash a war in the world. East - this is a very delicate and difficult game. The slightest push and a nuclear explosion occurs."======
    And how long will the Russian gov. support,arm and supply nuclear capability to dangerous,aggressive tyrants like the Iran and Syria regimes?


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