tv Charlie Rose WHUT May 27, 2010 11:00pm-12:00am EDT
welcome to the program. today we're in damascus, syria, for a conversation this evening with the president of syria, bashar al-assad. >> this is one of the things that they don't understand especially in the united states because if i support you doesn't mean i'm like you or i agree with you. that means i believe in your cause. there is a difference. maybe if we don't have this cause, maybe we have different debate or different relation. dr.now they have a cause, we don't support the organization. we support the palestinian cause and hamas is working for that cause and the same for hezbollah, hezbollah is working for the lebanese ca cause, not hezbollah but hezbollah is one of the means, so that is what they have to understand in the west. the biggest challenge is how can we keep our society as sacred as it is-- secular as it is sowed. >> rose: as secular. >> the society. it secular, you have very
rich diversity which we are proud of but in the end we are part of this region. you cannot stay isolated from the conflict surrounding you. if you is sectarian lebanon and sectarian iraq on our east and you done have the peace process solved on our southern border and we have the terrorists dominating the region and let's say growing with leaps and bounds, you will be affected from this. you will be-- you pay the price. so it is not about being passive and say i'm going to protect myself. how can you be active and expand what you have to the others. so the challenge is-- . >> rose: bashar al-assad, the president of syria for the hour. funding for charlesie rose has been provided by the soak cole company supporting this program since 2002. additiona-- additional funding for charlie rose has
also been provided by these funders:. >> this is a special edition captioning sponsored by rose communications >> rose: we have come to damascus, syria, for a conversation with the president at a time that he seeks for his country to play a more prominent role in the region. bashar al-assad came to power in syria in 2000 after the death of his father. today he is putting syria back on the map after a period of isolation. the region's leaders it is said are all strung up in damascus to talk to him and to do business. he has strengthened ties
with turkey, iraq, saudi arabia, and lebanon. and also with russia and qatar. the united states and syria are having real conversations about engagement. senator john kerry the senate foreign relations committee was here this weekend for an unofficial visit. we have come back to damascus to talk to president al-assad about how he sees syria, its role in the world, its region, the middle east peace process and his relationships with iran, hezbollah, hamas and others. most importantly, we come to talk about syria and the united states. and 9 possibility for engagement between the two countries. mr. president, thank you very much for allowing me to come here for another conversation with you. it was in 2006 that i was here and i'm pleased to be back if 2010 to this great city, damascus, the oldest
continuously inhabited city in the world. >> welcome to syria. i'm very glad to see you today in damascus. >> i'm not the only american who has been here recently. senator john kerry the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee was here on saturday and recently as well. is something happening in the relationship between syria and the united states? >> there is some improvement in the atmosphere since president obama came to power. there are a lot of concrete things happening. it's moving forward slowly but the main interest of the administration now and the visit of senator kerry is about how can we relaunch the peace process. president obama ask interested in the peace process in general. but the talk with senator kerry was about the syrian track. and i think the main, the crux of the problem in this
region is the lack of peace. >> rose: it is also said that he came here in a sense as an emissary of the president. >> that's true. >> rose: what is it you want to say to the president of the united states about your view of the region? your own strategic sense of what's possible. >> if i'm going to talk about the region, and you know this region is the heart of the world geographically and politically. you have to talk about the role of a great power and of the united states. i think the main issue in this region is the occupation. when you talk about conflict you have to go to the reason. the reason we have conflict that we have, occupied land. at the same time you have security council resolutions that mentions very clearly the need of israel to withdraw from these lands so, this is where the peace
start. i think if i am going to talk to him, i would say to him all the details. but i would urge him to move faster in order to reach peace in the region. >> rose: but you have said in an interview recently with italian newspaper that you have a strategic vision. but it seems that america is engaged in a trial and error. what did you mean? >> we are wondering about what strategy the united states have toward the different conflict. whether iraq, afghanistan, peace process and any other main conflict. but i'm talking about different administrations, not only this administration. the question that we asked too pain officials wa, is your strategy. they only put the title of stability. stability is the final-- is the goal of all-- the final stage or the final end of
solving all the other problems. so the united states administration have been failing, failing and failing and still talking the problems. why. this is related to what i said that the region has changed. they have to adopt different approach toward our region. they cannot adopt the same approach. >> rose: but with respect to u.s.-syria, what would you like to see the united states do. >> in the peace process. >> rose: in the relationship with syria. >> of course. you cannot separate the two-- the two things. because if they want to play the role of the arbiter, they cannot play that role while they are sided with the israeli. they have to be impartial arbiter. they are not. and they were never impartial arbiter since the beginning of the peace process. they have to gain the trust of the different players. if you don't have good relations with syria, how can syria depend on you as
arbiter. so you have to improve the joining the wto. so that is why i said, there are some improvements but there are still very-- we have a long way to go in that regard. so i'm would like the united states to be fair and to be unbiased in order to achieve that. >> rose: senator kerry has said that syria is a high priority for this administration. have they convinced you of
that? >> we are waiting for the results. without the results, i trust senator kerry. i trust senator kerry and i think his-- an i met him five sometime times. i met him five times in very difficult circumstances. what he said, he said what he means. but at the end he is not the one that going to implement. you have the administration and congress. so in the end we are looking for results. if today i'm convinced about what he said, i'm convinced that president obama wants to do something positive in that regard. but i'm not convinced that the institution would allow president obama to do what he wants to do with syria and in other subjects and issues. >> rose: you seem to be saying that president obama has the right ideas but you're not sure that he can act on them. >> no, because he cannot. because he have institutions
in the united states. he has your political system. it is not only the president. if it's only the president we could have-- the blamed the president. but su have institutions and you have the congress. for example the ambassador for syria who was about to come but the congress, the republican in the congress opposed it recently. so that is why i said, it's not that the president doesn't want to or he cannot do something. it is about the whole political system that you have in the united states. and you know more than me about it. >> . >> rose: but you consider it an ago of respect for syria that they confirm a syrian ambassador from the united states. >> yeah, but in the end the ambassador is to help your country, not to help my country. i have my ambassador does that. so that is not help to syria, they have help to the united states that that he they have ambassadors anywhere in the world. i'm just giving an example about the states, to improve
the relations but somebody opposed it because of the political system that you have, that is what i mean. >> rose: how do you see syria, turkey, iraq, iran, the northern tier in the region. >> normally you should have good relations with your neighbors. something we've learned from our experience during the last decades. we've been in conflict, syria and iraq, sir why and turkey, iraq and turkey an other countries. what did we get, nothing. we've been losing for decades. we've learned during the last decade that we have to turn the tide. so everybody is going forward with good relation with the other even if it doesn't have the same vision or even if they disagree about most of the thing, not part, not some things. so this relation, syria iraq, we are neighbors. syria turkey we are neighborsment we affect each other directly. iran is not my neighbor but iran is one of the big country in the middle east and an important country and
it effects different issues in the region. so if you want to play your role and help yourself and save your interest you should have good relation with all these influential countries. that's why this relation i think is very normal. >> rose: there are those in america would like to believe america can do something that will put some distance between you and iran. that they can make you less close. >> they contradict themselves. they talk about stability in the region. stability starts with good relation. you can't have stability and bad relation. why do they need syria to be away from iran. they have conflict with iran. what does mean to put syria away from iran. sometimes they talk about the relation between syria and iranian relations, and the peace. that's not true. it is not realistic because
iran supported our efforts to achieve, to give back our land through the peace negotiations in 2008 when we had negotiations in turkey. >> rose: let me underline that. you believe that iran even though it says it does knot recognize israel's right to exist, when you through turkey were trying to negotiate with the israelis, the iranians were supportive of that. >> exactly. >> rose: so you are saying actions speak louder than words. >> and they said it inward, they said publicly that we sport you. they said it twice during the negotiations. and formally so you cannot see with one eye. r ye: same do you think america. far
the 11th of september, at least after the 11th of september you should learn more about what is happening behind the ocean it is not about what we think. they have to understand the society, the culture in this region and in the rest of the world that this region, because it is complicated. >> rose: what is this they don't understand, those in washington about the region, about the culture, about syria's role, about iran. >> they don't understand that we want peace. but if you want peace, them to have cameras insider4v
nuclear weapons in the region. we have syrian trust in the security council since 2003, about-- from wmds of course including israel but we can to the talk about i ran destable lyzing the region if they have-- if you presume that they are going to have nuclear bombs, something i don't believe in. while ignoring israel. israel thought that this problem-- the israel is the only country with nuclear bombs in the region, not iran. >> if israel has nuclear weapons everybody else has in the rush mood having nuclear weapons in the region. >> but when you have action, you have reaction. in syria we don't believe they should have nuclear weapons in order to deter israel. because i don't think it is easy for anyone to say that i'm going to use nuclear weapons. >> rose: if the united states says to you we do not approve of your support of hamas an especially hezbollah and we want you to
reduce that level of support, what do you say? >> what the reason. what the argument. they only want. doesn't matter if they want. what is the reason. how can they convince me, convince me that i should agree with the support. the support is political because hamas, palestinian organization, the palestinians have occupied land. they have the right to have their own state. they don't have. they have the right to have their own land back. after 67y, something, they haven't had yet. the same for hezbollah. the israeli-- is violating the airspace on daily bate bates-- basis every few hours, every few hours. so they have the right to defend their country. my answer because they asked me that question many times, many times, that instead of adopting this cherry picking
approach, once you talk about hamas, once you talk about hezbollah, why do you have the elephant in the room. so let's talk about the peace. this elephant is the occupation. and the israeli aggression. when you don't have israeli aggression, when you don't have occupation, forget about all these problems. it will be solved ultimately. >> rose: but are you saying that if, in fact there was an agreement between the palestinians, if they were unified and they were in agreement that you would be less supportive of hezbollah and hamas? >> we support cause. what the cause, the cause this they have occupied land. if they don't have occupied land what is the support. i don't have anything to support. they have their own right. i support somebody who has the right, i mean he has a right but they don't give it back to him. so that is what we support. we support their cause when they have the state, maybe they have another cause that i will talk about something different. but today, we support their right to have their own
independent state. >> but you were saying you support hezbollah and hamas at the level you do because there is no israeli-palestinian agreement? >> to stop violating, to stop launching aggression from time to time against lebanon or against syria. that is what we support. >> rose: the united states it said that senator kerry believes that you and syria has supplied sudden missiles to hez heads. >> this is very good story anecdotal story by the israelis. they are very good at making-- . >> rose: the story came from the israelis. >> israeli. >> rose: and is it true. >> we told them what evidence do you have. if you want to say that you have smuggleed -- -- they have been repeating this story from time to time, for years, not for months. and every time are you in the borders between-- are you scanning the borders between syria an lebanon every hour for 4 hours and you cannot catch any big
missiles. sudden or any other one. it is not realistic. this is israeli allegations. these are pretensions. >> rose: but my impression is that senator kerry came here on saturday to say the united states believes this to be true. and the united states believes according to its own intelligence sources that weapons have gone. new scuz missiles from gone to hezbollah from you. >> we can only talk about this, discuss it with them when they came to us with the evidence. your debate on rumors, give us the time. do you have evidence, or you only heard. if you only heard, we don't have to waste our time. you have evidence, you said your intelligence, the israeli intelligence, bring the evidence, bring me the pictures. take me all the information to discuss. when you tell meing you believe, this your problem
if you believe. i don't have to waste my time with what you believe or not. we know the reality. hezbollah is a stronghold organization. it's not weak. they-- they have is million ils, everybody knows. >> rose: they have said they have missiles, they have better and more advanced missiles than they've had before. >> how did they know. israeli attacked lebanon in 2006, they didn't care about the bunkers that they have in the south, just a few millimeters away from the israeli-- how could they know about the advancement that they have. these are rumors. they are afraid and worried about what hezbollah is doing. hezbollah like any other organization, it's a war. when you have a war, it is position, better and stronger. that is normal. but as a politician we don't waste our time with condemning or blaming hezbollah having this or having that. this is reality. you have to deal with it. you have to deal with it. go towards the peace. not waste time talking about what kind of assignment, just waste of time.
solve the problem through the peace process. that is why we are talking about peace and working for peace in order for all these problems. and israe should know only peace can protect israel. completing this propaganda and making up false stories or deduceive story. >> rose: if senator kerry suggested that he believes and the united states briefs that you were supplying weapons to hezbollah, new sudden missiles, you are saying absolutely not, we are not doing that. >> i said no. but at the same time, i told him we don't waste our time with this when you have evidence come to me. if they have evidence, we can discuss. but we don't discuss it. >> rose: do you think it would be the wrong thing to do, that it would be destabilizing to do that? supply weapons to hezbollah. >> i think what is destabilizing is the israeli aggression on our region. they attacked syria, they attacked lebanon, they have been attack israeli-- story the palestinians on a daily basis h that what
destabilized the region. that is what destable leadsed region. not hezbollah and any other organization that defend themselves. >> rose: if the united states comes to you and says you want to do things in the region. we want to be a positive force. we are prepared to do this we are prepared to encourage israel to do this. and we ask you to stop being so supportive of hezbollah and hamas because we believe that they are engaged in sort of in certain terrorist activities. we ask you to stop supporting them. are you saying that's to the going to happen. >> it's like if you talk about a chapter in a book, every time you read that chapter, you have to read the whole book to understand this chapter. so the meantime, i would say of course, we will be ready to-- we would like to see this region free of arm ament, free of conflict, free of everything. but that will not happen only through talking about
why you have the main important factor which is the occupation is in place. so we have to solve it as a package. and this package should be piece. there is no other way. just a waste of time. so we have to go in this way. through the peace. >> there is this whole sense of syria and its identification and its relationship to the aforementioned iran, hezbollah, hamas, that it is-- it's part of this resistence. that gives syria power an legitimacy. >> you can have this legitimacy as you adhere to your rights. that legitimacy, that is the political legitimacy that you can have. while supporting the resistence, they have the public support anyway, whether they support it as a government or not. they have the support of the public in this region. that is why they are strong. not by the government. >> rose: some find it interesting that your allies are islamist.
in one case a theocracy and yet syria is a secular state. >> that's true. and that's why they don't understand. this is one of the things that they don't understand in the west, especially in the united states. because if i support you doesn't mean i'm like you. or i agree with you. that means i believe in your cause. there is a difference. maybe if we don't have this cause, maybe we have different debate with them or different relation. while now they have a cause and we support the cause. we don't support organization. we support the palestinian cause and hamas is working for that cause age the same for hezbollah. hezbollah is working for the lebanese cause. so we support that cause. not hezbollah. but hezbollah is one of the means. so that's what they have to understand in the west. >> rose: speaking of lebanon and hezbollah, the withdraw of syrian traps from lebanon, tell me how you felt about that. >> at that time of course it
wasn't, let's say, positive feeling. i will put it in that word. because of the reaction in lebanon. after the-- today the atmosphere is different. we were very coop rative with the different delegation that came for the investigation of the hariri assassination. and was proven today it was nothing to do with syria. and that changed-- . >> rose: the investigation not over, or has not been -- >> but we are-- from the very begining we were very sure about it. but now the lebanese people know know this that syria had nothing to do with this assassination. that means syria, syria's influence in lebanon has always been-- strong because of the geo political position. not because of the army. the army in lebanon didn't do anything. wasn't involved in poll tig-- politicsment few politicians, few officers in
syria need to be involved. so the syria influence and the syrian clout, is as strong as it was so we don't have problem. we don't look at it as undermined syria. >> so you do not feel like you need to reintroduce syrian troops to lebanon. >> actually we had been with the drawing out truth before the conflict. >> rose: so you want no syrian troops in lebanon. >> we withdrew 63% of our troops before the conflict stopped in lebanon. that was our intention. >> rose: mr. har iraye the prime minister had been here a number of times, you have a good relationship. you exchanged ambassadors. what dow say to him about his father when he comes? >> the first we had to be as frank as you can. even if you think that we were behind the assassination. but we didn't talk about the issue.
>> you basically said you've got to be frank and tell me what you think even if you think that syria was behind the hariri assassination. >> if you want to build the relation we have to be fully frank with each other. >> the relationship with turkey is very good. turkey was serving as an intermediary between negotiations between you and the israelis. >> yeah. >> it came that close. >> in which would you get back the golan heights. >> this very important. what we have now as a reference is mainly the united station-- united nations or security council res luig. it's very important. it talks about the land occupied in 67y but how can you define this land. israel is talking about different line, how you can define this line. we wanted in that negotiation to define the line through some point and israel wanted to define its security requirements. so if we define these two things and we move to the
negotiations, whenever you have arbiter, this arbiter can play its role only through this paper. not like what happened in the '90s when some politicians, some of them with goodwill spoiled the process with the goodwill. but with enthusiasm but with a lack of knowledge. and others self-serving interests, politicians for their own interest. now when you have this paper, anyone who wants to play a role, any mediator, any official, any arbiter should play through this paper and this is where you can succeed, not to have 19 wasteful year. >> rose: are you prepared to start those negotiations over. >> of course, we are ready. we don't think that it's time for peace. it's always time for peace. we don't, it is always time for peace. >> you broke the negotiations off because of the gaza invasion. >> syria and turkey because
almost deceived the president. four days before the negotiation the prime minister called me on the phone and-- was in the other room having dinner and we started talking about the final details of that paper. and after one hour or actually more than one hour of discussion with the prime minister and him discussing with ohl moot told him that i'm going back to israel and i will let you know about my final answer in a few days. and the answer was attacking gaz-- that is where the turks felt deceived and we said the same. >> rose: but are you prepared to start over. >> of course. >> rose: through turkey. >> through turkey. >> rose: and is the goal, syria and israeli-- or have you now said it has to be a larger agreement for the middle east. >> it has to be comprehensive. the syrian and israeli agreement could be important
but it's not the final there a big difference between talking about peace treaty and peace. peace treaty is like permanent cease-fire it is not comprehensive. there is no war. maybe you have-- you actually won't have the trade, you won't have normal relations because people who are not be sympathetic to have this relation as long as they are sympathetic with the palestinians, half a million in syria, half a million in-- and another few million in other countries. so comprehensive peace on the syrian, lebanese and palestinian track this is going to be the real peace where you have normal relations this is where can with bury the hatchet, in the only to have peace treaty. so that's how we see it. >> rose: do you think it will happen soon? >> from our point of view, it could be happen soon. if you have another partner. because this is about, actually the peace process about two parties. if you ask me, i would say yes. but today we don't have this partner. so far. at this poment we are don't
have a partner. >> rose: you don't think prime minister netanyahu wants to make a deal? >> again, it's to the about him. it's about the whole government. can we lead the government toward peace? is he strong enough to lead this government toward peace because you know is a coalition now. it is a coalition. you are not-- he doesn't have the majority to say i'm going in that direction. so in reality, nothing happening. so why do t where is the time expected. he's been for now in his position for a year and -- nearly year and a half. and he couldn't do anything. so i don't know if he has the will or he has the power. i don't know. >> rose: on the other side of the palestinians and they are not unified, is fatah, hamas. >> uh-huh. >> rose: can they be unioned? >> of course they can. if you help them. they can be unified. they have to be unified without unification in the palestinian arena, you cannot have peace. you need this unification it is to the about who is going to sign the treaty. at the end if you want to
implement the treaty you need unification. you need unified palestinian. >> what do you think the possibilitys are that hamas, if there is unification will support, will support a recognition of israel and an agreement between the palestinians so that they will no longer say we refuse the right of israeli to exist. >> they said that when they talked about two state solution, hamas. >> so hamas is prepared to-- but are they prepared to renounce their charter? >> i wouldn't answer on their behalf. but what i know publicly now, that they talked about the two state solution and they talked about the line of 67y, what do you conclude. we can conclude that they are ready. but how is out of the question. maybe in different ways than what the authority is doing today. maybe they have their own way. >> do you believe israel wants peace? >> i think people who elect
such extremist government, they don't want peace. but i think in politics i would say let me see what is going to happen in reality. i don't believe but that doesn't mean we have to stop working for peace. if i don't believe that they want peace, we have to help them in believing in peace. they have to learn that only peace can protect their countries. >> what is the biggest thing that is necessary to make a breakthrough in your judgement? >> you should ask yourself what happens first. occupation, occupation happened first before-- not nice versa. after-- in 48, after 48, 67, in different stages. so definitely the one who occupied the land should withdraw. because my land is like my property. and if you have a thief who takes your support, you don't make compromise. tell him first give me back pie support, my things, then
we can discuss any compromise. you don't discuss the compromise with the thief before having your things. so that's how we see it. so the beginning is to end occupation. then you will have -- >>. >> rose: but in the conversations everything should be on the table and there should be no preconditions. >> we don't have any conditions. there's only one condition which is international condition, which is the security council resolution on which the whole peace process is based in 1991. so we don't have any condition but we have rights. and riotous don't discuss until you go back. >> rose: do you believe this region is going to a place where it does not need to look for solutions from the west. >> in the past we used to think that everything will happen in the west. and to be implemented here, then will you have the solution ready. and you won't have any conflict.
this is very deleeuw'sive, actually. the reality that you have to do your own job. but you need the support if the west. but if you don't have the support, we don't wait for it. we are going to go to forward to solve all problems but we are not going to wait for the west. if they support us, that will make the solution better and faster. >> rose: let me focus again on the dynamic of this region. >> today you have iran. you have turkey, you have syria. and you have qatar. if you want to talk about the cooperation regarding the peace, we had a meeting in istanbul, me and-- the prince of qatar. it was about the peace because turkey and qatar are partners with syria in the peace issue. so you have different map regarding different issues. we had a meeting with iran regarding defending our
rights, regarding the israeli aggression. regard issuing in iraq. regarding iraq, cooperation between syria, turkey and iran. so you have different rights but all of them in the same region. so this is the new dynamism that we have. that depends on every subject. >> rose: an russia, where does russia fit in this? >> i cannot tell now because this is the first visit by any president soviet or russian to syria during the last 66 years, since we had relations with russia. it seems to me that russia is working to regain its own position but in different way. not like the call to war during the 60s, 70s and 80s. i think in a new way through having new lives, good relation, strong relations.
after he left syria he went to turkey to sign the 20 billion treaties between the two countries. if you want to look at the space from our perspective, syria, turkey, then turkey russia, so relations, strong relation between russia and turkey will influence directly and indirectly the relation between syria and russia. so this is geographic space. you have to look at it as a man that will affect each other. what about the affect of this russian relation, simply it is too early to judge. i don't know yet. economically it will definitely affect the region very soon. and the economy will affect the politics. how much this is something that we have to wait to see. but it will tell you about a new map being created in this region, as you call it. >> the united states has always believed into syria
did not do enough to prevent foreigners from coming through your border with iraq. and that it was a huge issue for them. >> see the borders are not -- you can control, you can monitor something like this. so they are not realistic. this is the second they talked about syria smuggling or helping terrorists to be smuggled inside iraq. it is like shooting yourself in the foot. because when you help the terrorists in iraq, they will attack you from in syria. >> exactly. >> and if known, if known that syria was the first country maybe in the world before all the arab and middle eastern countries an before europe definitely and before the united states that started fighting with the terrorists and the extremists in the '70s.
actually that started before in the 50s but it wasn't-- i mean the main conflict and when we defeated them was in the '70s and early 80s. so we are not that stupid to go and support terrorists anywhere in the world. because terrorists work like the internet. you cannot control them. they don't recognize borders. if you have terrorists in iraq it's like having them in syria. if you have them in lebanon or turkey or jordan it's like having them in syria. so you cannot this is not realistic. second, helping terrorists in iraq means helping the chaos. and chaos is contagious. when you have chaos in iraq means are you going to have chaos in syria. you become pore violent. more sectarian division, later and this division is going to be like going-- from morocco in the west, to indonesia in the east. >> but if i were talking to the americans today they would say to me there were many things that you could
have done that you didn't do. yes, you can't close your border but you allowed too many. >> let me give you the other example. in 2004, or maybe 5, i'm not sure, the delegation from the pentagon, from the state department, from the army, and the intelligence came to syria to ask for cooperation. and we told send a delegation to see what kind of cooperation we can have on the border. the same delegation, the same delegation left syria and didn't come back again. we have the same issue recently in-- when they asked for cooperation, and i said we are ready to have cooperation to control or to monitor the border, in iraq and until then we haven't received delegation. i told senator kerry about this. >> rose: do you think that the american withdrawal from iraq will go well and on time? >> this is not our debate.
this is wrong debate that has been circulating in the media during the last three years, especially in the united states, whether to leave or not to leave. actually the question is how to lead with the political process. the it will be what political process are you going to launch in support in iraq and when you leave it going to be better. the situation will be better. at that time you can be committed. now any time, of course, we support the idea and the principles that the united states should leave iraq. but that doesn't mean it will make it better or worse. it's worse, it's going to be bad if you leave. so what we are worried about if the united states is going to support or launch a good where they can re-- the iraqis then they will have constitution and the new institutions, and this is where we are going to say thank you. >> rose: but i think they would like to have your help in doing that. >> we are ready. we are helping the iraqi
now. we told the iraqis we are ready. but there is no real dialogue between syria and the united states regarding iraq. >> rose: there is no dialogue between syria and the united states regarding iraq. >> they only talk about borders and they only talk about terrorists because they deal with the terrorists like playing a game on the computer where you have terrorists and you have to shoot them. that is how they deal with the terrorist issue. they don't understand that terrorism, fighting, meaning having the atmosphere, the enormous situation, fighting the chaosless you cannot fight the chaos while you have political anarchy. you should have normal government with the polit, with the army, with the normal situation, normal political situation, this is where you don't have chaos. this is where terrorists fail. they can to the do anything. >> rose: so what is your big challenge today. >> the biggest challenge is how can we keep our society as secular as it is today. >> rose: as secular. >> secular, the society, you
have diversity, very rich diversity in syria we are proud of. but in the end are you part of this region. you cannot stay isolated from the conflict surrounding you, if you have sectarian lebanon on our west and sectarian iraq on our east and you don't have the peace process full on our southern border, and you have the terrorists dominating the region and let's say growing with leaps and bounds, you will be affected from this. you will be-- you payed price. so it's to the about being passive and say i'm going to protect myself. how can you be active and expand what you have to the others. so the challenge is the eck treatmentism in this region. >> rose: but the extremism, some people believe, are those people who are never secular. who in fact find in religion a cause.
>> they always use religion to assume the mantel of religion through islam or whatever in order to have followers. they only assume it. i don't think they are convinced about what they are doing. some of them, they are ignorant. they believe they are helping the religion this way. but at the end, it's not about those, it's about the others. how can they influence, i mean you always have extremists in everything, in politics, in religion, chrisianity, juddaism, in every religion you have extremism. but it is about how much can they influence the society. at long as we have open minded people, don't worry about them, they are going to be isolated. i'm not worried about what mantel they assume to convince the other. i'm worried about how much the other can protect themselve from that. >> rose: but as i listen to you say that it seems an in-- incongruity between
saying that and looking at who you have great relations with and who you support in the region. >> it is to the about who is like you and who is not. it is about the cause. they have support. they are not extremists. >> rose: hezbollah is not extreechl. >> no it is not. they support peace. if you want peace, they support peace. they believe in islam as-- to be the government in their country. this is their freedom of-- they are free to think whatever they want. but they never try to implement. this is where you cannot blame lebanon as extremists, extremists want to force you to go in a certain way and sometimes they threat you and kill them. this is extremism. of course they going to have different ideas, different political currents, religious currents that is normal. this is the diversity that
we have. but they are not extremists because they never try to implement by force their doctrine. >> rose: if israel would retreat to its 6y boundaries '67 boundaries, would you encourage island-- iran, hamas, hezbollah to recognize their right to exist and reach a full agreement with them? >> if you talk about treaty, part of the treaty will be this recognition. and who signs the treatee are the governments. and when you talk about the peace you talk about syria track, leb knee track, means syrian and leb neek government and palestinian track, palestinian government, when the government recognize israel, and israel is committed to the treaty, i think the whole mood, the whole
atmosphere on the popular level will change. so everybody will go in that direction. but the recognition that you are talking about will come from the government, not from the people. the people will reflect their recognition by normal relations, by trade, by tourism, any ear kind of relation. if-- they are committed the people will be very popular. that takes time that will not happen overnight. conflict for 60 years, the treaty is not enough to change it overnight. it takes time. it needs forecloses. you start building the trust after the treaty. so how to build the trust that will take time. but i'm sure that this normal relations will be dominating between israeli and the neighboring countries. there is no doubt about this. whether hezbollah, hamas or any other one. at the end the organization, they have people, they have grass roots.
the grass root part 6 this society will be affected. so of course it l and we will encourage, of course we will encourage because they always ask for peace. >> people say this is about you. in the beginning when you took over the presidency, you were your father's son. that today you have emerged as your own person. do you feel that? >> in my house i'm the son of my father. but in this position, from the very first time, i should be the president who has taken the responsibility of everything. and if i was the son of my father in the way they mean it, i wouldn't have succeeded in dealing with a very difficult circumstances. so i wouldn't look at myself in either way. i look at myself as somebody who has responsible, who did what he is convinced about and he is convinced that this is for the sake of his people. >> rose: do you believe you have consolidated your power so that you can take more risk now?
>> no, i didn't consolidate my power. i have more support by the public, that's what i have, during the last three years. >> how do you think you gained that? >> i think because they believe that i work according to national agenda. that doesn't mean i was actually right. i made mistakes but if you made mistakes, according to goodwill and based on national agenda, nobody would blame, they would support you because are you human, are you going to make mistakes so that's how i, again, because i said everything, every decision we have to take should be 100 percent syrian, not 90%, 100 percent sir syrian that is what we did. that is how i gain the sport. that doesn't mean they agree with me. and everything, supported different form agreeing with. they don't agree-- but the support mean the trust even if you go toward peace when you started negotiations in turkey doesn't mean everybody supported that
negotiation. maybe this side, maybe the timing, you have different point of view. but at the end. they trusted you that you are going for a good thing, whether you fail or not, at the end of you have goodwill and they trust you. that's how you get it. >> thank you. >> thank you for coming here. >> rose: pleasure to see you in damascus, thank you very much, as always. >> thank you. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org