TRANSCRIPT: ABC's Barbara Walters' Interview With Syrian President Bashar al-Assad


Walters: But Syria is almost completely isolated. The prime minister of Turkey, who was your ally has said, and I quote, "no regime can survive by killing or jailing." Jordan says you should step down, the Arab League, Syria was a founding member, have said that they have suspended you, you've lost all the support of your neighbors and friends. Does that matter to you?

Assad: That depends how do you describe, or how do you define isolation and support? How did they support, how did they support me and how did they isolate me? Isolation is not by visitors or by supporting by words, it's about your role, your position.

Assad: Nobody can support-- can isolate Syria because of our position. That happened in 2005 and they couldn't, Bush tried to isolate Syria, Chirac, Blair... everybody, they couldn't, we have role to play. We are related to two different problems. If they isolate Syria, Syria will collapse and it's going to be doing effect, everybody will suffer, so they don't have interest to isolate Syria, we're not isolated.

Walters: Sir, they are isolating you, they have economic sanctions against you, they may have further sanctions, all of these neighbors, so-called friends, have now abandoned you.

Assad: Yeah.

Walters: So you are isolated.

Assad: We've ban-, we've been under isol-, of, under embargo for the last 30, 35 years, it's not something new, but it's fluctuating, up and down depending on the situation, those country that you're talking about, they have little influence on the situation in Syria.

Walters: Your neighbors have no influence?

Assad: No, no, we have, we still have good relation with them, they're not, we're not isolated. You have people coming and going, you have trade, you have everything, so that's why I said, how do you define isolation, if you don't define it, it's just term. In reality, we're not isolated here.

Walters: They have sanctions against you.

Assad: What kind of sanctions, nothing?

Walters: Economic sanctions against you.

Assad: It's not implemented. They're going to suffer, the countries around Syria the countries suffer. What about the transit, what about many, many other things, they have common interests with us, they won't implement it, or they cannot or they're going to suffer. That depends on the option that they are going to take, that's why I said, isolating Syria is not something easy. It's not only a decision that you implement, it's not easy. So it's not about the economy, it's about the whole role in the, in the political arena in the Middle East, it's not only about the economy.

Walters: You know, sir, that many leaders in the region have been overthrown.

Walters: You have seen, I am certain, the pictures of Egypt from the President Mubarak in jail, pictures of, uh, in Libya of Moammar Gadhafi killed, are you afraid that you might be next?

Assad: No, I am afraid that the people won't support me, Syrian people.

Walters: That they won't support you?

Assad: I mean the only thing that you could be afraid of as president to lose the support of your people that the only--

Walters: You don't.

Assad: Thing that you should be afraid of not to be in jail or things like this.

Walters: Do you feel now that you still have the support of your people?

Assad: If you don't have the support of the people you cannot be in this position.

Walters: But--

Assad: This is Syria. It's not easy, it's very compli--, it's very difficult country to govern if you don't have the public support.

Walters: But Mr. President, you have people an hour and a half away from here protesting you have people who have been killed and people who have been tortured and still they are protesting and you say you have the support of your people?

Assad: No, no you are mixing between the protesters and the killing, it's different. Now we are having terrorists in many places killing.

Walters: Now?

Assad: No, no, not only now, no from the very beginning, no not now, now it's recognized in the media that the difference, that from the very first few weeks we had those terrorists they are getting more and more, more aggressive, they have been killing. We have 1,000-- over 1,100 soldier and policeman killed, who killed them peaceful demonstrations. This is not logical this is not palatable.

Walters: Let me ask the question again, do you feel now, even with people who have been protesting, that you have the support of your people?

Assad: The majority or the minority? Because you are talking about protesters.

Walters: The majority, the majority of the people you feel still support you?

Assad: Not the majority of the people only in the middle always, the majority of the Syrian people are in the middle and then you have people who support you and you have people who are against you. So the majority always in the middle. Those majority are not against you. If they are against you you cannot have stable most of the city is not Syria let's say, as you see, you've been here for two days now.

Walters: You feel the majority of the people in this country support you?

Assad: I say the majority are in the middle and the majority are not against -- to be precise.

Walters: OK, the majority that is in the middle support you.

Assad: Yeah.

Walters: The protest really began with after the detention and torture of children who were writing graffiti calling for your downfall; I've seen awful pictures of what happened, why was there such a brutal crackdown?

Assad: What happened?

Walters: Well I will give you some examples and you can tell me if you've seen these, these are some of the images and stories and some of the images that I saw, a 13-year-old boy who was arrested in April, a month later his body was returned to his family bearing scars of torture. A famous cartoonist whom you know who was critical of you badly beaten his arms are broken. A singer, famous singer who wrote a popular song calling for your oust he was found with his throat cut. You have seen these pictures, have you not?

Assad: No, but I, I...

Walters: Is this news to you?

Assad: No, no, no it's not news. I met with his father, the father of that child and he said that he wasn't tortured and he appeared on the media, you have to see, we have to see things with a stereoscopic vision with two eyes, not with one eye to be frank.

Walters: Ok, the cartoonist...

Assad: I don't...

Walters: The cartoonist who was critical of you, I have seen his pictures, his hands were broken, he was beaten.

Assad: Many people criticize me, did they kill all of them, who killed who, most of the people that have been killed are supporters of the government not the vice versa.

Walters: But in the beginning, what about the singer with his throat cut?

Assad: I don't know about him, I don't know about every single case.

Walters: He was a famous singer, a famous song, you don't know about it?

Assad: No I don't think he's famous. I don't know about him.

Walters: You don't know about him? Well I saw those pictures.

Assad: Famous in the United States but not in Syria.

Walters: This is.

Assad: Do you know about him? This is editing, I don't know, I don't know.

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