NEW DELHI: Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad gave a detailed interview to Yahoo News last week, on Feb. 9. It was the first interview he gave to a Western channel after Donald Trump became US President on Jan. 20, 2016. It can be seen here:

The interview is a “must watch” for those want to understand what is going on in Syria. It has several striking features which are noteworthy.

To begin with, the arrogance, hubris, and patronizing attitude of the interviewer are plain for all to see. Most of the time he talks down to Assad, President of a major Arab country, as an inquisitor, hurling [mostly baseless] charges at the President, and demanding answers to them. He also conveys the impression that he knows more about Syria than Assad himself!

Assad, on the other hand, responds to his questions calmly and rationally, marshalling facts and logic, which makes the interviewer look stupid at times.

When asked if Assad would welcome the creation of “safe zones” in Syria to protect the refugees fleeing the war in the country, as suggested recently by Donald Trump, the President made it clear that such zones were unacceptable. What was needed was a cessation of external support to Jihadi and terrorist groups. That would restore security and stability to the whole of the country, obviating the need to set up “safe zones.”

President Assad also pointed out that the “humanitarian disaster” in Syria was caused by the West, Gulf, and Turkey. If they had not done so, there would have been no need for “safe zones.”

The interviewer drew Assad’s attention to a recent report by Amnesty International containing allegations that thousands of detainees in a Syrian prison had been hanged without a fair trial. He asked if those allegations were true.

Assad calmly responded that the US was in no position to demand answers about human rights violations in any country because it was responsible for killing millions of innocent people all over the world since the Vietnam war in the 1960s. They include almost 1.5 million civilians killed in Iraq as a result of the US invasion of that country in 2003.

The President also said that there was no concrete evidence backing Amnesty’s allegations, which were often biased and baseless. But the interviewer did not give up. He asked Assad if he had personally visited the prison where the detainees were hanged!

He then pulled out a report by the US FBI, which, according to him, confirmed that gross human rights abuses had been committed by Assad’s forces in Syria. Assad responded that just because the report had been produced by the FBI did not necessarily mean it was true. US agencies had lied in the past.

The President also stressed that the policies of the US, UK, France, and other regional countries were responsible for the emergence of ISIS, Nusra Front, and other jihadi groups, which wreaked havoc in Syria.

After asking a few more inane questions, the interviewer came to the crux of the matter: “regime change.” He asked Assad if he would be willing to step down in the interest of “peace in Syria.”

The President said that his continuation in power was an issue to be decided by the Syrian people, in elections. If the people voted against him, he would gladly step aside. But if they voted for him, he will continue to be President. The interview ended on that note.

The interviewer devoted more than half of the interview to alleged violations of human rights by Assad’s forces, without producing a shred of concrete evidence. But he was speechless when Assad spoke at length about the role of the US, UK, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other countries in trying to overthrow him by using jihadi and terrorist groups.

The interview comprehensively exposed the hypocrisy, deceit, and lies of those who tried to effect “regime change” in Syria.

[The writer is a former Ambassador of India to several countries.]