EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: In an unprecedented television interview on May 30, Syrian President Bashar Assad made detailed comments about his army’s alleged non-use of chemical weapons (CW). Referring to the (confirmed) employment of chemical weapons in Douma on April 7 and the subsequent US-British-French retaliatory raid, Assad claimed that CW had not been used by anyone (rather than by the rebels, as is usually contended).
On May 30, 2018, Syrian President Bashar Assad participated in a televised interview on Russia Today in which he was asked about the regime’s use of chemical weapons (CW). In keeping with a lasting tradition whereby Assad laconically addresses the question of his army’s employment of such weapons, he tried to detail why such employment is implausible and to deny that his army is in fact in possession of CW. Given the regional and global significance of the lingering issue of CW use by his regime, it is worthwhile to take a close look at his words.
Assad was asked in whose interest it was to gas opposition to the Syrian regime. He replied: “Is it in our interest? Why, and why now? Let alone that we don’t have CW anyway, and we are not going to use it against our people. Our main battle was about winning the heart of civilians, and we won it. So how can you use CW against civilians you want to be supportive to you?
“Second, let’s suppose we have CW and want to use them. Do you use them after you finish the battle, or before, or during? It is not logical, because the timing of the alleged chemical strike was after the victory of the Syrian troops in Ghouta.” He went on: “If you go to that area, it was a very crowded area by armies, by factions, and by civilians; wherever you use such armaments or weapons in that area, you are going to harm everyone, something that didn’t happen. And if you go to that area and you ask the civilians, there was no chemical attack by anyone. Even the western journalists who went there after Ghouta was liberated asked the people, and the people said we didn’t see any chemical attack, so it was just a pretext in order to attack Syria.”