Bashar Assad: Al-Baghdadi could be hidden; Israel is 'ever-present'

While the Syrian leader praised US President Donald Trump, he had nothing but contempt for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, whom he called "an enemy" – although not the Turkish nation.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria (photo credit: REUTERS)
President Bashar al-Assad of Syria
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Is ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi really dead following a US special forces operation? Syrian President Bashar Assad is skeptical, and claims he may be hiding – or even had his face surgically altered.
Speaking in an interview on Syria TV, Assad claims that al-Baghdadi may have been kidnapped, hidden or had his appearance surgically altered. He continued, explaining that the operation to kill the ISIS leader was a trick, since US politics "is no different from Hollywood; it relies on the imagination. Not even science fiction, just mere imagination."
However, despite claiming that there is a US conspiracy regarding the leader of ISIS, Assad went out of his way to praise US President Donald Trump, calling him the best American president ever. He cited as the reason why Trump's openness about US policy and interest in oil, though he does explain that he doesn't think Trump's policies are good ones.
While he praised Trump, Assad had nothing but contempt for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
"We must remember that Erdogan aimed, from the beginning of the war, to create a problem between the Syrian people and the Turkish people: to make it an enemy," he said.
However, while he claims that Erdogan is the enemy of Syria, Turkey itself isn't.
"At the beginning of the war, the Turkish Army supported the Syrian Army and cooperated with us to the greatest possible extent, until Erdogan's coup against the Army," he explained. "Therefore, we must continue in this direction, and ensure that Turkey does not become an enemy state. Erdogan and his group are enemies, because he leads these policies, but until now most of the political forces in Turkey have been against Erdogan's policies. So, we must make sure not to turn Turkey into an enemy – and here comes the role of friends: the Russian role and the Iranian role."
Nonetheless, Assad stated that while he would feel disgusted doing so, if there is a national interest at stake, a meeting with Erdogan would be possible.
The interviewer then asked him if, because the Turks are occupiers, "exactly like Israelis," it would be possible to meet with Israelis the same way.
Assad explained the key difference between Turkey and Israel.
"The difference between them and Israel is that we do not recognize the legitimacy of its existence as a state," he replied to the interviewer. "We don't recognize the existence of the Israeli people. There is no Israeli people except the one that existed for several centuries BC, and now they are a diaspora who came and occupied land and evicted its people. [Meanwhile], the Turkish people exist, and they are a neighboring people, and we have a common history, regardless of whether this history is good or bad or in between – that is irrelevant. Turkey exists as a state and it is a neighboring state."
He added that "the comparison is not valid. Even when we negotiated with Israel in the 1990s, we did not recognize it. We negotiated in order to achieve peace. If this was achieved and the rights were returned, we would recognize it. As I said, the comparison is invalid. Turkey will continue to exist and the Turks should remain a brotherly people."
When the interviewer brought up how Israel seems to be absent from the events of Syria and the greatest beneficiary of the conflict, Assad replied that this is far from the case.
"It is ever-present," he said. "It has never been absent. It might be absent in terms of language, because we fight its proxies, agents, flunkies, or tools in different ways: some military [and] some political. They are all tools serving Israel directly or through the Americans. Since the battle on the ground is with these forces, it is normal that the terminology describes these forces and not Israel.
"Israel is in fact a main partner in what is happening, and as an enemy state, that is expected," he said. "Will it stand by and watch? No. It will be proactive, and more effective in order to strike at Syria, the Syrian people, the Syrian homeland and everything related to Syria."