Assad refuses Trump’s safe zones, wants cooperation on ISIS

Assad refuses Trump's safe zones, wants cooperation on ISIS

Bashar Al-Assad has said in a new interview he refuses President Trump’s idea to create “safe zones” inside Syria, calling Trump to cooperate with him instead to fight “terrorism” in Syria.

Yahoo News made an exclusive interview with Bashar al-Assad, the current Syrian president and the root cause of the six-year crisis in Syria.

The Syrian crisis began as a peaceful demonstration against the injustice in Syria. Assad regime used to fire power and violence against the civilians and led to armed resistance. 450.000 Syrians lost their lives in the past five years according to UN estimates, and more than 12 million have lost their homes. About 6 million Syrians became refugees scattered around the globe, 4.8 million of them fled to Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq while the rest became refugees in Europe, Canada, and the US.

The idea of creating safe zones in Syria was discussed greatly in two cases: in 2013, when a no-fly zone was a military option to cripple the Syrian regime’s air force; and in 2015, when a safe zone was meant to shelter refugees in northern Syria.

However, Obama administration decided not to act because he was considering the possible military outcome of that decision and the very high cost.

Donald Trump made clear his intention to undo the legacy of Barack Obama and offer a different Middle East policy. He reopened the safe-zones case again and limited its debate to a US homeland security perspective.

In addition, Trump declared recently a new order to ban the Syrian refugee resettlement program in the US definitely, saying that they resemble a threat to the US.

Assad refuses the safe zones

Assad said he said he found Trump’s public statements about fighting terrorism “promising,” he was dismissive of the U.S. president’s recent assertion that he would “absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people” endangered by the country’s fierce civil war and called it “not a realistic idea at all.”

“But actually, it won’t [protect civilians], it won’t,” Assad said. “Safe zones for the Syrians could only happen when you have stability and security, where you don’t have terrorists, where you don’t have [the] flow and support of those terrorists by the neighboring countries or by Western countries. This is where you can have a natural safe zone, which is our country. They don’t need safe zones at all. It’s not a realistic idea at all.”

Assad was pressed on his opposition to safe zones, considering that nearly half the population of Syria has been displaced by the war.

“The first thing you have to ask: why were they displaced?” Assad replied. “If you don’t answer that question, you cannot answer the rest. They were displaced for two reasons: first of all, the terrorist acts and the support from the outside. Second, the [U.S.] embargo on Syria. Many people didn’t only leave Syria because of the security issues. As you can see, Damascus is safe today, it’s nearly normal life, not completely.

“But they don’t find a way for life in Syria, so they have to travel abroad in order to find their living. So, if you lift the embargo, and if you stop supporting the terrorists … I’m talking about everyone who supported terrorists, including the United States during Obama’s administration. If you stop all these acts, most of those people will go back to their country.”

Commenting on Trump’s plans to fight ISIS in Syria, Assad said he could see a role for American troops to fight the Islamic State in Syria, but only with his government’s approval and as part of a “rapprochement” with Russia.

“So, if you want to start genuinely as United States to [defeat the Islamic State] it must be through the Syrian government,” said Assad, when asked about reports that Trump has directed the Pentagon to develop new plans to destroy the Islamic State that could include the deployment of more U.S. special forces troops and Apache helicopters inside Syria.

“We are here, we are the Syrians. We own this country as Syrians, nobody else,” he added. “So, you cannot defeat the terrorism without cooperation with the people and the government of any country.”

The refugees are terrorists

Assad said President Trump’s freeze on admitting refugees from his country “is an American issue” on which he would not take sides. But asked if some of those who fled are “aligned with terrorists,” Assad quickly replied, “Definitely.”

“You can find it on the Net,” Assad went on: “Those terrorists in Syria, holding the machine gun or killing people, they [appear as] peaceful refugees in Europe or in the West.” He said he couldn’t estimate how many there might be, but he added that “you don’t need a significant number to commit atrocities.” He noted that the 9/11 attacks were pulled off by fewer than 20 terrorists “out of maybe millions of immigrants in the United States. So it’s not about the number, it’s about the quality, it’s about the intentions.”

As for the future of Syria’s 4.8 million refugees, Assad said, “For me, the priority is to bring those citizens to their country, not to help them immigrate.”

These remarks are kind of ironic, as they were declared a few days after a new scandal of Assad regime’s brutality has been revealed by Amnesty International, giving more shreds of evidence about the real cause of the Syrian refugee crisis.