Bashar al-Assad said in his last interview that the US forces deployed in Syria are “invaders” but said he saw promise in US President Donald Trump’s vow to prioritize the fight against ISIS and said a sort of cooperation may be made between them in the future.
Since the first days of hi elections campaign, President Trump has said that his top priority is fighting ISIS and ending its presence in the country rather than interfering in the war between Assad regime and his rebels’ opposers.
Trump has also said repeatedly that the US and Russia should cooperate against the Islamic State, and he has indicated that the future of Russia-backed Assad is of less concern to him.
The US forces are invaders
last week, a few hundred marines with heavy artillery have been deployed to Syria in preparation for the fight to oust Islamic State from its self-declared headquarters of Raqqa, as a part of Trump’s new plan.
The deployment is temporary but is a sign Donald Trump’s White House is leaning toward giving the Pentagon greater flexibility in making routine combat decisions in the fight against Isis.
The latest troop movements come on the heels of the recent temporary deployment of dozens of army forces to the outskirts of Manbij, Syria, in what the Pentagon called a “reassure and deter” mission. Flying American flags and moving in large, heavily armored vehicles, the troops were there to keep a lid on tensions in the area, the Pentagon said.
Assad, in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix that was published by Syria’s state television SANA on Saturday, scoffed and questioned US actions in Syria, calling American troops deploying to the country “invaders” because he hadn’t given permission for them to enter the country.
“Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one,” Assad said.
“And we don’t think this is going to help. What are they going to do? To fight ISIS? The Americans lost nearly every war. They lost in Iraq, they had to withdraw at the end. Even in Somalia, let alone Vietnam in the past and Afghanistan, your neighboring country. They didn’t succeed anywhere they sent troops, they only create a mess; they are very good in creating problems and destroying, but they are very bad in finding solutions.”
In the interview, Assad was asked whether there can be room for cooperation between the United States and Syria.
In theory, Assad said, there could be cooperation between Syria and the Trump-led United States, but that there was no formal ties or outreach so far.
He said the Trump administration’s rhetoric during and after the presidential campaign focused on defeating ISIS and he called that “a promising approach to what’s happening in Syria and in Iraq, because we live in the same area and we face the same enemy.”
But he also said, “we haven’t seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric, because we’ve been seeing now certain is a local kind of raids.”
Assad said the approach toward terrorism needs to be “comprehensive” and not “local.”
“It cannot be from the air, it should be in cooperation with the troops on the ground, that’s why the Russians succeeded, since they supported the Syrian Army in pushing ISIS to shrink, not to expand as it used to be before that. So, we have hopes that this taking into consideration that talking about ISIS doesn’t mean talking about the whole terrorism; ISIS is one of the products, al-Nusra is another product, you have so many groups in Syria, they are not ISIS, but they are al Qaeda, they have the same background of the Wahabi extremist ideology,” he said.
Regarding advances made by Assad’s regime forces, he says they are closing in on the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa.
“We are very close to Raqqa now. Yesterday, our troops reached the Euphrates River, which is very close to Raqqa city, and Raqqa is the stronghold of ISIS today, so it’s going to be a priority for us,” said Assad said.
He also said his military’s recent recapture of the ancient city of Palmyra blocked ISIS’s supply route between Iraq and Syria, and touted that whether he attacked Raqqa or just blocked the supply routes, “it has the same result”.
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.