Even the Washington Post now admits that Assad is “here to stay” —“The writing is now indisputably on the wall: The Syrian regime is going nowhere.”
In a newly published wide ranging sit-down interview with RT journalist Murad Gazdiev in Damascus, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad revealed his perspective of major recent events which have prolonged the war and taken it to new dangerous levels of escalation, including the Douma chemical attack claims in April and Russia’s thwarting the West’s objective of regime change.
“They told a story, they told a lie, and the public opinion around the world and in the West didn’t buy their story, but they couldn’t withdraw. So, they had to do something, even on a smaller scale,” Assad said of the April 14th massive airstrikes on Syria carried out by the US, UK, France, and Israel after videos purporting to show victims of a chlorine gas attack were released by the Saudi-financed Jaish al-Islam and the White Helmets.
— Joshua Landis (@joshua_landis) May 31, 2018
Assad appeared to be indirectly referencing the stream of skeptical reporting which began emerging once Western correspondents physically entered the attack site for the first time, notably veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk among them, who stunned his British and world audience in concluding, “they were not gassed.” There were also skeptical television reports in American and European media by journalists walking around Douma.
Of Douma in particular, supposedly gassed by the Syrian Army in the very moments it stood poised to liberate the last 5% of East Ghouta, Assad questioned, “Is it in our interest? Why, and why now?” Assad noted that each time his forces were closest to achieving overwhelming battlefield victory, a major and inexplicable provocation happened to sway international opinion.
He said further that despite continued US interference, especially in Syria’s northeast, Damascus has nearly won the seven-year war with Russian military support, which thwarted Western attempts of an Iraq-style military intervention: “With every move forward for the Syrian Army, and for the political process, and for the whole situation, our enemies and our opponents, mainly the West led by the United States and their puppets in Europe and in our region, they try to make it farther – either by supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria, or by hindering the political process,” Assad told RT.
And of the April 14th US coalition attack, he explained that Russia’s presence kept it to a limited, largely symbolic strike on alleged weapons production facilities: “The Russians announced publicly that they are going to destroy the bases that are going to be used to launch missiles, and our information – we don’t have evidence, we only have information, and that information is credible information – that they were thinking about a comprehensive attack all over Syria [speaking of the Russian response], and that’s why the threat pushed the West to make it on a much smaller scale.”
Assad did not downplay the potential for the outbreak of wider regional war after multiple clashes with the West: “We were close to having direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces, and fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership,” he said, and added, “We need the Russian support, but we need at the same time to avoid the American foolishness in order to be able to stabilize our country.” Assad further thanked Russia for carefully avoiding unnecessary escalation with the “foolish” US.
While denouncing the US as supporting terrorists that war against the state, Assad refused to mount personal attacks against Trump or other Western leaders. Gazdiev asked him if he had an epithet for Trump in return while referencing the US president’s recent “animal Assad” comments: “This is not my language, so I cannot use similar language. This is his language; it represents him,” the Syrian president stated. “I think there is a very known principle that what you say is what you are. So, he wanted to represent what he is and that’s normal,” he added.
President Assad responds to Trump calling him “Animal Assad” by saying he is above such petty language.
He should have went with “Okay, first of all, Assad means lion in Arabic and I am the lion of Damascus so-” pic.twitter.com/Bo3yNcfYtF
— Serge (@Zinvor) May 31, 2018
Assad showed himself willing to take a pragmatic approach in dealing with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), supported by 2000 or more US troops currently occupying parts of northeast Syria. He said Washington has generally long be in the process of “losing its cards” in Syria and can be brought to the negotiating table. “Our challenge is how can we close this gap between their plans and our plans,” he said of Washington and its military advisers in Syria.
He explained further of the US trained and equipped SDF: “We’re going to deal with it by two options: the first one we started now opening doors for negotiations, because the majority of them [SDF] are Syrians. Supposedly they like their country, they don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners,” Assad said. “If not, we’re going to resort … to liberating those areas by force. It’s our land, it’s our right, and it’s our duty to liberate it, and the Americans should leave. Somehow they’re going to leave,” he added.
However, this explanation didn’t stop the Associated Press from immediately misrepresenting this portion of the interview, headlining its story “Syria’s Assad threatens force against US-backed Kurds.” RT interviewer Murad Gazdiev, who heard Assad’s words firsthand, said of the AP’s claim, “Misleading, if not outright fake news. Assad said he has begun negotiating with Kurds and prefers reuniting Syria peacefully. But if there are those who don’t want to negotiate, he will use force.”
Though he seems convinced that the great power confrontation over Syria is now winding down, the threat of terrorism will perpetuate, despite the ongoing Russia-Turkey-Iran brokered Astana talks which have sought to reach out to select anti-Assad groups.
Assad explained his goal is to expel all terrorists and restore order: “Factions like Al-Qaeda, like ISIS, like Al-Nusra, and the like-minded groups, they’re not ready for any dialogue, they don’t have any political plan; they only have this dark ideological plan, which is to be like any Al-Qaeda-controlled area anywhere in this world. So, the only option to deal with those factions is force.”
“The more escalation we have, the more determined we’ll be to solve the problem, because you don’t have any other choice; either you have a country or you don’t have a country,” the Syrian president told RT.
Ironically, prior US government official threat assessment studies seem to be in agreement that Damascus has fundamentally faced a largely al-Qaeda fueled foreign terrorist insurgency over these past years of war.
The US State Department’s own 2014 Country Report on Terrorism confirms that the rate of foreign terrorist entry into Syria over the past years has been unprecedented among any conflict in history:
“The rate of foreign terrorist fighter travel to Syria — totaling more than 16,000 foreign terrorist fighters from more than 90 countries as of late December — exceeded the rate of foreign terrorist fighters who traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, or Somalia at any point in the last 20 years.”
And these figures were merely from the 2014 report, and likely reflect lower estimated numbers than the reality.
But regardless of what some analysts have described as Syria’s “endless insurgency” problem, we actually find ourselves in rare agreement with the Washington Post, that Assad is most certainly “here to stay” (it must have pained WaPo greatly to have to write those words). He has clearly long outlasted nearly each and every political leader in the West who once called for his ouster.