SYRIAN President Bashar al-Assad says Damascus has nearly won the seven-year war, despite continued US ‘interference’. In an interview given to RT, President al-Assad was asked: ‘How much nearer the end of this war are we now in your estimation?’
Assad replied: ‘With every move forward in the battlefield, with every victory, with every liberated area, we are moving closer to the end of the conflict, and I always said without external interference it won’t take more than a year to settle the situation in Syria.
‘But at the same time, with every move forward for the Syrian Army, and for the political process, and for the whole situation – forward in the positive meaning, towards more stability – our enemies and our opponents, mainly the West led by the United States and their puppets in Europe and in our region, with their mercenaries in Syria, they try to make it farther, either by supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists coming to Syria, or by hindering the political process. ‘So, our challenge is how can we to close this gap between their plans and our plans, and I think we are succeeding in that regard, but at the same time, it’s difficult for anyone to tell you when. But it is getting closer, that’s self-evident.’
Question: ‘You’re winning, you’re winning on the ground, your forces are advancing, the rebels are in retreat. Why would you negotiate with them, now that they’re losing?’ President Assad: ‘Since the very beginning, we said whenever we can save Syrian blood, we have to go forward and deal with any initiative, any kind of initiative, even if they have bad will. Some initiatives have bad will, but in spite of that, we dealt with them.
‘And the reality now, if you go around Syria, the reality, the results that’s been embodied by the reconciliations is proof of what I’m saying. Without this policy, without this intention of saving blood, negotiating, talking to people, we couldn’t have reached these reconciliations. ‘This is one thing. The other thing, not everyone who fought the government has the same basis; some of them have ideological background, some of them for financial background, some of them they made a mistake in the very beginning, they were forced to go in that direction, and they couldn’t withdraw, so you have to open the doors, and you have to distinguish between different kinds of people.
‘And more important than this, is the majority of the people who were against the government – apparently – in the different liberated areas, actually, in their hearts they are with the government, because they could tell the difference between having government and having chaos.’
Question: ‘How are you going to deal with the United States’ presence, military presence, in Syria?’ President Assad: ‘After the liberation of Aleppo and later Deir Ezzor, and before that Homs, and now Damascus, actually the United States is losing its cards. The main card was al-Nusra that was called “moderate”. But when the scandal started leaking, that they are not moderate, they are Al-Qaida that was supposed to be fought by the United States, they looked for another card.
‘This card is the SDF now, because when as it seems, as you just mentioned, we are moving forward in the different areas to defeat the terrorists, the only problem left in Syria is the 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 are Syrians, and supposedly they like their country; they don’t like to be puppets to any foreigners, that’s what we suppose, so we have the same basis. We all don’t trust the Americans for decades, not because of the war, because they always say one thing and do the opposite, they tell daily lies. So, we have one option is to live with each other as Syrians, like forever.
‘This is the first option. If not, we’re going to resort to liberating by force, to liberating those areas by force. We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans. We don’t have any other option.
‘So, this is 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. They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn the lesson. Iraq is no exception, and Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region anymore.’
Question: ‘Now, we have the Israeli energy minister who is threatening that his country could, quote, “liquidate you and your government.” Are you afraid, and how do you take that threat?’ President Assad: ‘The Israelis have been assassinating, killing, occupying for decades now, for around seven decades, in this region, but usually they do all this without threatening. ‘Now, why do they threaten in this way? This is panic, this is a kind of hysterical feeling, because they are losing the “dear ones”, the dear ones al-Nusra and ISIS, that’s why Israel is panicking recently, and we understand their feeling.’
Question: ‘Well, Israel is now seemingly striking across Syria, airstrikes, at will. Is there anything you can do to stop Israel carrying out its airstrikes in Syria?’ President Assad: ‘Actually, the first target of the mercenaries in Syria was the air defence, before attacking any other military base, it was the air defence, and you would be surprised at that time; why do they attack the air defence?
‘The air defence will not deal with the “peaceful demonstrators” as they say or the “moderate forces”, and it cannot deal with extremists anyway. It’s another thing, it’s built to defend the country.
‘This is the other proof that Israel was in direct link with those terrorists in Syria. So, they attacked those bases, and they destroyed a big part of our air defences. Now, in spite of that, our position, let’s say, our air defence is much stronger than before, thanks to the Russian support, and the recent attacks by the Israelis and by the Americans and British and French proved that we are in a better situation. ‘Now, my answer to your question, the only option is to improve our air defence, this is the only thing we can do, and we are doing that.
Question: ‘Israel says that its strikes are, so far, that they aren’t targeted against you, the President or the government, that they’re targeted at Iran, and they’re to keep Iran – which is your ally – weak in Syria. It’s strange, but Iran being here, they are your allies, it’s no secret; they have helped, but them being here now puts you at threat. Would you ever consider asking Iran to leave?’ President Assad: ‘The most important fact regarding this issue, is that we don’t have Iranian troops. We never had, and you cannot hide it, and we’re not ashamed to say that we have, like we invited the Russians, we could have invited the Iranians.
‘We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian Army as help, but they don’t have troops.
‘And the starkest fact about their lies about this issue, the Iranian issue, that the recent attack a few weeks ago, they said that they attacked Iranian bases and camps, as they said, allegedly, and actually we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian. ‘So, how could they say that we have it? So, it’s a lie. We always say that we have Iranian officers, but they work with our army, we don’t have troops.’