‘West will pay a heavy price for supporting Al-Qaeda’ – says Assad

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PRESIDENT Bashar al-Assad warned on Wednesday that the West will pay a heavy price for its support of Al-Qaeda in Syria.

Assad, whose regime has been battling a foreign-backed and supported uprising since March 2011, reiterated in an interview with official television Al-Ikhbariya his long-held claim that the roots of Syria’s conflict lie in a foreign-backed conspiracy.

He also warned the conflict could spill over into Jordan.

‘The West has paid heavily for funding Al-Qaeda in its early stages in Afghanistan. Today it is doing the same in Syria, Libya and other places, and will pay a heavy price in the heart of Europe and the United States,’ Assad said.

The jihadist rebel group Al-Nusra Front pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri, who had previously urged rebels to establish an Islamic state in Syria.

Assad said, that ‘from the first day, what is happening in Syria is dictated from abroad.

‘We are facing a new war, a new method’ with fighters, ‘some of whom are Arabs, not Syrians’, the president said, adding that the ‘army is not fighting a war to liberate Syrian territory, but a war on terror.’

‘Either Syria becomes subservient and submissive to the big powers and the West, or it becomes subservient to obscurantist, extremist forces. We need to hold on ever more strongly to the meaning of independence.’

He insisted that ‘everyone who carries weapons and attacks civilians is a terrorist, by the Al-Qaeda or not.…There are no moderate terrorists.’

Assad also accused the West of ‘double or, what I would call, triple or quadruple standards.

‘The West fights Al-Qaeda in Mali and supports it in Syria and Libya,’ he said.

Assad warned, that a defeat of his government would spell the demise of Syria, implying he might run for elections scheduled for 2014.

‘There is no option but victory. Otherwise it will be the end of Syria, and I don’t think that the Syrian people will accept such an option,’ he said.

‘The truth is there is a war and I repeat: No to surrender, No to submission.’

Assad rejecting the possibility of humanitarian intervention in Syria’s conflict. He said ‘such policy would only aim to destroy the Syrians’.

Assad took to task neighbouring Jordan, which says it is hosting around 500,000 Syria refugees, accusing it of allowing rebels and arms free movement across it’s borders.

‘I cannot believe that hundreds of rebels are entering Syria with their weapons while Jordan is capable of arresting any single person with a light arm for going to resist in Palestine,’ Assad said.

‘We would wish that our Jordanian neighbours realise that…the fire will not stop at our borders.’

Information Minister Mohammad Momani said: ‘The United States plans to deploy 50 troops more in Jordan because of the war in neighbouring Syria in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria.’

The American presence in in Jordan would rise to more than 200 troops, to ‘improve readiness and prepares for number of scenarios.’

Meanwhile, as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has warned, ‘Jordan is being dragged into Syria’s conflict as more and more US troops head to Amman,’ said Labib Kamhawi, a writer and political analyst.

‘The kingdom could be engulfed by his country’s war.

‘The escalation has become public. At the beginning of the crisis Jordan was trying to deal with it calmly, but now things are heading towards confrontation.

‘We have been forced into the conflict,’ he said.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel revealed that some 150 US military specialists have been deployed in Jordan since last year and that he had ordered in a total of more than 200 more troops.

US troops were deployed to Jordan to help secure chemical weapons if necessary and prepare for a possible spillover from Syria.

Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Momani said the US deployment was ‘to boost the Jordanian armed forces in the light of the deteriorating situation in Syria’.

Oraib Rintawi, of the Al-Quds Centre for Political Studies, warned that Jordan ‘is getting closer and closer to the Syrian fire’.

He said: ‘Jordan is still denying media reports that it is allowing foreign-backed rebels into Syria. Clearly Amman has shifted it’s position, which sparked an angry threatening reaction from Syria.’

Rintawi added: ‘More Jordanian roles in Syria might not be in Jordan’s interest. Resisting pressure, particularly from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, was costly for Jordan, but at the same time it was wise.

‘Jordan was forced to cross the line for economic reasons as well as fears that Syria’s southern parts will turn into a safe haven for jihadists.’

He added that Washington ‘is very careful about military intervention in Syria’.

Information Minister Momani added: ‘Our position on the situation in Syria has not changed.

‘We are still against any military intervention in Syria. We urge a political solution to end the bloodshed in Syria.’

Mamun Abu Nuwar, a retired army major-general, warned: ‘Mobilising US troops on Jordanian territory could provoke Damascus.’

He reasoned: ‘The Syrian regime could resort to preemptive military strikes. Using chemical weapons is a possibility.

‘Jordan was dragged into all of this, mainly for economic reasons. Publicly Jordan says it is against military intervention but things in reality are different.’