In a far-reaching interview with Yahoo News‘ Michael Isikoff, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad revealed his country would receive American ground troops on the assumption Washington’s aim would be cooperation in the fight against Islamist extremism and defeating the ISIS.
The Syrian leader referred to President Trump as a “natural ally” to Damascus if he satisfied his campaign pledge to “fight” international terrorism.
Describing a massive effort to crush ISIS brutality, Mr. Assad, at once, expressed his concern over Washington’s political aims and fortified his shrouded call for American assistance with a caution to Mr. Trump the U.S. must observe Syrian authority.
“If the Americans are genuine, of course they are welcome. Like any other country, we want to defeat and to fight the terrorists. Troops are part of the cooperation . . . [but] you cannot talk about sending troops . . . if you don’t have a clear political position toward not only terrorism, toward the sovereignty of Syria, toward the unity of Syria. It must be through the Syria government,” Assad said.
Although Assad’s comments appeared to embrace Washington’s willingness to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria, he rejected Trump’s suggestion Syria create “free zones” as unrealistic in face of the ongoing civil war and presence of ISIS terrorists.
“It’s much more viable, much more practical and less costly to have stability than to create safe zones,” he stated.
Similarly, Assad dismissed a recent report detailing the horrors of living under his rule released by rights group, Amnesty International, as nonsense. The report, which claims the Syrian government routinely persecutes its people and as many as 13,000 Syrians have died in Syrian custody was described as “fake news.”
Responding to AI’s allegations of widespread torture, and Assad’s government is responsible for a “calculated campaign of extrajudicial execution” carried out at a military complex near Damascus, Assad replied:
“So Amnesty International knows more about Syria than me? They haven’t been to Syria. They only base their reports on allegations. They can bring anyone, doesn’t matter what’s his title. You can forge anything these days. We are living in a ‘fake news’ era, as you know.”
“It’s always biased and politicized, and it’s a shame for such an organization to publish a report without a shred of evidence.”
Assad braced his position by turning attention to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and the political upheaval created by the American invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The United States is in no position to talk about human rights,” he said.
Despite his unrelenting stance on prospective American involvement in solving the Syrian civil war and often blunt talk, Assad did offer a robust statement on his future in Syria. Discussing the expectation he will remain, Assad said his first goal is to crush terrorists and build a “unity” government, but did not rule out leaving power.
Explaining his position as ruler of Syria, Assad said a “public consensus” demanding his ouster would be required for him to abandon the Syrian presidency and hinted a referendum could dictate his future in the embattled country.
[Yahoo News] [AP] [The Telegraph] [RT News] [Photo courtesy EPA via Al Jazeera]