A recent interview with Bashar al Assad gives us some interesting insight into the seven-year long civil war in Syria and how the President of the Syrian Arab Republic feels about the progress that the government has made in battling back opposition forces, at least some of whom are funded and armed by Washington and his comments on Iran’s involvement/presence in Syria, an issue that has been used by the United States and Israel to justify further actions against Iran. Let’s look at some excerpts from his interview with Al-ALAM TV which were posted on the Syria 360 Internationalist News Agency.
Let’s start this posting with a map showing the current situation in Syria:
Syria is controlled by the following forces:
Red – Syrian government forces
Yellow – Kurdish Forces
Light Grey – Turkish and Rebel Forces
Green – Rebel Forces
Dark Blue – Occupied Golan Heights
As you can see, the Syrian government (with the assistance of Russia) has reclaimed significant portions of Syria, pushing rebel forces, ISIS and Turkey to the edges of Syrian territory.
Current military activity is taking place in southern Syria around Daraa as shown here:
The Syrian Air Force is involved along with the Syrian Arab Army which is using Grad rockets, mortars and missile launchers to repel rebel forces.
The United States is active in the Iraqi border region on the east side of Syria where their al-Tanf base is located within Syrian territory as shown here:
With that background, let’s look at the wide-ranging interview with Bashar al-Assad which covered several key subjects as follows:
1.) The current situation in south Syria:
“To put it simply, after the liberation of al-Ghouta, it was suggested that we should move south. We were faced with two options, as is the case in all other areas in Syria: reconciliation or liberation by force. At this point, the Russians suggested the possibility of giving reconciliation an opportunity, similar to what happened in other areas, in order to restore the situation that prevailed before 2011. In other words, for the Syrian Army to be deployed in that area, which is an area of confrontation with the Zionist enemy. And of course the terrorists should leave the area. This proposition suits us. Up till now, there are no concrete results for a simple reason which is Israeli and American interference; for they put pressure on the terrorists in that area in order to prevent reaching any compromise or peaceful resolution. That is how the situation stands now.
When asked about reconciliation in the southern region, here is his response:
“No, contacts are still ongoing between the Russians, the Americans, and the Israelis, while nobody is communicating with the terrorists, because they are mere tools, and they implement what their masters decide ultimately. This is what happened, i.e. there was an opportunity to reach reconciliation, but the American and Israeli interference prevented that possibility.” (my bold)
2.) American involvement in Syria and the “Iranian problem”:
“For the Americans, there is a general principle they follow in dealing with any problem in the world. The only price they ask for is absolute hegemony, regardless of the issue and the place. Of course, we shall never provide that price; otherwise we wouldn’t have fought this war for years. We have been fighting for the independence of Syrian decision-making, for the Syrian homeland, and for the unity of Syrian territory. As for Iran in particular, let me be very clear: the Syrian-Iranian relationship is a strategic one not subject to a deal in the south or in the north. This relationship, in terms of its implications and results on the ground, is linked to the present and future of the region. Consequently, it is not subject to the price tags of the international bazaar. Neither Syria nor Iran has floated this relationship on the international political bazaar for it to be subject to haggling. The proposition was made by the Israelis with the objective of provoking and embarrassing Iran. At the same time, this comes in line with the international propaganda campaign launched against Iran regarding the nuclear file. It is not a separate issue; for everything happening now is linked to Iran in order to create an international position against it. As for us in Syria, the decision concerning our land is an exclusively Syrian decision. We are fighting the same battle, and when we have a decision concerning Iran, we will talk about it with the Iranians and not with any other party.” (my bold)
When asked if the Americans would leave al-Tanf, the U.S.-led coalition base located in Syria at the al-Tanf border crossing to Iraq, here’s what Bashar al-Assad had to say:
“The Americans say they are ready, but everyone knows that the Americans are historically professional liars in politics. So why should we believe them? Also, we have to wait and see.” (my bold)
3.) The Israeli occupation of Syrian territory and its involvement in the Syrian Civil War:
4.) Syria’s relationship with Russia:
“The new element in the war on Syria is the Russian element, and that’s why this tripartite alliance (Syria – Russia – Iran) came into existence. Our relationship with Russia is now about seven decades old. Despite the fluctuations and the fall of the Soviet Union, the rule of President Yeltsin, and the deterioration of these relations to a large degree for us, it has never reached the stage of reversing this relationship with Syria. Russia continued to deal with Syria as a friendly state, and we have imported everything from Russia, including weapons, during the different stages of the sanctions imposed on Syria. It is not in the nature of the Russians to build temporary or self-serving alliances or to sell out on relations in order to get deals done. The relationship is definitely a strategic one, but the political statements allowed for these speculations…As for Syria, the Russians do not interfere in Syrian affairs. If they have a certain opinion, they raise it with us and say that in the end, the decision is that of the Syrian leadership and the Syrian people. This is a constant principle for Russia.” (my bolds)
5.) The presence of Iranian advisors in Syria:
The term adviser is sometimes used in a broad manner, i.e. these advisers have been with us, through the longstanding relationship with Iran, even before the war, because the military relationship is close. When a military formation moves to a fighting position, the adviser becomes a fighter. So, the word can be used in different senses. There are certainly Iranian advisers in Syria, and there are groups of Iranian volunteers who came to Syria, and they are led by Iranian officers. Iran has fought with and defended the Syrian people. It offered blood. That’s why when we say “advisers” this is a generic term, but this doesn’t mean that we are ashamed of any Iranian presence, even if it is official. But we use the word “advisers” because there are no regular Iranian fighting units in Syria…There are no battalions, or brigades, or divisions. First, we can’t hide them, and then why should we be ashamed of that? When we invited the Russians legally to come to Syria, we were not ashamed of that. And if there were an Iranian formation, we would announce it, because such relations need agreements between the two states endorsed by parliaments. Such relations cannot be concealed….Of course, from the beginning we invited the Iranians, and then we invited the Russians. We needed the support of these countries, and they answered the call.” (my bold)
Bashar al-Assad goes on to clearly state that there are no Iranian bases in Syria but that it is within Syria’s rights to ask Iran to establish bases in Syria.
Here is a link to the interview in its entirety.
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