Syrian President Bashar Assad has cautioned in a TV interview that the West will pay a heavy price for allegedly helping Al Qaeda extremists in the country’s two-year uprising, adding that the government’s defeat is out of the question.
In the statement that was made on Wednesday to state channel Al Ikhbariya, Assad warned that “The West has paid heavily for funding Al-Qaeda in its early stages. 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.”
He stressed that “from the first day, what is happening in Syria is dictated from abroad.”
Assad’s interview also comes within a week of jihadist extremists the Al Nusra Front swearing support to Al Qaeda’s commander Ayman al-Zawahiri, who’s idea it had been initially to turn Syria into an Islamic state.
The president continued to say that Syria was “facing a new war, a new method, with fighters, some of whom are Arabs, not Syrians,” and that the “army is not fighting a war to liberate Syrian territory, but a war on terror.”
While the president did say that progress was being made, he also pointed toward some “big powers, in particular the United States, that do not accept countries to be independent; they want them to be submissive.” Although the West has claimed on occasion not to be supporting Al Qaeda, Assad added that “everyone who carries weapons and attacks civilians is a terrorist, be they Al-Qaeda or not.”
The president went on to say that the defeat of his government would herald Syria’s downfall, and therefore he could and would not surrender. “The truth is there is a war and I repeat: no to surrender, no to submission”, he said.
“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 added.
When questioned about his own future, he only said that the decision should be up to the people of Syria.
“The position (of president) has no value without popular backing. The people’s decision is what matters in the question of whether the president stays or goes”, which could mean the president’s intention to run for another term in next year’s elections.
A rebel fighter throws a homemade grenade towards Syrian government forces through a window at a flat in the Salaheddine neighbourhood of Aleppo on February 16, 2013. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)
Assad turned to the topic of Jordan – which currently holds around a half-million Syrian refugees – blaming the country for condoning the free movement of rebels to and from Syria. He had the following to say on the matter:
“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.” He also gave a word of caution.
“We would wish that our Jordanian neighbors realize that… the fire will not stop at our borders; all the world knows Jordan is just as exposed (to the crisis) as Syria.” US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meanwhile addressed Congress with the intention of deploying 200 US troops to Jordan in order to contain cross-border violence and thwart any supposed chemical weapons attack that might take place inside Syria. Amman’s Information Minister Mohammed Momani spoke of the plans:
“The deployment of the troops is part of US-Jordanian military cooperation to boost the Jordanian armed forces in light of the deteriorating situation in Syria,” Momani told AFP. The precise date of the deployment remains unclear.
One of Syria’s closest allies, Russia, meanwhile warned that the Friends of Syria group, who are opposed to the government in Damascus, are playing a “negative” role and are not helping the situation progress. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Istanbul, in reference to the 2012 agreement on ending the conflict by diplomatic means that “right now we see this process is making a negative contribution to the (Geneva) decisions.
The next meeting of the Friends of Syria is scheduled to take place on Saturday in the Turkish capital.
The bloody uprising that has gripped Syria for two years now has taken the lives of over 70,000 people and displaced over a million.
A Syrian rebel observes the positions of regime forces in Saif al-Dawla district in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on April 5, 2013. (AFP Photo / Dimitar Dilkoff)
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