US ‘not serious’ in defeating ISIS, wants to control terrorists – Syria’s Assad

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad  © Mikhail Voskresenskiy
The United States is not really interested in defeating terrorists in Syria as it really wants “to control and use them,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told NBC News in an exclusive interview, denouncing the US air strikes as “counterproductive.”

According to Assad, evidence shows that the US lacks actual will to fight Islamic State (IS, former ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups in Syria because the actions of the US-led coalition did not prevent terrorist groups from expanding their territory.

“The reality is telling that, since the beginning of the American airstrikes, the terrorism has been expanding and prevailing,” he told NBC, specifying that “during the American and alliance air strikes, ISIS was expanding and taking over new areas in Syria.”

The Syrian President also described the US air strikes in Syria and Iraq as “counterproductive and ineffective” and called them “pro forma actions.”

The reason for such “ineffectiveness” lies in the fact that the US has other goals besides defeating terrorism.

“It’s about being serious, having the will. The United States doesn’t have the will to defeat the terrorists. It had the will to control them and to use them as a card, like they did in Afghanistan. That will reflect on the military aspect of the issue,” Assad said during the interview.

He particularly doubted that the US wants to defeat Islamic State. He stressed that the terrorist group originated in Iraq when the US troops were there and only then came to Syria.

Islamic State emerged “under the supervision of the American authority in Iraq, and they didn’t do anything to fight IS that time. So, why fight it now? They don’t… it’s been expanding under the supervision of American planes,” the Syrian president said.
He also mentioned that the US failed to attack at least one Islamic State oil convoy heading to Turkey.

"We wanted to defeat those terrorists, while the United States wanted to manage those groups in order to topple the government in Syria," Assad said.

He also stressed that the actions of the US-led coalition in Syria are “illegal,” unlike the air strikes conducted by Russia, “which [were] invited legally and formally by the Syrian government. It is the right of any government to invite any country to help with any issue.”

‘Russian help tipped the scales’ of war against terrorism

During the interview, Assad confessed that a year ago his forces were in a far less advantageous position than now, as numbers dwindled and territories were lost. The biggest help in correcting this imbalance came from Russia.

“Definitely, the Russian support of the Syrian army has tipped the scales against the terrorists. At the same time, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have sent more troops since the Russian legal intervention started,” Assad said.

Russia’s “interests are common with ours now, because they are fighting the same terrorists that they could fight in Russia. We are fighting terrorists that could be fighting in Europe, in the United States, anywhere in the world. But the difference between President Putin and the others is that he could see that clearly, while the [others] could not,” the Syrian president stressed, speaking about the reasons of Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict.

Assad also repeatedly stressed that Russia did not make any requests in return for the assistance and asked for no favor or concessions. He described his relationship with the Russian president as “very frank, very honest,” and based on “mutual respect.”

War could be won ‘within months’

Assad said it is only a matter of time the Syrian government’s forces regain full control of the country. At the same time, he did not name an exact time frame, referring to a number of factors and particularly pointing out at the foreign support of the terrorist groups as a key factor of prolonging the conflict in Syria.

“The most important factor is how long the supporters of these terrorists are going to keep supporting them: especially Turkey and Qatar and Saudi Arabia, with the endorsement of some Western countries, including the United States,” Assad said. “If you don’t have that support, it won’t take more than a few months.”

The Syrian president also stressed that he is fighting for Syria and is not just trying to keep his power.

“My war is to protect Syria. It’s not about if I stay or not… If [the Syrian people] want me to stay, I’m going to stay. If they want me to leave, I’m going to leave,” he said.

Syria fell into chaos in 2011 when public demonstrations escalated into an armed uprising while foreign powers warned the Assad government against cracking down on the protesters. As the violence expanded, radical militant and terrorist groups hijacked the process, turning Syria into the bloodiest warzone in the modern world.

Washington has repeatedly insisted that Assad must step down as part of a peaceful resolution to Syria’s civil war, while Moscow has been adamant that it is for the Syrian people to decide their own fate and choose their own government.