‘Washington not interested in defeating ISIS’
RT: The US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power has some pretty strong words for Moscow regarding its assistance to Syria. She said that Russia, by supporting the Assad regime, doesn’t take account of the views of the vast majority of Syrians. So how far should the Syrian regime be engaged, in order to win the war against IS?
Ammar Waqqaf: Well, the Russians are not the only party who is engaged with the Syrian regime or who is intending to engage. We’ve heard voices from Austria, from Spain, as well that the best way to stop this refugee crisis that is hitting Europe are to actually engage with the Syrian government. And with regards to the majority issue, as far as I’m concerned almost 2/3 of the refugees who fled the fighting areas went into the Syrian government-controlled areas. So, I’m not so sure that the majority of the Syrians would want the Syrian state to fall as this American official said.
RT: Washington maintains that support for President Assad is not a quote “winning strategy”, but has Washington's strategy been successful, in your view? Was the US strategy in any way successful in Libya, Iraq, or Afghanistan?
AW: We need to understand that Washington and America and its allies are not really interested in stopping and defeating ISIS, at least at this very moment. I think they are interested more in containing ISIS lest it spreads into places like Jordan or Saudi Arabia - key allies in the region for the US. But they seem to be using ISIS though passively, allow it to spread westwards towards the Syrian government-controlled areas. We’ve seen, for example, in Palmyra that they never intervened really or showed any intention of doing so, allowing ISIS to take Palmyra from the Syrian army. And, in a sense, that sort of strategy is pretty much counterproductive because the more success ISIS has, the more recruiting opportunities it will be able to exploit in areas like Chechnya, in areas like other Muslim countries around the world and even inside Europe with Muslim communities. So, in a sense, I don’t think that Washington’s strategy is working at all.
RT: Right now, Syrian forces control about 25 percent of their territory, and there are plenty of other groups fighting there alongside ISIL. Do you think Assad's army is capable of defeating all of them, even with Russian help?
AW: I think the main point for those groups that have taken so much of Syria already is actually active support from at least regional if not international forces. They have been giving them money, they have been giving them training, sophisticated weaponry in order to defeat and cripple the Syrian army. They have an abundance of human resources coming from all parts of the world, whilst the Syrian army is mainly, as everyone knows, a conscript army that is based on Syrian personnel.
Of course there are some fighting groups like Hezbollah [which] is helping the Syrian army, but that’s pretty much adjacent in Lebanon. Hezbollah is obviously preoccupied with attempting to defend itself, its backyard, so to speak. So, is the Syrian Army capable? Yes, it is capable. But would the international players and those who are fighting a proxy war in Syria stop arming and training those groups? I don’t think so. It is going to be a little bit tricky.
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