Failure in Syria’s campaign against Islamic State – backed by its loyal friends Russia and Iran – would mean the “destruction” of the Middle East, Bashar al-Assad warned on Sunday as Moscow launched airstrikes against rebel targets for the fifth consecutive day.
Speaking on the Iranian TV channel Khabar, the Syrian president said the Russian campaign could succeed because it is supported by Tehran and thus has international backing – though not from the US and its western and Arab allies which he said had failed in their own year-long campaign against Isis “because the thief cannot be himself the policeman who protects the city from thieves”.
Assad, sounding confident, said he was optimistic because pressure was growing on the “governments, which support terrorism” and because of Vladimir Putin’s decision to form “a coalition which includes Russia, Iran, Iraq and Syria”.
Calls for him to leave office or bow out after serving in a transitional government “mean nothing to us,” he insisted. Only the Syrian people could decide who would govern them.
“For how long this war will continue? This war will continue until either terrorism defeats the people or the people defeat terrorists. So, we pin great hope on this coalition now and on these international changes.” Failure would mean that “we face the destruction of the whole region,” he said.
Assad’s comments came as airstrikes by suspected Russian jets hit targets around the town of Talbiseh, north of Homs in western Syria on Sunday. Ambulances rushed the injured to hospital and one resident said at least five bodies had been recovered. “So far there are seven or six raids in the town,” Abdul Ghafar al Dweik, told Reuters.
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