Chris Summers — Mail Online July 14, 2016
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad has accused the United States of not being serious about defeating ISIS.
He said Russian military support for his regime had ‘tipped the scales in his favour’ and he said he was confident he would reclaim the whole of his country ‘within months’.
Assad said President Vladimir Putin had not demanded anything of him but just wanted his regime to help defeat the ‘terrorists’.
Putin is due to meet US Secretary of State John Kerry in Moscow later today and it is thought the future of Assad in Syria will be on the agenda.
But Assad denied they would be reaching a deal which would be ‘bad news’ for him and he said he had never been pressured to go by Putin.
‘Only the Syrian people define who’s going to be the president, when to come, and when to go. They (the Russians) never said a single word regarding this,’ he said in an interview with NBC.
Assad claimed the US did not have the same determination as the Russians to defeat ISIS.
‘They’re not serious,’ he told interviewer Bill Neely.
Assad said: ‘I cannot say I welcome the unseriousness of the illegal American airstrikes.’
He said there was a difference between the Russian airstrikes and the US-led airstrikes against ISIS.
Assad said the US and British airstrikes were illegal because they had not been invited by the Syrian government.
‘It is not a question of how many airstrikes. It is a question of achievement,’ said Assad.
He said the US-led airstrikes were actually ‘counter-productive’.
ISIS made huge gains in Syria last year, from their de facto capital in Raqqa, and Assad’s forces were on the brink of defeat until September when Moscow stepped up its military intervention.
With Russian air support, and possibly special forces on the ground, Assad’s troops have gained ground and retaken the ancient city of Palmyra from ISIS.
Assad said: ‘The Russian support of the Syrian army has tipped the scales against the terrorists. It was the crucial factor.’
Assad said: ‘The reality is telling that, since the beginning of the American airstrikes, the terrorism has been expanding and prevailing. It only shrinked when the Russians intervened.’
He claimed the Americans lacked the ‘will’ to defeat ISIS and added: ‘We wanted to defeat those terrorists, while the United States wanted to manage those groups in order to topple the government in Syria.’
Assad’s fate is a major obstacle in efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement to Syria’s civil war, which began in 2011.
Under a UN-backed blueprint sketched out by 22 nations, including the US, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia, a nationwide ceasefire will precede talks on ‘political transition’.
But there has been little progress towards talks.
Last week a Russian attack helicopter was shot down with a US missile by ISIS fighters near the city of Palmyra.
A Russian military source told Russia’s Interfax news agency that the chopper was brought down with an American TOW anti-tank missile system.
A statement from ISIS, translated by the ISIS-affiliated Amaaq news agency, read: ‘The soldiers of the Khilafah shot down a Russian helicopter as it attempted to raid their locations, which led to destroying it and killing those on board and all praise is due to Allah.’