With the Trump administration rapidly shifting its foreign policy stance in recent weeks as the Goldman-led group inside the White House steamrolls all opposition, in the process dashing hopes of a detente between DC and Moscow which now appear set to continue the “cold war” diplomatic ways set under Obama and Hillary Clinton, another foreign leader who is losing faith that Trump will bring any notable change is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix said U.S. forces in Syria were “invaders” and that he had yet to see “anything concrete” emerge from U.S. President Donald Trump’s vow to prioritize the fight against Islamic State.
Quoted by Reuters, Assad said he initially saw promise in Trump’s vows to battle the Islamic State in Syria, where U.S. policy under President Barack Obama had mostly backed rebels fighting Assad and shunned him as an illegitimate leader. That promise, however, has now faded, especially after Trump recently stated he would boost US troops in Syria in an attempt to create “safe zones” in the nation, in the process likely further escalating the 6 year old proxy war in Syria.
“We haven’t seen anything concrete yet regarding this rhetoric,” Assad said in an interview with Chinese TV station Phoenix. “We have hopes that this administration in the United States is going to implement what we have heard,” he said. Well, so do millions of Americans who are hoping that Trump will end Obamacare, not to mention all those still expecting Trump to unveil the “tremendous” tax plan. Maybe get in line.
In Syria, the US is currently working with an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias and its biggest focus at this moment is to encircle and ultimately capture the ISIS capital of Raqqa. This week, the U.S.-led coalition announced that around 400 additional U.S. forces had deployed to Syria to help with the Raqqa campaign and to prevent any clash between Turkey and Washington-allied Syrian militias that Ankara sees as a threat. Around 500 U.S. forces are already in Syria in support of the campaign against Islamic State, which this week added several hundred, marines who were recently caught on video as they prepare for the Raqqa offensive.
Asked about a deployment of U.S. forces near the northern city of Manbij, Assad said: “Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation … are invaders.”
“We don’t think this is going to help”.
Voicing his disappointment with Trump, Assad said that “in theory” he still saw scope for cooperation with Trump, though practically nothing had happened in this regard. He dismissed the U.S.-backed military campaign against Islamic State in Syria as “only a few raids”, and said a more comprehensive approach was needed.
Turning to his far closer ties with Moscow, Assad said that the Russian-backed Syrian army was now “very close” to Raqqa city after advancing to the western banks of the Euphrates River this week – a rapid gain that has brought it to the frontier of areas held by the U.S.-backed forces. He said Raqqa was “a priority for us”, but indicated that there could also be a parallel army attack towards Deir al-Zor in the east, near the Iraqi border. Deir al-Zor province is almost completely controlled by ISIS. The Deir al-Zor region had been “used by ISIS as a route for logistics support between ISIS in Iraq and ISIS in Syria, so whether you attack the stronghold or you attack the route that ISIS uses, it (has) the same result”, Assad said.
Two months after his dramatic victory and takeover of Aleppo which turned the tide in the war against ISIS thanks to Russian and Iranian military support, Assad firmly has the upper hand in the war with rebels who have been trying to topple him with backing from states including Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Finally, Assad also praised “crucial cooperation” between Syria and Chinese intelligence against Uighur militants who have joined the insurgency against him. He said ties with Beijing were “on the rise.” Last summer, China unexpectedly snubbed the US when it announced it would side with Russia in the Syrian proxy war, promising aid and military training to Assad’s forces. China and Russia most recently showed their support of Assad last month when the two nations blocked U.N. sanctions on Syria over accusations of chemical weapons attacks during the war.
Assad’s full interview with Phoenix TV is below
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