October 10, 2020 | News | No Comments
In an interview with Charlie Rose that aired on CBS News’ 60 Minutes Sunday night, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad said American airstrikes that began last year against Islamic State (or ISIS) inside his country are doing little to benefit his own fight against the militant force but are having the undesirable side effect of increasing the number of fighters from across the region (and the world) who are flocking to join the group.
“How much of a benefit are you getting from American airstrikes in Syria reducing the power of ISIS?” Rose asked in the interview that took place just days ago in Damascus.
Al-Assad responded by pointing out that the U.S. government and its allies want to “sugar coat the situation” inside Syria by telling the world that ISIS “is being defeated” and that airstrikes are making things better. “Actually, no,” said Assad, “you have more recruits [coming to ISIS]. Some estimates that they have 1,000 recruits every month in Syria. And Iraq — they are expanding in Libya and many other al Qaeda affiliate organizations have announced their allegiance to ISIS. So that’s the situation.”
The idea of foreign militants who have flocked to the civil war in Syria is one that Assad also spoke about last month in an interview with Foreign Affairs when he explained that defeating ISIS would not be problematic for the Syrian Army if it wasn’t for the constant flow of new recruits, both from inside Syria and those flowing across the nation’s now porous borders. Most of these, he said, are financed by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. “We don’t have a problem militarily,” he explained. “The problem is that they still have this continuous supply, mainly from Turkey.”
And these are not only the self-interested arguments of the Syrian president. Foreign policy experts and journalists have continually warned (here, here, here) that western intervention and the ongoing presence of the U.S. military in the region and the ongoing airstrikes have acted, and would continue to act, as an easy recruiting tool for ISIS – not only in Syria and Iraq, but elsewhere across the region.
In the end, Assad agreed with the premise put forth by Rose that no military solution exists to the Syrian civil war that has now gone for more than four years. “Every conflict,” Assad said, “Even if it’s a war, should end with a political solution.”
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