Assad denies any Iranian presence in Syria, threatens to attack area under US-backed Kurds
Syrian dictator Bashar Assad has accused Israel of attacking his country and denied the presence of any Iranian forces on his territory, in an interview with Russia Today.
“Israel is attacking us, but we are only becoming stronger and improving our defenses even more,” he said.
Assad said Iran’s presence in Syria was limited to officers who were assisting the Syrian army. Apparently referring to the May 9 attack by Israel, Assad said “we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian” casualty.
“Russia deterred the United States from carrying out a wide scale attack in Syria last week. The US and its puppets in Europe promote the terror in our region,” he added. “The American must leave the area and, indeed, they will leave. We are not populating our territory with Iranian forces.”
With military backing from Russia and Iran, he has reclaimed most of the territory lost to rebels in the wake of the popular uprising that swept the country in 2011 and quickly descended into all-out civil war. But large patches of territory remain beyond his control, including the expansive region north of the Euphrates River that is administered by the Syrian Kurds.
Speaking to the Russian channel, Assad said he has opened the door to negotiations with the Kurdish-run administration while also preparing to “liberate by force.”
The United States, which supports the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, operates air bases and outposts in the Kurdish-administered region.
“The Americans should leave,” Assad said. “Somehow, they are going to leave.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government won’t accept Iranian presence anywhere in Syria.
The U.S. and Russia, while backing rival sides in Syria’s war, have coordinated their maneuvers in Syria and largely avoided direct confrontation.