Syria’s al-Assad: Trump “a natural ally”

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

In an interview with Portugal television Wednesday, according to al-Hayat, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad said that Donald Trump will be “a natural ally” for Damascus if his administration fights “terrorism.” Asked if he was prepared to work with Trump, al-Assad said, “Naturally, I say that is a promise, but can achieve that? Can he go in that direction? What about the powerful forces inside the administration, what about the chief media who were against him? How will he be able to deal with them? . . . For this reason, we view it as a matter hedged by doubts, whether he can fulfill his promises or not.”

In the past, Trump has asserted that Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) is a far bigger danger to the US than the al-Assad regime.

In a telephone call on Monday, Russian president Vladimir Putin told Trump of the necessity to redouble efforts to fight enemy number one, terrorism and international extremism.

At the same time, al-Assad sharply criticized Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan, saying that the Turkish troop presence on Syrian soil is an incursion, and warning Ankara that Syria has the right to defend itself. He said all the foreign fighters or terrorists who had come into Turkey come through Syria. Nowadays, he said, fighting these “terrorists” is just like fighting Erdogan’s army (he made a distinction with regard to the Turkish army and Erdogan’s army.

Al-Assad also rejected any American military intervention in Syria. He said that over the past 50 years the US had repeatedly intervened in the Middle East. “They are very good at creating problems,” he observed,” but not at solving them.”

In the meantime, al-Assad and his Russian allies are continuing their assault on the rebel stronghold of the East Aleppo pocket. Some 4000 rebel fighters, about a fourth of them al-Qaeda, are nested in a civilian population of about 250,000. On Wednesday, Syrian fighter jets bombarded East Aleppo indiscriminately, leaving over 80 persons, many of them noncombatants, dead. Russia has also been targeting rebel positions from its aircraft carrier in the Mediterrean. A rebel attempt to break the siege of East Aleppo appears to have failed. Alarabiya is reporting that an infantry and armor assault on rebel positions, in an attempt to take back all of Aleppo (the regime has the more populous and more prosperous west) seems imminent.

If Aleppo falls, the regime will have gained a fragile victory over the rebels, whom Damascus, Moscow and now Trump all characterize as terrorists.

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Related video:

ITV News: “Assad: Trump can be ‘natural ally’ of Syria”

8 Responses

  1. Dear Professor Cole

    There are many reports from the Aleppo Pocket that a popular uprising against the Al Qaeda occupiers has taken place

    link to twitter.com

    This will of course hasten the collapse. 4000 men aren’t enough to hold a perimeter the size of the Aleppo Pocket 24/7

    There are reports of starvation in the besieged city of Deir ez Zor. The sooner the Aleppo pocket is liberated the sooner the armoured divisions can drive from Palmyra to the Euphrates.

  2. In that respect, Assad, Putin, and Trump would be quite correct. I would _love_ to know which rebel groups promote pluralism and secularism for the future of the country. Virtually every so-called rebel group has Sunni triumphalism and overt calls for genocide against Christians and Alawites at the minimum as their ideological platform. It is repugnant that the American left has cozied with these elements and portrayed them as freedom-fighters.

  3. Assad’s assessment of his potential relationship with the president-elect is sound in that if Trump and Putin do get together to defeat the rebels, Trump will find himself de facto working with the Syrian regime, and also with Tehran and Hezbollah, albeit in that limited arena. That last is important since Trump’s view of the world appears totally pragmatic and devoid of abstract idealism. His reservations about the restrictive pressure Trump may come under internally and from interested parties are also sound. However, following his meeting with Obama in the White House, he appears to have kept himself at arms length from the present administration which, according to John Kirby (DOS) yesterday, has had no contact from his transition team. Meanwhile he has met with several foreign leaders, and is meeting to day with Abe, the Japanese leader, without apparently having sought information or discussion points or anything from the State Department. This does tend to suggest a high degree of severance from the status quo and gives further support to Assad’s assessment.

  4. Because being our President will be a major bother to a “wired-up” Twitter-addicted President-elect, he will most likely acquiesce to other more competent world leaders on international situations since Trump has nary a clue on how to actually be a President.

  5. The Free Syrian Army (FSA) remnants who are defending Aleppo are Obama’s equivalent of the Cuban anti-Castro Brigade 2506 fighters abandoned at the Bay of Pigs by the JFK administration in 1961.

    The U.S.–backed rebels were on the verge of severing the Baathists’ Latakia-to-Damascus supply corridor in 2013 and toppling Assad when the U.S. Department of State abruptly cut off aid to the rebels. The cessation of aid also led to FSA brigades defecting to the Islamic Front and other Salafist rebel groups.

    Obama’s own appointed ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford – considered a friend to the Syrian-American exile community – resigned his ambassadorship and eventually became the chief critic of the Obama administration’s Syria policy.

    The U.S. Congress should investigate what when wrong in Syria – and why hundreds of thousands of Syrians are casualties as a result.

    We should all be reminded of the iconic photo of the body of toddler Alan Kurdi washed up on the beach.

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