Syria’s President Bashar Assad said in comments Sunday that the air campaign by Russia against “terrorists” in his country must succeed or the whole region will be destroyed, stressing that the fight against terrorism must precede a political process.
In the interview with Iran’s Khabar TV, Assad also accused Western nations of fueling the refugee crisis and said the U.S.-led coalition to fight the Islamic State group will only spark more instability in his country and the region.
These were Assad’s first comments since Russia launched its air campaign against multiple armed groups in Syria Wednesday. While the IS controls large swaths of eastern Syria, the Russian attacks have largely focused on the northwestern and central provinces — the gateways to the heartland of Assad’s power in the capital and on the Mediterranean coast. Russia’s only naval base outside of its territories is also located on the coast, in the Syrian city of Tartus.
On Sunday, a suicide attack in the center of Homs city, controlled by the government, killed one person and injured 18 others, state TV said. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated by supporters on Twitter. This is the first such attack by the militant group in Homs following the start of the Russian campaign, which has hit parts of the province controlled by rebel groups. But an ancient town in Homs province, which is controlled by IS, was spared.
Assad said the Russian campaign has the potential to succeed because it is supported by Iran and has international, if not Western, support. He called on countries that support the armed opposition to stop, which would increase the chances of the campaign to succeed.
“It must succeed or we are facing the destruction of a whole region, and not a country or two,” he said. “The chances for success are large, not small.”
He said the Russian intervention is open-ended, and was planned in cooperation with the Syrian military.
Syria’s war is entering its fifth year, with at least 250,000 people killed and half of the pre-war population on the move— 4 million refugees and 8 million internally displaced.
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