In remarks to various sympathetic pro-Russian networks, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad accused the West of working with the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front, and claimed those not aiding his political survival were helping “terrorists.”
Assad claimed it was “reality” that Western factions were working with the al-Nusra Front, without specifying which Western states other than the United States. He also accused the Turkish government of working with Sunni jihadist groups against him, which evidence suggests is likely. He failed to mention that his policies, which caused the civil war, allowed these groups to form and expand. Assad said:
But as for Western cooperation with the al-Nusra Front, this is reality, because we know that Turkey supports al-Nusra and ISIS by providing them with arms, money and terrorist volunteers. And it is well-known that Turkey has close relations with the West. [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and [Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet] Davutoglu cannot make a single move without coordinating first with the United States and other Western countries. Al-Nusra and ISIS operate with such a force in the region under Western cover, because Western states have always believed that terrorism is a card they can pull from their pocket and use from time to time. Now, they want to use al-Nusra just against ISIS, maybe because ISIS is out of control one way or another. But that doesn’t mean they want to eradicate ISIS. Had they wanted to do so, they would have been able to do that. For us, ISIS, al-Nusra, and all similar organizations which carry weapons and kill civilians are extremist organizations.
Assad also insisted countries in the coalition, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, “provide cover for terrorism,” which forces the West to stand and fight against terrorism, and said his regime would have joined the coalition, but the countries shot down the suggestion when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov begged them to accept Assad as a partner.
“There’s not a single coordination or contact between the Syrian government and the United States government or between the Syrian army and the U.S. army,” he claimed, adding:
This is because they cannot confess, they cannot accept the reality that we are the only power fighting ISIS on the ground. For them, maybe, if they deal or cooperate with the Syrian Army, this is like a recognition of our effectiveness in fighting ISIS. This is part of the willful blindness of the U.S. administration, unfortunately.
The president blamed the West, not his brutal dictatorship, for al-Nusra Front and ISIS.
“They are the third phase of the political or ideological poisons produced by the West, aimed at achieving political objectives,” he declared. He then said:
The first phase was the Muslim Brotherhood at the turn of the last century. The second phase was al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in order to fight the Soviet Union. And the third phase is ISIS, the al-Nusra Front and these groups. Who are ISIS? And who are these groups? They are simply extremist products of the West.
Fighting between ISIS, al-Nusra Front, and Assad’s forces have forced thousands of citizens to flee to Europe, causing a massive migrant crisis. He once again blamed the West, not himself, for the crisis since they allegedly support terrorists.
“It’s not about that Europe didn’t accept them or embrace them as refugees; it’s about not dealing with the cause,” he said. “If you are worried about them, stop supporting terrorists. That’s what we think regarding the crisis. This is the core of the whole issue of refugees.”
Assad failed to note that people are also fleeing the human rights violations committed by his own administration, as well. In August 2013, Syrian forces attacked two areas in Ghouta with sarin gas, a chemical weapon. Initial reports put the death toll at 300, but people continued discovering bodies days after the attack. At the end of the month, The Washington Post reported that at least 1,400 died, including many children.
Syrian rebels accused Assad of another gas attack in Damascus the following month. They could not identify which chemical was used in the bomb, but published a YouTube video of people struggling to breathe. Also, the Syrian Air Force struck a field hospital and school in Aleppo, killing at least 30 people.