In an interview with Lebanese television on Thursday, a top adviser to Syrian President Bashar Assad, Bouthaina Shaaban, said the Syrian civil war has reached its “penultimate stage” after six long and bloody years. She described the capture of the long-besieged city of Aleppo as a “U-turn” in the conflict.
Shaaban spoke from the sidelines of the Damascus International Fair, which was held this week for the first time in five years. She said the return of the fair marked “defeat” for rebel forces but warned that “victory means more sacrifices.”
She also issued a warning that her government was prepared to confront any “illegitimate presence on our land, whether it’s the United States or Turkey.”
The Syrian government has often complained that U.S. and Turkish forces on its soil were not invited, and it generally refers to all forces challenging Assad’s rule as “terrorists,” including those supported by the United States.
Damascus objects to Israeli interest in Syrian events as well, so strongly that relations with India have broken down despite millions of dollars in Indian aid, all because India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a visit to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shaaban said the Assad regime envisions a greater role for China and Russia, but “we are very hesitant to call for a role for India” in Syrian reconstruction.
Adding to the headaches for American planners, Turkey’s primary motivation for launching its military incursion into Syria was to prevent Kurdish forces from occupying territory along the Syria-Turkey border. The Turks have come close to waging a full-scale war against the Kurds.
The Kurds, for their part, just announced the formation of a new military unit created specifically to “expel the agendas of the Turkish army.” Turkish forces were described by the Kurds in this announcement as “invaders” and “occupiers” who “destroy our country and kill our people.”
A new stage in Turkey-Kurd hostilities might be coming sooner rather than later because the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — a major American ally and one of the preeminent “white hat” insurgent forces doing battle against the Islamic State — announced plans to “liberate” the city of al-Bab. That city is currently held by Turkish-backed militia forces.
A spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces said on Thursday he expected the United States to maintain forces in Syria for “decades to come,” and he said the U.S. is looking to secure a permanent military airport.
On the other hand, some Kurdish political leaders believe the United States will withdraw much of its support after the Islamic State is defeated in its Syrian capital of Raqqa. Accordingly, the Syrian Kurds are making plans for political restructuring after the civil war and war against ISIS have concluded. The maps they have lately been drawing of Kurdish territory include several cities currently under the control of Turkish forces.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad dismissed the Kurdish restructuring plan as “nothing but a joke,” declared the Assad regime will “never allow the division of its soil.”
“Those striving to divide the country know well the price they will be made to pay,” Mikdad added ominously.