Assad: Syria Is the Battleground for Another ‘Cold War’ Between U.S., Russia

By Sylvia Westall and Dominic Evans | BEIRUT Syrian troops and militia backed by Russian warplanes mounted what appeared to be their first major coordinated assault on Syrian insurgents on Wednesday and Moscow said its warships fired a barrage of missiles at them from the Caspian Sea, a sign of …
REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Syrian dictator Bashar Assad said in a Friday interview with a Russian newspaper that the brutal Syrian-Russian assault on Aleppo was necessary to push “terrorists” back to Turkey, accused Turkey of illegally invading his country with military forces, and said Syria was becoming the battleground for a new Cold War between Russia and the United States.

Reuters notes that Assad’s remarks came as “rising casualties in Aleppo, where many buildings have been reduced to rubble or are lacking roofs or walls, have prompted an international outcry and a renewed diplomatic push, with talks between the United States and Russia planned for Saturday.”

“You have to keep cleaning this area and to push the terrorists to Turkey, to go back to where they come from or to kill them. There’s no other option. Aleppo is going to be a very important springboard to do this move,” Assad told the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Reuters explained that Assad is “backed by the Russian air force, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and an array of Shi’ite militias from Arab neighbors, while Sunni rebels seeking to oust him are backed by Turkey, the United States and Gulf monarchies.”

Assad saw this arrangement of forces as a growing conflict between Russia and the Western world.

“What we’ve been seeing recently during the last few weeks, and maybe few months, is something like more than Cold War,” he said. “I don’t know what to call it, but it’s not something that has existed recently, because I don’t think that the West and especially the United States has stopped their Cold War, even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.”

He also accused Turkey of invading his country “against international law, against the morals, against the sovereignty of Syria.”

Here Assad was referring to actual Turkish military units operating on the Syrian side of the border, not the “terrorists” he portrayed as flooding into Syria from Turkey to fuel the insurrection against him. He is not the only one to use the word “invasion” for Turkey’s actions — Der Spiegel used the term months ago, for example, in the course of noting that Turkey was nominally rolling across the border to battle the Islamic State, but was actually more concerned with the strength of America’s Kurdish allies in Syria.

Even as Assad bristles at the Turks, they are making similar comments about a new Cold War brewing in Syria.

“If this proxy war continues, after this, let me be clear, America and Russia will come to a point of war,” declared Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Wednesday, as reported by the Times of India.

Kurtulmus added that the Syrian conflict has brought the world to “the brink of the beginning of a large regional or global war.”

Part of that regional conflict may involve Iraq’s complaints that Turkey has invaded them, too, by stationing a military unit in the Kurdish autonomous region, ostensibly to help train Kurdish forces for major battles against ISIS, especially the forthcoming liberation of Mosul.

The TImes of India reports on the current status of the war of words between Ankara and Baghdad, as the Turks insist they will remain in Iraq for “as long as necessary” to defeat the Islamic State.

Earlier this week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sneered that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should “know his place,” because he was not the Turkish leader’s equal.

Abadi responded by mocking Erdogan’s video plea to the Turkish people for support during the July coup against him, saying Iraq will “liberate our land through the determination of our men, and not by video calls.”