WASHINGTON, DC — The Russian and Iranian-assisted regime of Bashar al-Assad is winning the civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands in Syria since 2011, suggested the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, stressing that toppling the dictator is not part of the American mission in the conflict-ridden country.
During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), indicated that Russia and Iran have made victory possible for Assad, who stands accused of repeatedly using chemical weapons, affecting civilians in opposition-held areas.
“From a civil war standpoint, it would appear that the regime is ascendant here,” Votel told Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) when the lawmaker asked who is winning the civil war in Syria.
The top U.S. general went on to note that it is unlikely that Syrian opposition forces will topple Assad in the foreseeable future.
Gen. Votel described Iran and Russia as Assad’s “enablers.”
Sen. Graham further asked, “Is it too strong a statement to say that, with Russia and Iran’s help, Assad has won the civil war in Syria?”
“I do not think that is too strong of a statement. I think they have provided him the wherewithal to be ascendant at this point,” replied the general who primarily oversees U.S. military activity in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Soon after taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump targeted a military based operated by Syrian troops in response to the regime’s use of chemical arms, marking the first direct American attack on the ruthless Assad forces.
The Russian armed forces have reportedly threatened action against the U.S. military if it attacks the Assad regime in Syria again.
The Washington Post (WaPo) recently learned from anonymous American officials that the Trump administration is considering additional military action in Syria in response to Assad’s continued use of chemical weapons.
Nevertheless, Gen. Votel stressed during the hearing on Tuesday that the U.S. mission in Syria remains focused on annihilating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), which has already lost more than 98 percent of the territory it once held in the region.
“Our mission [in Syria] is to defeat ISIS,” emphasized the general, adding that dealing with the Iranian-Assad-Russia problem in the country is not part of the American military’s objectives at this time.