Assad Welcomes America to Cooperate in Struggle Against Terrorism

As Syria enters its sixth year of civil war, President Bashar Al-Assad claims that better cooperation between the United States and Russia would be "positive for the rest of the world, including Syria.” Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the United States and Russia have been on opposing sides of the conflict, with Moscow supporting Assad and Washington calling for his abdication. In recent interviews, however, he has suggested that improved relations between his regime and the United States are possible.

"What we heard as statements by Trump during the campaign and after the campaign is promising regarding the priority of fighting terrorists, and mainly ISIS,” said Assad. However, he also added that “it's still early to expect anything practical.”

Assad neither condemned nor approved the recent travel ban on Syrian natives issued by Trump, but asserted any government’s right to regulate its country. “My responsibility is not to go and ask any president to allow the Syrians to go there and to have refuge in that country. My responsibility is to restore the stability in order to bring them back to Syria and find refuge in their country.”

Meanwhile, Assad has also accused refugees of aligning with and supporting terrorists in the Middle East, despite not knowing the extent of terrorist alignment and infiltration among those seeking asylum in the West.

The war in Syria has created nearly five million refugees worldwide according to the most recent U.S. estimate, most of whom are women and children. Millions more remain displaced within the country’s borders.

While fighting continues between the government and the various rebel factions, peace talks have also picked up speed. Turkey, which has supported the Syrian opposition, has been working with Russia to further negotiations between the two groups. Over the past few weeks, representatives from both sides have met multiple times in Kazakhstan’s capital in order to lay the groundwork for UN brokered peace talks and ceasefires planned to begin in Geneva on February 23. These efforts show a prospect of increased willingness for reconciliation among the warring parties in Syria.

Nonetheless, new alliances of armed rebel groups may undermine the peace process. On January 28, various jihadist groups, many with previous ties to Al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, announced the formation of a united front: Hayyat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Clashes between the HTS and Ahrar al-Sham, a front considered “moderate” by the West, Turkey, and Gulf States, serve to show the political and ideological disunity among the opposition.

Assad, on the other hand, has welcomed American involvement only if it is committed to enforcing the unity and sovereignty of Syria and helping him defeat the terrorists. “It must be through the Syria [sic] government,” he said. At the same time, Assad is staunchly opposed to the creation of Syrian safe zones, which Trump promised to implement. The Syrian leader has also denied recent allegations by the West concerning human rights abuses, specifically an Amnesty International Report on torture prisons. “They haven’t been to Syria. They only base their reports on allegations,” pointed out Assad. “We are living in a fake news era, as you know.”