Assad Vows to Retake Raqa and 'Every Inch' of Syria

إقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية W460

President Bashar Assad on Thursday said Raqa is not a priority target for his forces, saying his goal is to retake "every inch" of Syrian territory.

"Raqa is a symbol," Assad said in an interview with French media, while asserting that jihadist attacks carried out in France were "not necessarily prepared" in the Islamic State group (IS) stronghold in Syria.

"You have ISIS close to Damascus, you have them everywhere," Assad said, using another acronym for IS.

"Everywhere is a priority depending on the development of the battle," he said, as a new round of peace talks was set to kick off in the Kazakh capital Astana.

"They are in Palmyra now and in the eastern part of Syria," he said in the interview in Damascus with Europe 1 radio and the TF1 and LCI television channels.

"For us it is all the same, Raqa, Palmyra, Idlib, it's all the same."

The Syrian leader said it was the "duty of any government" to regain control of "every inch" of its territory.

After a string of major losses in both Iraq and Syria, the jihadists' two main strongholds of Mosul and Raqa are both under attack from forces backed by a US-led coalition.

After a massive, four-month campaign, Iraqi forces are tightening the noose on Mosul, while in Syria, an Arab-Kurd alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces, has begun advancing on Raqa.

Also in the interview, Assad categorically denied that his government practises torture and reiterated his rejection of recent allegations by Amnesty International of executions and atrocities perpetrated at a prison near Damascus.

Assad said Amnesty's "childish report" contained "not a single fact (or) evidence" to support allegations that some 13,000 people were hanged at the Saydnaya prison between 2011 and 2015.

- Winning hearts -"They said they interviewed few witnesses, who are opposition and defected. So it's biased," the Syrian president said.

Regarding torture, he said, "We don't do this, it's not our policy," adding: "Torture for what? ... For sadism?...  to get information? We have all the information."

He argued: "If we commit such atrocities it's going to play into the hands of the terrorists, they're going to win. It's about winning the hearts of the Syrian people, if we commit such atrocities... we wouldn't have (popular) support (through) six years" of war.

Concerning international negotiations to end the conflict that has claimed more than 300,000 lives, Assad said Western countries had "lost their chance of achieving anything in Geneva twice."

While Turkey, Russia and Iran take the lead in the talks in Astana, the West has become "passive", he said, denouncing the coalition for supporting "those groups that represented the terrorists against the government.

"They did not want to achieve peace in Syria."

Russia and Iran have helped turn the tables on the ground with their military backing for Assad, while Turkey has supported rebels fighting to oust the strongman. 

A new round of the Astana talks was set to kick off on Thursday after a one-day delay for "technical reasons".

The talks -- pushed by key Assad supporter Moscow -- are viewed as a warm-up for UN-led negotiations that are due to begin in Geneva on February 23.  

The meeting in Geneva, the fifth time negotiators have gone to Switzerland, has been pushed back twice already, in part to give the opposition more time to form a unified delegation.

Comments 24
Thumb Southern...... 16 February 2017, 11:22

He argued: "If we commit such atrocities it's going to play into the hands of the terrorists, they're going to win. It's about winning the hearts of the Syrian people, if we commit such atrocities... we wouldn't have (popular) support (through) six years" of war.

it's obvious!

Missing 16 February 2017, 12:09

Slizern .... It is only obvious to brainwashed people like you. Multiple human rights organizations have documented the massive crimes against humanity of this regime. If he had this support, he would not have needed tens of thousands of Shia sectarian militias from Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc in addition to the Iranian revolutionary guard. When these were about to be defeated, the Russian rode in to help his ass with a murderous air campaign.

Thumb flamethrower........ 16 February 2017, 12:26

if he's such a bloodthirsty butcher, how is he letting all those 'human rights' organizations roam freely in syria to 'document' his atrocities?

Thumb lou.williams 16 February 2017, 13:09

another article, another speech, another lie, another storm, another thursday as flamethrower embarks on yet another journey in pursuit of his childhood dream to achieve excellence in the art of trolling.

Missing 16 February 2017, 14:59

Liethrower ... Stop lying. Or perhaps you are simply stupid. This regime does not allow human rights organization and indeed liquidated activists who document its crimes.

Thumb Mystic 16 February 2017, 15:38

The answer to moderate salafism is Arab Democrat.

Thumb jaafar.ibn.iblees 16 February 2017, 15:44

are those two dead shia iranian terrorists in your avatar the answer to moderate shiism.

Missing 16 February 2017, 18:07

You are right Misty - the answer to Sunni and Shia Sectarianism is democracy and rule of law.

Thumb flamethrower........ 16 February 2017, 22:56

wonderful, salafidemocrat. so these human rights associations are making things up, thanks for confirming it.

Missing 17 February 2017, 01:21

Liethrower ... You need an intervention. Get help.

Thumb _mowaten_ 16 February 2017, 12:24

Another fictional "conspiracy theory" (any resemblance to actual events and persons living or dead is purely coincidental)

Default-user-icon Kuntish _mowaten_ (Guest) 16 February 2017, 13:22

well said well sourced and well documented.

Default-user-icon joe azaar (Guest) 16 February 2017, 13:23

since when you believed the CIA memos and scenarios?

Thumb gigahabib 16 February 2017, 13:03

I hope this includes Iskandaroun and Antakya!

Default-user-icon jcamerican (Guest) 16 February 2017, 13:24

keep hoping, it's free

Thumb gigahabib 16 February 2017, 16:24

Yeah, I'm sure you'd rather let the Turks keep them as gifts for holding their Syrian border wide open for Wahhabist terrorists from all over the world.

Missing 16 February 2017, 18:54

I doubt if even the Alewites in these areas would want to join Assad Syria

Thumb gigahabib 16 February 2017, 19:04

I'm sure the guy who runs the Syrian Resistance militia, an Alawite form Turkey, would disagree with you.

Missing 16 February 2017, 19:06

May be you would rather be used as cannon fodder for a psychopath so he can stay in power. That is not how normal people think

Missing 16 February 2017, 19:09

And that 'guy' has at most few hundred criminals under his command and he and his gang have been implicated in the Bayda massacre

Thumb Spotter 16 February 2017, 13:11

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Thumb _mowaten_ 16 February 2017, 14:33

get a life trollo

Default-user-icon Bachar the Florist (Guest) 16 February 2017, 15:16

I don't think people will ever let go of their unwanted Caliph or Emirs because nobody wants to end up in regime's infamous jails where they will meet a certain death.

The revolution isn't over. See Russia's first revolutions of 1905 which was eventually crushed then 12 years later in 1917 the Bolsheviks won.

Thumb commirade.vlad 16 February 2017, 16:09

How Adorable. President Assad has as much to say in what happens in Syria as Wiam Wahhab has to say about what happens on Syria.