Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the United States has “lost its cards” in Syria, calling on America to leave the country in an interview with Russia Today.
“The Americans should leave. Somehow, they’re going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson. Iraq is no exception. Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region any more,” Assad said.
The Syrian president said his government had “opened doors to negotiation” with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a predominantly Kurdish group that controls parts of northern Syria. The SDF, which Assad dubbed the “only problem left in Syria,” would be confronted with force if negotiations fail, the president said.
Assad has been battling rebels opposed to his rule since a popular uprising seven years ago plunged the country into civil war. Government forces lost large swaths of territory, but Russian intervention on behalf of Assad in 2015 helped turn the tide of the war in his favor.
This month, government forces pushed all rebels out of the Syrian capital of Damascus, marking a major turning point in the war.
But Russia’s intervention turned Syria into a powder keg for world powers. In the interview with RT, Assad said Russia and the US came close to a confrontation in Syria.
“We were close to have direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces,” Assad said.
“Fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership,” he added.
Months after an alleged chemical attack by government forces prompted US President Donald Trump to call the Syrian president “Animal Assad” in a tweet, Assad said he had no nickname for Trump.
“This is not my language, so, I cannot use similar language. This is his language. It represents him,” Assad said.
“Somebody like Trump will move nothing for me,” he added.
In April, the US, UK and France conducted joint airstrikes in Syria in response to reports of a chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma in which dozens of people died, according to rescue workers.