Bashar al-Assad. Photo: Syrian presidency.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “is personally responsible” for the turmoil in Syria and the surge in Islamic terrorism in the region, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in a magazine interview published Monday.
Asked if Turkey was the neighbor he was most concerned about, he told US-based Foreign Affairs magazine: “Exactly. Logistically, and about terrorist financing from Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but through Turkey.”
He alleged that the Islamist Erdogan “belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, which is the base of al-Qaeda,” and said that Turkey stands squarely behind the insurgents fighting under the Islamic State (ISIS) banner.
Referring to Erdogan, Assad said: “He’s very fanatical, and that’s why he still supports ISIS. He is personally responsible for what happened.” He added that without Turkish support for ISIS the Syrian army could easily defeat the insurgents.
“There will be no problem defeating them. Even today we don’t have a problem militarily. The problem is that they still have this continuous supply, mainly from Turkey,” the embattled Syrian president told the magazine in a January 20 interview in Damascus.
He added that the United States should put “pressure on Turkey, pressure on Saudi Arabia, pressure on Qatar to stop supporting the rebels,” and rejected US troops on the ground to fight ISIS.
“Definitely, it has to be Syrian troops. This is our land; this is our country. We are responsible. We don’t ask for American troops at all,” he said.
“The Turks keep sending them (the insurgents) armaments and money. Did the United States put any pressure on Turkey to stop the support of al- Qaeda? They didn’t; they haven’t,” Assad said.
He added that US air strikes on ISIS positions in Kobane, in support of Kurdish forces fighting there, had been ineffective and showed that Washington is not serious about fighting terrorism.
“It’s been more than three months since the beginning of the attacks, and they haven’t finished. Same areas, same al-Qaeda factions occupying them,” he said. “It means they’re not serious about fighting terrorism.”
“What we’ve seen so far is just, let’s say, window-dressing, nothing real. Since the beginning of these attacks, ISIS has gained more land in Syria and Iraq,” the president said.
Despite his claims, Kurdish forces fighting in Kobane – together with US air power -- say they have made huge gains against ISIS, regaining control of nearly 90 percent of the city.
Asked if he really believed that Syria’s Sunnis and Kurds still believed in a unified Syria, Assad said: “The divisions in Syria are not based on sectarian or ethnic grounds. And even in the Kurdish area you are talking about, we have two different colors: we have Arabs more than Kurds. So it’s not about the ethnicity; it’s about the factions that control certain areas militarily.”