Speaking before Syria’s parliament, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad recently said that “Bloodshed in Syria will not end if we don’t eradicate terrorism from its roots wherever it exists.”
Such a statement coming from Assad – along with his vow to “liberate” all parts of Syria – is deeply cynical and cruelly ironic. State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner noted that as usual Assad refuses to “recognize the role that he has directly played in creating the conditions that exist today, where Daesh has been able to get a strong foothold and establish itself.”
It’s important to remember that over 5 years and over 400,000 Syrian fatalities ago, the civil war in Syria started when Assad violently attacked peaceful pro-democratic demonstrators with guns and tanks. Since then, any opponent of the Syrian regime is labelled a terrorist. Untold thousands have disappeared into Assad’s horrific prisons. He has bombarded the Syrian people with chemical weapons and barrel bombs; he uses starvation and torture as weapons of war. By what possible measure can this be called a “liberation” strategy?
The State Department’s most recent report on terrorism also underscores the irony of Assad’s boast of eradicating terrorism “at its roots.” It notes that for years the Assad regime encouraged and facilitated al-Qaida and other terrorist networks to transit through Syria to battle Coalition forces in Iraq. “Those very networks,” the report said, “were among the violent extremist elements, including ISIL, which terrorized the Syrian and Iraqi population in 2015 and…continued to attract thousands of foreign terrorist fighters to Syria in 2015.”
In his speech Assad said, “There is no choice but victory.” Two days after he spoke three more medical facilities in and near Aleppo were destroyed from the air – continuing another “liberation” tactic of Assad: targeting hospitals.
Such actions, as White House Spokesperson Josh Earnest said, demonstrate that Bashar al-Assad has lost his legitimacy:
“He continues to carry out heinous acts of violence against his own people…That’s why it’s impossible for him to fulfill his rhetoric about uniting that country under his leadership.”
In fact, Mr. Earnest said, Assad’s continued presence in that office “only exacerbates the chaos and turmoil in that country. It’s time for him to leave so that the rest of the international community can support the Syrian people as they choose the political direction of [their] country.”