“We say to those groups who are betting on the Americans, the Americans will not protect you,” Assad said during a televised speech aired Sunday. “The Americans will put you in their pockets so you can be tools in the barter, and they have started with [it].”
Relying on foreign support will only see those groups becoming the “slaves of Turkey,” he warned. “Nobody will protect you except your state,” Assad said. He added that Damascus treats “any intruder” as an enemy and is adamant “every inch of Syria will be liberated.”
While Assad did not specifically name those “betting on the Americans,” the message has apparently targeted the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – the US-backed, Kurdish-led militia, which is controlling the northeastern parts of the country. Syrian troops and the SDF have avoided engaging in a direct conflict over the years, yet relations between them appear to be quite strained.
The fate of the SDF remains uncertain as the US announced withdrawal of its troops, occupying parts of Syria, late last year. Washington has promised to somehow simultaneously “protect” the Kurdish-led militias, and address “concerns” of its allies at the same time – Turkey’s concerns, primarily.
Ankara regards the backbone of the SDF – the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has already conducted a military operation against YPG in Syria’s Afrin region last year, and repeatedly threatened to take actions against other “terrorists” entrenched in northern Syria. Turkish armed forces and affiliated militants are currently controlling territories in Syria’s north.
Assad’s speech was aired just as US special envoy to Syria, James Franklin Jeffrey, publicly told the Munich Security Conference that Washington did not want the Syrian government – which he referred to as a “regime” – to regain control over the northeastern parts of the country.
“Our goals in the northeast have not changed. They involve first of all maintaining security in the region, which means we are not at all in favor of the regime coming back in because the regime doesn’t promote stability as we see in other areas,” Jeffrey stated.
“The US policy towards Syria has not changed. First of all defeating ISIS, secondly a political solution to the conflict in Syria that results through UN action… Thirdly the removal of all foreign forces.”
At the same time, the official stressed that the US does not actually seek to oust Assad altogether, but is merely “calling for a major change in the behavior of the regime.” Washington has been spearheading the so-called “Assad must go” policy for years, naming it the main prerequisite for the situation in the war-torn country to miraculously improve. It has apparently walked away from the said policy after the Syrian government and its allies managed to liberate vast swathes of the country, and largely defeat the assorted militant groups.