Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad claimed in an interview with Russian TV that only a small number of Iranian officers are in Syria.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told Russian TV Thursday that Syria had no Iranian troops on its soil.
“We never had, and you cannot hide it,” Assad said. “We have Iranian officers who work with the Syrian Army as help, but they don’t have troops.”
In an interview with Russia Today, Russia’s international broadcaster, Assad charged the Israeli government with lying about the Iranian military presence in his country, which would give them an excuse to attack his military.
“[The Israelis] said that they attacked Iranian bases and camps, as they said, allegedly, and actually we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian…. So, it’s a lie,” he stated.
Assad stands contradicted
However, Russia has said that the Islamic Republic has forces of its own in Syria as well as proxy militias such as Hezbollah.
Assad met with Russian President Vladimir Putin two weeks ago and was reportedly told that with victory over the rebels in sight and the battles moving to the political front instead of the military one, “foreign forces” should be withdrawn from the country. This, his envoy to Syria later clarified, meant “Turkish, American, Iranian and Hezbollah” troops.
In addition, Assad’s Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad contradicted his leader just last week when he was reported by the Tehran Times as saying, on Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV, “Whether Iranian forces or Hezbollah withdraw or stay in Syria is not up for discussion because it’s the (business) of the Syrian government.”
It is accepted knowledge that even though it was Russian airpower and support that turned the corner for Assad in the seven-year-old Syrian civil war, he would never have survived, let alone be on the verge of victory, without Iranian military expertise, blood and treasure. Tens of thousands of Shiite fighters as well as Iranian Revolutionary Guardsmen and Hezbollah terrorists from neighboring Lebanon have joined the fighting in Syria on Assad’s side.
Elaph, a Saudi-owned website, reported that Iran pledged in indirect talks with Israel in Amman to keep its troops and proxies out of upcoming fighting in southwestern Syria.
Assad took the opportunity of his interview to tell the Americans to get out.
The few thousand US troops in the country are mainly helping the Syrian Defense Forces, a secular group that says it wants to create a democratic and federal Syria and whose main fighters are Kurdish.
“We don’t have any other options, with the Americans or without the Americans,” Assad threatened. “This is our land, it’s our right, and it’s our duty to liberate it.”