In Rare Appearance, Syria’s Assad Claims Coming Victory over Rebels
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says that “sooner or later,” he will defeat the last rebels holding out against his rule in a civil war that next month will go into its tenth year. He was speaking on Monday during a televised address – one of the few times in recent years that he has addressed the public – following advances by Russian-backed government troops in the northwestern provinces of Idlib and Aleppo. “This liberation,” he said, “does not mean the end of the war…. But it means we have rubbed [the rebels’] noses in the dirt… ahead of their defeat sooner or later…. We should not rest, but continue to prepare for the coming battles… despite the empty noises coming from the north….” Assad was referring to Ankara, which has been supporting some of the rebels and has been threatening to strike out at Syrian forces, whose recent advance has uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians. There are already an estimated 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, which is buckling under their weight and has sent forces of its own into Syria, partly in an effort to block the entry of even more displaced people.