Bashar al-Assad said the United States is “not serious”about defeating ISIS while voicing optimism about an end to Syria’s war.
In an interview with NBC News in Damascus on Wednesday, Assad predicted the Syrian army would retake control of the country in a “few months” and credited Russian support for its recent territorial gains in a war that has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.
He called U.S. airstrikes against ISIS “illegal” and “counterproductive” and accused the U.S. of seeking to overthrow the Syrian government.
“We wanted to defeat those terrorists, while the United States wanted to manage those groups in order to topple the government in Syria,” Assad said, criticizing U.S. President Barack Obama.
“He’s failed, but that doesn’t mean I win because for him the war is to remove me … for me the war is to restore Syria,” Assad said. “If we can get rid of those terrorists, if we can restore the stability in Syria, this is where we win. Otherwise, you cannot talk about winning.”
Assad also defended himself against accusations of war crimes, arguing there hasn’t been evidence of using chemical weapons or targeting civilians. “We didn’t take any decision to attack any area that doesn’t include terrorists,” he said.
Colvin ‘responsible’ for her own death
In his interview with NBC, Assad also said a US reporter killed in alleged Syrian government bombardment in 2012 was responsible for her own death.
Marie Colvin, a 56-year-old war correspondent working for British newspaper The Sunday Times, died in the rebel-held Baba Amr district of Syria’s third city Homs.
“It’s a war and she came illegally to Syria. She worked with the terrorists, and because she came illegally, she’s been responsible of everything that befall on her,” Assad said, speaking in English.
Asked if she was responsible for her own death, Assad replied “of course”, though he denied that his forces had targeted her.
His comments came days after relatives of Colvin filed a case in a US court alleging Assad’s regime targeted her to stop her covering government atrocities.