Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the success of a military campaign by Russia, Syria and its allies was vital to save the Middle East from destruction, a day after Moscow said it would step up air strikes against Islamic State targets across Syria.
In an interview on Iranian TV Sunday, President Assad said a year-long air campaign by Western and Arab air forces in Syria and Iraq had been counterproductive and had helped terrorism spread and win new recruits, but a coalition of Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq could achieve real results. “It must succeed otherwise we face the destruction of the entire region, not only one or two states,” Assad said.
Assad was speaking days after Russian jets based in western Syria launched air strikes against targets Moscow has identified as Islamic State bases, but which Assad’s opponents say disproportionately hit rival, foreign-backed insurgents. The United States, France and Britain say the Russian air strikes are aimed at propping up Assad after recent rebel advances. “They are backing the butcher Assad, which is a terrible mistake, for them and the world,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said.