Syrian government forces need time to win a war that has drawn in foreign players, President Bashar Assad said in an advance excerpt of a television interview to be aired in full on Wednesday evening.
The acknowledgment is a sign Assad’s regime may be hunkering down for a drawn out struggle against rebels who have brought the fight to a multitude of fronts, including Damascus, the capital and Assad’s seat of power, Aleppo, the nation’s largest city, and a string of cities and towns across the Arab nation.
In the interview, Assad said government forces are “moving forward” but that the war’s outcome had yet to be decided and that this would take time. It aired on the private Dunya channel, which is majority owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad and one of Syria’s wealthiest men.
“We are fighting a regional and global war, so time is needed to win it,” he told Dunya. “I can sum up all this explanation in one sentence: We are moving forward. The situation is practically better but it has not been decided yet. That takes time.”
Rebels are fighting to overthrow Assad, who came to office in 2000 after succeeding his father, the late Hafez Assad who ruled Syria with an iron fist for some 30 years. The Syrian conflict has its roots in a wave of mostly peaceful protests that began last year but later morphed into a civil war.
At least 20,000 Syrians have been killed in the conflict, according to anti-regime rights activists.
Assad’s description of the civil war as a regional and global battle stays true to form for a regime that refers to the rebels as members of terrorist bands and speaks often of a Western conspiracy to break Syria, which he sees as the last bastion of Arab resistance against Israel.
Rights groups monitoring the violence report the death of 100 to 250 or more Syrians on daily basis, but these figures are impossible to independently verify. The fighting however is intense enough to force hundreds of thousands of Syrians to flee their homes, seeking refuge elsewhere in the country or in neighboring nations.