Trump Travel Ban Targeted 'Terrorists' Not Syrian People, Assad Says

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Syrian President Bashar Assad defended President Donald Trump's ban on Syrians entering the U.S., saying it targeted "terrorists" and not the Syrian people, in an interview broadcast Thursday.

Trump last month summarily denied entry to all refugees for 120 days and barred Syrian refugees indefinitely. The highly controversial decree, which was suspended by a federal judge, also barred travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including Syria, for 90 days. 

In an interview with French media Assad expressed understanding for the ban.

"It's not against the Syrian people... it's against the terrorists that could infiltrate some of the immigrants to the West and that happened. It happened in Europe, mainly in Germany and could happen in the United States," he told Europe 1 radio and TF1 television channels in the interview in Damascus.

"For me, as president, I would not worry about that," he said, accusing Trump's critics of seizing on the ban "as the fuel for the conflict with Trump."

The interview came as Syrian government representatives and rebel groups began new peace talks in the Kazakh capital Astana, brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran.

The talks aim to shore up a faltering six-week truce and pave the way for new U.N.-brokered talks on a political solution to the six-year conflict.

Assad revealed that retaking the Islamic State's Syrian bastion of Raqa -- a key objective of the U.S.-led coalition battling the jihadists -- was not a priority for his forces.

"Raqa is a symbol," he said, 

"You have ISIS close to Damascus, you have them everywhere," Assad said, using another acronym for IS.

"For us it is all the same, Raqa, Palmyra, Idlib, it's all the same," vowing to win back "every inch" of Syrian territory.

The French particularly have been pushing for an operation to flush IS out of Raqa, as the suspected incubator of some of the attacks that have claimed 238 lives in France over the past two years.

Across the border, Iraqi forces are four months into a massive operation to drive IS out of the city of Mosul. In Syria, an Arab-Kurd rebel alliance has begun advancing on Raqa with the aim of liberating the city.

- Winning hearts -

In the interview, Assad again denied recent allegations by Amnesty International of executions and atrocities perpetrated at a prison near Damascus.

Assad said Amnesty's "biased" report contained "not a single fact (or) evidence" to support allegations that some 13,000 people were hanged at the Saydnaya prison between 2011 and 2015.

On the use of torture, he said, "We don't do this, it's not our policy," adding: "Torture for what? ... For sadism?...  to get information? We have all the information."

He argued: "If we commit such atrocities it's going to play into the hands of the terrorists, they're going to win. It's about winning the hearts of the Syrian people, if we commit such atrocities... we wouldn't have (popular) support (through) six years" of war.

He was also scathing of the West's fruitless attempts to mediate in the six-year conflict that has claimed more than 300,000 lives.

The West, he said, "did not want to achieve peace in Syria."

Over the past year, Russia and Iran have helped turn the tables in Assad's favor with their military backing, while Turkey supports rebels fighting to oust the strongman. 

The talks in Astana are viewed as a warm-up for U.N.-led negotiations that are due to begin in Geneva on February 23.

Comments 12
Thumb ex-fpm 9 months

On the use of torture, Assad said, "We don't do this, it's not our policy," adding: "Torture for what? ... For sadism?... to get information? We have all the information."

We in Lebanon can vouch for the veracity of this butcher's claims. Anjar and Beau Rivage are just mirages that existed in the Lebanese people's paranoid minds.

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 9 months

President of Syria Bashar al-Assad told Europe1 radio station that he was completely against the visit of any Amnesty International observers to Syria: "No, we will not let Amnesty come here. Under no circumstances and for no reason."

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 9 months

The ban actually targetted all Syrian. Hence, criminal Assad called every Syrian a terrorist.

Thumb justin 9 months

haha! Where are the iranian trolls of the forum now that their master is saying ""For me, as president, I would not worry about that," he said, accusing Trump's critics of seizing on the ban "as the fuel for the conflict with Trump."

looool

Missing ArabDemocrat.com 9 months

The one paid troll with multiple account is probably on another site.

Thumb habib 9 months

Faja2kon moheek

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

As Assad has said before, it is not his responsibility to make it easier for Syrians to leave their homeland to live in other countries. He wants them to stay in Syria, which all Lebanese should support.

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

If he doesn't want them to stay, why are there millions upon millions of internal refugees in government controlled areas?

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

Wow, I'm impressed, you know what about ten million Syrians are all thinking!

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

Assad is married to a Sunni, his government and army consists mainly of Sunnis. So no, he may not want Salafist Sunnis back, but who can blame him? Ordinary Sunnis are no problem, otherwise he would hardly have married one.

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

Even western sources state most of the Syrian army is Sunni. Face it, most Sunnis don't want crazy Wahhabists to rule them.

Thumb gigahabib 9 months

Yeah, and Farouk al Sharaa is in house arrest, right? Or was he killed? Which Syrian opposition lie is the right one?