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Assad: Syria to Beef Up Air Defenses Amid Threat From Israel

© Sputnik / Alexei Druzhinin / Go to the mediabankPresident of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (File)
President of Syria Bashar al-Assad. (File) - Sputnik International
Syrian President Bashar Assad, in an interview with the news channel RT, commented on the issue of Iranian troops in Syria, the Israeli threat and US strikes on Syria.

Syria will continue beefing up its air defenses after getting help from Russia, Bashar Assad said.

"Our air defense is much stronger than before, thanks to the Russian support, and the recent attacks by the Israelis and by the Americans and British and French proved that we are in a better situation," he said. "The only option is to improve our air defense, this is the only thing we can do, and we are doing that."

Assad accused Israel of being in contact with Syrian militants from the start of the seven-year war. He said militants appeared to have acted in the interest of Israel when they picked air defense systems as their primary target.

READ MORE: Assad May Limit Iran's Access to Syria's South to Restore Territorial Integrity

"The first target of the mercenaries in Syria was the air defense. Before attacking any other military base it was the air defense… This is the other proof that Israel was in direct link with those terrorists in Syria. So, they attacked those bases, and they destroyed a big part of our air defenses," he pointed out.

US Strikes on Syria

Bashar Assad said that he did not exclude another US strike anytime as long as the United States continued to violate international laws.

"Of course, it could, because when the Unites States trampled over the international law, on daily basis sometimes in different areas for different reasons, any country in the world could have such an attack," he said in response to whether an attack was likely.

A view shows Tehran's skyline at night with the Milad tower, the sixth tallest tower in the world, Iran May 3, 2016 - Sputnik International
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"As long as you don’t have an international law that could be obeyed by the United States and its puppets in the West, there is no guarantee that it won’t happen," Assad added.

Assad said that Russia’s threat to strike at US launch sites had prevented a broader attack by the United States and its allies than the one Syria came under in April.

"The Russians announced publicly that they are going to destroy the bases that are going to be used to launch missiles," he said. "Our information — we don’t have evidence, we only have information, and those information are credible information — that they were thinking about a comprehensive attack all over Syria, and that’s why the threat pushed the West to make it on a much smaller scale."

READ MORE: Russia Holds the Key to Washington's 'Face-Saving Exit' From Syria — Analyst

"We were close to have direct conflict between the Russian forces and the American forces, and fortunately, it has been avoided, not by the wisdom of the American leadership, but by the wisdom of the Russian leadership," he said.

The president stressed Russia’s support was needed to stabilize the country, "but we need at the same time to avoid the American foolishness," he added.

"Our enemies and our opponents – mainly the West led by the US, and their puppets in Europe and in our region, with their mercenaries in Syria – they try to make it farther, either by supporting more terrorism, bringing more terrorists to Syria or by hindering the political process.

Assad said his government faced the challenge of acting faster than its adversaries to "close the gap between their plans and our plans." "I think we are succeeding in that regard," he added.

The United States carried out a series of airstrikes on Syria's alleged chemical sites on April 14 in a joint effort with the United Kingdom and France.

Iranian Troops in Syria

Despite Israel's claims there are no Iranian troops in Syria, but there are Iranian officers who assist as military advisers, Bashar Assad said.

"The most important fact regarding this issue, is that we do not have Iranian troops. We never had, and you cannot hide it, and we are not ashamed to say that we have, like we invited the Russians, we could have invited the Iranians," Assad stressed.

The Syrian president noted, however, that there were Iranian officers "who work with the Syrian Army as help."

READ MORE: US to Limit Input in UN Conference on Disarmament Due to Syria's Presidency

"The starkest fact about their [Israel's] lies about this issue, the Iranian issue, that the recent attack a few weeks ago, they said that they attacked Iranian bases and camps, as they said, allegedly, and actually we had tens of Syrian martyrs and wounded soldiers, not a single Iranian. So, how could they say that we have it? So, it is a lie," Assad stressed.

Syrian Conflict Not Civil War

The conflict in Syria is not a civil war, since the very beginning it was a struggle against terrorists and "the West's mercenaries," Syrian President Bashar Assad said.

"The word 'civil war' has been used widely since the beginning of the conflict in Syria, even by our friends, and by our allies by mistake, without understanding the content of this meaning. Syrian 'civil war' means there are sectarian lines based on either ethnicities or sects or religions or maybe political opinion or political currents, let's say, something we do not have in Syria," Assad said.

The Syrian president noted that people of various ethnicities and religious beliefs resided in the area controlled by the government, but all of them backed Damascus.

"What we have actually from the very beginning are mercenaries, Syrians, and foreigners being paid by the West in order to topple the government … If we had civil war for seven years, we should have been divided by now. You cannot have one country, united country, united society, it is not geographically because now of the Unites States' puppets and the Turkish puppets. If there were a civil war, then you should have a divided society," Assad stressed.

READ MORE: Control Over S Syria Borders to Be Handed to Damascus — Source

"The more we get closer to the end, the more they want to make it farther … The more reconciliation you have in one area, the more killing and destruction and trying to capture more areas by the terrorists we will have. That is why within the reconciliation, when we started reconciliations in many areas, the other factions in the same area tried to destroy it, because they have the orders from the outside not to go toward any reconciliation, of course, you have the orders with the pocket of money," Assad said.

The Syrian president stressed that the farther the situation escalated, the more determined the Syrian government was "to solve the problem."

"Because you do not have any other choice – either you have a country or you do not have a country," Assad said.

Talks With SDF

Syrian President Bashar Assad said that his government is ready for peace talks with the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces but the military option remains on the table.

Assad said the United States put its faith in the SDF, a militant alliance of predominantly Kurdish fighters controlling Syria’s north, after other "moderate" rebel groups it backed turned out to be Islamists.

"They are looking for another card. This card is the SDF now because when we are moving forward in different areas to defeat the terrorists the only problem left in Syria is the SDF," he said.

"We are going to deal with it by two options," Assad continued. "The first one: we started now opening doors for negotiations, because the majority of them are Syrians… If not we’re going to resort to liberating those areas by force."

The president said the areas under SDF control would be retaken "with Americans or without Americans." "And the Americans should leave somehow. They are going to leave," he added.

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