DAMASCUS, Syria (Kurdistan 24) – President Bashar al-Assad on Tuesday said Syria’s army and its allies would keep fighting in the country even after defeating the Islamic State (IS).
Al-Assad’s remarks came during his meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, the foreign policy adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported.
He indicated that the war in Syria might evolve to include the Kurdish-led, US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) which are still fighting IS in Syria and control more than a quarter of the country.
“The war waged by the Syrian Arab Army and allied forces is not only against terrorism but at the same time against attempts to exploit terrorism to divide and weaken states,” Assad’s office quoted him as saying.
Two weeks ago, the SDF, of which the Kurdish YPG is a key component, took full control of the city of Raqqa, the previous stronghold and capital of the now-demolished IS caliphate.
On Friday, Velayati said the Syrian army would soon advance on Raqqa to retake the city from the SDF and accused the United States of seeking to divide Syria by deploying its forces east of the Euphrates.
Assad’s top advisor, Bouthaina Shaaban, also said in a televised interview that Damascus would not give up on the northern city of Raqqa.
The SDF is currently waging war in Deir al-Zor province where IS has its last significant stronghold.
The SDF has focused on territory east of the Euphrates where Syria’s largest oil fields, Al-Omar and Al-Jafra, have been under their control for two weeks.
The Syrian army, with Russian air power and Iranian-backed militias, is carrying out its own separate offensive against IS in Deir al-Zor province, west of the Euphrates.
The dominant Kurdish groups in northern Syria have carved out self-governing cantons early in the years-long civil war but have cautioned they are not seeking independence from Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has tolerated Kurdish control over parts of the country but says he opposes the decentralized federal system they espouse and has described their ruling councils as “temporary structures.”
Editing by Nadia Riva