Assad: No 'Tangible Results' From U.S.-led Strikes on ISIS

In an interview with Paris Match magazine, the Syrian president likened himself to captain trying to save his ship.

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Bashar Assad being sworn in for third term as Syria's president, July 16, 2014.
Bashar Assad being sworn in for third term as Syria's president, July 16, 2014.Credit: AP

Syrian President Bashar Assad said U.S.-led strikes in Syria have made no difference and described himself as a captain trying to save his ship, in comments to a French magazine and carried by the presidency's Twitter feed on Wednesday.

Coalition forces led by the United States began bombing Islamic State militants and other jihadist factions in Syria in September. Asked whether this had been helpful to him, Assad, whose forces have fought the same groups, told Paris Match: "You can't end terrorism with aerial strikes.

"Troops on the ground that know the land and can react are essential. That is why there haven't been any tangible results in the two months of strikes led by the coalition," he said according to interview extracts on Paris Match's website in English.

"It isn't true that the strikes are helpful. They would of course have helped had they been serious and efficient. We are running the ground battles against Daesh (Arab acronym for Islamic State), and we have noticed no change, especially with Turkey providing direct support to these regions."

Turkey denies Syrian accusations that it backs Islamist insurgents like Islamic State in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday the aerial campaign had inflicted serious damage on Islamic State but the fight could take years.

Asked whether he feared the same demise as the late rulers of Iraq and Libya, Assad replied: "The captain doesn't think about death, or life, he thinks about saving his ship."

"If he thinks about sinking, everyone will die. I am doing my best to save the country," he said in the interview conducted on Friday in Damascus.

He said his goal had never been to remain president before, during or after Syria's internal conflict, which the United Nations says has killed around 200,000 people since 2011.

Assad said Damascus was willing to work with any French government if it was in their common interests but said President Francois Hollande's administration was working against the interests of the Syrian and French people.

France backs non-jihadist rebels in the insurgency against Assad. Its forces have taken part in air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq but not in Syria.

"I am neither a personal enemy or rival of Hollande. I think that Daesh is his rival, their popularity is very much the same," Assad said, in what appeared a reference to Hollande's low popularity rating - 12 percent, according to a poll on Thursday.

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