ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An advisor to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) must learn a lesson from the fate of the Kurdistan Region who were abandoned by the United States and lost territory to Iraqi forces.
Bouthaina Shaaban, in a detailed interview with Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV on Tuesday, said that US forces in Syria were “invaders” who will be dealt with in the near future and the Syrian state will “liberate” Raqqa that is now under SDF control.
Her remarks are the latest in a series of warnings from Iranian and Syrian officials that Syrian Kurds may be the target of Damascus and its allies once ISIS is militarily defeated.
Assad said on Tuesday that the war waged by his forces is not limited only to “terrorist” groups, but is also against efforts to divide or weaken the Syrian state, according to a statement from his office following a meeting with Ali Akbar Velayati, an advisor to the Iranian Supreme Leader.
Velayati has made similar statements himself.
As Syria has been wracked by civil war, Kurds in the north established an autonomous and have held local elections this year. Elections for a parliament are scheduled for January.
The Kurdish administration advocates for a federal formula within a united Syria.
Damascus has so far rejected the Kurdish enclave, also known as Rojava.
Assad’s advisor Shaaban said earlier remarks made by Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem that Damascus was ready to negotiate autonomy with the Kurds were “misinterpreted.”
“I don’t believe any government is able to negotiate with any component when the issue concerns state sovereignty and its territory,” Shaaban said.
She said the foreign minister meant that everything is up for negotiation among Syrians while remaining mindful that no one party can determine the fate of their territory independent of the rest of the country.
“There cannot be any negotiation, God forbid, over disintegration or federalization,” the advisor said.
She claimed that the “SDF is a small force” in Syria that lacks the support of the Kurdish people. She said the majority of Kurds are against surrendering to the “American invader.”
She warned the SDF against counting on the United States to help carve out their autonomous region.
“I believe what happened in Iraq must become a lesson to the SDF and to those who gamble with the support of the United States,” Shaaban said. US support is short-lived and will not last “forever.”
Claiming that the operation by the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS in Raqqa left the city in a state of worse destruction even than Aleppo, she said that Damascus will bring it under its control.
“Raqqa is a dear city like every other Syrian city or town… We will never give up liberating it, just as we liberated Deir ez-Zor,” Shaaban said.
Syrian government forces and allied militias recently retook the Deir ez-Zor city in the oil-rich eastern province where the SDF are also fighting ISIS along the border with Iraq.
“We will work on liberating every part of the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic,” she vowed.
Regional and global players jockeying for power have influenced the Syrian war, backing various and often rival forces in the nearly seven-year long civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.
Shaaban said that the role of the United States and Europe is “in question” in the face of the rising power of China and Russia, a key ally of Damascus.
On the regional level, she said the Resistance Front, consisting of allied state actors like Iran and Syria plus non-state actors such as the Lebanese Hezbollah, has formed a “cohesive alliance” that cannot be broken by the likes of Saudi Arabia or Israel.
She ruled out an Israeli or Saudi war on Hezbollah in Lebanon, saying that an attack on one of the parties of the Resistance Front may invite other actors into play, causing a “full-fledged war.”
As for neighbouring Turkey, Shaaban said Ankara was not abiding by agreements on de-escalation zones reached in the Astana talks.
She said the Astana agreement, overseen by Russia, Turkey and Iran, stipulated that every party is tasked to fight the al-Qaida-linked Nusra Front. Turkey, she said, has cooperated with Nusra Front in the northern Syrian province of Idlib where Turkish forces have established observation posts overlooking Rojava’s Afrin canton.
Shaaban described Turkey’s cooperation with Nusra Front as a “big mistake.”
Regarding Turkish and US forces present in the country, she said they have broken international laws and are in the country illegally, Shaaban said they will “deal with them at an appropriate time.”