On Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a speech in Damascus where he told dignitaries that he was committed to ‘winning’ the grueling civil war, but lacked manpower in the army’s dwindling ranks.
This is important because, despite more than four years of full-blown conflict, the embattled president has never been quick to acknowledge his government's failures, especially on the battlefield.
But this time, Assad admitted soldier shortages had changed things. In a lengthy hour-long speech, he also talked about Hezbollah and Iran and made more vague references to peace talks.
Here are the highlights.
1. Assad says Syrian troops withdrew from some areas because the government was forced to prioritize. Assad told the crowd it was “necessary to specify critical areas for … armed forces to hang on to,” while troops’ safety meant other areas — like the northwest city of Idlib in March — had to be let go.
2. He acknowledged the hefty role Hezbollah and Iran are playing in Syria, for the first time. Assad said Iran and the Shiite militia group Hezbollah provided both logistical and manpower support to his government forces. Both have had an increasingly vital presence on the battlefield — but shushed by Assad until now.
3. The embattled president said the Syrian government was open to political dialogue, but any effort not aimed at fighting "terrorism" will be "hollow" and “meaningless.” This could mean a lot of things, but Assad uses “terrorist” to describe groups spanning the Free Syrian Army (FSA) to Daesh (ISIS), so the term is pretty vague.
See the full video below.
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