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Assad: Only Solution is Striking 'Terrorists' with 'Iron Fist'

Syria's crisis will only be solved by stamping out "terror", declares President Bashar Al-Assad.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 8/5/2013, 5:15 AM

President Bashar al-Assad
President Bashar al-Assad
AFP photo

Syria's crisis will only be solved by stamping out "terror", President Bashar Al-Assad said on Sunday, in reference to rebels fighting his regime, according to the AFP news agency.

In a rare speech on Syrian state television, Assad also dismissed the political opposition to his regime as a "failure" that could play no role in solving the country's brutal war.

"No solution can be reached with terror except by striking it with an iron fist," said Assad.

"I don't think that any sane human being would think that terrorism can be dealt with via politics," he added, according to AFP.

"There may be a role for politics in dealing with terrorism pre-emptively," said Assad, adding that as soon as "terrorism" has arisen, it can only be struck out.

The Assad regime consistently uses the term “terrorists”, in both public statements and official state media, to refer to the rebels fighting to oust the regime. The rebellion against Assad started in March of 2011 as a widespread protest movement calling for political change in Syria.

In response, the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against dissent, systematically labelling dissidents and rebels as "terrorists" and refusing to recognize the existence of a popular revolt. The Syrian army is being assisted by terrorists from Hizbullah and by Iranian soldiers in its crackdown.

The movement later morphed into an increasingly radical insurgency and more than 100,000 people have since been killed, the UN says.

In addition to the Western-backed rebel groups that are viewed as more moderate, there are also jihadists among the rebels, such as the Al-Nusra Front, which has pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri and has been blacklisted by the United States and the United Nations as a terrorist again.

Al-Nusra Front is part of the 13-member Islamic Front for the Liberation of Syria, which split off from the Syrian National Council opposition force. The front declared the northern commercial hub city of Aleppo to be an independent Islamist state.

In his latest speech, Assad also said Syria's economic woes "are linked to the security situation, and they can only be solved by striking terror."

He meanwhile stressed the need for the army to fight on against the rebellion.

"It is true that there is a battle being fought in the media and on (the Internet), but the crisis will only be solved on the battlefield," said Assad in his 45-minute address, reported AFP.

He also said that any efforts towards a political solution should be combined with continued military operations.

"There cannot be any political efforts or political progress if terror is striking everywhere. Therefore terror must be struck in order to get the political process moving on the right track," Assad said.

"That does not mean that there cannot be parallel tracks. There is no reason why we shouldn't strike terror while at the same time working politically," he added.

In his speech, Assad lashed out against the main opposition National Coalition, describing it as a "failure."

"This opposition is not reliable ... and it has no role in solving the crisis," he declared.

He accused the Coalition of "being on the payroll of more than one Gulf country", and of "blaming the (Syrian) state for terrorism rather than blaming the armed men", or rebels.

The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, recently offered Assad a ceasefire during the month of Ramadan, but that proposal was rejected outright by the regime.