Defying rumors that he had been murdered by his bodyguards, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave a public address before an audience of thousands in Damascus this week, declaring that “Syria will win” the country’s civil war.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony in Damascus, Assad said, “The media outside of Syria is trying to undermine the morale of the good Syrian people. We are not waging a battle. We are waging war. I am sure that in the end, Syria will win its war with all of your help.”
Assad acknowledged, however, recent “setbacks” in the war against insurgents trying to topple him. That rare admission by the Syrian leader follows opposition advances in northern and southern Syria that have punctured the notion that Assad is on his way to defeating the four-year-old rebellion. Recent events have also undermined Assad’s claim of being a bulwark against the Islamic State terror group, which has eclipsed rebels over the past year.
Yet wars have “ebb and flow, gains and losses and ups and downs,” Assad said.
“Everything fluctuates except one thing, which is faith in the soldier and his belief in ultimate victory. So when setbacks occur, it is our duty as a society to boost the morale of the soldier and not wait for him to raise ours,” he said.
Government troops withdrew from the northern Syrian city of Idlib after it fell to opposition fighters in late March, followed by withdrawals from the strategic town of Jisr al-Shughour and the Qarmeed military base last week. Assad’s troops are now under fire at a few remaining outposts, including the national hospital in Jisr al-Shughour.
In January 2015, the United Nations estimated that 220,000 people had died in the Syrian civil war.