Britain's bombing campaign against extremists in Syria is "illegal" and will only cause "terrorism" to spread, President Bashar al-Assad says. The Syrian strongman made the remarks in an interview with The Sunday Times.
In remarks published Sunday, Assad ridiculed British Prime Minister David Cameron's assertion that there are as many as 70,000 opposition fighters in Syria waiting to partner with western powers to purge the region of jihadists being weakened by the US-led coalition air campaign.
"This is a new episode in a long series of David Cameron's classical farce ... where are they?" Assad told the British newspaper. "Where are the 70,000 moderates he is talking about? There is no 70,000. There is no 7,000."
Cameron, setting out his strategy last week, admitted airstrikes alone would not be enough to dislodge Islamist militants and said that Britain was pursuing a multifaceted approach designed to drive a political and humanitarian solution to the conflict in Syria, now in its fifth year.
Assad's interview was conducted prior to the British parliament's vote to authorize military strikes inside Syria. But the outcome of the vote was widely anticipated, and Assad predicted that London's airstrikes against suspected "terrorists" were bound to inflame the region.
"They are going to fail again," Assad said. "You cannot cut out part of the cancer. You have to extract it. This kind of operation is like cutting out part of the cancer. That will make it spread in the body faster."
Britain's air campaign against suspected militants in Syria began early Thursday, hours after an emotional vote in the House of Commons. British warplanes began their campaign by hitting an oil field held by the IS group.
British warplanes have launched strikes against 'IS' in Syria and Iraq from RAF Akrotiri in southern Cyprus
Britain's RAF joins the fray
Momentum to join the air campaign grew after IS militants claimed last month's deadly series of attacks across Paris, which killed 130 people and wounded more than 350. Still, the British public remains largely divided over the question of military strikes.
Russia began its own bombing campaign in Syria in September. Moscow supports Assad and is coordinating its strikes with Syria's military.
The US-led coalition began its strikes – which are not coordinated with Damascus – a year ago. It is largely targeting the IS group in Syria and Iraq and supporting Kurdish forces on the ground. German warplanes are also in the air in a noncombat role.
More than 250,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011 with protests against Assad's regime. Millions have been displaced, helping to trigger the largest wave of refugees into Europe since World War Two.
jar/jlw (AFP, Reuters)