Assad Calls to Stop Funding Armed Groups in Syria, Iraq

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters / SANA / Handout via Reuters)

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad (Reuters / SANA / Handout via Reuters)

The fight against terrorism must begin by placing more pressure on those countries which are supporting and financing insurgents in Syria and Iraq, Syrian President Bashar Assad said while speaking with an Iraqi security official in Damascus.

Assad’s comments were made during a Tuesday meeting with Iraq’s national security adviser, Falah al-Fayadh, “on efforts by the Iraqi government to confront terrorism.”

“The battle against terrorism starts with pressure on the countries that support and finance terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and pretend that they want to fight against terrorism,” state news agency SANA quoted Assad as saying.

Fayadh “put Assad in the picture of the latest developments in Iraq and the efforts that the Iraqi government and people are making to combat the terrorists,” SANA reported.

The meeting focused on “the importance of strengthening cooperation and coordination between the two brotherly countries in the field of combating terrorism that is hitting Syria and Iraq and which threatens the region and the world.”

Damascus has criticized several countries in the past for arming Syria’s opposition – including the US, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

AFP Photo / Pool / Lucas Jackson

AFP Photo / Pool / Lucas Jackson

On Tuesday, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel confirmed that the US Central Command has a plan to take “targeted actions against ISIS (Islamic State/IS) safe havens in Syria,” including striking infrastructure. Hagel also unveiled a plan to boost Iraqi forces with 1,600 US “military advisers.”

READ MORE: ‘No combat mission:’ US ready to strike Syria, may use up to 1,600 troops to fight ISIS in Iraq

The US will also train and equip 5,000 members of the Syrian opposition to fight militants from the Islamic State group, previously known as ISIS/ISIL.

Hagel has ruled out putting any troops on the ground for the moment, but did say that some of the 1,600 American “military advisers” deployed in Iraq since June may become involved in a direct fight with Islamic State militants.

At the same time, the US has made clear that there will be no cooperation with Assad’s government in any way in its fight against the Islamic State. Obama’s position has long been that he would like to see Assad leave power, particularly after he was accused of using chemical weapons against his own population last year.

More than 30 countries that have agreed to join the US coalition in its fight against the Islamic State, the Pentagon reported. However, there is no sign that regional powers Iran and Syria will join the list.

READ MORE: Airstrikes against ISIS in Syria ‘illegal’ without Assad’s OK – report

According to Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimates, the Islamic State militant group “can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters.”

IS fighters have captured large parts of northern Iraq and western Anbar province this year, killing scores of civilians.

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