Assad claims the West is secretly cooperating with Damascus

Assad claims the West is secretly cooperating with Damascus
3 min read
01 July, 2016
Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has alleged that Western governments are covertly cooperating with his regime in "counter-terrorism", while publicly attacking the Syrian regime.
Bashar al-Assad accused Western countries of "double standards" [AFP]

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has claimed that Western governments have been secretly cooperating with his regime in "counter-terrorism operations".

Speaking to the Australian SBS News channel - the interview due to be screened on Friday - Assad accused Western countries of double standards for criticising his government in public, but contining to deal with him in private.

"They attack us politically and then they send officials to deal with us under the table - especially security - including your [the Australian] government," he told the reporter.

"They don't want to upset the United States. Actually, most of the Western officials, they only repeat what the United States want them to say. This is the reality."

Western powers are increasingly concerned about the threat of jihadis militants in Syria, especially the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate, al-Nusra Front.

The Washington Post on Thursday reported that the Obama administration has proposed a new deal with Russia, whereby the two countries would work together in fighting al-Nusra Front.

In exchange, Russia would pressure the Syrian regime to stop bombing US-backed Syrian rebels.

The Pentagon's initial $500 million project to train "moderate" opposition members was widely criticised when the US admitted its failure.

The deal, which was reportedly approved by President Barack Obama and sent to Moscow on Monday, would see the two countries - who have stood on opposite sides of the Syrian conflict - join forces against militants for the first time.

Western countries have allegedly backed Syrian rebels against Assad's regime in the conflict, and have called for Assad to step down.

Russia and Iran have thrown their weight behind Damascus, with Russian war planes bombing opposition towns and Tehran sending in thousands of fighters to bolster the regime.

The United States has recently revamped a programme to train Syrian rebels after a similar scheme was scrapped.

The Pentagon's initial $500 million project to train "moderate" opposition members was widely criticised when the US admitted its failure.

The programme failed to recruit adequate numbers due to the strict background checks to weed out possible extremists and many objecting to a pledge that they were to fight only IS - and not Syrian regime troops.

A group trained by the US was caught handing over ammunition and other gear to al-Nusra Front.

The United States has since led an international coalition against Islamic State group militants in Iraq and Syria, where special operations personnel have trained ground forces and local militias while pounding IS targets with airstrikes.

The CIA has also been involved in training Syrian rebels, though the secretive agency has not officially provided any details of its efforts.

More than 450,000 people have been killed since Syria's conflict erupted in March 2011, and millions more have fled their homes, triggering the world's worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.