In eyes of Assad, Russia intervention is vital for whole Middle East

Friday 02/10/2015
Assad warns: Price Syria\'s allies pay will certainly be high

DAMASCUS - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said in comments broadcast on Sunday that the success of Russia's military intervention in his country's civil war was vital for the whole Middle East.

"The alliance between Russia, Syria, Iraq and Iran must succeed or else the whole region will be destroyed," he said in an interview broadcast by Iranian state television.

Russia on Wednesday launched air strikes in Syria in a move Moscow insists is aimed at fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) group.

But opponents including the United States claim Russian bombing raids are mainly targeting Western-backed moderate opponents of Assad.

"The chances of success for this coalition are great and not insignificant," Assad said in his interview, according to an extract posted on Twitter, warning that the price Syria's allies pay "will certainly be high".

He called on Western countries, which have along with Gulf allies carried out air strikes on ISIS in Syria since September 2014, to join forces in order to fight extremism.

"If these states join the fight against terrorists in a serious and sincere manner, at least in terms of stopping them getting support, we will achieve results much faster," Assad said.

Western and Gulf countries insist Assad must step down after presiding over more than four years of civil war.

Meanwhile, Syrian authorities on Sunday detained a prominent opposition figure, his movement said, days after he criticised Russian air strikes in Syria.

Munzer Khaddam, spokesman for the National Coordination Committee for Democratic Change, was stopped at a checkpoint near Damascus, an official from his group said.

"He has been detained in an unknown location," the source said, adding that Khaddam's mobile telephone was turned off when they tried to call him.

Khaddam's wife said he had telephoned her from the checkpoint and informed her of "an arrest warrant from a section of military security".

On Thursday, Khaddam wrote critical comments on Facebook about the air strikes that Russia, a long-time ally of Damascus, launched against jihadists and rebels in Syria the previous day.

"The Syrian crisis is nowhere near being solved as some dreamers think, and the Russian intervention further complicates" the conflict, he wrote.

He added that a Russian military presence would only serve to attract more jihadists to Syria.

It is the second time that the 67-year-old writer and university professor has been stopped by the authorities since war broke out in Syria in 2011.

In December 2013, Khaddam was briefly detained at a military checkpoint in the coastal town of Tartus in northwest Syria.

He was jailed for his political views from 1982 to 1994.

Although the group to which he belongs is generally tolerated by President Bashar al-Assad's regime, several members of the political alliance are in jail in Syria.

On November 20, 2013, top NCCDC official Rajaa Nasser was arrested by a security patrol in Damascus. Another member, Abdel Aziz Khair, has been in detention since September 2012.