Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad recently gave an interview on Turkish TV in which he discussed Ankara’s support for opposition forces battling to overthrow the Assad regime. The Syrian strongman was less than measured, and he very pointedly threatened that Turkey would “pay very dearly.” Hezbollah media outlets were only too happy to convey the threats:
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lashed out at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for supporting terrorists engaged in the fight against Damascus, saying that Ankara will “pay dearly” for its contribution in the ongoing conflict. “In the near future these terrorists will have an impact on Turkey. And Turkey will pay very dearly for its contribution,” Assad said an interview to be broadcast Friday on Turkish television.
Assad had previously accused Turkey of “playing with fire.”
His new statements statements came just weeks after violence near the Syria-Turkey border saw more than a dozen people injured and a Syrian aircraft shot down in Turkish airspace. Erdogan and Assad had for years enjoyed warm personal and diplomatic ties, but Erdogan’s government has in the last two years intermittently threatened military action against Assad’s forces.
Meanwhile the emphasis on “terrorists” has become a favorite trope of the Syrian regime, and one that Assad trotted out for this interview as well. Ankara’s role in Syria has been tangled: though it has supported rebel groups, it has been criticized even by U.S. allies for boosting extremists at the expense of U.S.-backed moderate elements.
The back-and-forth is likely to be read against persistent fears that the Syrian conflict could escalate horizontally into a full-blown war between Syria and one of its neighbors.
[Photo: Ceddimiz Osmanlı / YouTube]