Syria’s Assad says war turning in regime’s favor

Updated 16 April 2014

Syria’s Assad says war turning in regime’s favor

DAMASCUS: President Bashar Assad said Sunday that the war that has torn Syria apart for three years and cost more than 150,000 lives is turning in the government’s favor, state news agency SANA reported.
“This is a turning point in the crisis, both militarily in terms of the army’s achievements in the war against terror, and socially in terms of national reconciliation processes and growing awareness of the truth behind the (attacks) targeting the country,” he said.
Syria’s army has made a series of advances in recent months, overrunning opposition bastions near the Lebanese border and in the central province of Homs.
“The state is trying to restore security and stability in the main areas that the terrorists have struck,” said Assad, adding “we will go after their positions and sleeper cells later.”
But there is still no political solution in sight for the war, which has caused massive destruction and forced nearly half the Syrian population to flee their homes.
Syrian warplanes on Sunday launched fresh strikes on rebel strongholds on the edge of Damascus, some of which used highly destructive barrel bomb attacks, a monitoring group said.
“Warplanes carried out two air strikes against areas of Douma,” northeast of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said adding that 13 people, including three children and three women, were killed in that particular raid.
The raids came as fighting raged on the edges of Daraya between rebels and the army, which for more than a year has battled to secure the capital.
On the economic front, Prime Minister Wael Al-Halqi said Sunday a “fierce economic war” was behind the sharp fall in the value of the Syrian pound against the US dollar.
“A fierce economic war ... is being waged against the national economy aimed at destabilising the Syrian pound,” he said, quoted by state news agency SANA.
The pound was trading on Sunday at 176 against the dollar, compared to 156 last week, in a trend which has seen it lose more than three-quarters of its value against the US currency since March 2011.
Central bank governor Adib Mayaleh said his institution would sell around $20 million (13 million euros) on April 21 in an effort to support the Syrian pound.


Since the start of a revolt against Assad in 2011, Damascus has blamed all violence in the country on a foreign-backed “terrorist” plot, denying the existence of any grassroots movement for political change.
Like its allies Iran and Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, the government has said the violence in Syria is rooted in a bid to break the anti-Israel “resistance axis.”
Assad said the country “is not only being targeted because of its geo-political significance... but because of its historic role in the region and its big influence on the Arab street.”
Syria, he said, “is subject to a bid to take control of its independent decision-making, and an attempt to change its policy from one that suits the Syrian people’s interests, rather than the interests of the United States and the West’s interests in the region.”
On Sunday, Assad reiterated his belief that Israel “has played a key role in supporting the terrorist groups.”
Lebanon’s Hezbollah, a strategic ally of Assad’s regime which has sent thousands of fighters into Syria, has played a key role in helping turn the tide in Assad’s favor.
A series of truces have also been agreed, mainly in southern Damascus and the outskirts of the capital.
The cease-fires came after months of suffocating army sieges that had led to the deaths of scores of people, as a result of medical and food shortages.
The agreements stipulate rebels should hand over their heavy weapons in exchange for aid deliveries, but opposition activists in some areas where truces have been reached have accused the regime of violating the deals.
Syria’s conflict broke out after the regime unleashed a brutal crackdown against an Arab Spring-inspired peaceful protest movement.


Iran says British-Australian academic freed for 3 Iranians

Updated 31 min 14 sec ago

Iran says British-Australian academic freed for 3 Iranians

  • It was not immediately clear when Moore-Gilbert would arrive back in Australia
  • Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her

TEHRAN: Iran has freed Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic who has been detained in Iran for more than two years, in exchange for three Iranians held abroad, state TV reported Wednesday.
The state TV report offered no further details Wednesday beyond saying that the three Iranians released in the swap had been detained for trying to bypass sanctions.
Moore-Gilbert was a Melbourne University lecturer on Middle Eastern studies when she was sent to Tehran’s Evin Prison in September 2018 and sentenced to 10 years. She is one of several Westerners held in Iran on internationally criticized espionage charges that their families and rights groups say are unfounded.
It was not immediately clear when Moore-Gilbert would arrive back in Australia. State TV aired video showing her with a gray hijab sitting at what appeared to be a greeting room at one of Tehran’s airports. She wore a blue face mask under her chin. The footage showed three men with Iranian flags over their shoulders — those freed in exchange for her being released. State TV earlier described them as “economic activists,” without elaborating.
International pressure on Iran to secure her release has escalated in recent months following reports that her health was deteriorating during long stretches of solitary confinement and that she had been transferred to the notorious Qarchak Prison, east of Tehran.
Moore-Gilbert has gone on hunger strikes and pleaded for the Australian government to do more to free her. Those pleas included writing to the prime minister that she had been subjected to “grievous violations” of her rights, including psychological torture and solitary confinement.
Her detention has further strained relations between Iran and the West, which reached a fever pitch earlier this year following the American killing of a top Iranian general in Baghdad and retaliatory Iranian strikes on a US military base.