BEIRUT — In a striking admission, President Bashar Assad said in an interview broadcast Wednesday that his armed forces will need time to defeat the rebels and addressed the string of defections from his authoritarian regime.
The comments amounted to an acknowledgment that even though the opposition lacks the government’s tanks and airplanes, their tenacity and tactical creativity — combined with the military’s struggle to fight on multiple fronts — have yielded a stalemate that could prolong the civil war with many more dead.
Over the past few months, Syria’s military has increasingly been stretched thin fighting on multiple fronts against rebels seeking to oust Assad. His forces have been unable to quell the rebellion as it spread to the capital, Damascus, with significant clashes that began in July and to Syria’s largest city, Aleppo, a few weeks later. At the same time, the military is fighting smaller scale battles in a string of other cities and towns around the country.
With neither side making significant advances, the conflict is looking more like a war of attrition that could be very drawn out.
“We are fighting a regional and global war, so time is needed to win it,” Assad said in an interview with the pro-regime private TV station Dunya. “We are moving forward. The situation is practically better but it has not been decided yet. That takes time,” he told the station, which is majority owned by Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad and one of Syria’s wealthiest men.
“If the armed forces wanted to use the entire range of its firepower, it can wipe out many areas. But this will be unacceptable,” Assad said.