Sputnik: What are your thoughts on the recent comment made by Trump, what consequences could it have?
Bashdar Ismaeel: First of all, I was particularly surprised by Donald Trump's tweet, I know that he's been pondering a forceful response, Trump has been critical of other presidents revealing military action in the past. Before this happened he was clearly affected by the Russian comment that they will strike down any missiles. What's not clear here is what exactly the US intends to do and clearly the images in Douma are disturbing, obviously, there's been no investigation as such, and everything at the moment points to a much larger military operation than a limited strike, which, obviously would put Russia in a difficult situation.
More importantly, what does the US want to achieve in Syria? If it is going to be the removal of Assad then that would be a very difficult undertaking, simply because they have Russian backing, so it's not clear what Trump wants to achieve at this stage. Clearly they don't have a very consistent strategy, in my opinion, in Syria at the moment; the events have changed but it's looking like that they may be entrenched into the Syrian war on a larger scale.
Sputnik: It's interesting to note that both Russia and Syria warned of the possibility of a false flag chemical weapon attack in Syria, what do you think about the situation around that attack?
Bashdar Ismaeel: The most unfortunate situation here is that the UN is essentially paralyzed, it's been like that over the last seven years of the Syrian conflict. If there was any resemblance of a unified voice within the UN Security Council, of course, then it would have helped the Syrian settlement, it's very hard to say exactly what has happened and obviously the pictures are shocking, who is to blame and what will be the particular motives. Obviously the only way to resolve this is to have an independent investigation, which is looking like it's going to be increasingly unlikely, so the finger-pointing will continue and as you can imagine there will be no consensus on who to blame for the chemical attack, but essentially any US action may actually harm and not help any Syrian settlement. On the one hand, they may want to punish Assad and go beyond what they did last year, which was essentially a warning, if there was another suspected chemical attack then they would definitely respond with a stronger hand.
I believe the US needs and wants to get support from its European allies in order to coordinate any strike. It is still unclear who would join that strike and under what condition, and the UK has already been clear that they want an investigation or some kind of clear evidence before they join.
Either way, it doesn't help any settlement of the Syrian conflict, the more I'm seeing a divided Syria, even if the rebels, the anti-Assad rebels do have a counter attack, which the commanders have been stating, I'm not sure if that's going to really help end the Syrian war. So unfortunately it's going to make the situation much more murky, of course, there's always a chance that airstrikes may hit Russian targets, it's a very sensitive situation at the moment, and it really depends on how expansive the US actions and its allies will end up being.
Sputnik: Do you think the US is now looking, once again, at a regime change? And I'm wondering if you can comment on what level of support does Bashar al-Assad have among his own people right now?
Bashdar Ismaeel: One thing is extremely clear: if Assad didn't have support among his own people I don't think he would've survived as long, of course, he's had key support from Iran, from Russia, from Hezbolah, but no doubt that he's had key support from his people. What you're seeing in Syria is very much a de facto partition, I believe that the eventual settlement will fall on that de facto partition as well Assad has a key support base and that's been proven over the years for the last seven years. The other thing is, if US does not want regime change and Assad does go, what do we do with the power vacuum? We need to negotiate a settlement that appeases all sides, you have the Kurdish and Turkey is not very happy to have any Kurds in any settlement, Assad needs to work with more parties in Syria, of course, his situation is by no means certain in the long-term, he's being propped up by a lot of support from Russia and Iran but while Russia and Iran provide that support Assad will remain in power, it's a simple as that.
The views of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.