12:56 GMT +320 March 2018
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    Syrian pro-regime supporters dressed in military uniform stand in front of a mural of President Bashar al-Assad during a rally in Damascus. File photo

    'Assad Has Won': US Centcom Chief Wants to Contend Russia's Influence in Syria

    © AFP 2018/ Louai Beshara
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    Speaking at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, commander of US Central Command Joseph Votel has specifically touched upon the situation in Syria and Russia's role there.

    Army general Joseph Votel, head of the US Central Command has admitted that Syrian President Bashar Assad's government forces are prevailing in the war in Syria.

    When asked by Senator Lindsey Graham whether it is "too strong a statement that, with Russia and Iran's help, Assad has won the civil war in Syria," Votel did not mince words.

    People are seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 9, 2018
    © REUTERS/ Bassam Khabieh
    People are seen in the besieged town of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, in Damascus, Syria March 9, 2018

    "I don't think that is too strong of a statement. I think they have provided [Assad with] the wherewithal to be ascendant at this point," Votel told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

    He also referred to continued Russian air operations in Syria, which Votel said had shored up Assad's control of parts of the country, especially around the capital and other major large cities.

    READ MORE: US Poised to Create Garrison State in Syria – Turkish General

    As far as Assad's possible ouster is concerned, Votel said that he does not know "that that's our particular policy at this particular point."

    He warned that Assad's victory "means we will contend with this influence of Iran in this particular area and the influence of Russia."

    Votel's remarks came after he accused Moscow of acting as "both arsonist and firefighter" in Syria late last month.

    US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles conduct airstrikes in Syria and Iraq
    © REUTERS/ U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Matthew Bruch/Handout
    Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, for his part, underscored that "the most difficult circumstances for the civilian population of Syria exist in the areas controlled by the US-led coalition and the groups the armed opposition it is controlling."

    At least 330,000 people have been killed in the civil war in Syria which started on March 2011, according to UN. Russia's air campaign is there at the behest of President Assad, while the US presence in Syria was never approved by the country's government.


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    forces, ouster, government, civil war, Bashar Assad, Joseph Votel, Syria, United States, Russia
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