Syrian President Bashar Assad claimed on Tuesday that while his government is receiving information about American airstrikes in the country through “third parties,” there has been no direct cooperation with the U.S. since the airstrikes began in Syria last September.
“Through a third party -- more than one party -- Iraq and other countries, sometimes they convey message, general message, but there’s nothing tactical,” Assad said, during an interview broadcast by BBC, on Tuesday. He also ruled out any future cooperation with the U.S. and its allies, which are currently carrying out airstrikes against ISIS strongholds in the country.
“We don't have the will and we don't want (to join the anti-ISIS coalition), for one simple reason -- because we cannot be in an alliance with countries which support terrorism,” Assad said. “We're not against cooperation with any country, we will never be. We didn't start this conflict with the others. They (the U.S. and its allies) started it, they supported the terrorists, they gave them the umbrella.”
The Assad government has repeatedly accused the U.S. of supporting the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels. The Syrian regime uses the term "terrorists" for al Qaeda and ISIS-backed Islamist rebels, as well as the rebels supported by the country’s political opposition.
In the interview, Assad dismissed efforts by the U.S. to train and equip the moderate faction of Syrian rebels as a “pipe dream,” adding that there were no “moderates” in Syria, but only extremists affiliated to ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra.
Assad also denied the allegation that the Syrian air forces had been using barrel bombs and chlorine gas on civilians, calling it a “childish story.”
“I know about the army, they use bullets, missiles, and bombs. I haven't heard of the army using barrels, or maybe, cooking pots … There are no barrel bombs, we don't have barrels,” he said.
Barrel bombs are large cylindrical containers packed with explosives and shrapnel that are dropped from helicopters. The use of such bombs and chlorine gas has been documented by several international rights groups, including the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Human Rights Watch, triggering widespread international criticism of the Syrian regime.