The US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Levant Affairs and Special Envoy for Syria has said that President Bashar Al-Assad has “surrendered Syrian sovereignty” by allowing foreign powers to have a presence on much of its territory. Joel Rayburn made his comments during an online seminar hosted by the Beirut Institute Summit e-Policy Circles.
Syria, said Rayburn, was formerly “a player in the region but now it finds itself as a playground” by allowing the likes of Russia, Iran and numerous allied militant groups to run riot and continue the nine-year-long conflict.
“For almost 10 years now, the supporters of the Bashar Al-Assad government have literally lost their sons and at the end of that sacrifice they find other regional powers negotiating over Syrian land,” he said. “[The regime has] lost the country, just given it away, but the mystery for me is why the loyalists of the Syrian government tolerate that.”
The US official also attacked the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia and its presence in the war-torn country. He blamed Assad for this and claimed that his father and predecessor Hafez Al-Assad would not have tolerated them without strict permission. “Now Hezbollah does whatever it wants and goes wherever it wants inside Syria and Assad says nothing,” insisted Rayburn.
He claimed that the presence of Hezbollah and numerous other Iran-backed militias, as well as their alleged acquisition of Syrian citizenship, shows that Iran is colonising the country. “Why is Assad helping the Iranian regime to colonise Syria? The simple fact is, Iran should not be controlling Syria.”
Rayburn was then joined in the seminar by James Jeffrey, the US Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS (Daesh), who stressed the importance for Syrians “to have a say in who governs them, and who is held accountable.”
Jeffrey also addressed the issues of sanctions on those supporting the regime, particularly as the US imposed further sanctions on six Syrian officials and 11 entities yesterday. “Wherever you are in the world, supporting this criminal regime, we’re coming after you, just stand by,” he warned. “We’ll get to you.”
He went further by saying, “The problem is, there is such a rich target list of Syrian officials who have done so much to deserve sanctions that were we’re still working our way through them… We’re going to take you down sooner or later.”
The attack against the Syrian regime came on the fifth anniversary of Russia’s military intervention in the country at Assad’s request in order to help him recapture territory.