U.S. Troops Will Die If They Remain in Syria, Bashar Al-Assad Warns

Syria President Bashar al-Assad has warned that the U.S. is risking another Iraq War by retaining a force inside the country, as the dictator continues his push to forcibly reunify the war-shattered nation.

Backed by Russia and Iran, Assad has been able to retain his grip on power through more than eight years of civil war.

Following America's withdrawal from northeastern Syria last month and the subsequent Turkish invasion, Assad and his Russian backers have won control over key areas that were previously in the hands of America's Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces allies.

But Trump, much to the chagrin of both Damascus and Moscow, intends to retain a force of U.S. troops in the east of the country to guard oil fields there. Though the official purpose of the mission is to protect against resurgent Islamic State forces, Trump has said he wants to bring in an American company to work the oil fields.

Assad told the Rossiya-24 TV channel that American occupiers are risking "an Iraq-style scenario," referring to the bloody and politically disastrous occupation of Iraq following the successful 2003 invasion.

"This outcome was unforeseen for them, but we in Syria foresaw it," Assad said, according to Russia's Tass state news agency.

"So, the U.S. occupation of Syria will give rise to a military confrontation which will lead to losses among the Americans and later to their withdrawal," Assad predicted.

He stopped short of threatening action against the Americans from Syrian regime forces or his Russian backers, which are now busy taking possession of SDF-held positions in the north of the country.

"We certainly do not believe that any confrontation between the U.S. and Russia will occur on Syrian territory," he said.

"It's obvious and benefits neither us, nor Russia, nor global stability, and it is dangerous."

But, the dictator said Syria will be no different from America's long-running and unpopular campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. "The U.S. shouldn't think that they are going to breathe easy in all regions that they occupy," Assad warned.

"We would like to remind them of Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria is not an exception here."

Assad, who has overseen a vast range of war crimes during the course of the war, said Syrian unity was vital to expelling American forces. "Then, the Americans will leave and won't be able to stay here for oil or for anything else," he claimed.

The war erupted in 2011 when Assad's security forces tried to crush mass protests calling for democratic reforms. Over the course of the war, regime forces have used chemical weapons against civilians, conducted regular bombings of non-military targets including hospitals, and disappeared more than 100,000 people.

Some 400,000 people have died in the war to date, according to the United Nations, though estimates range as high as 570,000. Eight American soldiers are among them, some killed in combat and others who died in non-combat circumstances.

Bashar al-Assad, US, troops, die, Syria, Iraq
A convoy of U.S. armoured vehicles patrols the northeastern Syrian town of Qahtaniyah near the border with Turkey, on October 31, 2019. DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP via Getty Images/Getty