'Assad victorious in Syria war,' Israel defence minister claims

'Assad victorious in Syria war,' Israel defence minister claims
Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said Syria's President Bashar al-Asad has won the six-year war against the armed opposition.
2 min read
03 October, 2017
Far-right Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman believes Assad has won the Syria war [Getty]
Israel's defence minister has said Syria's six-year war is coming to an end and one victor has clearly emerged - Bashar al-Assad.

Controversial Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman told Israeli news site Walla! that the regime was clearly victorious over the rebels, in a war that has cost half-a-million lives.

"Assad has emerged victorious in the battle. Suddenly, everyone wants to get closer to Assad," he said.

"I see that there is now a long line of countries applauding and wooing Assad, including Western (and) moderate Sunni Muslim (states)."

War broke out in Syria when regime forces fired on protesters in 2011, leading to mass defections from the army to join the armed opposition. The brutal war has been marked by indiscriminate bombing by the Syrian regime.

The balance shifted in Assad's favour when Moscow joined the war with Russia launching its first air strikes in September 2015.

Iran helped on the ground funnelling in thousands of militia fighters after the Syrian army was decimated from defections and battlefield deaths.

The situation has seen the rebels now contained in Idlib province and limited to pockets of land around central and southern Syria and eastern Damascus.
[click to enlarge]

A Turkish-Iranian-Russian ceasefire plan has also come into effect, which has helped the regime capture territories in eastern and southern Syria.

Israel has been distrustful of the Syrian - often Sunni Islamist - rebel groups, but also concerned about the growing influence of arch-regional rival Iran.

Tehran has sent in tens of thousands of Shia fighters and Republican Guard commanders, while the Iranian-backed Hizballah militia has played a lead role in regime offensives.

Assad is now heavily reliant on Iran's military might to secure the country, as well as loans from Tehran to keep the economy afloat.

Iranian businesses have meanwhile been rewarded with lucrative contracts from the Syrian government.

Read also: Iran recruiting children to fight in Syria

Many analysts believe Iran's rise and the regime's recent wins are down to the US not playing a more forceful role in Syria to prevent the situation escalating.

Israel says it wants the US to stem Iran's growing influence.

"We hope that the United States will be more active on the Syrian front and in the Middle East in general. We are on the northern front against the Russians, Iranians, Turks and Hizballah," he said. 

Israel has launched a number of air strikes on Hizballah in Syria, believing weapons are being smuggled to the militant groups bases in Lebanon.