In a frank assessment to his public, President Bashar al Assad says the type of war confronting Syria means the army could not fight everywhere for risk of losing vital ground. Nathan Frandino reports.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has a remarkably frank assessment of the war for his countrymen. After more than four years of conflict that have strained the Syrian military, he says his army can not fight everywhere at once. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT, BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "We must define the important regions that the armed forces hold on to so it doesn't allow the collapse of the rest of the areas." The fighting in Syria has split territorial control of the country among various armed groups. The al Qaeda-backed Nusra Front controls much of Idlib province while Islamic State controls various parts in the country's northeast. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates that the government now controls only a quarter of the country. Assad blames increased support from outside states and a shortage in manpower as the reasons for recent military setbacks. Still, he remains defiant. (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) SYRIAN PRESIDENT, BASHAR AL-ASSAD, SAYING: "We are in a fateful period, where there is no place for half-measures and where hesitation equals defeatism, cowardice, and treason. So there is no waiver of rights, no waste of even one inch (of land). We will not be slaves but independent masters." For the first time, Assad publicly spoke about Iranian military support and credited Hezbollah for its important role in the conflict ... which began as a street uprising against four decades of authoritarian rule by the Assad family.