Syrian President Bashar al Assad wants the Russian military to have a permanent presence in his country. According to a report from Reuters, Assad told Russian journalists during an interview in Moscow that the Russian military presence in Syria is “needed” and that he wants its role to expand past counter-terrorism in the near future.
“Russian armed forces are needed for balance in our region, at least in the Middle East, until the global political balance changes. And this might not even happen, we do not know. So it is important and necessary,” Assad said during the interview.
Russia first entered Syria at the request of the Assad regime in September of 2015. The majority of the Russian military forces in the country are stationed at Khmeimim Air Base, also known as Hmeimim Air Base, in Western Syria. According to The Independent, an agreement between the Russian and Syrian officials signed last year gives Russia permission to permanently use the base for the next 49 years, with options to extend their lease in 25-year increments after that.
Currently, the Russian military is supporting Assad’s forces in operations in the Golan region of southwestern Syria. According to a report from Reuters, pro-Assad forces raised the Syrian national flag in the ghost city of Quneitra on Thursday, signaling an increase in Syrian power in the area.