BEIRUT : Syrian forces took control of two villages near the Lebanese border on Saturday after driving out rebels, state media said, helping President Bashar al-Assad secure the route connecting Damascus with Aleppo and the Mediterranean coast.
The fall of Flita and Ras Maara, two of the last rebel bastions in the area, is likely to push militants and refugees over the border into Lebanon, risking further destabilising the Mediterranean country whose own 15-year civil war ended in 1990.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama said in a television interview airing on Friday that the United States could not have stopped the humanitarian crisis in Syria with military strikes, adding, US troops had reached their limits after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama was asked in an interview with CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley whether he regretted not applying US force in Syria, where the three-year civil war has killed more than 140,000 people and displaced millions.
“It is, I think, a false notion that somehow we were in a position to, through a few selective strikes, prevent the kind of hardship that we’ve seen in Syria,” Obama said. “It’s not that it’s not worth it. It’s after a decade of war, you know, the United States has limits,” he said.
Obama said the United States would have a hard time committing to putting troops on the ground in Syria, a commitment he said could have lasted “perhaps another decade.”
American troops have been involved in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. “And it’s not clear whether the outcome in fact would have turned out significantly better,” Obama said.
The interview was recorded before Obama flew to Saudi Arabia where he discussed the Syrian conflict with Saudi king Abdullah.