The current debate about the actual size of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) highlights just how murky the situation is in Syria, and how easily propaganda is marketed by both sides. The Syrian regime is pushing the idea that the opposition is divided and has been wiped out, while the opposition says it is reorganizing 60,000 fighters who are members of the FSA.
What is certain is that the Western support the FSA is receiving has decreased. The Wall Street Journal has reported that American military support for the Syrian opposition has declined, and that the US only gave the equivalent of 16 bullets a month per fighter.
On Wednesday, the US State Department said: “Since the first of the year, we have delivered approximately 2.7 million dollars of nonlethal supplies and equipment to the moderate opposition, including water trucks, backhoes, generators, winter gear, and more than 17,000 food baskets.”
Despite this scarcity, the FSA and the moderate Syrian opposition in general deserve respect for their steadfastness despite a lull in support, and despite the restraints on them. For instance, they are no longer able to move freely in northern Syria due to constant attacks by the extremist Al-Nusra Front. On top of that, Turkey has also begun to restrain the activity of the FSA and its leaders, perhaps as a result of foreign pressure.
Despite the restraints levied against it, the FSA is on the verge of consolidating its control of southern Syria—in Dera’a and its surroundings—even though many of the fighters have not received salaries in months.
Salim Idris, minister of defense in the opposition government, said recently the opposition has begun to unite its various factions to establish a united army that will include 60,000 fighters. Idris added he believes the world will realize its only option to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is to topple the Syrian regime and support the moderate opposition, which represents all Syrian people of different religions, sects and tribes.
Some American politicians and legislators agree with this opinion when it comes to the topic of confronting ISIS and the threats it poses to the world. A member of the US Senate’s defense committee recently said: “The American government must support the Free Syrian Army because it’s the only option. Despite the hesitation to support [the FSA], its leadership will be capable of altering the vision of regional countries in support of the Syrian people and [will also be capable] of altering the vision of suspicious Western countries if it really manages to reunite itself and if it really succeeds at uniting the ranks of, at least, its military leaderships [especially since] rival and competing political leaderships are not as significant during this difficult phase.”