Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Is It Time for an Alternative Syrian Army? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Syrian troops hold positions in the town of Ain al-Hanash near al-Bab in Aleppo’s eastern countryside on January 26, 2016. ( AFP)

The idea of forming a Syrian opposition army is long overdue, but proposing the idea now is more suitable than ever.

Positions of concerned parties including those of the countries supporting the Syrian revolution as what is secretly known in Jordan as “military room”, varied about the opposition army.

The situation now requires the establishment of a new Syrian army for several reasons. First of all, this army will represent all Syrians, and not just one sect or religion, or an extremist group and will not be affiliated with any country or mercenary in the region.

Syria needs an army that represents all Syrians, reestablishes the state, imposes order and operates under international legitimacy.

The biggest challenge threatening Syrians today is the emergence of an Iranian army on their soil led by Revolutionary Guards and composed of militias from Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and of course troops from the Iranian Quds Force.

This is a direct threat to the project of the Syrian state as Iranians could stay there for a long time.

Two US Congressmen sent letters to the US secretaries of state and defense warning them that Iran is planning to use its presence in Syria to build military bases on the Mediterranean Sea.

Indeed, there no longer is an opposition free Syrian Army like the one we knew. It disintegrated into smaller groups after being a target of Iranians, Russians, ISIS, al-Nusra Front and other groups.

So, why are we discussing the establishment of a new Syrian army?

The incentive is the proposed political solution and to help plan safe zones for refugees. The idea also derived from some countries’ desire to form a power that fights terrorist groups which have infiltrated within opposition-held areas.

In addition to all of that, we must not forget that establishing a military power is a requirement to recognize the opposition’s role in the new project of governance as it cannot live under the shadow of Assad’s army.

The need is for a new Syrian army that puts an end to the chaos resulting from the deployment of dozens of militias and unifies armed oppositions under one flag and leadership. Thousands of military defectors who refused to kill their fellow Syrians and left the Syrian army could be the foundations of the new army.

Everyone needs this army, not just Syrians. They need an army that fights terrorist organizations threatening Syria, the region, and the world, and confronts Iranian army and its militias if they refuse to leave Syria and clear the country of all hostile regional movements like Turkish Kurds and Iraqi ISIS.

In the case of a political agreement, the new Syrian army could be complementary to the regime’s Arab Syrian Army which has become weak with mere remnants left.

A political solution is useless if not preceded by a project that establishes army and security entities first and foremost. The opposition doesn’t trust the regime and wants a military power to protect the areas under its control and represent it within the adopted political solution.

When other countries insist on evacuating Syria of all foreign fighters, the regime will also insist on Iranian militias unless a national army is formed to do the job.

It may be long before a political solution is agreed upon, and this should prevent the formation of a Syrian army during the negotiation period to fight terrorism and refute the alibi that the Assad regime needs Iran’s militias to stay.