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The Syrian revolution has made mistakes: Hadi Al-Bahra - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Syrian national opposition coalition`s newly elected president Hadi Al-Bahra speaks during press conference on July 9, 2014 at a Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Syrian national opposition coalition`s newly elected president Hadi Al-Bahra speaks during press conference on July 9, 2014 at a Syrian opposition meeting in Istanbul. (AFP/Ozan Kose)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Syrian National Coalition President Hadi Al-Bahra acknowledged that Syria’s moderate rebels have made mistakes as they find themselves fighting a war on two fronts against the Bashar Al-Assad regime and the advancing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In a broad-ranging interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Bahra said: “The Syrian people are not experts in revolution. This is the first revolution in Syria in half a century and so we made a lot of mistakes and it is now our duty to fix these.”

Bahra confirmed that he is working to “develop” the way in which the main western-backed Syrian political opposition coalition operates, including by amending the group’s basic framework. He said: “We need to be more effective and organized with a clear structure and clearly-defined powers and responsibilities,” adding that the coalition will seek to secure greater cooperation and coordination with other civil and political groups, including those inside Syria.

“There are many institutions that are affiliated to the Syrian National Coalition and its interim government that are already carried out their activities inside Syria, and what we are now saying is that the coalition and its institutes must completely return [to Syrian territory] and that includes the presence of interim government ministers,” Bahra added.

As for the dual threat represented by the Assad regime and ISIS, he said: “Of course, ISIS represents a major obstacle and that is why we are calling for more organization and coordination because we are fighting two enemies.”

“We are dealing with both these threats cautiously and with full awareness. ISIS appeared due to the actions of the [Assad] regime and it has facilitated the actions of such terrorist organizations,” Bahra told Asharq Al-Awsat.

He went on to accuse the Assad regime of directly backing the terrorist organization, which claims to be fighting against both the Assad government and what it perceives as more moderate Syrian rebel groups, including the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the armed wing of the Syrian National Coalition.

“We all know that in the beginning ISIS was nothing more than a small group in Iraq, but when it reached Syria the [Assad] regime allowed it to work with them to fight the FSA . . .In the past the regime would carry out airstrikes on the FSA but ignore the areas that were under ISIS control. Today, we see that Assad forces are advancing towards Aleppo to fight the FSA but leaving its back exposed to ISIS,” Bahra said.

“So how can this army be reassured when it is leaving itself exposed to ISIS forces if there is no coordination? Why are Assad forces advancing towards Aleppo but not Deir Ezzor or Raqqa, which is under ISIS control?” the Syrian National Coalition leader asked.

As for the Syrian National Coalition’s own coordination with the FSA, he said that there was “constant communication” between the Syrian revolutions political and military wings but stressed that the Syrian revolution needs greater international assistance, both on the political and military levels.

“If there was international assistance at the required level we would be able, without a doubt, to start the political transition process and protect the legitimate rights of the Syrian people,” Bahra told Asharq Al-Awsat.

The Syrian National Coalition leader also acknowledged that there has been a “retreat” in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people, calling for regional and international states to reconfirm their support for the Syrian people who have suffered “the greatest humanitarian tragedy in this era.”

“We [the Syrian National Coalition] are not putting ourselves forward as an alternative to the regime or looking to take power. Rather, we are merely seeking to achieve the demands of the Syrian people,” he said.

He reiterated that the Syrian National Coalition is backing a “political solution” to the Syrian crisis. “We said that there is no room for a military solution and the problem lies in the Assad regime that is convinced that the only solution is a military one, and that it can resolve the situation through military might.”