Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – Syrian National Army [SNA] commander-in-chief Major General Muhammad Hussein al-Haj Ali announced the existence of a “military project” to unify and unite the opposition military forces on the ground in Syria, including defectors from the al-Assad regime and civilians who have taken up arms. He revealed that the objective is to establish a “professional” opposition army capable of toppling the Damascus regime and, importantly, maintaining national security in the post-Assad period. He also informed Asharq Al-Awsat that this unified army “will involve all the defectors at home and abroad, taking advantage of the potentials of both the soldiers and the civilians”. He also revealed that the situation in Damascus is confused, adding that the al-Assad regime is beginning to fortify the western coastal regions with the help of Iran.
This “military project” aims to organize and regulate Syria’s opposition fighters according to specialization and rank, assigning Syrian opposition fighters military ranks and establishing a unified command structure.
Major General Muhammad Hussein al-Haj Ali stressed that “this includes all defectors, at home and abroad, and we will benefit from the potential of all military figures and civilians. This is an essential part of assigning all soldiers duties according to their abilities and capabilities, not to mention the civilians as they make up around 80 percent of the armed revolutionary movement.”
He revealed that in addition to unifying and uniting the opposition military forces on the ground in Syria, this “military project” also aims to establish an “Information Bureau.” Al-Haj said “the idea is to appoint official military spokespersons for the Free Syrian Army [FSA]…they will be directed from the SNA leadership to avoid unfounded news and leaks.”
The project is also seeking to appoint advisers, of different specializations, to leadership positions, including politicians, economists and legal experts, as well as establish an intelligence bureau, air defense administration, air force and even naval leadership.
As for what political support and cover this “project” enjoys, the SNA commander-in-chief told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is necessary that this organization has political and material support from the Syrian people, and this is something that will be transparent, not to mention support from foreign countries.”
He added “we have yet to coordinate with the Syrian National Coalition…but we expect to coordinate our efforts, and the coalition will serve as the political cover for this military project.”
As for the position of the FSA, including the Ghurabaa al-Sham Brigade and Jabhat al-Nasra, and other opposition movement’s that support the establishment of an Islamic emirate, al-Haj stressed “we oppose this approach regarding the establishment of an Islamic Emirate; we support the establishment of a civil state where the main source of legislation is Islam however the state must be for all Syrians of all sections of society.”
As for the nature of the relationship between the FSA and these Islamist opposition movements, the SNA commander informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we share the same objective with them now, namely fighting and toppling the regime, and we welcome their presence on the ground.” As for what will happen following the ouster of the al-Assad regime, he stressed that “they must either surrender their arms or join the ranks of the SNA, because the presence of these battalions is unnecessary after we have achieved the objectives of the Syrian revolution.”
He also revealed that the situation in Damascus is confused, because three parties have control of sections of the Syrian capital, namely the regime, the FSA and opposition groups not affiliated to the FSA. He stressed that “we are presently focusing our combat efforts on the northern region of Syria, and less so in the southern region” adding “this is based on military tactics and strategy.”
He also asserted that “the Syrian regime is in possession of a large stockpile of heavy weapons and it is relying on its [Alawite] sect to defend it “adding “the regime has begun to fortify the Alawite majority coastal regions in western Syria, establishing trenches and deploying weapons and ammunitions, whilst Iranian naval officers are also present”. He revealed that these Iranian naval offices were securing the coastline with small gunboats.
He indicated that “Iran bought around 2,500 small boats, equipped with engines from European states, and some – but not all – of them are present along the Syrian coast.”
As for the possibility of the al-Assad regime resorting to the use of chemical weapons, al-Haj told Asharq Al-Awsat that he believed that such weapons are being monitored by American, Israeli and European intelligence services, adding “it is likely that America would intervene directly in the event that the Syrian regime uses chemical weapons.”