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Claims of FSA planning to attack Tartus are “irresponsible” | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat- Russian military sources have released statements emphasizing the readiness of the Russian air force to protect its military vessels, in the event that they are deployed to the Syrian coast to evacuate Russian nationals living in Syria. These statements come in conjunction with reports claiming that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is preparing to take the battle to the port of Tartus, the location of the largest Russian naval base in the Mediterranean Sea. However, FSA Deputy Commander Colonel Malik al-Kurdi said that “the talk about us preparing to start a military campaign against the coastal town of Tartus is irresponsible.” In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, al-Kurdi asserted that this issue “cannot be talked about or commented upon”, without denying or confirming whether the reports were true.

Al-Kurdi said that “those spreading these details want to know the FSA’s future military strategies and intentions”. However he did not rule out the possibility that “the report was entirely fabricated.”

The website “syrfuture.com” reported that the FSA leadership, from its base on the Turkish border, was preparing “to launch a military campaign against the northern coastal town of Tartus, which is currently being protected by thousands of Syrian officers and soldiers. It serves as a base for a sizeable proportion of the 100,000 Russians who are deployed in various northern areas and in the capital Damascus, where it is rumored that Syrian missile and chemical arsenals are located. Western countries such as France, Britain, the United States and Canada believe that (Syrian President) Bashar al-Assad’s regime would not hesitate to use these weapons against any Western-Arab military intervention in his country, and against neighboring countries like Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, if he realized that his downfall was inevitable.”

The same website reported that “a FSA officer revealed the plans to move the battle to Tartus and its port, the location of Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean Sea, and that it is only a question of time.” The website reported that “FSA elements have taken up their positions inside the town, which has so far remained isolated from the revolution (due to the protection of the Russian base and the presence of more than 20,000 military experts there). These elements are waiting to receive orders to start the military campaign and target the massive port where more than 10 Russian navy vessels are docked, among them a frigate for launching missiles, a second for planting sea mines, and a supply ship.”

After reiterating that “this talk is totally irresponsible “, al-Kurdi revealed that “the FSA is adopting different strategies in its combat tactics”, without confirming whether the FSA had changed its military strategy after the battle in al-Haffah, and opted to pursue guerilla warfare. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The situation in Al-Haffah was exceptional as this blockaded and besieged town was forced to fight and choose between death and death. There was no scope for guerrilla warfare and no way other than confronting the army face to face.” He asserted that in al-Haffah, a battle which he commanded personally, “the regime’s forces were ready to commit the most atrocious massacre in the Syrian revolution’s history, and carry out a mass genocide against the population.” He added that “the FSA’s tactics in battle are based on current information and the regime’s intentions”, pointing out that “strategies change in order to avoid large scale massacres.”