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Free Syrian Army to establish National Military Council | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat –Free Syrian Army [FSA] leader, Colonel Riad al-Assad, told Asharq Al-Awsat that his organized will resume military operations against al-Assad regime forces after the “true intentions” of the Syrian regime were revealed on Friday. The FSA had announced the suspension of its operations last Wednesday in response to the al-Assad regime’s acceptance of the Arab League initiative, however in light of the continued operations of the al-Assad regime forces; the FSA has announced that it will now return to the field. Syrian activists said at least 13 people were killed by Syrian forces on Friday after thousands of protesters rallied across Syria in order to test the government’s acceptance of the Arab League peace initiative. The Arab League initiative called for Syrian authorities to immediately withdraw security forces from the streets, stop violence against demonstrators, and release all detainees jailed since the protests began.

Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat via telephone, FSA commander Riad al-Assad said “we gave the Syrian regime two days following the announcement of its acceptance of the Arab initiative, and this was in order to reveal its lies and maneuvering. Today, after its true intentions [to continue killing Syrian demonstrations] have been exposed; we will resume military operations and will operate in a larger-scale manner [than before].” The FSA commander also stressed that “we reject affiliated to any party, and I will work to establish a military council as soon as possible.”

As for whether the FSA is coordinating with the Syrian National Council [SNC], whose membership have rejected taking up arms against the al-Assad regime, Riad al-Assad said there is no communication taking place at the leadership level, but acknowledged that SNC and FSA members may be in contact and communicating with one another. He stressed that “we are defectors from the Syrian army, and we have the right to militarily defend ourselves and our people, and anybody who thinks that this Syrian regime will be toppled by peaceful protests is dreaming, therefore we reject this path of peaceful revolution, and I will establish a national military council as soon as possible, and we will have a special program that will be announced when the time comes.” The FSA commander added “defectors join our ranks day by day, and I can confirm that the FSA has more than 15,000 soldiers.”

As to the claims that the FSA is coordinating with Turkish military forces, Riad al-Assad told Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no security coordination with Turkey, and the support that we have received is limited to humanitarian assistance.”

The British “Daily Telegraph” newspaper issued a report [’15,000 strong’ army gathers to take on Syria] claiming that Riad al-Assad is living under Turkish protection in Ankara, and that the FSA is operating with the covert approval of the Turkish authorities, and that it has caused “high levels” of casualties amongst the al-Assad regime forces. The British newspaper quoted the FSA commander as saying that “we need to protect civilians inside Syria” adding “we want to make a ‘safe zone’ in the north of Syria, a buffer zone in which the FSA can get organized.” As for the FSA’s relations with the SNC, the Daily Telegraph quoted al-Assad as saying “we are waiting for them [SNC] to appoint a high delegation and send a representative to speak to us about how we can support their aims militarily.”

For his part, SNC member Omar Edlibi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the issue of coordination between the SNC and FSA is being hotly debated by the SNC, and the results of this discussion will be revealed in the next few days. Edlibi revealed that some SNC members strongly oppose the idea of dealing with the FSA from the principle of “preserving the purity of the [Syrian] revolution”, describing those who hold this opinion as possessing an “idealist viewpoint that is not applicable [in reality].”

However SNC member Jaber al-Shoufi strongly denied that there was any coordination taking place between the SNC and FSA leadership, telling Asharq Al-Awsat that “there is no coordination whatsoever between us and the FSA, and we have no connection to any operations being conducted by the FSA on the ground, because we reject the militarization of the revolution” although he added that “we support these [military] defections on the condition that they will follow a peaceful revolutionary approach.”

As for the “Daily Telegraph” newspaper’s quote that Riad al-Assad wants the FSA to be the military wing of the Syrian opposition, al-Shoufi stressed that the SNC has not adopted this. As for the prospect of the SNC coordinating with Riad al-Assad in the future, al-Shoufi told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is possible that channels of communication will be opened with him if he finds this acceptable, and if he commits to our terms, namely the non-militarization of the revolution, in order to ensure that our movement remains peaceful.” He added that “we are certain that if the revolution becomes militarized, we will have taken a step backwards, as this will give the regime the pretext to intensify its campaign against us and the Syrian protesters.”

Al-Shoufi also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we support the FSA’s use of arms if they are defending themselves or the homes of Syrian citizens, but we comprehensively reject any attack or military operation [against al-Assad regime forces]” adding “this is something that is inconsistent with our objectives and our view, which is focused on a peaceful revolution.”