Beirut/London, Asharq Al-Awsat – At a time when the Free Syrian Army [FSA] is in control of the town of Zabadani, close to the Lebanese border, and other areas of the country, and rumors abound about negotiations for a ceasefire taking place between the FSA and the Syrian army, FSA Deputy Commander Colonel Malik al-Kurdi informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “what the regime and its forces are doing…is nothing more than following the policy of deceit that it has always relied upon, gambling on time in order to implement its own operations.”
Al-Kurdi stressed that no direct negotiations are taking place between the Syrian army and the FSA, but acknowledged that the Syrian army has sent mediators and neutral figures – such as village elders – to negotiate with the FSA on their behalf. He also revealed that the Syrian army has sent an indirect message to the Syrian people living in areas under FSA control that they have no problem with these regionals remaining outside of government control so long as there are no armed clashes or anti-regime demonstrations. Colonel al-Kurdi described this offer as being part of the regime’s “policy of deceit”, adding that the Syrian people no longer believe the regime’s lies and tricks. The latest news on the ground appears to confirm Colonel al-Kurdi’s analysis of the situation, with Syrian army forces attacking many FSA-controlled areas on Friday morning, including Homs, Douma, and elsewhere.
FSA soldiers seized control of the town of Douma, on the north-east edge of Damascus on Wednesday night. The FSA Deputy Commander informed Asharq Al-Awsat that the same scenario played out in Latakia, Banias, Zabadani, and elsewhere. However as of Friday morning, Syrian security and military forces have staged a fight-back, with dozens of military vehicles reportedly storming Douma, just ten miles from central Damascus. Syrian forces also pounded the Bab Seba neighborhood of Homs with heavy artillery and rocket fire, whilst clashes have been heard in the nearby Baba Amro neighborhood.
The indirect talks between the Syrian army and the FSA appear to have stalled, or more likely been a tactic to buy time on the part of the regime. Speaking before the ceasefire talks broke down, Colonel al-Kurdi told Asharq Al-Awsat that the regime did not officially recognize the FSA, describing this recognition as being “implicit”. He added that the Syrian regime appears convinced that the FSA has had a great deal of impact on the Syrian revolution in general, and the Syrian army – and the number of soldiers and officers defecting – in particular. He stressed that “the statements made by the Syrian Foreign Minister [Walid Muallem] are proof of this.”
Appearing to predict the Friday morning assault, Colonel al-Kurdi told Asharq Al-Awsat that he did not believe that the Syrian security forces were planning to raid several areas at the same time, but rather were planning to seize the entire region in one fell swoop. He also confirmed that clashes between the Syrian army and the FSA have taken place in most areas of the country, and that this has intensified over the last two weeks with the apparent failure of the Arab League’s observer mission.
As for the regime’s claims that the FSA has killed two thousand Syrian army soldiers since the beginning of the revolution, al-Kurdi said “we do not have any accurate information in this regard, however this figure is not out of the question, particularly as the clashes with the security forces and the army have not stopped, and we acknowledge that we are targeting the pro-regime Shabiha militia and members of the army who carry out attacks on unarmed demonstrators.”