Friday, January 29, 2016

We are Syria’s moderate opposition – and we’re fighting on two fronts

President Assad and Islamic State are two sides of the same coin. Whenever we, the Free Syrian Army, make advances against the regime, Isis steps in

The Guardian


“I will tell God everything I saw” was the last sentence uttered by a Syrian child before he died of injuries caused by one of the Assad regime’s barrel bombs.
For those lucky enough not to know what barrel bombs are, they are a type of improvised explosive device, usually made from barrel-shaped containers, that are packed with explosives and then rolled out of helicopters.
Activists’ cameras have documented barrel bombs being dropped by the dozen on a daily basis from Assad’s helicopters. But despite this, he has repeatedly refused to acknowledge their existence to the press, scoffing at the very idea.
Barrel bombs have killed and destroyed the lives of thousands of Syrians, and caused the displacement of many more. They have given rise to an anticipated level of violence and reaction far beyond any of the Arab spring revolutions, exceeding the numbers of victims of even the Libyan revolution.
There has been talk of a number of “moderate” fighters who are open to co-operation. David Cameron has talked about the existence of 70,000 fighters opposing Daesh, and there is reason to believe the number is yet higher. I want to unpack this a little.
Last October the UN special envoy for Syria, Steffan de Mistura, invited Syrian military factions to engage in dialogue with the regime through the so-called Four Committees Initiative. The initiative was rejected by the factions out of mistrust, but it did reveal the elevated number of opposition fighters that were active in Syria: 74 military factions signed the rejection statement, the smallest of which numbered 1,000, while others totalled more than 10,000.
Crucially, none of these 74 are internationally classified as extremists. The moderate opposition is not a myth. Syrians do not need foreign fighters to help them fight Isis; they have indigenous fighters, better acquainted with the land and able to confront any aggressor, particularly where there is firm international will to support them to do so.
The Syrian armed opposition is fighting a war on two fronts: against Assad and against Daesh. Assad’s barbarity has driven Syrians from their homes and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians over the past five years.
On the other side, we are facing Daesh, a terrorist group whose creation Assad must take some of the responsibility for. Daesh is helping the Assad regime by fighting us, the armed moderate opposition. The relationship between the two should not be in doubt.
Whenever we have made advances and secured victories, Daesh has defended the Assad regime. For example, we have seen Daesh launch offensives in order to draw Free Syrian Army forces away from battle, to ease pressure on the regime. During a battle near Qardaha – the birthplace of Bashar al-Assad – the armed opposition was achieving great victories until Daesh suddenly launched an attack on a key military position in the nearby city of Aleppo, killing a number of Free Syrian Army commanders. Just three days later they withdrew, at which point they handed the area over to regime forces.
Syrian local forces describe how Assad and Daesh are two sides of the same coin, brought together by the common interest of prolonging the conflict.
On the ground in Syria, thousands of people are fighting for liberation from a despotic regime that has drawn terrorists to Syria. Anyone familiar with the crisis will be aware that the victims suffering the most at the hands of Daesh’s terror are the Syrians themselves. They are stuck between terrorists and a brutal dictator, neither of which has any regard for civilian lives.
The moderate opposition remains firm in its struggle to combat the Syrian regime, as well as the growing threat from terrorism in Syria. The Free Syrian Army welcomes any hand extended to help bring the Syrian people closer to gaining their freedom, without being deflected from its goals or the fundamental principles of the revolution.
Almost half a million Syrians have paid with their blood, and the bloodshed needs to stop. The opposition wants to ensure that barbarism doesn’t triumph in Syria, neither Assad’s nor Daesh’s, and that the country is returned to the Syrian people.

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