Sunday 9 June 2013

Gen. Idriss: The post-Qusayr state of play in Syria

Hezbollah's black flag of "Ya Hussein" on a minaret in al-Qusayr

Aljazeera Mubasher aired the following interview with Gen. Salim Idriss, chief of staff of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army, today. The translation is my own:
Gen. Idriss being interviewed
Q. General, brief us if you may about Qusayr and the overall military situation
The battle for Qusayr drew a lot of media attention. It was certainly a major and key battle. Fact is that huge numbers of Hezbollah fighters – we’re talking of more than 7,000 fighters – crossed the Lebanese borders into the town’s outlying areas. It is an open secret that these were elite and well-equipped Hezbollah forces.
They crossed the Lebanese-Syrian border under the nose of the Lebanese army. We have information the Lebanese army watched nonchalantly as they crossed the border. The army did absolutely nothing to stop them. In truth, and to put it diplomatically, this is utter complicity.
The fighters went in and were able, after some fierce fighting, to take control of a number of villages in close proximity to the border.
Throughout the fighting, these (Hezbollah) forces were receiving unprecedented air cover from the criminal regime’s warplanes, which dropped all kinds of bombs and medium-range missiles -- including thermobaric bombs and long-range shells -- against our men and villages.
Mechanized regime forces and Hezbollah fighters then used what is called scorched tactics to pulverize Qusayr, one neighborhood after the other, in order to be able to control it.
The number of injured in Qusayr is very high and humanitarian conditions are tough because the criminal regime’s forces and Hezbollah fighters had been blockading Qusayr town for weeks.
With their light weapons, FSA forces were left with two options: hold out and be wiped out altogether, or retreat along with the wounded, who were many.
We, as FSA, acknowledge that we cannot face up to the regime’s regular army when it is in full-strength. Between brackets, the regime has no army left to fight us with. Its army was over and done with a long time ago.
The best way for us to fight this regime is by guerilla warfare or hit and run tactics without holding on to territory. But in Qusayr, we were forced to defend our people’s security.
Displays and manifestations of sectarianism, confessional hatred and fanaticism started as soon as regime forces and Hezbollah fighters went into Qusayr.
First thing they did was to raise a black flag with the (Shiite) cry “Ya (Oh) Hussein” inscribed on it and chant that they are “the sons of Ali.”
This liar, Hassan Nasrallah, used to claim he is a resistance (movement against Israel), which he considered to be Islamic.
These (Hezbollah) people are unrelated to Islam or to Hussein or to Ali or to Zeinab. After all, Hussein is ours and so is Zeinab.
These people are simply carrying out a dirty Iranian scheme.
God willing, the end of the Hezbollah movement will come here on Syrian land.
Syria has an area of 185,000 square kilometers. Her people, her heroes, her freedom fighters have gulped down the criminal regime’s army and are able to gulp down Hassan Nasrallah’s fighters.
Q. Did you set a new strategy for the coming battles, especially after reports that Hezbollah fighters are now massing in Aleppo, Homs and Rif Dimashq?
Certainly, but this not something we would share with the media.
But the leaders of Hezbollah and Iran know – and so does the criminal Bashar – the high figure of casualties they sustained to enter a small town. Can they keep up the momentum and bear such a high casualty toll?
We are 23 million people spread over an area of 185,000 kilometers. We will all be fighting Hezbollah and the other Iraqi Shiite bigots and Iranian fighters who support the regime. We will fight them to the finish.
We assure them, we are aware this is going to be a tough and long-drawn-out war that could last for years. The Lebanese war lasted 17 years.
The fact Hassan Nasrallah acted on Iran’s orders and joined criminal Bashar in this war opened the door to all probabilities. We are prepared for this confrontation. We are ready for this war.
Through your channel, I appeal to my brothers the combatants, fighters and insurgents to raise their alertness condition to “Maximum Readiness” level in order to confront the ongoing sectarian invasion.
After Bashar pioneered sectarianism, which was unbeknown to us, Hassan Nasrallah comes in to hoist black flags on top of our minarets
This is something we will not forget. We believe in tit for tat. We shall fight them, even if the war were to last a thousand years.
Q. How is the situation now in Qusayr? Are there still civilians there?
I can’t discuss the fate of the civilians and wounded, if only because regime warplanes are still chasing the wounded.
Whenever they are moved from Qusayr to medical facilities inside or outwith Lebanese territory, regime warplanes and Hezbollah fighters track them.
So I apologize for not being able to share with you any information on the state of the civilians, the wounded, the state of Qusayr or the villages near it.
Q. Did fighting flare up in Rif Dimashq because Hezbollah fighters joined the fray en masse?
Hezbollah fighters are now spread across Syria. They have a presence in Eastern Ghouta alongside Iraqi Shiite extremists belonging to the Mahdi Brigade and ‘Asa’eb al-Haq, Iranian combatants and Shiite volunteers from Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Hezbollah fighters also have a presence in Rif Dimashq’s western and northern sectors. They have a tightly packed presence in Aleppo, Idlib and east Syria. We know their numbers, where they are positioned and where their sleeping quarters are.
For example, we know that some 4,000 Hezbollah fighters are accommodated in the Military Academy west of Aleppo. They are bracing for battle on the Khan Al Asal front.
Q. Can you promise the poorly armed FSA members qualitative weapons anytime soon?
Victory comes from God, faith and the cause we are upholding – namely, to uproot this tyrant who destroyed the country, its people and social fabric.
Weapons are vital and much needed. But the determining factor is faith and the fighter’s belief in the justice of his cause.
They’ve been saying they stifled the revolution for two years and they stifled nothing. They now brought in Hezbollah, their last card – unless of course they call on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards to intervene directly.
Q. Will the FSA be intervening in Lebanon to fight Hezbollah there?
Frankly, we did not and will not ask our fighters to go into Lebanon.
We don’t want to fight on Lebanese territory.
Lebanon is a country we respect. We know Lebanese authorities can’t lift a finger against Hezbollah. Hezbollah wreaked havoc in Lebanon and destroyed its social fabric. It totally disregards state authority.
We repeatedly urged the Lebanese president to condemn (Hezbollah’s invasion). But we excuse him because he cannot do that. They (Hezbollah) would create all sorts of problems for him.
The (Lebanese) president is an honorable man and we respect him highly.
The (caretaker) Prime Minister (Najib Mikati) however is an accomplice of Hezbollah -- and so is the Lebanese army, whether willingly or unwillingly.
But we will not fight inside Lebanese territory.
Q. Are you coordinating positions with the Syrian National Coalition in respect of the proposed Geneva-2 conference?
Geneva-2 is the brainchild of the Russians and Americans.
The Russians want to exploit it to tell the world the Syrian opposition is divided.
They are hedging their bets on seeing the opposition represented at the conference by four caucuses: (1) The FSA and other fighters (2) The National Coalition (3) Haytham Manna’ and his loyalists (4) The so-called State-Building Bloc created by Assad…
The Russians want them all to meet with Walid al-Muallem so they can later say the opposition is disjointed and there is no solution other than keeping Assad to restore security and stability in Syria and protect its minorities.
The long and short of our position on Geneva-2 is this:
  1. One delegation – with one head – goes to the conference to represent the opposition.
  2. The delegation would forthwith table its conditions to negotiate a peaceful solution.
  3. The conditions are (a) the criminal Bashar al-Assad resigns instantly and leaves the country he destroyed (b) criminal heads of the security services and commanders of the quisling army are referred to trial (c) a transitional government is formed -- one in which the opposition holds sway.
  4. From thereon, we will submit to whatever decisions are taken by the Syrian people.

I want to assure the Syrian people the political and armed wings of the opposition are one in wanting the new Syria to be free and democratic, respectful of all religions, free of any sort of discrimination or acts of revenge, where citizens have equal rights and obligations…
 Q. What’s your reading of the days ahead?
The situation is grave, very grave. We forewarn everyone in the world that massacres and many tragedies are in store for Syria.
To date, 60 to 70 percent of Syria is in ruin.
The country might yet be thoroughly destroyed, which is sad but likely.
Others might not be spared. Bashar, Iran and Hezbollah have no qualms about destroying the whole region.
The greatest danger facing the world today is Iran and its quest to revive Khosru’s Sassanid Empire.
Q. And what about the clashes on the Golan front?
All Syrians are familiar with Bashar’s heroics on the Golan front. As Don Quixote incarnated, he never fought or would fight Israel.
He says he will choose the time end place to fight Israel. The time and place will never come.
Bashar and Israel have an undeclared alliance. He is the best neighbor Israel could have. That’s why Israel does not want to see him fall.
Q. Any message you would like to convey to the Syrians?
To all men on all fronts, I would say: Make sure to raise your alertness condition to “Maximum Readiness” level.
To all other Syrians in every city, town, village or rural area, I would say: Take up arms to defend your homeland against a foreign invasion. I ask everyone short of a rifle to sell his clothes and buy one.