MIDDLE EAST

Is it time for an alternative Syrian army?

The idea of establishing an army for the Syrian opposition seems late but I think that proposing this idea today is more appropriate than ever. The concerned parties, including the group of countries in support of the Syrian revolution and which is secretly known as the “military room” in Jordan, had different stances about the presence of an opposition army.

However, the situation calls for establishing a new Syrian army for several reasons. First of all, this army will represent the Syrian people and not a sect or a religion or an extremist group, and it will not be affiliated with the region’s countries or mercenaries. Syria needs an army that represents all the Syrians, reestablishes the state, imposes order and operates under international legitimacy.

The biggest challenge that threatens the Syrians today is the emergence of an Iranian army on their soil. This army is led by the Revolutionary Guards and it consists of militias from Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, and Pakistan and of course troops from the Iranian Quds Force.

This is a direct threat to the project of the Syrian state as the Iranians can stay there for a long time. Two US Congressmen sent letters to the American secretaries of state and defense warning them that Iran plans to exploit its presence in Syria to build military bases on the Mediterranean Sea.

It is true that there is actually no longer an opposition free Syrian army like we knew it. It disintegrated into smaller groups after the Iranians, Russians, ISIS, al-Nusra Front and other groups targeted it.

So why are we talking about establishing a new Syrian army? It is due to the proposed political solution and to help plan safe zones for refugees. It is also due to some countries’ desire to form a power that fights terrorist groups which have infiltrated opposition-held areas. Keep in mind that establishing a military power is a requirement to recognize the opposition’s role in the new project of governance as it cannot live under the shadow of Assad’s army.

There is no value in a political solution if it is not preceded by a project that establishes entities, mainly the army, and provides security. The opposition does not trust the regime forces, and it wants a military power that represents it inside this adopted system of a political solution

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Ending chaos

A new Syrian army is thus needed to end the chaos, which has resulted as a result of the spread of dozens of militias and to unite the armed opposition under one flag and leadership. Of course, this armed opposition would be united after sorting it to make sure it’s ideologically “appropriate” and that it’s patriotic and not religious. The thousands of defectors from the Syrian Arab Army who refused to kill their people can be the core of the new Syrian army.

Everyone, and not just Syrians, needs this army. They need an army that fights terrorist organizations that threaten Syria, the region and the world, that confronts the Iranian army’s militias if they refuse to exit Syria and purges the latter from regional movements, which oppose neighboring countries, like the Kurdish Turkish movement and the Iraqi ISIS.

In case a political agreement is reached, the new Syrian army can complement the regime’s Syrian Arab Army, which has become weak as it is now made up of mere remnants.

There is no value in a political solution if it is not preceded by a project that establishes entities, mainly the army, and provides security. The opposition does not trust the regime forces, and it wants a military power that represents it inside this adopted system of a political solution. It needs this power to protect the areas affiliated with it. When other countries insist on evacuating Syria of all foreign fighters, the Syrian regime will hold on to Iran’s militias unless a national army that assumes the task emerges.

Considering the divergent views, it may be a long time before there is an agreement over a political solution. This does not prevent establishment of a Syrian army during the negotiations period to fight terrorism and end the excuse that the Assad regime needs Iran’s militias to stay.

This article is also available in Arabic.
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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

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Last Update: Tuesday, 30 May 2017 KSA 12:16 - GMT 09:16
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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