The plan to eliminate the Free Syrian Army

Assad’s regime has been focused on defeating the armed opposition by resorting to military power

Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
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For the past 12 months, Bashar al-Assad’s regime has been focused on the idea of defeating the armed opposition by resorting to military power. It thus strengthened its capabilities by acquiring more weapons and using the help of supporting troops from Iran, Iraq and Lebanon’s Hezbollah. This is why battles have stalled and the regime has succeeded in remaining in governance for the entire year.

Despite all the massive support the Syrian regime received, it failed to defeat the opposition which is still competing for control of the rest of the country’s cities and which once again besieged the capital and blocked the road to the airport.

Practically, the regime’s plan failed and it is no longer easy for its Iranian and Russian allies to send more troops and arms as there is no hope on the horizon.

The fall of Assad is simply a matter of time. The only thing that can be done is prolonging war at the expense of more humanitarian and materialistic costs.

The new strategy is not to fight the Free Syrian Army - which has represented the backbone of the Syrian revolution for more than two years - but sabotage it from the inside. A competing group dubbed the “Islamic Front” suddenly emerged, distancing itself from other extremist Islamic groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and the al-Nusra Front. Then three FSA leaders, along with their battalions, Ahmad Issa al-Sheikh, Zahran Allouch and Saddam al-Jamal, announced that they defected from the FSA. Statements that Saddam al-Gamal defected because he was dissatisfied with Gulf support were attributed to him but we could not authenticate them.

The new strategy is not to fight the Free Syrian Army - which has represented the backbone of the Syrian revolution for more than two years - but sabotage it from the inside

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

These defections, whether they are real or part of a propaganda campaign, express an attempt to nullify the only military power which represents the Syrian revolution. The FSA is also the only power which has been fighting non-stop since the beginning of the revolution and which militarized the revolution 30 months ago.

Other parties, whether groups or battalions, do not represent the revolution because they are either individual parties, which represent revolting neighborhoods or areas, or an extension of terrorist groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and al-Nusra which are an extension of al-Qaeda which operates in Iraq, Yemen and Somalia and which the Assad regime previously used in Iraq and Lebanon during the past decade.

This is the new scene in Syria. There are those who defected from the FSA and there’s the Islamic Front, the establishment of which was announced at a time when the regime’s weakness was clear. The question is: Can these defectors, new factions of Islamists and al-Qaeda terrorists beat the Assad regime together? Absolutely not. But, they are capable of sabotaging the FSA - the revolution’s backbone!

Actions like targeting the city of Maaloula, abducting nuns and taking over the Bab al-Hawa border crossing with Turkey after fighting with the FSA do not reflect any hint of a war with the Assad regime. At a time when all the belligerent parties are preparing to negotiate over Syria’s future at the Geneva II conference, we see that the FSA has a target on its back with a weapon pointed in its direction.

The story, in brief, is that Syria is a country suffering under a fascist security regime. During a brave moment, the people revolted against this regime and millions of Syrians, whether dead, injured or displaced, paid a high price for the sake of change.

This article was first published on in Asharq al-Awsat Dec. 9, 2013.


Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the 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.

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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