Syrian Opposition Says West Must Enable ‘Syrian People to Defend Themselves,’ Not Just Carry Out ‘Punitive Strikes’
by Zach Pontz
Khaled as-Saleh, media officer for the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, said that the Syrian Opposition hopes for more than just the expected short-lived strike on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in an interview with NOW Lebanon on Thursday.
“We are not asking for a punitive strike or for some show or slap in the face that lasts only for a day or two; rather, we want permanent protection for the Syrian people and the recognition of their rights to live,” As-Saleh said. “This calls primarily for enabling the Syrian people to defend themselves, preventing regime armament and forcing foreign invading troops – be they Iranian, Lebanese, or Iraqi – to withdraw from Syria.”
Western nations, including the United States, have threatened to strike Syria in response to its use of chemical weapons in an attack near Damascus last week that left hundreds of civilians dead. Syria and its backers in Moscow and Tehran have denied the allegations, placing blame on Syrian opposition forces.
On Thursday, Britain’s House of Commons voted to abstain from participating in an attack, while Germany also said it would not involve itself in the more-than two-year-old conflict. The United States and France, however, have still not ruled out a military response.
As-Saleh welcomed possible military intervention, but questioned the logic behind what motivated it while also outlining his vision for an effective Opposition victory.
“Killing civilians with chemical weapons is a dangerous and hideous act that aroused the world’s conscience. Still, killing civilians with knives, bullets, artillery shells, missiles and fuel barrels is by no means pretty or less hideous,” he said. “The [military] strike – when such a strike indeed occurs – will weaken the regime and deprive it of the possibility of using chemical weapons. However, it will not end the Syrian people’s ordeal nor will it definitively protect its right to live unless it comes along with a decisive stance to arm the Free Syrian Army and cut the regime’s supply in money, weapons, and mercenaries.”
The Opposition has been in constant contact with Western nations but As-Saleh said that ” there were no meetings to identify the objectives of the prospective strike and the modalities of its execution,” adding that the Coalition was in contact “with security forces and the Free Syrian Army in order to have things under control should the regime fall. In any case, the regime has already lost over 60% of the Syrian territory; no more than 40% of it remains under various levels of regime control.”