Sunday, September 8, 2013

 

Syrian opposition not consulted on 'intervention plan'

The Syrian National Coalition, an umbrella group representing the main opposition in Syria, has not been consulted on the looming US-led military operation in Syria, a senior member in the coalition told Today's Zaman.

Khalid Saleh, media director for the Syrian National Coalition, says they regard the looming attack against the Syrian regime as “a step in the right direction.” (Photo: Reuters)

Khaled Khodja, the representative of the opposition coalition in Turkey, said they were not consulted by the US or any other country on the scope of the operation; however, he added that the possible intervention in whatever form is expected to benefit the opposition forces on the ground.

Khodja said the anticipated operation is an attempt to protect the credibility of US President Barack Obama, who earlier said the use of chemical weapons in Syria would be the “red line” and now he has to intervene in Syria to protect his image.

Although the Obama administration appears to be moving closer to a possible intervention in Syria, it has lost the military support of a key ally. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron's parliamentary proposal for a military operation in Syria was rejected in the House of Commons on Thursday, making it impossible for the UK to be included in the international coalition working on an intervention.

Cameron said he would not “override the will of parliament” and approve military action after losing the 285 to 272 vote.

Despite losing Cameron's support, Obama seemed prepared on Thursday for a unilateral US intervention in Syria. His advisers told the media that the US president is willing to go forward with an operation against Syria on his own.

As the UK opted out, French President Francois Hollande said that the parliamentary vote in Britain would not change France's “will to act to punish” Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's administration for the toxic gas attack on Syrian civilians in mid-August.

In contrast to the UK, France is not constrained by the need for parliamentary approval of any military action that will last for less than four months.

Busy with the upcoming elections in September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel seems unwilling to make a military move in Syria, another roadblock in forming an international coalition for the “punitive” and “limited” military attack against Assad's regime.

The US president, during a televised interview on Thursday, said he “had not yet made his decision” regarding strike on Syria.

Earlier, the US had said that any response to the chemical weapons attack would be limited in scope and aimed solely at punishing Assad for deploying deadly gases, not at regime change.

According to Khodja, although the intervention is not intended to change the regime or get rid of Assad, the opposition will still benefit from a military intervention. He says that the intervention will speed up the overthrow of the Syrian President. Khodja adds, however, that only “arming the Free Syrian Army [FSA] with sufficient arms” will change the balance on the battlefront.

During a press briefing in İstanbul on Thursday, the head of the media office for the opposition coalition, Khalid Saleh, said they understood that the intervention is not going to be about bringing change to the regime, but about stopping the use of chemical weapons again, adding that they regard this “a step in the right direction.”

“The possible intervention is not part of a big political strategy [to find a resolution to the war] in Syria. As Obama has said, it is intended to be punitive,” Khodja told Today's Zaman in a telephone interview.

Regarding some signals that might indicate a delay in the possible military move on Syria, Khodja said the important thing was that an intervention is on the agenda. He said that when military action was first discussed by the international community, many generals and soldiers in the Syrian army defected and even left the country. He added that missile launchers and military and intelligence bases should be targeted during the strike to damage the regime.

Khodja estimated the current number of soldiers in regime's army to be about 110,000, while this number was 325,000 when the uprising first started in March 2011. He added that the FSA has 200,000 soldiers fighting against government forces.

On Monday, some media reports said that US and other Western diplomats at a meeting in İstanbul told members of the Syrian opposition to be ready for negotiations after an attack against the regime compels it to ask for peace. Sources told Reuters that the leaders of the opposition coalition also proposed targets for cruise missiles and bombing for the attack.

However, any discussion of targets during the İstanbul meeting, which brought together envoys from the Friends of Syria core group and coalition figures, was denied by the Syrian opposition. Saleh said they do not typically discuss military questions during these meetings because it is a meeting with foreign ministers or diplomats.source
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