Opposition leader amazed at Europe policy
OPPOSITION:PROMINENT DOMESTIC opposition figure Abdul Aziz al-Khair has expressed amazement at Europe’s policy toward the Syrian conflict.
France, he says, is treating Syria as if it was still a colony. “This has left Europe without any important ally in the opposition.”
Dr Khair, president of the domestic Syrian National Co-ordination Board, blames Turkey and the West for initially comparing Syria to Tunisia and Egypt.
“The Syrian army is different . . . The US cannot give orders to Syrian generals like it could [to those] in Tunisia and Egypt,” who mounted coups against their countries’ presidents during protests.
Once it was clear such an approach would not work, these powers adopted the Iraqi and Libyan models, thinking the Syrian “regime would collapse in weeks or months . . . This was only wishful thinking”.
Today he believes Europe could be “re-evaluating its policies. It is not taking the Syrian National Council [SNC] as the sole representative of the opposition.”
The SNC, a coalition of expatriate groups is divided, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, and without support inside Syria.
Dr Khair, a physician who spent 11 years operating underground and 14 years in prison, says groups other than the SNC are uniting against the escalating armed struggle in Syria. “This will only destroy the country and kill people. It complicates the situation more and more. None of the armed groups can defeat the other.”
Eventually, he says, “there will be a point where all the groups will conclude there must be political negotiations”.
He suggests there could be progress if Damascus’s allies, Russia, China and Iran, conclude that even if the regime wins militarily, it could lose politically and not be able to rule.
The government, he says, will “re-establish control over Aleppo”, the current battleground between the army and rebels.
“The army is united and under control of the regime. The army is larger and better equipped than the rebels . . . The regime has used only a small portion of its forces.”
The army can also “regain control of the land between Aleppo and the Turkish border”.
He estimates that the battle for Aleppo is being fought by Syrian recruits backed by “1,500 Arab fighters, Libyans and others”, many of whom are puritan Salafis and al-Qaeda [which] are well-organised and well-equipped and prepared to fight forever but not for Syria [for an Islamic Caliphate).
Dr Khair says Brig Gen Manaf Tlass, son of Syria’s veteran defence minister, could play a positive role in a transition period.
“His defection was very important because he was a key figure in the Republican Guards and a childhood friend of Assad. I know for sure that he [Tlass] refused to use the army against protesters. He could be accepted by many high-ranking officers . . . but he is not known to the public.”