Ahmed al-Jarba, head of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, recently sat down with Al-Masry Al-Youm in an exclusive question-and-answer session.
Jarba welcomed the US-led strike against the regime of Bashar al-Assad, on condition of preserving the lives of Syrian civilians, despite their political affiliations.
Jarba ruled out in his interview with Al-Masry Al-Youm that the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria would reach power, stressing that the opposition has a one-year roadmap that includes the formation of a transitional cabinet to monitor elections. He claimed that Assad employed extremists of al-Nosra Front to fight in Syria as he has formerly done in Iraq.
Al-Masry Al-Youm: How do you see the Syrian crisis?
Jarba: The Syrian crisis has been escalating since it began two and a half years ago. The pace of violence on the part of the Syrian regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite extremists, and a number of Yemeni fighters continue.
They are supposedly brothers of the Syrian people, and are supposed to support them against the repressive butcher regime. On the other hand, there is a suspicious Western and regional silence, which has encouraged the head of the criminal regime to persist in the murder because he does not find anyone to deter or stop him and his entourage is making him believe he has the right to do that.
The regime started to use live ammunition and found the world silent. They then used artillery, aviation and Scud missiles and the world was still silent. Finally they used chemical weapons because they were confident that no one would intervene to save the Syrian people from these massacres. But things changed after the August 21 chemical strike.
Al-Masry: There is a real escalation toward a military strike. How do you see it?
Jarba: Certainly there is warning of a punitive strike against this regime and will be carried out within a week at most, in order to discipline Bashar al-Assad and cause paralysis to the military regime and its military equipment.
Al-Masry: That means the coalition agrees to the Western military strike against the Syrian regime?
Jarba: Yes, but on the condition to preserve the lives of civilians whether supporters or opponents. This strike will be certain and directed against military sites under the control of the regime. We bless this strike as it will destroy the vehicles which kill the Syrian people mercilessly.
Al-Masry: The Syrian regime started to move its military tools to change its location, that may cause a confusion and the strike may target places for civilians, right?
Jarba: There are satellites that monitor all the movements of the regime and know where will Bashar be at the time of the strike. Therefore I think that the step of moving military vehicles to change its place and mislead the strikers will be useless. Spying agencies and satellites have all information and I think that the time has come for the international community to say its word on the Syrian crisis.
Al-Masry: Do you think that the meeting of the Council of Arab foreign ministers delayed a political decision to resolve the Syrian crisis ?
Jarba: I do not think it was delayed, but the meeting happened at exactly the right time. I was keen to attend the meeting and asked the Arab foreign ministers to take a nationalistic stance towards the Syrian people .
Al-Masry: In the case of the Syrian opposition succeeded in isolating Bashar al-Assad and ending the rule of the Baath Party, how will you face military wings like al-Nosra Front and Kurds and others?
Jarba: We have a one legitimate military wing, it is the Free Army. Jihadists do not fight under the umbrella of the Free Army, and this is a problem, of course, and I’d like to make it clear that these jihadists were previously working with the Syrian regime, and were employed in Iraq during the US occupation.
These groups blew up a lot of Iraqi sites, and there is a strong relationship between them and the regime’s forces who aim to take Syria to a stage of chaos and to say that the Free Army exercises murder and bombing for jihadist aims. But this is an exposed conspiracy and the coalition of opposition has a plan to deal with those groups, but not now. Their turn is coming after we get rid of the big germ named Bashar al-Assad regime. I imagine that the elimination of the Assad regime would mean getting rid of 75% of those groups, because the regime is using them and we will deal with the rest.
Al-Masry: How will you deal with these groups later, you will have to negotiate or have armed confrontation?
Jarba: We will use the soft and harsh methods according to the need. I would like to make it clear that these are not all Syrians. Some of them are Arab and Western. I say to the Arab and Western states who consider themselves true friends of the Syrian people that Syria does not need men but needs weapon and money and a real stand in the face of this murderous regime, which has exceeded all limits against the defenseless people.
Al-Masry: Some see that the majority of opposition in Syria are Muslim Brotherhood. How true is that?
Jarba: This is not true, the Brotherhood are a Syrian faction, but they are not the majority, and I am responsible for what I say. For example in the Syrian National Council, that was representing the opposition before the formation of the coalition, there was a strong presence for the Muslim Brotherhood, but in the coalition we believe that the representation of the Muslim Brotherhood is perfectly normal and not worrying, especially after the expansion of the democratic bloc, the revolutionary movement and the Free Army. All these blocs are added value to the coalition and do not include Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood in Syria differ from the Brotherhood in other areas. In addition to that, Syria is a moderate country and has a large number of minorities estimated at one-third of the Syrian people… the Brotherhood is a spectra of the Syrian people and are represented realistically in the coalition.
Al-Masry: This means that the Muslim Brotherhood reaching power in Syria is a weak possibility?
Jarba: Yes, chances are very weak, and the political map of Syria, which include many minorities confirms this.
Al-Masry: Is there a strong support by the European Union to the Syrian opposition or Europeans still believe that the opposition is divided?
Jarba: Europeans’ position changed after the last chemical strike. I ended up recently with a tour at the United States and a number of European countries and learned that they plan to support the Free Army and opposition coalition.
Al-Masry: The reconstruction of Syria needs great effort and time. Is the coalition thinking of these things?
Jarba: Yes, we are thinking of that and we are drafting a United Arab Emirates-German project for the reconstruction of Syria. We signed the contract recently in Germany, as there is an international fund for the reconstruction, where many countries including South Korea, Japan, the European Union, the United States and the Gulf states also are taking part. But implementation on the ground depends on the stability of the situation first.
Al-Masry: There are voices condemning both sides, the regime and the opposition, and believe that they are behind shedding the blood of innocent citizens, what do you say?
Jarba: Those voices misunderstand the reality of the crisis. Because they equate the victim and executioner, and compare them, and this is strange, of course. The Syrian Revolution remained peaceful for more than 9 months and then the rebels were forced to take up arms to defend their children, women and the rest of the defenseless protesters who died daily in the horrific massacres the regime committed against humanity in cities such as Hama and Deir ez-Zor.
Al-Masry: But arming the opposition has caused many accusations against it.
Jarba: Do not forget that arming the opposition in the beginning was very weak compared to the military arsenal owned by the offending regime, which owned aircraft and ballistic missiles and Scud missiles, and other military equipment. The regime used this equipment to kill its people, which we have never seen in any country in the world.
Al-Masry: The regime accuses al-Nosra Front of carrying out the chemical strike. Is there new evidence found by the committee the United Nations?
Jarba: The chemical strike was directed by the regime. This does not require evidence simply because they are the only ones who possess such weapons. But it is a cowardly regime… the area targeted with chemical weapons is the rural area of Damascus, an area close to the the city. The regime feared that the Free Army would enter the area so it directed a chemical strike.
Al-Masry: Is there a roadmap set by the Syrian opposition for the post-Bashar era?
Jarba: Yes, we have a roadmap that begins after the fall of the regime. A transitional cabinet representing all spectrums of the Syrian people will be formed. A national conference will be held as soon as the regime falls. A constituent assembly will be formed for drafting a new constitution for the country. The transitional government will oversee elections. Those who win through ballot boxes are welcome.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm