Free Syrian Army Commander Rejects Exile for Assad

In an interview, a Free Syrian Army commander rejected an amnesty plan for Syria’s president, who he said should be tried for his crimes. Rida Shannouf reports that he also denied the rumor that former Egyptian Vice President Suleiman was killed in the bombing of the national security building on July 18.

al-monitor A Free Syrian Army soldier steps on portraits of President Bashar al-Assad at the Bab Al-Salam border crossing to Turkey July 22, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Umit Bektas.

Topics covered

tactical withdrawal, al-qaeda, syrian civil war, syrian, riad al-asaad, omar suleiman, kofi annan, free syrian army, fsa, bashar al-assad, arab league, arab

Jul 24, 2012

Free Syrian Army (FSA) Commander Col. Riad al-Asaad said that there is no longer room for a political solution in Syria, stressing that the fighting will continue until the Assad regime is overthrown. He also rejected the recent Arab League initiative, which offered the Syrian president a safe exit if he agrees to leave power.

The colonel said, “Assad must be tried for the massacres he committed and he should be held accountable for the Syrian blood which is being shed.” In a telephone interview with El-Khabar, Asaad denied that former Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman was killed in the bombing of the national security building in Damascus on July 18.

The FSA commander denied that his troops had retreated from Damascus. He said they withdrew from some areas that had been under their control because of tactical calculations and not because of defeats suffered at the hands of the regime’s army. He said that the FSA was performing hit-and-run operations according to guerrilla warfare tactics used in cities. Asaad said that some FSA factions had tactically withdrawn “because of the heavy bombardment by regime forces on several areas and only to avoid causing further deaths.”

He said he was satisfied with how the “Liberation of Aleppo” operation was going and noted that his troops were doing well and are making progress in the city.

Concerning the battles in Damascus, Asaad said, “We are using all means possible to overthrow the Assad regime and declare Damascus and all of Syria free of Assad rule.”

The FSA commander rejected the Arab League’s offer to allow Assad safe exit and exile in exchange for stepping down from power. Asaad said, “No, we will not accept that Assad be provided a safe exit. He must be tried for the massacres he committed against the Syrian people and he should be held accountable for the Syrian blood that has been shed.” Asaad stressed that the FSA sees no chance for a political solution in Syria while the battles are ongoing and “the regime continues to kill.” He added: “We do not expect a political solution in Syria.”

Asaad denied that the FSA was responsible for the failure of Kofi Annan’s United Nations-Arab League peace plan by pointing out that “it was the regime that sabotaged the plan. We have committed ourselves to stop all operations but we could not keep on watching as the Syrians’ blood was flowing, which made us take up arms again to defend civilians.”

Asaad said he does not believe the Syrian government’s assurances that it will not use chemical weapons. He said, “The regime lies, and we expect it to use chemical weapons against us and we will hold it responsible for that.”

With regard to the media talk that former Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman was killed in the bombing of the national security headquarters in Damascus, Asaad said: “That is not true. We do not acknowledge the rumor that Suleiman died in the bombing of the national security building.”

The FSA commander discussed his combatants’ raising of the al-Qaeda flag atop the Syrian-Turkish border crossing of Bab al-Hawa after they had captured it. He said, “Some groups have been paid to distort the Syrian resistance’s image. We are making contacts to find out who did this act and I assure you that al-Qaeda is not in our ranks.”

The FSA commander complained of an arms shortage and asserted that his troops were unable to acquire arms, which was hampering the battle to liberate Syria. He pointed out that the number of Syrian army defectors had reached about 80,000 and that they included high-ranking officers, brigadier-generals and colonels.

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings

More from  Rida Shannouf