Defense minister of Syria’s interim government calls for more aid

Asaad Mustafa, the defense minister in Syria’s interim government, said that the Syrian people reject al-Qaeda and called on Arab and Western countries to increase their military and nonmilitary aid.

al-monitor Former Syrian Minister of Agriculture Asaad al-Mustafa (R) talks with former Syrian National Council (SNC) chief Burhan Ghalioun, Doha, March 8, 2013. Photo by REUTERS/Stringer.

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syria national council, syria civil war, syria, rebels, qatar and saudi calls for intervention, qatar, opposition, defense

Dec 26, 2013

The defense minister in the interim Syrian government, Asaad Mustafa, called on Arab states to “unite” their support and make it go through the interim government and its Defense Ministry. He stressed the need that “the support from our brothers and friends rise to the level of the magnitude of the disaster that we are facing. ... We are facing a criminal regime that has allies helping it in committing murder and crimes and are giving it money, arms and men. The [Syrian regime also gets] political support from a major country in the Security Council: Russia.”

Al-Hayat interviewed Mustafa on the sidelines of his discussions in Doha with the Qatari defense minister, Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah. Mustafa was accompanying the prime minister of the Syrian interim government, Ahmad Tohme. Mustafa said, “The Syrian people have been defending themselves against the regime for two years. We in the interim government seek to support the steadfastness of the Syrian people and provide them with what they need to defend themselves and continue the revolution until the liberation of Syria from this criminal regime and build a pluralistic democratic state that can accommodate all the people.”

Asked about his talks in Doha, he said, “Our meetings with all our brothers in Doha are aimed at supporting the interim government’s programs and strengthening the steadfastness of the Syrian revolution at all levels. During our meetings, we addressed all the issues in general.”

In response to another question, he said, “Our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council helped us and they stood with us in our time of need, and we highly appreciate it. But we want two things from them: first, the unification of support toward the interim government and military support to the ministry of defense. And we want them to increase this support to match the size and level of the dangers because they are growing now. Also growing are the crimes of the regime, which is bombarding cities with explosive barrels while the whole world watches Aleppo being massacred.”

Mustafa, who served as minister of agriculture in Damascus before defecting, said, “We want the means to defend ourselves in the face of this infernal machine that is bombing us.” Asked about why Western countries stopped giving weapons to the Syrian opposition, he said that these countries “essentially do not give us military aid. They provided a little aid then reconsidered. They said to us: we stopped to rethink the programs and how the work was going. The aid that they are providing is very little and doesn’t rise to the level of what friendly country [should provide] to a people being slaughtered every day, as they can see.”

About London’s and Washington’s announcement that they suspended support because of what they called the spread of extremist and militant groups, Mustafa said, “First they have to support the Syrian people. And when they support them, there will be no place for al-Qaeda or any radical regime. Delaying aid, not supporting the Syrian people, and not effectively helping them has led to the emergence of some extremist groups. The Syrian people will not accept extremism. They are moderate. We are confident that we will achieve victory. But Western countries are giving pretexts to shirk their responsibilities in supporting the Syrian people.”

When asked whether he expected the bombardment to intensify before the Geneva conference, he said, “The regime’s plan is to continue the bombardment before the Geneva II conference, and since the beginning of the revolution. It is a criminal regime that does that all the time.” But he said that “the Syrian people will triumph and the regime and its criminal allies will not be able defeat the people.” He addressed the “brothers and friends” by telling them, “The Syrian people are facing great hardships and challenges. They are being bombarded with all kinds of weapons. They need relief, medicine and housing, whether at home or abroad. We ask them to increase their support and to stand by us even more, to match the extent of the catastrophe that we are facing.”

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