Some four years after the start of the events in Syria, the Syrian political opposition, and especially the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (henceforth the National Coalition), is weaker than it has ever been. Since the outbreak of the revolution, the coalition has suffered from extensive internal conflict and insufficient international support, which has impeded its ability to function. These troubles are compounded by the advent of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which has harmed the image of the Syrian revolution both inside and outside the country, and has lent credibility to the claim of the regime and its allies that they are fighting terrorists who want to destroy Syria, rather than oppositionists demanding their freedom and rights.
In an interview published in the Qatari London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, senior coalition official Michel Kilo expressed the coalition's frustration at its situation and also at the West's - especially the U.S.'s - handling of the Syria crisis. Kilo claimed that the U.S. had acted deliberately to eliminate the moderate forces and empower radical terror groups in order to escalate the crisis, so as to make it easier to settle accounts with its rivals. He added that this had served the regime's agenda of claiming that it was fighting terrorists rather than political opponents.
Kilo opposed giving top priority to the fight against ISIS, explaining that resolving the Syrian crisis would make the war on this organization easier and shorter. Prolonging this war, he added, serves Iran by enabling it to infiltrate the Gulf countries. He also objected to the plan of UN Special Envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura to freeze the fighting in Syria, starting in Aleppo, saying that this plan is a waste of time and only allows Assad to present himself as supporting a ceasefire while in practice he escalates his attacks. Kilo did not spare the opposition, and the National Coalition itself, in his criticism, saying that the coalition lets Assad and his allies toy with it and that the Syrians may therefore seek to replace it. However, despite the opposition's difficulties, Kilo believes that Assad's allies will not be able to save him and that he will be ousted, sooner or later.
Michel Kilo (image: Alhadathnews.net)
U.S. Policy Partially Responsible For Empowering Terrorists
Kilo opens the interview by criticizing the National Coalition and saying that if it continues adopting a policy based on improvisations and indecision, without recognizing the true situation, forces on the ground and within the coalition will seek a replacement for it. Asked what he thought about the U.S. vetting the opposition fighters' ideological inclinations before admitting them into the American-supervised training program, in order to weed out Islamist extremists, he answered: "The U.S. is not the one that will determine the suitability of Syrian politicians or soldiers. What will determine this is the role played by the Syrians in the revolution, the sacrifices they have made for its sake, and the duties they have fulfilled for their people's sake. The U.S. has played a central role in weakening what it calls the moderate stream within the Syrian revolution. One time it argues that there are terrorists and extremists, and therefore in cannot provide ammunition and assistance, while another time it says there are international disputes that affect it and it cannot overcome them in order to pressure the Arab states to provide the necessary aid. On the other hand, it argues that it cannot enter into a ground war - despite the fact that no one ever asked it to do so, at least we never asked this - in order to say that it cannot involve itself in the conflict. [It says this] although it has effectively intervened in this conflict more than any other party, and although it is the one that has played the main role in managing the Syrian conflict for four years nowÔÇª The Americans are a major factor in eliminating the moderate forces in the Syrian revolution, and have played a major role in weakening them, isolating them, putting them out of action and removing them from the arena. And now they say they look for moderate forces and cannot find them.
"All those millions of Syrian people who demanded liberty, equality, justice and dignity - were they not moderate forces? Was the American strategy of denying assistance to the Free Syrian Army helpful in putting an end to the terrorists' emergence and rise? Did it prevent the rise of terrorists, or did it fulfill a major role in the rise [of the terrorists] while marginalizing the forces who could have fought them and who [in fact] did fight them effectively a few months ago and removed them from several regions they had conquered between Idlib and Al-Raqqa? I direct all these questions to the U.S., because I believe it is directly responsible for the destruction of the Syrian revolution's civic and democratic character.
"The [U.S.] agenda served the regime's agenda, since [the regime] always said that it was fighting fundamentalists that had infiltrated the Syrian people, [and] now there is no people in Syria, only fundamentalists. The Americans always said that they rejected the extremists who had infiltrated the moderate [forces], and now there are no moderates, only the extremists. This is not a fortuitous policy but a premeditated American policy. I firmly maintain that the U.S. worked constantly to foster conditions that would help it stoke the conflict in the region and to settle regional and international accounts with its rivals using the Syria conflictÔÇª"
The Arabs Must Give Priority To The Syrian Cause Over The Struggle Against Terror
Later in the interview Michel Kilo referred to the positions taken by the Arab States, and particularly the Gulf states, on the crisis in Syria. He said that they "now increasingly realize that the Syrian people are protecting them from Iran and defending them from [Iran's] escapades, recklessness, insanity and cupidity. [They also realize] that now, especially since the start of the war on terror, they must stick [to a policy] that extends priority to the political struggle in everything pertaining to the Syrian cause - because prioritizing the war against terror while neglecting the Syrian cause will admit Iran into their countries on a silver platterÔÇª"
The De Mistura Plan Will Only Escalate Violence
Kilo criticized UN special envoy to Syria Staffan de Mistura for wasting his time seeking a solution to the crisis, while the Americans say that this is a minor matter in comparison with the international war against ISIS. Kilo said: "I don't know in what framework de Mistura will find a solution. Since he has no solution, he is trying to divide it into dozens of partial and micro solutions that ultimately will lead to nothing but the spread of violenceÔÇª What the international envoy is doing is not a political solution but a waste of time. He has neither an international nor an internal framework [behind him], and he does not enjoy any inter-Syrian consensus. [In the meantime] Bashar Al-Assad of course is amusing himselfÔÇª attempting to toy with de Mistura's measures and say that he supports [political] solutions and a freeze of the fighting, while [in practice] he has escalated the fighting tenfold since the new international envoy arrived in Syria to present the Aleppo plan. After de Mistura arrived, and after the lie was spread that the regime wants a diplomatic solution and a freeze on the fighting, etc., the regime adopted [a policy of] carrying out 30-50 airstrikes a day on a single region..." Kilo added, "The regime is playing around and pretending to accept [de Mistura's initiative], since it knows that it is unfeasible and has no international [support] framework. If the initiative was serious, and [significant] forces had been behind it, and it was part of a true plan for implementing the nonviolent Geneva solution, then the regime would have [surely] opposed it..."
Bashar Al-Assad Must Go; Everyone Is Toying With The Opposition Because Of Its Weakness
Kilo said further that "the Russians and others cannot save Bashar Al-Assad. He will not remain president of Syria in the long run, or even in the short run. Unless Bashar Al-Assad is replaced by another president, there will be nothing but war; [he] has to go. Our arms are extended [in friendship] to anyone from the regime who wants to be part of an interim government on the way to a transitioning to democracy in Syria...
"The truth is that the Russians are toying with us, and so is the world, because our situation as an opposition and as a free Syrian army and as a revolution allows them to do so. International struggles that we are both aware of have buried the revolution and turned it into a tool for score-settling between various forces. The world is toying with us because we are not in a position to impose our interests upon it or [even] to represent them in a genuine manner..."
The War On ISIS Is Unserious And Off The Mark
About the war against ISIS, Kilo said that it is not serious and that it is following an incorrect plan. According to him, "if priority had been given to resolving the Syrian problem, which is the root of the other problems in the region, the Syrians themselves, after solving their problem, would have eliminated terrorism within several months... In effect, this war [against ISIS] is being waged so that the problems and crises in the region will not find a solution... Had [the U.S. ]really wanted to address the problem of terrorism, they should have first of all dealt with the Syrian problem and given the Syrian people its rights..."
It Is As If The Syrian People Has Been Stricken From The Roster Of The World's Nations
Addressing the decision of the UN's World Food Programme to halt aid to over 1.7 million Syrian refugees, Kilo said: "It's an unfortunate decision. At a summit of the Friends of the Syrian People Group in Kuwait, the Arab countries resolved to help [the Syrians], but they have not fulfilled [their promise]. It's as though there is an international decision to destroy the Syrian people with bombs, famine, emigration, cold and neglect... We Syrians have begun to feel as though the world has stricken us from the roster of its nations."
 Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), December 6, 2014.