INTERVIEW: Syrian opposition worried US airstrikes could bolster Assad

Alia Soliman , Wednesday 24 Sep 2014

Bassel Oudat, a Syrian journalist based in Damascus, on how the opposition sees the US-led airstrikes against IS on Syrian soil

Bashar al-Assad
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (Photo: Reuters)

In an interview with Ahram Online, the Damascus-based Syrian writer and journalist – Bassel Oudatt – speaks about the US-led airstrikes against the Islamic State-controlled sites in Syria that started early on Tuesday.

Oudat provides his insight on a number of issues including the Syrian opposition's stance, the reaction of Al-Assad’s regime and future scenarios for ongoing operations. 

Q: How did Syria's opposition perceive the airstrikes?

B.O: The Syrian opposition didn't welcome that fight for three specific reasons.

The first reason is that the opposition wants the airstrikes to counter all terrorist organizations in Syria including the Lebanese Hezbollah militants, the sectarian irregular military units – both of which identified as terrorists by the US government – as well as the republican guards.

The opposition does not see any differences between IS and Bashar Al-Assad fighters, and both must be fought.

The second reason is that the Syrian opposition fears that US’ unclear definition of "terrorism" will lead to strikes on the Syrian opposition. Already on Wednesday some groups not related to IS in Syria were hit, in addition to some civilians.

The third reason is that the international coalition's plan for its operations in Syria is still unclear, while in Iraq it is. The US also announced that it will not intervene to overthrow Assad's regime, but it will start a project to train the opposition so that they are able to face terrorist attacks, which may change the balance of power that will force the Syrian regime to accept a political solution to end the country's crisis.

Q: Syria said it knew about the operation. What do you think about such statement?

B.O: We cannot give credibility to whatever the Syrian regime has announced. Since the start of the Syrian revolution, the regime's policy has changed to the direction of telling lies regarding the Syrians, the Arabs and their alliances.

The regime's target of its lies is to raise the spirits of his supporters at the country, so his military forces won't collapse.

Leaders in the political opposition and the military opposition declared that there was no coordination between them and the US coalition before the strikes began.

This is in spite of logic says that there was a must for coordination between the coalition and the Syrian Free Army which is considered by the US to be balanced faction.

Following the coalition's airstrikes, the Syrian Air Force started striking the same spots, which means the coalition didn't impose any sort of ban on the Syrian Air Force and such a step is important to prevent any additional risks for the coalition’s forces.

Meanwhile, striking armed extremists' groups not linked to IS is considered a big boost for Assad's regime and a loss for the opposition. This begs an important question, who benefits from these airstrikes? The regime or the opposition? 

Q: What is most likely to happen next?

B.O: The coalition's airstrikes will continue and will not affect the regime. The US might strike some of the regime's strategic bases but it will not bring it down. 

They will also take a parallel path of training some chosen groups of the opposition and supplying them with weapons, as the US previously they will train 5,000 fighters within a year.

But those 5,000 cannot defeat the forces of IS or Assad alone, they are not even half of the forces fighting on Assad’s side.

Maybe there is an American plan that will take place away from the media lights, the project still has a ways to go, but the wrong thing is to imagine that the US is thinking to overthrow the Syrian regime

This means that the US will not end the Syrian crisis, and the political leaders in the opposition must recognise that.

The Syrian opposition is betting on one of two outcomes. The first scenario is that the Syrian regime targets the coalition’s fighter aircrafts to provoke it into a direct conflict. The second is that the coalition only targets the IS group, allowing the Syrian opposition to focus on fighting the regime, as IS was exclusively fighting the opposition. Nonetheless, with all the parts playing in Syria now, no one knows what will happen.

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