Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat—Following confirmation that British Prime Minister David Cameron has abandoned plans to arm the Syrian opposition, Free Syrian Army (FSA) Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idris accused him of betrayal.
The Syrian opposition yesterday failed to express any significant enthusiasm for the British government’s announcement that it intends to provide equipment to Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters to protect them against chemical and biological weapons attacks in light of this news. This comes following Cameron’s change of mind regarding arming the Syrian opposition, after advice from British military leadership.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, FSA Chief of Staff Gen. Salim Idris, accused Cameron of “betraying the Syrian opposition by abandoning plans to arm them.”
He said, “This decision paves the way for Al-Qaeda to control opposition fighters,” adding “The West promises and promises. This is a joke now.”
The FSA leader, asked: ” What are our friends in the West waiting for? For Iran and Hezbollah to kill all the Syrian people?”
British Foreign Secretary William Hague yesterday announced that “”We plan to equip the moderate armed opposition with 5,000 escape hoods, nerve-agent pre-treatment tablets (NAPs) and chemical-weapons detector paper.”
“The gift will be offered to the Supreme Military Council of the Syrian National Coalition, which the UK recognises as the sole legitimate representatives of the Syrian people,” he added in a written statement to parliament.
Hague stressed that this was a “matter of special urgency” because “the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria and the urgent need to support the Syrian opposition means that the government needs to act as soon as possible”.
FSA media and political coordinator Louay Miqdad told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The British initiative is appreciated, however we do not think it is possible to protect the Syrian people by providing gas masks to guard against chemical weapons, but rather by stopping the criminal who is using these weapons.”
Miqdad asked: “So what if the FSA is provided with 5,000 gas masks? What about the rest of the Syrian people?”
He stressed, “More serious steps are needed because arming the FSA is the best way to protect the Syrian people; anything less than that is nothing more than temporary measures that address the symptoms of the disease but not the cause.”
Eleven countries, including Britain and the United States, who represent the core of the Friends of Syria group, announced that they would provide advanced military aid to the Syrian opposition during the Doha summit on June 23.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Miqdad accused Western countries, particularly Britain and the United States, of “breaking explicit promises” made to the Syrian opposition.
Earlier this week, press reports quoted a “senior” US official as saying that “the Obama administration has made progress in overcoming objections by legislators to plans to arm the Syrian opposition.”
The official added that members of the intelligence committee at the US Senate, who questioned the wisdom of the decision to arm opposition fighters, have agreed in principle for the administration to go ahead, but requested to be informed about the progress of the operation.
While US legislators worry that arms could end up in the hands of Islamist extremists and that this still will not be enough to defeat the Assad forces, Miqdad said: “the Syrian blood which is being shed everyday should be enough to dispel any Western fears, especially the Americans.”