By Caroline Akoum and Layal Abu Rihal -
Beirut, Asharq Al-Awsat – Deputy Chief of Staff of the opposition Free Syrian Army [FSA], Colonel Aref Hamoud, condemned the attack and storming of the US embassies in Libya and Egypt. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Hamoud said “we are against such acts which insult the people’s revolutions and Arab Spring.”
As for whether he fears the rise of Al Qaeda in Syria, the FSA Deputy Chief of Staff asserted that “anything is possible after the Syrian arena has become open due to the lack of action of the international community with regards to all the massacres that are being committed by the regime.” He added “there can be no doubt that it has become a fertile ground for various groups, including extremist Salafist groups.” Hamoud stressed that “so far, these groups are a minority and are not of the same level as the Al Qaeda organization, however if the international community continue to ignore the Syrian people’s cause, there can be no doubt that such groups will appear and spread [across Syria].”
He also said that the Syrian people’s belief that the international community has forgotten about them will push them towards religion, and therefore to groups that raise the banner of religion. Colonel Hamoud called on the international community to officially recognize the FSA and fund it to allow it to be the sole body authorized to carry weapons in Syria.
For his part, Syrian National Council member Samir Satouf confirmed that Al Qaeda is present on the ground in Syria, although under a variety of different names. He informed Asharq Al-Awsat that Bashar al-Assad had been funding these Al Qaeda affiliates – with the knowledge of the West – since before the revolution.
He said “the extremist Syrian groups that are present on the ground are no different than Al Qaeda; extremism is the brother of extremism. We have information that confirms that al-Assad funded the extremists who are cooperating with Al Qaeda, and that he previously and continues to provide them with arms, which are being smuggled into Syria under the protection of Syrian security.”
Satouf asserted that the prolonging of the Syria crisis, and the international community’s inability or unwillingness to take a firm stance on this situation, will only serve to exacerbate the problems, adding that it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Syrian people to keep pace with these challenges. He warned that the continuation of this state of affairs will lead Syria towards “civil war” adding “this is something that the regime is seeking to nurture.”
Commenting on the attacks on US embassies in the Arab world, Syrian Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, Zuhair Salim, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “we should not exaggerate the issue. Whenever something happens, we shouldn’t point the finger at the revolutionaries and Arab people”. He added “we, as the Muslim Brotherhood, condemn the attacks on the US embassy in Libya, and we call on the wise to take the initiative and not leave the scene for the wicked.”