“Neither I nor the coalition has the right to ignore the blood of Syrians that has been shed,” he said in an interview with the Cihan news agency published on Thursday. “The Syrians will decide on what they want to do [with Assad]. We are talking about a person who massacred the people and devastated the country.”
Reports regarding a possible departure of Assad from Syria as part of a solution to the country's 21-month-old crisis have surfaced in international media several times, but the Syrian leader has rejected exile as an option, vowing to “live and die” in Syria.
Al-Khatib, whose National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces has won recognition from Gulf countries, Turkey and the West, said Assad has two options: the military option, which will bring even more devastation to Syria, and the “wise” option, which he said would bring a political solution – though he admitted this did not look likely. He warned that Assad would soon face the same fate as deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi if he chooses the military path.
“The solution for us is very simple. The only problem for us is him and the mafia he leads that is ruling the country. We have no problem with anyone else in Syria,” Al-Khatib said, apparently in an attempt to ease concerns that a collapse of the Assad regime would lead to the massacre of the country's Alawite minority, to which the Syrian leader belongs.
According to al-Khatib, the cost of the destruction caused so far by the 21-month-old crisis is $120 billion. But he said he was optimistic that the country will recover fast after collapse of the regime.
Al-Khatib, a former Damascus preacher, also argued that the Syrian regime has attempted to instigate a war between Turkey and Iran by firing shells into Turkish territory several times during the Syrian conflict but that Turkey avoided falling into that trap by acting with “restraint and common sense.”
A mortar bomb fired from Syria killed five Turks in a border town in October, following which Turkey retaliated by hitting Syrian military targets. Turkey also hit Syrian targets in response to what the Syrian government said were stray shells and bullets that landed on the Turkish side of the border on several occasions.
“You know, wars do not break out all of a sudden. First, there are small-scale clashes, which then grow in scope. And then international actors intervene. This was the scenario Assad envisaged. He thought he would be the sinless angel at the end. He was not going to care even if the two sides [Turkey and Iran] were burnt down [in a war],” said al-Khatib.
Al-Khatib said the Iranian regime supports Assad in his strategy and claimed that Tehran is planning a “gradual military intervention in the region” using the Syrian crisis as an excuse.
The opposition leader also dismissed a peace proposal Assad offered in a recent speech and added that his coalition was in touch with some Alawites who say “we suffer from Assad's oppression as much as you do,” although he noted these Alawites do not represent the entire community.
“Some of them are going through hardships that [other] Syrians are going through. But it does not mean that some others of them are not involved in the murders committed by the regime,” he said of Alawites.