Syrian opposition criticizes US in chemical attack debate

Syrian opposition criticizes US in chemical attack debate

Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of Syria's opposition coalition, participated in the panel.

March 21, 2013, Thursday/ 16:55:00/ SİNEM CENGİZ

Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, the leader of Syria's opposition coalition, has criticized the countries which warned that the use of any chemical weapons in Syria would be a “red line,” implicitly referring to the US, for not taking any action now that these weapons have been used in the war-torn country.

“The leaders of some countries were calling the usage of chemical weapons in Syria a ‘red line.' Now, these weapons have been used. What are these countries doing now?” said Khatib.

Recently, US President Barack Obama warned that any use of chemical weapons would be a "red line" that would trigger consequences, without spelling out what those would be.

Obama said on Wednesday that the United States is investigating whether chemical weapons have been deployed in Syria, but he's "deeply skeptical" of claims by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime that opposition forces were behind such an attack, according to The Associated Press (AP).

Meanwhile, Russia, which has steadfastly supported embattled Syrian President Assad in Syria's civil war, backed Assad's assertion on Tuesday.

Assad's regime and opposition forces have accused each other of launching a deadly chemical attack near the northern city of Aleppo on Tuesday. Both sides have demanded international investigations.

Speaking at a conference held at the Ankara-based the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) on Thursday, Khatib stated that the main obstacle to the success of the Syrian people was the international and regional actors' involvement in the two-year Syrian crisis. “The failure of American and Russian policies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya is very obvious. The Syrian people are not test group and Syria is not the experiment field. We don't want the US and Russia to poke their noses into the Syrian issue, which is the issue of the Syrian people,” said Khatib.

Khatib also added that the international community paved the way for the Syrian regime to commit these massacres in Syria.

Speaking at the same conference, George Sabra, head of the Syrian National Council (SNC), one of the major organizations now under the newly recognized Syrian Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, stated that due to the failure of the international community to provide clear support to the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the most prominent of several armed groups fighting to overthrow Assad, there has been no success in the Syrian revolution. “The Syrian regime is not only a threat to the Syrian people, but also to the people of the regional countries. It is a must that Assad and his regime should leave power. Only on that condition can the humanitarian situation in Syria get better,” said Sabra.

“The international community should support the opposition forces and provide arms,” said Sabra, adding that fighters are in desperate need of weapons to break the stalemate with Assad's forces.

The US has stated recently that it would send non-lethal aid directly to the Syrian opposition for the first time, but not arms. Syrian opposition forces cannot receive arms from West due to the arms embargo imposed by European Union on Syria.

“Some countries supported the Syrian regime both logistically and militarily. These countries are Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah, a Shiite group in Lebanon,” said Sabra.

Criticizing some countries that aim to give Assad a role in power in the future, Khatib maintained that this was impossible at the moment. “The Syrian people are not stupid and they will never forget the massacre committed by this brutal regime. Assad and his regime have no future in Syria at all,” said Khatib.

Alawites are an important part of Syrian society

Khatib stated that Syrian Alawites are an important part of Syrian society, adding that Alawites lived in harmony with the other segments however, regime disrupted this harmony. “Throughout his life, Assad never visited an Alawite village. Alawites are in fear and concerned about their future due to Assad's propaganda about the opposition and the revolution. The Syrian regime used the Alawite community for its own interests,” said Khatib.

The international community and the Syrian opposition are seriously concerned about a sectarian civil war emerging in Syria following the fall of Assad -- a concern that plays into hands of Assad, according to Khatib.

Assad and his family belongs to Alawite sect, which is an offshoot of Shiite Islam. Alawites in Syria composes nearly 15 percent of the total population.

Turkey did not help Syrian opposition militarily

Turkey has supported the Syrian opposition politically and has made efforts to meet the humanitarian needs of the people in the country, said Khatib, underlining that Turkey has not supported the Syrian opposition militarily. "We appreciate Turkey's support to the Syrian opposition throughout the crisis," said Khatib.

Stating that failures of the international community should not be repeated again, Khatib maintained that the Syrian opposition would not surrender to Iran, a faithful ally of Syrian regime. “The Syrian people will resist against all the games played against them. The Syrian people need the support and the help of the global community,” said Khatib.

Khatib added that there were two ways to solve the crisis in Syria; one peaceful and the other military. “The regime closed the way for the peaceful solution. However, a military solution will take a long time and the Syrian people will have to pay high prices,” said Khatib.

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