September 30, 2013
Abu Firas is the head of the Media Center of the Tawhid Brigade, the most powerful opposition group in Aleppo, Syria’s largest city. Last week, a Tawhid Brigade spokesman announced the group’s disavowal of the exiled Syrian National Coalition, which purports to represent the Syrian opposition abroad, and called for sharia law in a video and statement posted online. Signed by a total of thirteen groups in the city, including FSA-affiliated Ahrar Al Sham and Al Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat Al Nusra, a Syrian National Coalition political member referred to the groups as “uniting in extremism” with the statement. Here, Abu Firas speaks with Abdulrahman al-Masri about the roots of the announcement, and its ability to aid rebels in the city.
Q: How can this statement help the fighters on ground? What is the military impact?
A: This statement will be reflected through the unification/consolidation of military and political decisions.
Q: Could you please explain more? How so?
A: The unification of military ranks will have a positive reflection on the battles that are underway now, through additional cooperation and coordination between the major factions, in order to resolve battles on their behalf.
Q: Why did the Tawhid Brigade and other battalions make this statement now? What’s the reason?
A: [They made this statement] because of the political failure of both the coalition and the transitional government. [They made it] in an effort to unify the rebels within a national revolutionary structure inside the nation, in order to meet the demands on the Syrian people.
Q: We saw that Jabhat Al Nusra was included in the statement, which led to a lot of criticism, what is your statement on this?
A: Jabhat Al Nusra represents a good portion of the people and cannot be overlooked. It is working within the national framework of Syria, and Jabhat Al Nusra’s presence within the national revolutionary web does not reflect the revolution’s deviation from its path.
Q: A little while ago, there was news of defections from the Free Syrian Army in order to join Jabhat Al Nusra, why? How does this statement relate to those reports?
A: No, that has not yet occurred; brigades inside Syria have not yet announced support for Jabhat Al Nusra and recognized it as part of the coalition. On the contrary, there have been many Brigades announcing support for this statement [read by the Tawhid Brigade].
Q: Ok, why does Jabhat Al Nusra remain independent in its actions, as militants? Why doesn’t it act like the Tawhid Brigade and join the Free Syrian Army? Do they have other goals that might fall outside of the National framework of the Revolution?
A: The Syrian people will not permit any project outside of the national framework, whatever and whoever follows it. Recently, the Fatah Brigade also joined the Tawhid Brigade. This is a natural step in the process of building a military organization, which has not crystallized yet. There is no single structure that combines all of the rebels.
Q: How do you think this statement will weaken the international efforts to solve the political crisis? Does the Tawhid Brigade not favor a political solution?
A: The statement was not published only by the Tawhid Brigade. The statement was published by most of the rebel factions. It’s been two years and the international solution is stalled in its place. Assad used chemical weapons and the political and international solution still hasn’t gone past a stage of worry. So any weakness anywhere doesn’t move the solution past the stage of worry and indignation.
Q: But does this statement, supported by Jabhat Al Nusra’s, which the West labels a terrorist organization, stop or weaken support for military battalions?
A: I don’t think so, because the Brigades realize the magnitude of this announcement and its ability to lead in this stage of the conflict and provide for the demands of battle.