April 12, 2013

Muhammad Mikdad, 36, is an independent citizen journalist from Daraa province. He talked with SAS reporter Ahmed Kwider about Islamist battalions, a strategy to defeat the regime and the importance of Daraa in the battle for Damascus.

0401MapDaraaQ: The rebels have achieved several surprising victories in Daraa. Does that mean the regime forces have started to collapse in that area?

A: I think the regime is trying to reposition its forces in northern Horan. Despite the advances of the FSA battalions in Daraa, the regime continues to have a tight grip on it. They have 4 divisions in addition to independent brigades and battalions.

The crucial part is related to Daraa’s northern countryside in towns like Nawa, Jasem and Izraa. The regime has assembled large forces for the battle there, which will be crucial to winning Damascus.

Q: What are the rebels’ options to break the regime-controlled security triangle around Nawa, Sheikh Miskeen and Izraa?

A: I think their options are limited. Their best chances lie in exhausting the regime’s forces. Unlike a-Raqqa, Daraa is more important. [Developments] there will determine the positions of Jordan and Israel towards the Syrian revolution.

Q: You said that a military victory in Daraa will help the rebels influence neighboring countries. Isn’t Ahmad a-Nimah, the head of the Military Council, capable of doing that job on his own?

A: Generally, the heads of the military councils don’t have a lot of influence in other countries. They don’t have enough relations to handle these things, which are up to politicians and political institutions. Some states will change their policies towards the Syrian revolution. Their positions are not conclusive but they will be when the rebels advance.

Q: Which part of the armed opposition is fighting here? Is it the FSA, Islamist battalions or Jabhat a-Nusra?

A: The FSA is the main force, shored up by Islamist battalions and Jabhat a-Nusra. Young men who don’t find a place in one group join another. They have a common enemy in [the regime].

After the leaks about FSA fighters trained by the United States in Jordan, it’s clear that the Americans don’t want to have Jabhat a-Nusra in Daraa.