April 25, 2013

Activists and media reports indicate that rebels led by Jabhat a-Nusra control most of Deir a-Zor’s oil fields. Earlier this week, Gen. Selim Idriss, the head of the FSA’s Supreme Milistary Council, told the Financial Times he “hoped not to have a battle” with armed groups such as Jabhat a-Busra over the oil fields. Omar Abo Laila, 30, is the spokesman for the FSA General Staff Eastern Area. He tells Ahmed Kwider that the FSA is overseeing the fields and actively shopping for investors to exploit the underground resources.

Q: Which of the province’s oil fields does the opposition control? Where are these?

A: [The opposition controls] all the fields, including al-Wared, a-Taim, a-Tannak, al-Kamb, also known as al-Kamb oil station. [The opposition also controls all] the gas fields with the exception of al-Omar field in rural al-Mayadeen. Al-Assad forces still have it. The FSA has besieged it and can liberate it within an hour, but they are concerned about the dangerous consequences of involving in that area. [Ahmad says that could mean explosions in the gas field, or an attack of the village there.]

Q: How do you describe the relationship between the FSA and Jabhar a-Nusra in Deir e-Zor?

A: The relationship between the FSA and Jabhat a-Nusra is like that between any two armed groups in this revolution. They share the same objective, which is to remove Bashar al-Assad’s regime and his agents. The FSA usually starts and supervise operations and Jabhat a-Nusra follows at the later stages.

The battle of Shams al-Furate [Euphrates Sun] to liberate Deir e-Zor military airport is an example. Jabhat a-Nusra joined the fight after the FSA assaulted the airport for 20 days, destroying more than seven warplanes, including Ilyushin yesterday. The relationship [between Jabhat a-Nusra and the FSA] is limited; Jabhat a-Nusra often works solo.

Q: Have the rebels been able to produce and sell oil? What’s happening to oil?

A: The FSA controls more than 95% of the oil fields [in Deir e-Zor]. Oil is now produced by primitive methods that have negative impacts on the environment and health. We have requested modern equipment, or allowing investors to negotiate with officials from the FSA General Staff. We have requested air cover, and it will be our responsibly in the FSA to protect oil exports through land.

Q: Where are you requesting modern equipment from?

A: We won’t object to anybody who wants to invest in oil according to the proper standards. We will provide protection for those who want to invest, so long as they negotiate with the rebels inside, not the ones who live in hotels. The General Staff is the main group on the ground, compared with the Coalition or the [transitional] government that’s still ink on paper and hasn’t given anything to the Syrian people. The General Staff will be our only representatives in such negotiations.

We will commit to any deal to invest in oil if air cover is provided. The entire population will back us on this.

Q: Jabhat a-Nusra seems to control particular oil fields in the province, and a gas station where they fill containers. How does the FSA deal with this challenge?

A: Jabhat a-Nusra doesn’t control any of the oil fields. The provide gas for the people from the field of Kancock. Jabhat a-Nusra is not an obstacle. This field and other fields belong to the Syrian people. Once an official institution is founded, Jabhat a-Nusra will hand this field over to it.

The quarrel that took place in al-Masrab village was the result of killing one of Jabhat a-Nusra’s princes by the shabiha. The FSA intervened and evacuated civilians, women and children from the village. The problem was over after 20 of Jabhat a-Nusra and 17 of the other side were killed.

Neither Jabhat a-Nusra nor any Islamist group can force Islam on the Syrian people. The children who started the revolution in Daraa were not Salafists or extremists. Only the Syrian people determine the course of this revolution.

Q: What have you heard and seen in Deir e-Zor today?

A: Deir e-Zor is on fire and the FSA will sweep the province within the coming few days. The military airport is about to fall; it might fall within days or even hours. All the FSA battalions in the city are effectively coordinating. Deir e-Zor is afflicted with disaster but will stay on its course with the other rebelling provinces to topple the Assad regime.

Q: Who is ruling Deir e-Zor at this point?

A: The FSA alone rules [Deir e-Zor]. The [army] barracks are all besieged and about to fall. The largest liberated area in Syria is the one ruled by the FSA in Deir e-Zor.