December 4, 2014
After four months of negotiations, more than 100 Syrian rebel factions announced the formation of the Revolutionary Command Council in the Turkish city of Ghazi Antab on November 29.
The RCC, which counts Jaish al-Islam, Suqour a-Sham and Feilaq a-Sham among its members, says its primary goal is to bring down Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.
“We extend our hand to all, without exception, from any stream of thought or political direction,” RCC president Qais a-Sheikh announced at the founding conference.
But on Thursday, a source in Harakat Hazm told Reuters that the US-backed group had withdrawn from the council because of its unclear political goals and an overly Islamist tone.
Mohammed Aloush, president of the political wing of the RCC, tells Syria Direct's Mohammed al-Haj Ali that the council “refuses to adopt political agendas.”
The RCC “is directed at Bashar al-Assad,” not at undermining rival rebel groups, Aloush says.
The new council is “independent” and “entirely Syrian,” Aloush says, and has not accepted backing from any other entity.
“This is for one reason – so the council will not be beholden to anyone.”
Q: What are the Revolutionary Command Council's goals?
To bring about the fall of the Syrian regime with all of its symbols and pillars, by uniting the forces loyal to the revolution and working with total cooperation and total discipline.
To administer the transitional period [after the regime's fall] until representatives of the people take over power in the state, according to certain determinants that guarantee the goals of the revolution—whereas the basis during this entire period will be the rule of law, and just governance.
Among our most important goals: building up a popular base, and preparing that base to continue the revolution. Resisting all forms of terrorism, and all errant practices, and those that harm the revolution and people.
Guaranteeing the unity of Syria—its people and land. Administering the liberated areas. Finally, the formation of a judicial power.
The Council's founding conference in Turkey last week. Photo courtesy of RCC.
Q: Which states have provided, or will provide material and moral support to the council?
During the formation of the council, we did not contact any state. Neither friendly states, nor those close by, or far away. We did not contact any other organization. We even refused any aid to the preparatory council from any organization or any council or any third party.
This is for one reason, so that this council will not be beholden to anyone, and will not be subject to the control of anyone. Rather, it is independent, with the decision-making process entirely Syrian.
Q: What is your stance towards Jabhat a-Nusra and the Islamic State (IS)?
We announced that this council is directed against Bashar al-Assad. We have not aimed the rifle at any other party, except in self-defense.
As for the Islamic State, we believe that there are courts and a judiciary power—should any disputes arise, we can resort to the judiciary, and dialogue remains open.
We want to direct the fight right now only against Bashar al-Assad, and against his allies who came from Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, such as Hezbollah and Liwa Abu al-Fadl al-Abbas, along with other Shiite militias.
Q: What is the Revolutionary Command Council? How is it different from other opposition groups?
It is an entity formed by a group of factions. Its formation began four months ago in the city of Jarjanaz in Idlib. Fourteen factions met and announced an initiative called 'And Hold Firmly,' which was based on the idea that there would be military and judiciary cooperation [between them].
After that, the groups gave themselves 45 days to form a council and address the rest of the Syrian factions [and convince them] to enter into this initiative.
Next, they formed a preparatory assembly that represented different geographic areas across Syria. And after everyone agreed [about this] the coalition came into being, which consists of three bodies—the political, civilian and military bodies.
As for how the council is different from other groups—the most important difference is that this council contains more than 100 factions, represented in the Command Council, composed of 70 members.
This council springs from the earth.
Q: Is there a connection between the Revolutionary Command Council and the Syrian National Coalition?
We announced at our conference that the council will seek the aid of society's elite who are ready to make sacrifices and lead society in all fields.
The council is not a replacement for the [Syrian National] Coalition, or for anyone else, and does not exclude anyone who has come to unite the mujahideen, or forces fighting on Syrian land, against the Syrian regime.
The council refuses to adopt any political agendas.
Q: What will you do regarding civilian and humanitarian aid?
This is the domain of civil society organizations. We do not promise the people more than we can deliver, but rather [we promise] to organize humanitarian work, so that there won't be areas in which people are dying of hunger and extreme poverty with other areas overflowing with aid baskets.
There is chaos in this area. We are striving to gather information and track aid and medical organizations so we can direct and guide them. We do not demand that they operate under our control—rather, that they cooperate and coordinate their work.