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Today's Zaman's Interview with Louay Safi on Syrian Conflict PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Louay M. Safi   
Mar 23, 2014 at 06:38 AM

“We thought the established democracies would support those who are crying out for democracy and freedom. But these countries did not live up to their commitment to democracy and human rights,” said Louay Safi, spokesperson for the Syrian National Coalition -- the only group recognized by countries supporting the opposition as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people -- in an exclusive interview with Sunday's Zaman.

Noting that while the international community has provided some political and humanitarian support to the Syrian opposition, it is not enough, Safi said, and he added that the international community has fallen short of meeting its moral and humanitarian obligations.

“They did not do enough at a very crucial moment in order to force Assad to engage in finding a political solution with good faith,” Safi said, noting that the international community failed to punish Assad for using unacceptable methods to keep his regime intact.

The crisis in Syria rages on, and each day bombs, shells and ballistic missiles are destroying homes and living tens of thousands civilians killed. Survivors of the bloody conflict end up in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDP) along the borders of the war-torn country.

The extended conflict has also brought foreign fighters into Syria to fight on both sides, either for the mostly Sunni opposition or for the Assad regime, made up of mostly Alawites, a branch of Shiite Islam.

Despite this, Safi rejects claims that the Syrian revolution has failed, saying that the Syrian opposition has managed to keep the fight against the regime forces going for three years and as a result, Assad is not in full control of Syria, since Idlib, much of Aleppo and perhaps Der Azzor and Raqqa are under the control of the opposition forces. "This means the revolution did not fail," says Safi.

However, he acknowledges that the revolution has not succeeded yet and says it could not bring down the Syrian regime for geopolitical reasons, "mainly because of the complete support that Assad receives from Iranians and Russians,” Safi said, adding that these countries support the regime because, without Assad's dictatorship, he points out, they will not be able to pursue their interests in the region.

The international community struggled to respond to the Syrian crisis, as Russia shielded Assad using its veto power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to block resolutions designed to force Assad from power, saying that Assad's departure from power would not solve the problem and would rather prolong peace talks that will end up with a deadlock.

While much of the international community is lining up against Syria, the country is not without allies. Russia, Iran and China are all supporting Syrian regime politically, economically and militarily and blocking international efforts against the embattled President Bashar al-Assad.

However the Syrian National Coalition official is positive about the future of the revolution, saying: “Although Assad is still in power, this regime has been tremendously weakened and it will not last, whether the military uprising succeeds or not. It will not last.”

As of last week, it has been three years since the crisis began with unrest in southern Syria in 2011 and the positive results the Syrians have been yearning for have yet to appear. There is still no clear sign of an end to the ongoing suffering that has plagued the war-torn country. More than 150,000 lives have reportedly been lost, infrastructure and centuries-old Syrian cultural heritage landmarks have been destroyed, families have been torn apart and a generation of young Syrians is getting very limited or no education and support, as millions of residents are now displaced and have become refugees in neighboring countries such as Turkey. The Syrian civil war has become the most burning humanitarian crisis in the world.

Safi, however, is disappointed about the lack of support from the Friends of Syria group of states, saying that the Syrian opposition did not get enough support from its allies to succeed while “those who support the dictator have given everything to help him keep his post.”

“We are disappointed that our friends, the Friends of Syria, did not provide us with enough support. I don't want to malign everybody, as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been at the forefront to provide support to the Syrian opposition forces. It is our European and American colleagues who have mainly disappointed us,” Safi said, adding that because of the limitations on military support imposed by the US, for example, the revolution could not move forward and instead, government forces advanced to retain power in Damascus.

“The West did not use their power to stop Iran and Hezbollah from intervening. They did not do anything to make Hezbollah realize that they will be in danger if it extends its military force into Syria,” he said.

The Obama administration suspended military aid by cutting off arming the opposition forces in northern Syria amid concerns that it might fall into the hands of militants with ties to al-Qaeda. However some other reports say that the US gave up providing military support to the Syrian opposition because it is more interested in improving diplomatic ties with Iran in order to finally solve the long-standing Iranian nuclear program problem.


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