Activists in Aleppo countryside prefer arming the opposition over military intervention

Ayman Mohammed

Talk has been circulating about the possibility of Western countries, and specifically the United States, staging a military operation against the Syrian government. However, since the beginning of the peaceful protests, most activists have been unified in their refusal of any direct external intervention. They see this as a war on the local, home-grown uprising to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and as paving the way for an Iraq-style invasion and occupation scenario that they do not wish to see happen in Syria.

“The West first and foremost wants to secure its own interests in the region, whether they are with the regime or with the opposition,” said Ibrahim Abu Hassan, 28, an engineer and an activist from the city of Jarablos. “It does not want the regime to defeat the opposition militarily. We do not support any Western intervention on Syrian land.”

Activists in Aleppo countryside prefer arming the opposition over military intervention
Activists in Aleppo countryside prefer arming the opposition over military intervention – YouTube

For some, the possibility of military intervention is close to impossible. Activist and post office worker in Manbaj, Na’aman Khalil, 30, whose salary the government has stopped paying, thinks that this is just talk because the West does not intend to insert itself in a battle with the regime’s allies, especially Russia and China. If the West did participate in this battle, it would not be for the interests of the Syrian people but rather for the interest of Western countries.

“If the West wanted to stand with the opposition it could have put real pressure on the government…since the beginning of the protests,” he said. “They saw our non-violent demonstrations, and the whole world knows the Syrian people peacefully demanded freedom and dignity, but the regime pushed for military confrontation. They targeted, arrested, and killed us and destroyed our cities. And today they say that the regime has crossed a red line, as if pounding us with all sorts of weapons is a green line for Bashar Al-Assad.”

“We don’t want their intervention,” Khalil continued. “Let them just give the revolutionaries the required weapons and the fall of the regime will be guaranteed.”

Others think that the American and Western decision to arm the opposition will not end the Syrian crisis, but will rather be met with more arms and support to the regime from its allies.

“The West does not want to end the crisis in Syria, as they now call it,” Ahmad Abu Qadamah, 40, an activist and artist in Jarablos, said. “Arming the opposition will be met with further arming of the regime to keep the balance in check. The goal is to put Syria out like a candle and exhaust the fighters on both sides.”

“We refuse any direct military operation against Syria, because if the West intervenes, it will impose its own agenda and agents,” he continued.  “The West … fears the growth of Islamist power outside of their control, since most of the liberated areas in Syria are governed through Islamic Shari’a. The military might of the factions that are calling for an Islamic state has grown.”

Abu Jaafar al-Halabi, an activist and reporter for Al-Jazeera Live, says that the Syrian people do not need intervention and will take what is theirs on their own.

“We can topple the regime and stand against any military intervention from the West. Our will is the way to victory over the regime,” he said.

Wassim Ahmad, 27, an activist and university student from Aleppo currently living in Manbaj, says he is also against military intervention.

“The West is starting to realize the horror of the situation in Syria, but their wake-up came too late,” he said. “They could have prevented what they feared from happening, since all the killing the regime committed pushed people to extremism. This is natural.”

Ahmed says Hizbullah’s involvement on the regime’s side made the situation in Syria even worse.

“The West suffices itself with condemnation and denunciation but it prevents weapons from reaching fighters on the ground,” he said. “Let them give us quality weapons and the world will see how our suffering will end with this regime. We don’t support their military intervention. We didn’t start our revolution for [the West] to liberate us.”

Still others see that in the shadow of the opposition’s political, military, and ideological divisions, and the rift in the international community, providing the opposition with more weapons will not lead to the fall of the regime.

“Providing more weapons cannot possibly lead to the regime’s downfall,” said Kurdish activist Omar Ibrahim. “This is for one clear reason, which is the split in the international community over the issue of Syria and its inability to push for practical solutions and effective mechanisms to effect the chain of events.”

“The Russian bear will not give up on the regime when Washington sends truckloads of weapons to the armed opposition. Therefore the regime will be able to remain and fight on the political, military, and diplomatic fronts and the situation will continue for years if things stay as they are now.”

Ibrahim said a condition for the success of the opposition is to unify the armed forces of the opposition on the ground under a single leadership and eliminate the Salafist forces that he says “harm the revolution.”

He said another focus of the opposition should be on unifying the political forces and announcing their post-regime plans for Syria, including the shape of the state, the form of government, and the rights of different groups. He believes that international intervention is an unlikely possibility, at least for the time being.

Until now, the discussion to intervene through imposing a no-fly zone or through aerial attack is the most important issue under discussion in the West, while activists inside Syria insist on achieving the revolution’s goals without recourse to any outside force on the ground.  Many of these activists also insist as on the necessity of arms only to achieve military balance with the aim of reaching a political solution that secures the sovereignty of Syria.