A Syrian rebel commander on Monday revealed the aims of a Free Syrian Army (FSA) delegation on a trip to Washington which could last a number of days.
Mustafa Sijiri, head of the political bureau of Liwa al-Muatassim, told Alsouria Net that the main issues put forward would be the “resumption of the American support program for armed opposition groups and confronting Iranian influence in Syria and fighting terrorism.”
U.S. President Donald Trump previously suspended the program of support for rebels through the Central Intelligence Agency in July last year, which Syrian opposition groups are trying to restart.
American officials said that Trump’s decision was driven by a desire to focus on fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) group and to improve relations with Russia because of the lack of results from CIA support to the FSA.
Sijiri, who is currently in Washington as part of the delegation, said that Trump’s decision to stop arming the FSA was an opportunity for ISIS to reorganize its ranks and to reproduce itself in Syria. He said that the decision was also a gift to Iranian militias in Syria and the Lebanese group Hezbollah, which contradicts statements of the American leadership about confronting Iranian influence in Syria.
The commander added: “It is illogical for the American administration to be content with talk… there must be a real and active mobilization on the ground to confront Iran’s influence in the region in general and to expel it from Syria in particular.”
“We, as rebel groups, have confirmed our readiness to work within a new program aiming to confront Iran and terrorist groups in Syria,” he said.
Sijiri said that “among the issues which will be discussed are Russia’s attempts to hold a dialogue conference in the Russian city of Sochi, as well as attempts to impose its will on Syrian territory.” He added: “Russia, through Sochi, is trying to impose its will on Syrians and to pressure the so-called ‘friends of Syria’ group into imposing its aims for the solution, which call for reproducing the Assad regime.”
Previously, the opposition negotiating committee announced its refusal to attend the conference in Sochi after more than 40 rebel groups in December signed a statement boycotting the meeting, saying that it was “an attempt to distance the Geneva track from a political settlement.”
Russia has various aims with holding the Sochi conference, all of them in the interests of Moscow and its ally the Assad regime, starting with the conference’s agenda and the list of those invited to attend, alongside the political messages which Russia wants to deliver by sponsoring this conference.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.