Asharq Al-Awsat -By Tariq Alhomayed
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the military establishment waging armed opposition against the al-Assad regime, has announced that it has transferred its command center from Turkey to a “liberated area” inside Syrian territory. FSA commander Riad al-Asaad, in a message addressed to the Syrian people, said: “We are glad to let you know that the leadership of the FSA has moved into Syria following arrangements made with other brigades that included securing liberated areas with the hope of launching the offensive on Damascus”.
Of course, this step gives many indications, both politically and militarily, as well as in terms of morale, especially at the level of the Syrian rebels. However, it is not known whether this step came with international coordination from the friends of Syria, especially with the French speaking openly today about supporting the liberated areas of Syria’s territory. France is referring specifically to the areas adjacent to the Turkish border, which could become highly sensitive and dangerous contact points with Syria, especially if the al-Assad regime attempts to commit a new venture against the Turks. The FSA moving its command center to liberated Syrian territory, in preparation for the battle to liberate Damascus, as announced by Colonel al-Asaad, means there are more difficult days in Syria ahead. The al-Assad regime will now seek to escalate violence in all areas where it believes the FSA leadership is stationed and directing battles against it, because the presence of this leadership on Syrian soil will shake the morale of al-Assad’s criminal forces.
It is not known whether the transferal of the FSA’s command center to liberated Syrian territory came as a result of detailed planning, with Turkish and international coordination, or whether it was a hasty step, intended to score points internally, considering the heated rivalry within the Syrian opposition.
There are also other questions that are worthy of consideration, such as how will the FSA leaders now communicate with groups loyal to them across Syria, especially if it is not possible to use technological means of communication in their new internal location, and how will they coordinate in order to secure the delivery of weaponry and so on? These questions seem simple but they will help us understand whether this step is the genuine activation of the French plan to convert liberated Syrian areas into safe territories, along the lines of Benghazi - and this is a good thing and a reason for optimism - or whether it is an uncalculated step that will result in dire consequences.
When I say dire consequences this is for one simple reason. Ever since the deaths of major security leaders as a result of the bombing of the national security building in Damascus, the al-Assad regime has been crumbling dramatically. The bulk of Aleppo fell, border crossings were seized one after the other, and then the battle moved to Damascus and talk focused on the whereabouts of al-Assad and his family. Today it is clear that Iranian interference has helped to extend the life of the al-Assad regime but its long term existence cannot be guaranteed. The regime may last up to another year at the best estimate with the presence of the FSA’s command center on liberated Syrian territory. Hence al-Assad, with confirmed Iranian support, will burn everything and everybody in order to target those FSA leaders.
Therefore, the FSA’s move is a big step, and can be considered an important indicator of the Syrian revolution’s current course of events. It also provides evidence of the predicament facing al-Assad and his allies, most notably Iran, as the circle has begun to close around them.