The Washington Post reports: A mild-mannered Syrian general who taught at a military academy before he defected last year is poised to play a key role in shaping the outcome of Syria’s war now that the United States has said it will provide direct military assistance to the rebels.
Gen. Salim Idriss, 56, heads the Supreme Military Council of the fragmented Free Syrian Army, and the Obama administration has anointed him as the sole conduit of weapons to the rebels, whether supplied by the United States or by allies such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which have already been sending arms.
The United States still has not committed to providing any weaponry, Idriss said Sunday in a phone interview from the Turkish capital, Ankara, after two days of talks with U.S. officials over what form the unspecified military assistance announced last week would take.
He urged the United States to move swiftly on the arms deliveries before opposition fighters suffer further setbacks on the battlefield.
“We need help. I can tell you very clearly, very urgently, we need it as soon as possible,” he said in the interview before heading back to his headquarters in the northern Syrian province of Idlib.
Recent advances by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have been facilitated by his allies Iran and Russia, which are providing vast quantities of arms and ammunition to prop up Syrian government forces, Idriss said. Fighters from the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah movement are bolstering the ranks of Assad’s conventional army, which is weary from more than two years of battling the rebellion. [Continue reading…]