McClatchy reports: Syria’s pro-western opposition has developed a plan to oust extremists of the self-styled “Islamic State” from their base in Syria and protect Syrian civilians living in rebel-held areas, but it is waiting for the Obama administration to give it a hearing, the acting defense minister says.
Nour Kholouf, a defected Syrian army general, said Islamic extremists who last month seized more than one third of neighboring oil-rich Iraq had become a greater threat to Syrian rebels than the regime itself, because they have moved into territory rebel forces have seized from the Assad regime and routinely cut off the rebels’ supply routes.
But he said rebel forces could force the extremists on the defensive and expel them from a part of the territory they now control in just three weeks of fighting, if the United States provides the necessary backing.
In a second stage, he said rebel forces could oust the extremists from the Raqqa region up to the border region between Syria and Iraq.
“I need weapons. I need money. I need a no fly zone or anti-aircraft weapons. I need intelligence data,” Kholouf, who’s held the post since May in the Syrian interim government, told McClatchy.
“We could kick them out of the Aleppo region in 20 days and force them back to the borders of the Raqqa region,” he said in the interview Friday. At that stage, the rebels must “take account of what weapons they’re deploying, and respond,” he said.
“But I can say confidently that if the American side makes the decision to end the Syrian crisis, we will have sufficient fighters.” In six months, he said, “we can bring security to 80 per cent of Syria.” There was one condition, he said: “that we are not left alone.”
Kholouf said he could deploy at least 100,000 rebel fighters if he could provide the weapons, ammunition and provisions to sustain them. Only about half are currently armed. [Continue reading…]