Warnings of Al-Qaeda's strength in Syria have gone unheeded.
Though the hardline Islamist group is gaining a foothold there,
Washington neocons will not allow it to form a state in Northern
Syria, award-winning blogger Neil Clark
His concern that the unity of Syria is under threat from Al-Qaeda is shared by Fahad Almarsi, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army, who told RT that the Islamists will only divide Syria and that the majority of Syrians do not want them there.
RT: It’s not just about logistics here, but also some profit as well, as I guess Al-Qaeda is looking for profitable oil-smuggling routes and weapons supply routes as well?
Neil Clark: Absolutely. It's interesting, isn’t it, that when President Assad was warning about Al-Qaeda in Syria from 2011 onwards, but the west said he was scaremongering etc. He said that Al-Qaeda had a foothold in Syria, and now we’re hearing this from the FSA, so it’s interesting. Those of us who did warn that this would happen were dismissed as apologists for Assad, apologists for the Syrian government, and now the west has got to wake up to what’s really going on. And having said that, I think it’s very important to understand the FSA strategy here - the Free Syrian Army is very keen to get Western intervention; they have now changed their strategy and they are saying look, Al-Qaeda are going to take control here unless you intervene and help us.
RT: Who’s going to buy oil at the end of the day from Al-Qaeda?
NC: I think it’s very important to understand that one of the biggest myths in international relations of the last 30 years is that the Western powers are implacably opposed to Al-Qaeda. They are not. They will support Al-Qaeda in certain areas of the world, Libya for example, in the Balkans in the 1990’s there were Al-Qaeda linked groups etc., if they want to topple a secular regime. And so it’s a myth to think they’re a big enemy. The biggest aim of Western foreign policy in this region is to counter Iran and Hezbollah. So I don’t actually think the West will allow an Al-Qaeda state to exist. However, they’re very happy for Al-Qaeda to work to topple President Assad.
RT: Regarding the oil again, if they got more control of it, a hold of it in Syria, how much could it effect world prices - or would that not be a significant problem?
NC: I don’t think it would be a massive problem, but having said that I think their strategy has been to use Al-Qaeda to help topple secular regimes. If it looks if Al-Qaeda might actually get into power with a state of their own with oil supplies etc., then I think they would intervene. And I think it’s interesting that the neocons who actually want intervention in Syria are actually changing their tune here and saying we’ve got to intervene to help the FSA because otherwise Al-Qaeda will get control and so-called chemical weapons will end up in Al-Qaeda’s hands, so I think that the neocons who are looking for any excuse to intervene in Syria will now use this Al-Qaeda threat to try and get their way.
RT: And of course we started this by talking about logistics as one of the key things here. Of course the FSA could find itself trapped on both fronts?
NC: It could, and I think the FSA is in a very weak position here. The FSA has lost the war basically, and I think now their last gambit is to say 'look, you’ve got to help us,' and to try to portray themselves as the good guys, the moderate rebels. But they are not at all - they have committed some terrible crimes in Syria, terrible terrorist atrocities, so I think it’s a kind of a false division to say there are bad rebels and good rebels. The fact is that elections are due in Syria in 2014 and there’s no excuse for anyone to be using violence now for achieving political change.
RT: If they lose their foothold, if a terrorist state is established in the country, surely that’s a cue for foreign intervention of some kind, no?
NC: Well, absolutely - and this could be the end game because now, the Western powers hope, obviously because they thought that by now President Assad would have been toppled, he hasn’t because he’s got too much support in the country, so I think the neocon strategy now is to use Al-Qaeda as they have done for years to justify intervention, and I think this is the danger now. If it looks like an Al-Qaeda state will be established, the neocons will be putting pressure on president Obama to say 'look, you’ve got now to invade Syria to stop Al-Qaeda,' when all the time it’s actually been Western policy which has helped Al-Qaeda to get into this position in the first place.
Fahad Almarsi, a spokesman and manager of communications for the Free Syrian Army (FSA), told RT that he believes the warning of an Al-Qaeda state is credible and that the unity of Syria is under threat as never before. While criticizing Russia for supporting the Assad regime, he also pointed the finger at other world powers, who he didn’t mention by name, for supporting the Islamist extremists operating in Syria.
“It only helps the regime [of President Assad] to divide Syria. These Islamists and terrorists are supported by some regional and major states in the world. We are asking why financial and military support has reached those Islamists, but the FSA doesn’t get those arms.”
“The Russians have the key to the solution - if Moscow wants to keep the unity of Syria, it cooperates with other states there will be a solution.” he added.
He also said that the FSA wants to keep Syria united and was only interested in a victory for the Syrian people.