So-called opposition forces in Syria championed by the West have no influence on the ground compared to Al-Qaeda-related Islamic extremists, journalist and Middle East expert, Manuel Ochsenreiter, told RT.
RT: What did you see in Syria? Did you really feel you were in a country in utter crisis?
Manuel Ochsenreiter: It depends very, very much on where you are, exactly. You have very safe areas, for example like the Syrian capital Damascus, where you see a lot of security and where you even listen to the sound of war from the countryside. But I was in Maaloula, a city 25 or 30 kilometers away from Damascus, where the war is going on. We know in the north of Syria, there are fierce battles in and around the city of Aleppo. We know about the harsh attacks of terrorists against the Latakia and Tartus region. So it depends very much on where you are exactly in the country.
RT: The opposition forces have said they have not decided yet whether to take part in the upcoming peace conference in Geneva. What's holding them back?
MO: The point is that, in my opinion, the term Syrian opposition is as wrong as it could be. These groups are neither Syrian, nor in opposition. So they don't have, in their interests, the benefit of the people or of the country. These groups are very often influenced by foreign countries, they are mouthpieces.
Foreign militia groups fighting inside the country are financed by the West, by Turkey, by the Gulf monarchies. These are not Syrian groups and these are not opposition. They are not political groups working inside the country. We have to imagine or see those groups more like militant gangs, sort of like the mafia, kidnapping people, killing civilians, occupying industrial complexes and selling the industrial goods to other countries, or stealing them as it happened in the industrial area of Aleppo. That's where militant groups stole industrial compounds and put them in Turkey.
RT: There's no formal representative of the Syrian opposition. What's the point of having this peace conference? What hope do you have for it?
MO: Those groups that claim they represent the moderate opposition or the moderate rebels don't have any influence on the battleground. We know, meanwhile, even the mainstream media had to realize the fights on the ground are carried out by Islamic extremists, by Sunni extremists, by Al-Qaeda-related groups. These so-called moderates don't have any influence. And I think they are a phantom, they never existed. A friend of mine, a Syrian analyst said the conflicts we see today among the opposition are more or less an Al-Qaeda inside-conflict; this has nothing to do with different political aims. It has to do with influence with stealing goods, with kidnapping and with turning out criminal actions.
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