Syrian Rebel Army Chief Sees Victory 'in Month' if West Ships Arms as Rebels Take Full Control of Raqa

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The chief of staff of Syria's rebel army issued a strong call for arms and ammunition from Western nations Wednesday, saying that if helped, the insurgents could topple President Bashar Assad's regime "within a month".

"What we have now is little, very very little," Brigadier General Selim Idriss said in Brussels, where he spoke on the invitation of a group of centrist political parties in the European Parliament.

The lack of weaponry and munitions was hampering the progress of the Free Syrian Army and inflicting more suffering on the civilian population, he added, urging European Union nations to lift an arms embargo.

"This embargo is really regrettable", he said, saying the EU ban on supplying lethal weaponry "affects only the victims" though "the regime receives Russian and Iranian arms".

The West condemns Assad but refuses to help, he added. "There is very little support from the Western countries," he added.

The EU last week authorized the supply of non-lethal equipment as well as training for the Syrian opposition, and Britain on Wednesday announced it would provide body armor and armored vehicles to the rebels.

Regime forces were using heavy artillery and SCUD missiles against civilians and the rebels needed anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, he said.

"If we have the weapons we need we can bring down the regime in a month," he told lawmakers from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe.

Idriss said his army of more than 100,000 armed and as many unarmed insurgents controlled most of the north and might be able to claim the liberation of the east of Syria "in a few days".

He said major cities such as Aleppo and the capital Damascus remained under regime control because insurgents had tried to avoid clashes in city centers "to avoid bombing and destruction". Assad forces had fired 10 SCUDs into Aleppo last week, he said.

He brushed off any hope of a political solution, saying "you cannot reform a dictatorship" but said a military outcome would be long unless the West "brings pressure on Russia to stop providing aid to the regime".

Addressing fears that arms could fall into the hands of radical Islamists within the rebel army, Idriss said any weapons received by the force were tagged at headquarters. "We can pledge they will be returned when the regime falls," he said.

Jihadist fighters in the radical Al Nusra faction amounted to only around 5,000 people -- or two to three percent of the rebel forces -- with 4,500 of them Syrians, he added.

Later on Wednesday, Syria's northern city of Raqa came under total rebel control, two days into battles with troops loyal to Assad's regime over the army's last bastion there, a watchdog said.

"Raqa city is now out of the army's control, after military intelligence troops surrendered to rebels following fierce clashes that raged for two days," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told Agence France Presse.

"It is the first provincial capital out of regime control," he added.

On Monday, rebels overran most of Raqa city in their most stunning advance since the outbreak of the anti-regime revolt in March 2011.

Earlier on Wednesday, rebels also broke into a political intelligence complex, setting free an unknown number of detainees, said the Observatory.

The Observatory, meanwhile, said it was concerned over the fate of "hundreds" of pro-regime fighters and troops who surrendered to the rebels after the military intelligence branch's fall.

Comments 1
Missing abraham 06 March 2013, 20:54

gabby, you forgot to mention KSA(The NY times) Qatar, Turkey and off course The West
definitly what fair is fair
be fair and balanced
that is something foreign to you