Ahmed Al Jarba – Interview: ISIS is Iran’s legitimate child

There will be no turn back to dictatorship, and implementing the “Geneva Communique”, and the international resolutions “which were ambiguous concerning the Syrian regime’s president Bashar AL-Assad’s future and...
Ahmad al-Jarba, the head of al-Ghad al-Souri Movement (Tomorrow Movement)
There will be no turn back to dictatorship, and implementing the “Geneva Communique”, and the international resolutions “which were ambiguous concerning the Syrian regime’s president Bashar AL-Assad’s future and launching the political solution for Syria will lead to Assad’s departure”, said Ahmed Al Jarba, leader and founder of “The Syrian Tomorrow Movement” in an interview with “Asharq Al-Awsat” newspaper.
Al Jarba reiterated on the “impossibility” of dividing Syria, while believing in the need to adopt decentralization in futuristic Syria. He also said: “Kurds are an integral part of the Syrian social fabric, and should be rehabilitated as a second force”.
“There is an Iranian conflict in the region and all over the world. Iran tries controlling the Iraqi-Syrian borders to facilitate accessing its militias in the Arab world”, said Al Jarba, adding: “Hezbollah represents a risk to neighboring countries, as does Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the rest of Shiite militias”.
The Elite Forces, The Syrian Tomorrow Movement’s military wing, is also a part in “The Syrian Democratic Forces”; seeking liberating Al Raqqa. Al Jabra said yesterday that a “local council will govern Al Raqqa after being liberated from terrorism, and this is within a freed Syria enjoying dignity and diversity, as it is the dream for which Syrians revolted”. Now to the interview with “Asharq Al-Awsat”.
* Why do “The Elite Forces”, The Syrian Tomorrow Movement’s military wing, participate in the critical battle to Raqqa? Is it to give an Arab legitimacy to “People’s Protection Units” and “Syrian Democratic Forces”?
– Since founding “The Elite Forces” from factions and fighters within the “Syrian Free Army”, we declared the main aim in the meantime is facing terrorist groups. There is nothing to do in Syria before getting rid of this dangerous blight that gravely harmed our aspirations and our pursuit to a free Syria. ISIS, which is a terrorist organization, didn’t pose a threat to the Syrian regime like it did to us as a democratic political movement.
As for the “The Elite Forces’” participation, and the legitimacy matter to “Syrian Democratic Forces”, I don’t think we thought about that or even our partners in the “Syrian Democratic Forces”. I don’t believe we, or any other Syrian party, have any right to that. Anyway, “The Elite Forces” and “Syrian Democratic Forces” belong to Syria, and being different doesn’t by necessity mean we disagree. Also, what binds us together is more powerful and important, and its importance and size equals to our Syria and our aspirations.
Does this mean you already agreed on how to govern Al-Raqqa after being liberated from ISIS?
Al-Raqqa is a part of Syria, and its future is key to Syria’s one. Al-Raqqa is now in captivity, and will be liberated soon, and it was never away of the national project to have its own future. This city is Syria’s heart, and ours too. Al-Raqqa will only be governed by its democratic and patriotic people, whom are sacrificing all they have side by side with their brothers in “Elite Forces” and “Syrian Democratic Forces” to get rid of this cancer. There will be no monopoly or dictatorship in Al-Raqqa after liberating it. We didn’t go to liberate the city with foreign mercenaries, but along with Syrian patriots, locals, and tribes. Arab tribes and families paid the most precious price in humankind’s history for demanding freedom and dignity. Yes, a local council consisting of our people will govern Al-Raqqa, under a freed Syria enjoying dignity and diversity, the dream for which Syrians revolted.
* Is this supported by the American-led International coalition against ISIS?
Yes, we are part of the American-led international coalition against ISIS, and this operation comes within the international vision to combat one of the most serious crises humanity has witnessed; terrorism is exploiting Islam as a mask. As for Al-Raqqa, “the day next” will be like today, and we’ll continue to be part of the international system, and bound by its institutions’ decisions governing the relations between states and bodies.
Tomorrow’s Syria we seek is this one engaged in international efforts to bring peace, and combating all groups committed to humanitarian norms and values.
* Did you talk with the Americans about going personally to Al-Raqqa after liberation?
– You cannot ask the landlord about talking to a friend or an ally about his return home. For me, these all are axioms. I have family and loved ones in Al-Raqqa, and every family there is family for me, like all Syrian towns. A lot of blood have been spilled to liberate this city from terrorism, some of these martyrs left behind a grieving mother or a wife and kids for a greater purpose.
Yes, I will go back to Al-Raqqa, and I will stand over this land as it speaks of its steadfast and resisting people. Yes, our goals met with the coalition’s ones, and battles are still fiercely ongoing there, and Al-Raqqa will be freed soon. God willing, then Deir ez-Zor, and all of Syria will be liberated. The return is near.
* Concerning the “desert campaign”, why didn’t you participate? Did the Americans refuse it?
– There is nothing that will keep us from being at anywhere in our Syrian lands. These are our lands, and it is our duty to be where we are needed to defend it. We don’t wait for anybody telling us to go anywhere within our country, and there is no power can stop us from going, but death. We presented a lot of martyrs and wounded in Deir ez-Zor’s outskirts and in Al-Raqqa’s liberation battle.
* Are you part of the forces in At-Tanf base built by the Americans close to the Iraqi borders?
– Both At-Tanf and Az-Zaqf bases are part of conflicts beyond the Syrian crisis to international and regional interests, and we hope they find a suitable end to all of this. We aim to this through our relations and talks with our friends.
Do you mean there is an American-Iranian conflict in eastern Syria?
– There is an Iranian conflict with the region and the whole world in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gulf countries, Africa, and Latin America. Iran is trying to control the Syrian-Iraqi borders to facilitate the access to its militias in the Arab world. It aims to deliver weapons and fighters to all Arab countries, and stoke the fires of war. The region’s countries and America are doing their best to put an end to this serious and wild expansion.
We witnessed how terrorism hit European capitals and cities, and America knows well that the Iranian project to widen the circle of war by including the whole region threatens its peace and the world’s peace as well. America experienced Iran’s moves in Iraq, and saw its results like us. One of those results was the birth of ISIS, and ISIS is the legitimate child of the Iranian rational depending on rude, wrong, and inhumane historical narratives.
Yes, there is a conflict, and I think the arrogant and rushing to wars and disturbance Iran won’t last too long, and history proves that.
– Not just America, but also the Syrians, along with their Arab brothers fighting the Iranian plot to expand and seize our history and land. Iran uses our Shia brothers with out-of-date historical narratives in adventures that aren’t in the interest of the region’s people in general, and the Shia in particular. The Shia Crescent is similar to ISIS’s project, it faces a dead end, and will never result but into murder, destruction, and displacement.
* Do you think the efforts to establish a south Syria buffer zone part of this vision?
– South Syria is just like the north, the east and the west. There are Syrian people along the borders. Also, the Arab and regional peace is threatened because of the terror organizations fighting the regime and the others fighting alongside it. Hezbollah poses a threat to the neighboring countries, just like Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the rest of the Shiite militias.
We are trying with our Arab brothers and friends in the Russian Federation and the USA to reach a solution, that will evacuate these parts from militias, and south Syria is one of our priorities for its importance, and because of the concern that this part of Syria becomes a pretext to Israel to interfere in Syria. Here, the situation will get even more complicated, this is why there should be a swift and conclusive solution to this region, including south Syria.
* Daraa in south Syria is part of the “buffer zone”, and also part of the “de-escalation” zones. Are you concerned with dividing Syria?
– I bet it is impossible to divide Syria for an obvious reason; Syria doesn’t accept that, and so do the Syrians. The unified Syria is the true shape able to survive, or war continues. Syria’s nature and its people, and their lives details say so. As for the “de-escalation” zones part that international and regional players reached in Astana, it is one of the attempts to calm the situation, and to launch the political process. Despite we have reservations on some of the deal’s details, including the Iranian participation in monitoring and segregation operations, we generally agree to any deal to stop the spillage of Syrian blood.
* Then moving to the political process?
– Everybody knows that the political process floundering since the beginning, which I hope won’t take much long, was because of the war forced upon the Syrians. There can’t be any progress in the political process while our people still busy burying their loved ones, and following-up news of bombing, displacement and destruction. Fighting on our lands has to stop, first by accompaniment, driving out all militias and foreign fighters, and the extermination of organizations deemed terrorist. Only then, the political process and Syrian-Syrian dialogue will be possible. Other than this, all will be mere attempts that will tumble like we see in the Geneva talks.
* You were head of the opposition delegation to Geneva 2014; do you think talks about a transitional authority and the “Geneva Communique” are realistic?
– Yes, I was the head of the first Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva, and I was and still betting on the internationally-sponsored talks as the only solution to stop the war, and that establishing a transitional authority is the base to launch the new Syria. Unfortunately, what we witness in the Geneva talks since more than a year in just a showoff between the opposition and the regime.
– Yes, I was the head of the first Syrian opposition delegation to Geneva, and I was and still betting on the internationally-sponsored talks as the only solution to stop the war, and that establishing a transitional authority is the base to launch the new Syria. Unfortunately, what we witness in the Geneva talks since more than a year in just a showoff between the opposition and the regime.
* Where do you position your ally Kurds in the “New Syria”?
– First, I’m not pessimist at all despite all the pain we feel, because of what has been going on for six years, and I still believe in the future where Syria is unified, diversified, free, and democratic, and all of its people participate in building and governing it, all its people with all their different political, ethnic, religious, and sectarian affiliations. I believe that the Syria I aim to with members and personnel of “Tomorrow’s Movement” and the “Elite Forces”, along with our allies in other political movements, Syrian elites, and civil bodies are not mere slogans, but the only viable solution and nothing but it. This war has to end, and the new Syria should not by any means to turn back to the dictatorship era, where the central regime is the only ruler. So, the New Syria should be governed by a decentralized rule. The Syria we aspire to is a powerful one, that includes Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians, and every national affiliation there.
What about the Kurds? There ae those who warn against separation?
– Kurds are an integral part of the Syrian fabric, and the Syrian old and modern history. They were oppressed for long decades. So, they should be recognized as a second force. They should enjoy what we all have and also be obliged with what govern us. This way, I don’t think any Syrian Kurd will think about separation. The relation between Syrians and Kurds is like this between the heart and its veins and arteries, they cannot be separated.
Our relations with the brothers in the self-governance (in Syria) and “Syrian Democratic Council” are developed continuously, and these relations are boldened by blood in the battles against ISIS in Al-Raqqa and the Syrian eastern region. They are our partners in this war, and in the coming weeks, there will be an enhancement to previous agreements, that will have a positive impact for the sake of all Syrians in general, and an important addition to the political solution in Syria.
* But there is an attempt to conduct a referendum on separation in Iraq’s Kurdistan?
– Me on the personal side, and the “Tomorrow Movement” have a strategic relationship with President Massoud Barzani in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Mr. Barzani has assumed positive attitudes with the Syrians in their ordeal. There is more than one camp for the Syrians in this region. At the beginning of the Syrian revolution, the rebels on the Syrian island resorted to the government of the region from the injustice of the regime, or ISIS after that. For us, there is a close family and tribal relationship with Mr. Barzani’s family that began in the 1830s.
Concerning the subject of the referendum on independence, it doesn’t mean separation, but it is a step towards this direction. The Kurds were forced to choose between Turkey, Iran or Iraq when the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed, and they chose to be with Iraq. This means they preferred the Arabs to Turkey and Iran. The area of Kurdistan today is five times the size of Lebanon or Qatar, also the population is not less than five million people. Of course, we hope the separation of the region from Iraq doesn’t happen, as it’s a dear part of it. We hope that the Iraqi government and the politicians in Baghdad reach an understanding and agreement on the presidency of the region.
Were you astonished at Macron’s position from Assad? How do you read the new French point of view?
– The French foreign ministry didn’t post any official comments concerning Syria. There is a French tendency to put forward a project on the political solution in Syria, and so far, we only saw leaks from some Syrian activists and conflicting social media accounts. I don’t think they are near the waited French one. We have contacts with our French friends, and our relations with France are based on friendship and mutual respect. This is a historical relationship, not a result of the current circumstances, and the major countries, including France, deal in the light of interests, not with passions.
One thing worth checking it up is that President Macaron’s statement came just after Riad Hijab’s visit and his meeting with the French president at the Élysée Palace. Perhaps Macron’s remarks about the lack of an alternative to Assad came in response to Hijab’s comments, who never ceased repeating slogans and illusions that politics is illusions, not analysis and understanding reality.
* What’s your stance on Assad’s stay in power? Are you ready to get back there while he’s in power?
– My position is clear from Assad, and whether he stays or not. Politics teaches us every day that it is not dreams and desires, but possibilities and facts as volatile as life. Syria is not Assad, and it has never been so, despite him trying as hard as he can to make it his since his supporters said: “Either Assad, or We’ll Burn the Country”. They fulfilled their promise, but “Nero died and Rome did not die,” like the poet I love said. By accepting the “Geneva Communique”, and the relevant international resolutions, which have been ambiguous about Assad’s fate, the implementation of these decisions and the launching of a political solution in Syria will naturally lead to Assad’s departure. You can’t put a cart before the horse. This is how things go naturally. We aim to a pluralistic democratic Syria, and we seek it with all our capabilities. The Syria we seek is totally opposed to Assad’s Syria. Assad, who bet on resorting to violence in the face of a peaceful popular uprising at the beginning of the revolution, is responsible for the Syrians’ slaughter because of his position as a president.
How did you interpret your meeting with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Moscow? What is Moscow’s political view?
– The Russian federation is a major country, and it has interests in Syria. The solution in Syria begins with a Russian-American agreement. Only Syrian people pay for big players’ conflicts on Syrian grounds. We, “Tomorrow’s Movement”, contact and consult with the Russian leadership. And from this point, I can say yes, the Russians want a political solution in Syria.
The Russian military intervention in Syria prevented the fall of the regime and the capital Damascus. The Russians know very well that the rules of the game will not allow the clock turn back, so, they are trying to reach a political solution in Geneva and Astana. There is no doubt that there are great complications in the Syrian scene, but reaching a political solution is not out of reach, and the Russian-American agreement, if happened, will put the train on its track.
* How do you describe your relations with Saudi Arabia, and its position from Syria?
– Our relations with Saudi Arabia is like one between brothers. It was never other than that one day, and this is what is imposed by the objective and historical conditions between us and the kingdom. What brings us together is what brings together family members.
That was the geographical and social side. As for the political one, our historical dimension is Arab, and we share the same base our brothers in the Arab coalition adopt, and they are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and United Arab Emirates. Since founding “Tomorrow’s Movement”, we agreed to that ending the political impasse in Syria will be achieved through returning to an Arab reference, represented by the political leaders of these countries, especially the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin AbdulAziz, President Abdul Fattah Al-Sissi, Crown Prince of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. I hereby congratulate the Saudi crown prince for being chosen to this position, expecting all good from him to the kingdom and the region.
* What do you expect from the Arab position?
– We are betting on a Syrian national project that relies on alliance with an active, strong, and objective Arab axis, seeks only the benefit of Syria and the region in general. Past experiences showed us that we can’t reach a political solution in Syria unless there are guarantees from such Arab axis, for they are our partners in history and the future.
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