Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the Free Syrian Army’s (FSA) military council, expects the embattled regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad regime will not last more than another four months and stressed the unity of the armed opposition inside Syria.
“Four months is the maximum time if we take into account the irreversible damages inflicted upon the state army and the deteriorating morale of its officers,” he told Al Arabiya.
“[Toppling the regime] can even take two months,” he added.
Sheikh explained that the FSA, the main armed opposition fighter group in Syria, is becoming more powerful and scoring more victories especially with the state army incapable of operating inside Syrian cities.
“The regime’s army can only attack with warplanes and tanks, but it is now very difficult for ground forces or police patrols to walk around inside the cities with the exception of Damascus,” he said.
Sheikh denied allegations that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) is not united and said that it is only opposition abroad that is divided owing to difference in political views and the role played by external agendas.
“This does not reflect on the domestic scene in Syria. FSA brigades might have different names, but they are all part on one entity and we are all united and our unity is becoming much stronger now that a year and a half passed since the revolution has started.”
Sheikh admitted that the there have been attempts on the part of the Syrian regime to divide FSA officers on sectarian basis.
“This was the most dangerous challenge, but senior officers made sure not to give the regime this chance.”
Regarding foreign countries that might intervene to disrupt the unity of the FSA, Sheikh said he preferred not to embarrass any specific Arab or international party.
“But the Syrian revolution has for long been abandoned by the international community which took no action on the political or military levels and this contributed to the weakening of the revolution,” he said.
Sheikh admitted that receiving external support would require the FSA to become an organized institutional body in order to make sure any weapons provided by foreign entities will not fall into the wrong hands.
“The institutionalization of the FSA is made possible by the defection of more senior officers in the state army and there have been efforts from other countries like France, Turkey, and Gulf nations to support this step which is bound to happen sooner or later.”
Sheikh expected the official unification of the FSA to be declared within 10 days.
In an attempt to evaluate the Syrian revolution 18 months after its start, Sheikh said that so far the majority of world powers support the demands of the Syrian people with the exception of Iran and Russia.
“The Russian and Iranian stances look very odd in the midst of the all the support the revolution is getting. Unfortunately, the struggle for power in the Middle East has cost the Syrian people a lot,” he said.
Sheikh held Russia, in particular, accountable for the Syrian regime’s ability to spill the blood of its people.
“It would have been over a while ago had it not been for Russian support of the regime,” he said.
Russia, he added, helped the regime to militarize the revolution which had started purely as a civilian uprising.
Concerning the deteriorating conditions of Syrian refugees, Sheikh found it unlikely that a U.N.-backed safe zone would be established inside Syrian territories.
“The FSA is doing its best to protect the refugees in the areas under its control,” he said.
Sheikh also criticized the Istanbul-based Syrian National Council (SNC), the main opposition group, for not offering the necessary support for Syrian refugees.
“The SNC should work on Syrian soil and not from Istanbul,” he added.