Posted by Joshua on Saturday, March 2nd, 2013
Syrian Rebel Leader Deals With Ties to Other Side
Daniel Etter for The New York Times“I don’t want to fight against them; I don’t want to see them killed or injured. I hope they leave before we attack.” GEN. SALIM IDRIS, By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, March 1, 2013
……General Idris, soft-spoken and humble compared with many military men, said he received hundreds of telephone calls daily, some angry, from commanders across Syria.
He dispatches what he can. But he described a mysterious system whereby unknown donors pay money to arms dealers within Syria. When he requisitions supplies, the black marketers fill the orders if the accounts are full. He can usually get the Kalashnikov bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and small mortars that he needs. But if the accounts are empty, he gets nothing.
Many rebel battalion commanders were civilians before the uprising. Having organized a brigade from men in their villages, they balk at taking orders and refuse to coordinate attacks.
“They want everything from the chief of staff — weapons, ammunition, money,” General Idris said. “But if you ask them what did you do with the ammunition and weapons, and how did you spend the money, well, they don’t like any commander to ask them what they are doing. But we cannot work in this way.”
General Idris said he could work with most of the Islamist factions fighting in Syria, putting their number at about 50 percent of the rebels. The exception was al-Nusra Front, blacklisted by the United States. He said that they were helpful in the fight — estimating that they had 3,000 men — but it was the only group he labeled extremist.
For security, General Idris rarely sleeps in the same place for two nights running. He takes the dangers he faces with a little black humor, interrupting the interview to call his wife “to tell her that I am still alive.”
Over all, General Idris said he thought the war was progressing well for the rebels. The government was resorting to tactics like long-range Scud missile attacks because it lacked soldiers, he said, but the rebels need the supplies promised by Western and Arab leaders more than ever.
“I would like to say to the decision makers in these countries, you cannot only listen to the news about Syria and watch the TV, to see the massacres and the destruction and wait,” he said. “If you still delay the decision to support Syria, you might take the decision when it is too late. Then Syria will be like Somalia.”
ANKARA, Turkey —Secretary of State John F. Kerry scolded Turkey’s leader Friday for likening Zionism to a “crime against humanity,” saying such remarks complicate efforts to forge Mideast peace.