Opposition leader vows to break Syria's ties to Iran, Hezbollah
Published Friday, December 2, 2011
A Syria run by the country's main opposition group would cut military ties to Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas, the group's leader told the Wall Street Journal in an article published Friday.
This would remove a crucial Iranian military ally believed to play a key role in supplying Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian Hamas, potentially leading to a dramatic reordering of regional power.
The interview with Burhan Ghalioun, president of the Syrian National Council (SNC), came eight months into an increasingly violent uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Rebels are seeking international support to overthrow the regime while the regime is drawing on financial and military support from Iran and Russia to ruthlessly suppress the uprising.
"There will be no special relationship with Iran," Ghalioun, a 66-year-old university professor, told the Journal in an interview at his home in Paris.
"Breaking the exceptional relationship means breaking the strategic, military alliance," he said, adding that "after the fall of the Syrian regime, (Hezbollah) won't be the same."
He also called for more robust international support for the rebels, including the possible establishment of a no-fly zone.
"Our main objective is finding mechanisms to protect civilians and stop the killing machine," Ghalioun said.
"We say it is imperative to use forceful measures to force the regime to respect human rights."
The rebels may well fail to topple the 40-year-old Assad regime established by Bashar's father Hafez, but a reorientation of Syria away from Iran and towards the West would have major implications across the region.
Ghalioun said an opposition-run Syria would be committed to recovering the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau captured by Israel in the 1967 war, but would pursue its return through negotiations rather than armed conflict.
The SNC have enlisted key Arab support, particularly from the oil-rich Gulf states, in their struggle against Assad.
(AFP, WSJ, Al-Akhbar)