French foreign minister Alain Juppé has called for humanitarian intervention in Syria, but world leaders hesitate. As the price of inaction rises, they need a clear strategy for hastening change. My experience with a Free Syrian Army commander shows that the rebel force will play a crucial role.
As world leaders debate what to do about the ongoing crisis in Syria, much of their hesitation still revolves around whether there is a credible alternative to more than 40 years of Assad rule. The Syria National Council, a grouping of mostly exiled political leaders, has emerged to become the opposition’s primary voice abroad.
Looking for answers, I anxiously waited for a Free Syrian Army commander in a dark cold safe house on the Lebanese-Syrian frontier. The nervous silence was pierced only by the sound of bullets going off in the distant hills. Time passed before headlights appeared, meandering down a pitch-black mountain road. Shortly after, commander Ahmad Al Arabi walked in, Kalashnikov (rifle) in hand.
Mr. Al Arabi is a tough built man in his fifties. No beard, just the traditional Syrian moustache and a charismatic smile. Along with his assault rifle, he is armed with a mobile phone that he uses to communicate with soldiers in the field. The phone also doubles as a camera for photos with lady journalists he smuggles across the border. He is hardly a conservative, religious man.
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