Syria: Rebel Leader Warns Of Weapons Delays
The leader of Syria's biggest rebel alliance has told Sky News that delays in promised weapons deliveries from abroad is causing dissent and resentment in his ranks that will drive fighters into the ranks of al Qaeda.
General Salim Idris, the chairman of the Supreme Military Council, said that reports that he had received lethal aid from the US but was not delivering it to the front line were "very difficult for me".
He is the channel through whom all lethal aid from the US is supposed to be delivered to the rebels following Washington's decision to send weapons to support the rebellion against Syrian president Bashar al Assad.
"I have not received a single thing. So this is very difficult for me," said the rebel chief who was visibly angered by a meeting with top commanders from across Syria.
They had converged on his headquarters in the border town of Baba al Hawa, which nestles relatively safely under the anti-aircraft umbrella of neighbouring Turkey.
He sat incredulous as one after another, and often all at once, the loose coalition of guerrilla fighters unloaded their frustrations.
Colonel Abdul al Aygedi, the commander of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo resigned his seat on its Supreme Military Council officially to "focus on the defence of the city".
But he candidly told Sky News that the council "is a waste of time and has no role to play here [in Syria]".
Offers of American assistance through the council was "just talk, just promises, nothing will happen. The Americans never deliver".
This level of resigned cynicism was matched by anger from others at the meeting with General Idris as commanders tried to drive home the desperation of their situation.
"I have had no resupply for 42 days - how can I expect to take ... we are running out of ammunition just to hold our own positions," said a commander from the east of the rebel held swathe of territory in northern Syria.
"Why can't you put it on TV when you have got a delivery of weapons? Then we will all know what there is and be able to know that it is being distributed fairly?" demanded the eastern commander.
Some rebel 'brigades' are led by defectors from Mr Assad's army, like General Idris, but many are run by untrained fighters who have won their spurs in battle but have little understanding of wider military affairs.
They do know, or believe, that the US has delivered substantial stockpiles of small arms to Syria - and that Qatar and Saudi Arabia have also stepped in, the latter with anti-tank and even possibly anti-aircraft missiles.
General Idris' problem is that the Saudi weapons have only been delivered to selected small groups with close links to the Saudi royal family - and the US weapons haven't been delivered at all.
Indeed, he doesn't even know what weapons to expect, he said.
"It seems that every person who has a Kalashnikov feels that he is entitled to come to me personally and ask for arms and ammunition. They don’t seem to want to accept that they should go through their unit commanders, that we have structures.
"And they can't understand why I won't advertise what weapons we have on TV. They won't accept that there have to be secrets, that in a military organisation you have to keep secrets.
"They just don't understand," said the general after bellowing these truths into the ears of unimpressed ground commanders.
But it is the threat posed by al Qaeda-related groups, who have funding from networks outside Syria, that he warned would get greater the longer the non-Jihadist rebels waited for arms and ammunition supplies.
"This is very serious. If we don't get help for the rebels who are secular and non-Jihadi religious, then al Qaeda will grow in strength," he said.
"They will attract people from your countries people who we have no idea about their ideology will come here and then maybe go home and cause problems. In Syria people are being driven into the hands of al Qaeda because they can't get help anywhere else.
"If we get weapons we can keep them out of the hands of al Qaeda because we have no relationship with them whatsoever and they don't have anything to do with us."