Prominent Syrian Oppositionists: Obama’s Policy Weakened Syrian Opposition, Paved Way For Terrorists

MEMRI June 26, 2014 – Special Dispatch No.5780

 In a June 20, 2014 interview on CBS, U.S. President Barack Obama said that there is no “ready-made moderate Syrian force” capable of defeating Syrian President Bashar Assad, and that the notion that “farmers, dentists and folks who have never fought before… could overturn not only Assad but also ruthless, highly trained jihadists if we just sent [them] a few arms is a fantasy.”[1] These statements angered officials in the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SOC), the umbrella organization of Syrian opposition groups. The coalition’s spokesman, Louay Safi, said that Obama was responsible for the current crisis in Syria, because he had failed to meet his obligation towards the oppressed Syrian people when he reneged on his decision to attack the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons, ignored Iran’s interference in Syria, and denied the Syrian opposition the assistance it needed to defeat the Assad regime.

Hadi Al-Bahra, the secretary of the SOC political committee, also expressed his disappointment with the US and with other countries that had promised to support the Syrian people. He claimed that their help had been too little and too late, and blamed them for the infiltration of extremist forces into Syria and for their growing strength throughout the region. He called on Obama to act immediately to stop Assad’s butchering of the Syrian people.

Obama was also criticized by Burhan Ghalioun, the former chair of the Syrian National Council, a SOC constituent body. He believes that Obama’s statements, aside from its negative morale impact on opposition fighters in Syria, reconfirm his administration’s policy of non-intervention in Syria and the Middle East at large.

The following are excerpts from the three officials’ reactions:


SOC Spokesman Louay Safi: Only By Relying On Themselves Can The Syrian People Realize The Goal That Obama Called An Impossible Fantasy

A declaration by SOC Spokesman Louay Safi said: “It saddens me that the U.S. president has such a negative position on extending international aid to the Syrian opposition, [which is facing] brutal and barbaric aggression from the Assad regime. Obama’s statements were meant to cover up the inability of his administration to prevent the deterioration of the humanitarian and political situation in the Mashriq [i.e., Arab countries to the east of Egypt], and to ward off growing criticism from political circles in Washington and in Western and Arab capitals. In the autumn of 2013, the [Syrian] opposition almost toppled the regime, but then Obama reneged [on his decision] to attack [the regime] for its use of chemical weapons, and turned a blind eye to Iran’s blunt interference [in Syria] by means of its sectarian militias, which come from Lebanon and Iraq. The Obama administration did not fulfill its legal, moral and international obligation of defending a people that is rebelling for the sake of its freedom, and did not prevent the Assad regime from using its air force, long-range missiles and heavy weapons against civilians. This is unreasonable behavior on the part of a country that has made the defense of democracy and human rights the motto of its foreign policy in the [last] half century.

“It is sad that, in its positions, the U.S. administration evaded its obligation to uphold international law, and contented itself with quietly observing the war crimes and crimes against humanity being perpetrated by the [Syrian] regime and its allies, and with managing the crisis, and nothing more! We do not deny that there are structural flaws in the revolutionary institutions , but the main reason for the existence [of these flaws] is the lack of serious support by ally countries, and [the fact that] they increase the division [of the opposition] by directly aiding the units fighting on the ground, while disregarding the revolution’s political leadership. This means that the fact cited by Obama as an excuse [to withhold aid from the opposition] – namely the revolution’s inability to defeat Assad, and the situation in which the Syrians find themselves – is caused mainly by Obama’s own policy in meeting the basic needs of the Syrians. Had the Obama administration taken the advice of former [U.S.] minister Hillary Clinton and [former] special envoy to Syria [Ambassador Robert Ford to give more aid to the moderate Syrian opposition], things would have been different than they are today.

“The [Syrian] people and all factions of the Syrian opposition have no choice but to rely on their own strength, avoid relying on fickle external [support], and recognize that the only way to win is to unite their ranks and reorder their priorities. Then we can realize the political [goal] that Obama called an impossible fantasy.”[2]

SOC Political Committee Secretary Hadi Al-Bahra: Obama’s Policy Allowed Extremists To Grow Strong In Syria And The Region

A declaration by Hadi Al-Bahra, the secretary of the SOC political committee, said: “The way US President Barack Obama made use of a certain television channel in his last interview, the tone of the interviewer’s questions and the form of [Obama’s] replies, indicate that his words were targeted at the American public and sought to answer certain elements in American political corridors who had told him that his handling of the Syrian problem was mistaken. The spread of extremism, which is crossing borders, is a result of the policy taken by the countries supporting the Syrian people, including the US. [This policy was] manifest in the paltry assistance extended to the moderate elements [in Syria], which usually arrived too late, thereby facilitating the spread of radical elements and terrorist organizations from the neighboring countries into Syria and later their spread within this country, with the blatant assistance of the Assad regime. [Now] we see outcome of this in Iraq.

“This outcome is a definite fact discerned by everyone, including American politicians. The most recent act of protest against it was probably the letter sent by the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, [Robert Menendez], charging President Obama to intervene directly and immediately in order to halt the crimes committed against the Syrian people or to arm the Free Syrian Army with appropriate weapons that will allow it to defend the [Syrian] citizens.”[3]

 Responding to Obama’s claim that no moderate Syrian opposition existed capable of ousting the regime, Al-Bahra said: “This approach in itself [should] have sufficed to motivate the international organizations, the international community and those countries who call themselves allies of the Syrian people to assist the moderate elements [in Syria], in order to strengthen them and defend their humanitarian and constitutional rights and force Bashar Al-Assad to step down and make way for a just political solution.”

“Responding to Obama’s statement that rebel forces composed of farmers and dentists could not withstand Assad and the terrorist organizations simultaneously, Al-Bahra asked Obama: “What did you [i.e., the US] do to strengthen them?! Did you do anything to enable them [to win], or did your policy clear the way for  terrorists and other extremists to exploit [the rebels’] weakness and empower themselves?! The American administration knows that Syria has compulsory military service, meaning that most men and youths in Syria undergo military training. In other words, they generally do not suffer from ignorance, at least in everything pertaining to weapons. Additionally, the Syrian people have something stronger than weapons – namely willpower. History offers numerous [examples of] revolutions carried out by unarmed and weak people with limited capabilities.


“The excuse invented by Obama does not absolve him of responsibility, but obligates him to act immediately and by every means possible – political, legal and diplomatic – to stop the bloodbath that Bashar Al-Assad is carrying out against the Syrians. Today, it is Obama’s obligation to meet what was agreed upon with the SOC during its last visit [to the United States], and provide the Syrian people with all the capabilities and resources that will allow it to defend itself and its right to obtain freedom, and to build a democratic country [based upon] the rule of law. I am sure that the American president’s statement does not mean [he intends to] evade extending assistance to the moderates in the future, but was merely a description of the previous Syrian reality, as he comprehends it. During the SOC’s meeting with the American president, emphasis was placed on military aid to the revolution, which had been included in the American Defense Department budget. [The budget] has been presented to congressional committees, in order to put it to a vote next November. It includes clauses approving an increase of aid for training moderate [opposition] elements, to [fund] both reinforcements and more gear.[4]


Prominent Oppositionst Burhan Ghalioun: The Obama Administration’s Lack Of A Clear Policy Towards The Region Destroys All Hope Of A Swift End To Chaos, Killing

In an article posted on the oppositionist website, the former chairman of the Syrian National Council, Burhan Ghalioun, wrote: “Senior American officials have for some time [and] on numerous occasions expressed their opinion that support for the moderate opposition is the way to contend with ISIS at this time, in order to press Assad to agree to political change [in Syria]. Judging by his recent statements, it is clear is that Obama is not yet fully convinced of the option to support the Syrian opposition. The limited assistance [he] does provide is intended to pacify politicians who oppose his policy, which can be effectively termed a non-intervention policy – not only non-intervention in the war that is being waged in Syria against an entire people, but also the overall situation in Arab Middle East. [This,] while [Obama] gives the leaders of Iran and Russia total freedom to obtain their sought-for objectives at the expense of  the region’s security and the interests of its peoples. What is frightening in [Obama’s] declaration is not [merely] its negative moral impact on freedom fighters, especially in Syria – because they never believed him [in the first place] and never dreamed of American military assistance – but the fact that [this declaration] confirms once again that the American administration lacks any clear approach, not [only to the issue of] filling the vacuum [in Syria], of which Obama speaks, but to the developments in the Middle East and to the surprises that await it in the coming months…

“The absence of any political approach in Washington to changes in the region and to its fate, a region that for many decades was subject to American hegemony, creates a situation of chaos, disintegration and annihilation amongst all forces, and destroys all hope for a quick end to the [state of] anarchy, killing, devastation and destruction.”[5]

Burhan Ghalioun (image:





[1], June 20, 2014.

[2], June 22, 2014.

[3] The letter, signed by Menendez and eight other committee members, said: “The situation and our options [in Syria] may have grown more complicated, but we believe there is still strong, bipartisan support [in the U.S.]… [for a strategy] that will break the stalemate on the ground… We must be prepared with options to increase pressure when Assad fails to meet his commitments…  The moderate opposition forces are currently the only entity actively fighting extremist groups pouring into Syria. Enhanced support to those forces engaged in the fight is needed to sustain their momentum and prevent the establishment of terrorist safe havens throughout north Syria.”, March 14, 2014.

[4], June 23, 2014.

[5], June 26, 2014.