The leader of the Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army, Ahmad Jarba, said that the Syrian regime is not being ruled by Syrian president Bashar Assad, but by Shi’ite Iran and the Lebanese movement Hezbollah, according to an interview on Sunday in the London based Arab daily Al-Hayat.
Jarba said that Syrian rebels control less than half of the country and if they would be given better weapons they could change the situation. He called on the Gulf States to do more. He also said that “Bashar is a killer and a criminal” and ruled out any political settlement that would leave him in power, demanding that he be punished for his crimes.
Jarba also blamed Iraqi president Nouri al-Maliki for allowing “fighters and extremists into Syria” in support of Assad’s regime and at the behest of Iran.
The conflict, which began in 2011, has led to more than 100,000 deaths and thousands of refugees.
Jarba also said that there were Yemen Houthi fighters supporting Iranian and Hezbollah fighters.
The Houthis are Shi’ites from the Zaydi branch, also known as Fivers, who believe in the first five imans after Muhammad, up until the fifth, Zayd ibn Ali. Most Shi’ites are Twelvers, including the leadership of Iran. Yemen’s government blames Iran for arming and supporting the Houthis.
As has been widely reported, Hezbollah, acting on Iranian orders, has mobilized a significant portion of its fighting force to Syria to help secure a turnaround for the Damascus regime.
Bolstered by highly trained Hezbollah fighters and Iranian support, Assad’s army has of late been making gains against the Sunni rebels – gains that could be seen most recently on Sunday in the town of al-Qusayr, near the border with Lebanon, where the Syrian regime began a new offensive.
Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.