MG Vallely goes to Syrian Border
by SCOTT W. WINCHELL
July 14, 2012
Does anyone really know what is going on in Syria? Who are the combatants? Who is supporting the regime, both internally and externally? Who is supporting the opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad? Where is aid actually going and why? With so much conflicting information, it's very hard for anyone, including our own intelligence and diplomatic services to understand the composition of the ‘freedom fighters', their needs, and the forces they face, internally and externally.
One thing we do know, there are parties here in the US and in other capitols that have the ear of the administrations and have vested interests in the region. However, these are not the interests of the people on the ground actually fighting. The Syrian National Council (SNC) has a PR firm working for them, but not for the true freedom fighters. A man named Ausma Monajed speaks and lobbies for the SNC, but who lobbies for the people on the ground?
Due to the fact that these questions, ones the State Department, the White House, the Armed Services Committee, and others cannot or will not answer, MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army (ret.) and his team accepted an invitation to go on a fact finding mission to the region to see this first hand, and they just returned on Friday, June 30. With the team's long and robust relationship in the Middle East, they met with key leaders of Syrian opposition forces at the border of Turkey and Syria, and toured the area.
SUA was able to glean much information on the Syrian struggle from the team, including the political situation in Turkey and in the entire region. It is with this type of information that SUA ensures that policy makers will prevent taking the wrong path diplomatically, and committing the same mistakes seen in Libya and Egypt. It is also apparent now, that the opposition forces now certainly have a voice, heretofore deprived of them in the halls of power.
The trip was arranged by Nagi N. Najjar (Christian Lebanese) and "Sam" Haitham Qdemati (Sunni Syrian), two ex-patriots from the region who are now long time US citizens. Both men have extensive ties to Lebanon and Syria, and have been working together to facilitate and organize humanitarian relief for the beleaguered ‘freedom fighters'. They asked the General to accompany them to Turkey to see and hear firsthand, to meet with those without voices, and to offer guidance in achieving aid for the people.
Once in Antakya, Turkey they were interviewed by Al Jazeera, Turkish, and other regional media outlets as the first private team to come to the region to research and evaluate the situation inside Syria. They also visited a refugee camp in Hatay Province near Antakya.
A tour was arranged to bring the team to the border (see video 1) to talk with the leaders of the freedom fighters and determine what they needed, and what the facts were regarding the struggle; to learn just who is who inside the opposition forces. People from Homs and Idlib came across the border that day specifically to meet the General and his team at their own peril. There were also leaders from other locations inside the battle zones of Syria among the more than 40 leaders who attended, including the Mayor.
These leaders were predominantly from the Syrian Liberation Army (SLA) and the Free Syrian Army (FSA). There is a distinction, one the world seems to overlook. SUA asks why? More on this later.
Initially, they openly expressed amazement that this man, a retired general would risk so much to come and see them; to listen to them, as a private citizen of the USA. They were very adamant about this point because he was the first private American to come see them, and they expressed a great distrust of Americans prior. They were quickly endeared and ready to talk for hours, and they did. A meeting area was set up, and Vallely and Qdemati answered their questions and spoke of what most of America thinks. They also listened, a new thing for these leaders, to be listened too. (see Video 2)
They described their plight and their plans for an emerging Syria, one without Assad and his thugs in charge any longer. They also described that the Sunnis are united, and al Qaeda is not helping them. They know there is much misinformation out in the public, and they are incensed that their message is not being heard, or even cultivated. It is also clear to them, that others are getting credit for their deeds, yet they get no help. They know they do not have those kinds of connections in DC and the UN.
They know that other factions are being courted and supported by the Muslim Brotherhood, the powerful, and countries like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, but most Sunnis in Syria wish for a secular civil society. They do not want the Muslim Brotherhood's ‘shariya' law to rule the land. They do know at this time though; that they must work together for the time being to erase the current regime, then tackle their permanent future despite their differences.
They are deeply saddened, that no one is consulting them about their future, as if they are children in need of direction from other world leaders and the UN. The world is ignoring the 20 million Sunnis of Syria. Kofi Annan is not respected, nor liked. They distrust the UN and its leadership.
The Sunnis described the carnage and attacks as an ‘ethnic cleansing'. They are systematically being expunged from their ancestral homes in a most heinous fashion by Shiites and their allies (Including Alawites who are Shiia). They explained that soon, when times of last resort arrive, they know chemical weapons will be used and they know where they are. The problem is, they possess almost no defensive equipment for such an eventuality, and are woefully deficient in medicines, food, and other logistics just to survive.
They described a need for securing pathways for humanitarian aid to be provided along the Turkish border. To this end, MG Vallely gave them a tactical plan on how to establish and secure these pathways with the aid of the Turks and other supporters. They asked Vallely to spread the word, to be their voice in America. A confidence and trust developed, one that opened a line of communication, and the dialogue now continues. Vallely pledged to continue to spread their voice, now for world leaders to actually listen.
In addition to the insight on Syria, MG Vallely and his team evaluated Turkey as well. They spoke with the common people in their homes. What they heard was not a surprise, but it validated previous inquiries. The common people are quite aware of how Turkey has turned into a police state, and how closely everything is being watched. Why? Because they know PM Erdogan seeks to rebuild and reinvent Turkey to resemble the once dynastic Ottoman Empire with all its worldwide impact and strength. To build an Islamic power that can offset the Muslim Brotherhood and Iranian hegemonic plans.
They do hope for a lasting peace with Israel, and safe and secure Lebanon, free of external influences. MG Vallely pledged to bring their voices to leadership in the US, to offset that of the powerful Middle Eastern interests, like those who have worked for, and have the ear of, this White House. More on this to follow as well.
Scott W. Winchell is Editor-in-Chief of Stand Up America