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Aref Hamdoush lives in Lattakia. He is a military and political analyst and has studies military science for 5 years. His sources include friends in the Syrian army, and former friends who have joined the FSA.

Seth Rutledge – Are there many demonstrations going on in Syria?

Aref Hamdoush: millions went into streets to tell the world we are with Bashar al Assad, millions all over Syria and even Syrians out side Syria all over the world.

S- How do most Syrians want to proceed: regime change, new elections, or something else?

A- I will answer this for sure, most Syrians want elections immediately with Assad as a candidate. Why, because more than 80% of the Syrians support him, we asked for this a long time ago.

S- Do Syrian’s support the Syrian National Coalition? Are they legitimate representatives of Syria?

A- The Syrian National Coalition is not national, they represent the Muslim Brotherhood. The Muslim Brotherhood only caused us troubles in the 80s. The Syrian National Coalition want’s a no-fly zone; no Syrian want’s a no-fly zone unless he is an agent of the West. The Iraqis tell us: don’t make our mistake.

If the SNC have the support of a large number of Syrians on the ground, then why are they afraid of the elections? Their support on the ground is getting closer to zero day by day.

You see Syrian society is made of many sects and religions. If the SNC, lead by extremists, wants to kill all of the other sects and religions then they are not with Syria. Any revolution in the world its purpose is to improve the country, not to bring it back into darkness and extremism like the USA and Saudi Arabia define Islamic. If they care about Syria they wouldn’t sell it’s factories to the Turks; they wouldn’t cut Alawite prisoners into pieces and send the parts to their families.

S- What is your opinion of the FSA?

A- Personally if one stood by me I would kill him. They are traitors, they want peace with Israel, they are agents of the USA and Israel, and they are no longer Syrians. Do you know where the name “Free Army” came from? Do you know what happened in Afghanistan, what happened in 9/11?

When the name “Free Army” started it was in Afghanistan, that’s what they called the Taliban when they fought against Russia- Free Army, Free Fighters. It’s the same here with the FSA, and with the Free Lebanon Army in Lebanon.

You know it’s not about who is against the system, it’s about who is supporting the FSA with money, weapons, and politically. I was not with the government; I’m against 60% of what they are doing. But it’s better than the FSA, they are blind to Syria. So it doesn’t matter if you don’t agree with the government, it’s the only way for Syria to survive.

S- Is it true that the government is bombing bread lines?

A- Why would they do that? The first time the media said that there was a bread shortage Syrian TV showed people taking bread and nothing was going on. Then, about a month ago, there was a real problem getting bread because the FSA told their sleeping cells to buy large amounts of bread and throw it away. If the government blew people up while taking bread I think all the people would be against the government; and if 23 million Syrians were against the government then the government would have been gone long ago. If the Syrians want to remove the government it would be removed in weeks.

S- Who do you think is behind the bombing of Aleppo University?

A- Lets be clear: any bomb going off has Al Qaeda behind it, by all it’s names.

S- Why aren’t more Syrians marching in support of the government?

A- There is no need to march; it’s not about people being for or against the government. We have lives and are living them, if we march every day how can we work? Also many have joined the army to fight those extremists.

In Aleppo people are just trying to survive. But here in Lattakia nothing is going on, it’s all normal. People working, boys and girls walking in the streets with normal clothes, all the prices are almost normal here, many new shops and restaurants have opened. There are no fights.

What the FSA is doing in Aleppo, they are punishing people because they are against the FSA but cutting the roads, destroying the electricity.

S- How do you feel about the National Coordinating Body for Democratic Change, it says here it’s a “pro-reform organization that is based in Damascus. It is a broad popular coalition of Pan-Arabists, Nationalists, Kurdish Parties and Organizations, Syrian Socialists, Internationalist Socialists, Marxist Organizations, Peace Movements, Human Rights Organizations, Religious NGOs and other organizations. It is by far the largest and most inclusive pro-reform organization. Although it is by far the largest and most representative pro-reform organization, its initiatives have been largely ignored by Western and Gulf Arab mainstream politicians and media.” http://nsnbc.me/2012/10/24/the-dynamics-of-the-crisis-in-syria-conflict-versus-conflict-resolution-part-1/

A- That is the group that I support.

S- Was Bashar al Assad elected?

A- Yes Bashar al Assad was elected by the Syrians all over Syria in 2000

S- Why was Assad elected unopposed? Doesn’t that make it a sham election?

A- I don’t know really, I only remember when we went to election box and put yes to him

S- Do you think the electoral system needs reform?

A- The coming elections are different than any Syrian has witnessed.

S- When will the next elections be?

A= I can’t remember the date, but the people against Bashar and Bashar will participate.

S- Why are these people protesting if Syrians support Assad? http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m94891&hd=&size=1&l=e

A- You see the black flags, those of are Al Qaeda, they are pro FSA. Theirs signs say: from Hama 1982 until now 2013.

Do you know the truth about 1982? At that time Egypt sent Special Forces to defeat our president Hafiz, may God bless his soul. Israel was attacking us in Lebanon, and in Iraq. The black oil company trained terrorists and sent them into Syria. Aleppo was the Muslim Brotherhoods base. The world was against us, Lebanon was in civil war and the Syrian army went to finish that war. The king of Jordan was killing all the Palestinians, so the Syrian army was going to go there, but Israel threatened us with a nuke. The president’s brother wanted Syria for himself so he was preparing a military coup; and our president was in very bad health, but he managed to kick his brother out of Syria.

At that time Damascus had bunkers, we were in war all over Syria. We did not have any financial reserves or food reserves, many places were under heavy attack from the Muslim Brotherhood. Hafiz sent the Special Forces to Aleppo and bombed Hama. The world was against us, still we managed to survive and claim victory.

When Hafiz bombed Hama it affected some people who carry a great grudge against the government, even if they have the best jobs and so on.

S- What are their demands?

A- First they demanded fixing the system and some parts of the Constitution, like section 8. When the government did that they asked for more, the government gave them more and put in a new Constitution for voting. There last demand was on the Emergency Law, so the government removed it as well.

Then suddenly they asked the police and all government forces to get out of Dar’a. The government agreed, and then the crime rate went up 80%. The people asked the army to go into the city; when the army went to enter it they saw some men dressed like the clothes of our army. So they entered with civilian clothes (keep in mind Dar’a is on the Jordanian border.) So the army cleared Dar’a without killing anyone. Then the problems moved into another border city; then they demanded to remove the president.

That’s what happened. Even inside Dar’a on of the Sheikhs told people to calm down because everything was completed so there was no need to protest. Some strangers threatened to kill the Sheikh, if he kept telling that to people.

We started seeing so many strangers dressed in army clothes in the protests, and they started shooting the security and police men. So the security men fired back at them. Some people think that the army was infiltrating the protests; some said that they didn’t see any stranger and the police just fired on them for nothing. Then the Turks and Qataris came on TV and started speaking about the freedom of the Syrian people, and Al Jazeera started spreading lies and the Al Arabia channel, and CNN, BBC and so on. They said things that had not been seen on the ground, we found out it was a lie. Just like in Libya.

S- Why doesn’t the government just hold a presidential election?

A- It will happen soon, but how is it going to be an election by all Syrians if the FSA is keeping people from even opening up their shops and schools? They will kill anyone who tries to vote in the places they are.

S- If the FSA is so evil why are people still supporting them?

A- Because of religion, that’s all. But so many are against them who were with them at the start. Many protest against the FSA inside their occupied cities; some of the rural cities rose up against them and the FSA fired on them with live ammo.

S- Are you worried that NATO will start bombing Syria?

A- NATO can’t bomb Syria. Where would they bomb us from? Turkey had the green light to make war on Syria by the USA, so Erdogan had a big meeting with the heads of the Turkish army; they told him that they would destroy Damascus and Aleppo and other cities, but it would open the boarders to millions of PKK to come into Turkey so Istanbul and Ankara would be destroyed as well. Also Iran and Iraq would enter the war, it would be a trap to the NATO forces, they would be destroyed by Russian, Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian missiles and forces. Also Turkey has enough internal problems.

NATO can’t attack from the sea because Syria has a large arsenal of anti-ship missiles including the Yakhont missiles that Russia gave us which can destroy an aircraft carrier or destroyer. Syria also has very powerful anti-air systems that could bring down all kinds of aircraft and missiles.

Iran would close the Persian Gulf and the price of oil would skyrocket causing weapons factories to close. 35 American bases would be destroyed in the first 10 minutes of any war by Iran, so the cost could not be handled, especially the safety of Israel. If Israel started the war and the USA joined in it would mean WW3. They could not control the wars end, it could last 6 months, or years, and by that time no world will remain as it is.

Syria will achieve the big project by our President Bashar the united second Arabic nation: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine; and we will be a super power.

S- Yes the stakes are high, but if the US doesn’t do it then the petro-dollar could collapse, so really the US can’t afford not to.

A- The dollar must collapse so the world economic will collapse as well, it’s the plan my friend. The world will be changed, but not by war with the USA. A big revolution will divide the USA. Syria will be very powerful, Europe will vanish, and Germany will join the BRIC union.

S- Why doesn’t Assad just go? Does Syria really need Assad? Or is it just his ego?

A- Its not about ego, we don’t want him to go, we love him, he is a true leader. He stood against 130 countries and let Syria survive for more than 2 years. The question is why should he leave? It’s not about him as president or not, it’s about if Syria remains or not. When this crisis is done Syrians will choose what will come.

S- What would be the consequences if he were to leave?

A- Destruction to Syria, losing everything.