'Mr Obama, it's time to keep your word and end this slaughter'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Exclusive interview: The leader of Syria's rebel forces tells Loveday Morris why the West must watch no longer

The world cannot continue to sit idly by as Syrian women and children are slaughtered, says the colonel who has positioned himself at the helm of the Free Syrian Army.

He called on the United States and Europe to create a no-fly zone that would enable rebels to establish a base for operations and provide safety for refugees.

Speaking to The Independent from an undisclosed location in the Homs Governorate, Colonel Qassim Saadeddine – who this week laid bare the rifts in the rebel forces as he denounced the leadership of the exiled Colonel Riad al-Asaad – declared the Annan peace plan "dead and buried".

In a message to the US President, Barack Obama, and the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, he said: "You said that [President] Assad must go, you said his days are numbered. Words should be matched by deeds. You cannot wait until after the American elections for action. The regime hasn't stopped the killing, hasn't stopped the shelling – you cannot stand still."

A former army colonel from the Homs town of Rastan who defected in February, Colonel Saadeddine says he is not seeking a leadership role in the organisation, but claims to speaks for all the country's regional military councils. His disdain for Colonel Asaad, giving orders safely away from the battlefield from his base in Turkey, is thinly veiled.

"The whole world knows that a true leader is one who stays with his men and fights with them on the field and is of course not outside the country's borders," he said. "I'm a leader in the field, I fight with my men. I don't like to identify myself as a leader, but in terms of decision making my opinions are the ones that are respected."

Colonel Saadeddine rounded on the former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, saying he "didn't deserve to rule France" because had waited too long to show he was a man of his word and lost power, and implored Mr Obama not to do the same. "The US and Europe should move through an international coalition to establish a no-fly zone and buffer zones so that the Syrian people can get rid of their oppressors," he said, adding that this should be done "with or without" the support of the UN Security Council.

The formation of buffer zones or humanitarian corridors, most likely along the Turkish border, has long been mooted, and would give the Free Syrian Army (FSA) a geographical foothold from which to mount attacks. However, the international community remains reticent due to the inevitable involvement of "boots on the ground" and the distant prospect of any UN mandate.

The Security Council has been hamstrung by Russia and China's reticence to move against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. After meeting the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, on his first overseas trip since returning to the presidency, the Russian Premier, Vladimir Putin, yesterday rejected assertions that Moscow is propping up President Assad's government, but Moscow has made it clear that it will still block any attempts at intervention.

The fractured opposition does not help the case for those who are seeking outside assistance. The fault lines in the FSA were laid bare when Colonel Saadeddine released a video message earlier this week giving the regime a 48-hour deadline to comply with the terms of the ceasefire before it would consider itself no longer bound by the Annan plan. His ultimatum was rejected by Colonel Asaad and led to a sharp exchange of words.

The rift reflects similar tensions in the non-military opposition, where the frustration of grassroots movements with the largely exiled opposition leadership, has been building. Added to the FSA's difficulties is a limited chain of command, with numerous groups identifying themselves under the banner and a lack of co-ordination between ragtag militias and battalions.

Colonel Saadeddine claims that a clearer structure is now emerging, with 10 regional military councils to which local brigades and battalions are attached. All also have administrative branches that deal with financing, weapons supply and humanitarian aid. But the fact that senior FSA figures including Colonel Saadeddine claim to have been abiding by the ceasefire while the UN has condemned numerous breaches on both sides could indicate its limited control. However, any restraint that might have been exercised now appears to have gone.

Speaking just after his 48-hour deadline expired yesterday afternoon, Colonel Saadeddine said the massacre at Houla, was the most blatant evidence that Assad's regime had no intention of moving towards reconciliation. "They are attacking our women and children, do we just sit and let them kill them? The Annan plan, as far as we are concerned, is none of our business anymore. We can't stand still with our hands on our swords."

What next for Syria? The worst atrocities ... so far

4 February 2012

The start of the siege of Homs: as many as 1,000 civilians are killed within a month in the intense fighting.

10 May 2012

A suicide bomb kills 55 in Damascus. The West is alarmed when jihadists claim responsibility

25 May 2012

The most shocking atrocity of the conflict was the massacre of 100 people, including children, in Houla

30 May 2012

Days after the Houla massacre, rebels found 13 bodies in al-Qusair which had been shot at point-blank range

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Chris Froome pulls out of the Tour de France
tour de france
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Mobile App/IOS Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC)

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Mobile App/IOS...

Front End Developer-JavaScript, Angular J.S, HTML, CSS, ASP.NET

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front End Deve...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Associate CXL Consultant

£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...

Day In a Page

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice
Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

Hollywood targets Asian audiences

The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
10 best girls' summer dresses

Frock chick: 10 best girls' summer dresses

Get them ready for the holidays with these cool and pretty options 
Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

Westminster’s dark secret

Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

Naked censorship?

The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil