By Selen Temizer
Ahmad Osman, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA)-affiliated Sultan Murat Brigade, said Friday that the YPG/PKK terrorist group was operating in eastern Syria on the pretext of fighting Daesh militants who, he asserted, were not actually in the area.
He went on to say that the FSA was “ready to conduct operations” in Syria’s northeastern Tal Abyad, Raqqah and Al-Hasakah regions.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, Osman commented on Iran's role in Syria, the strategies of the Assad regime, and the ongoing YPG/PKK presence in areas east of the Euphrates River.
Stating that Iran-backed foreign terrorist groups were changing Syria’s demographic composition, he said: “They have changed street signs in the capital. The Sayyidah Zaynab Mosque has been turned into their headquarters. Shia militias have even bought homes in Damascus.”
The FSA commander also stated that there were similar problems in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province.
“We are aware that Iran has occupied Syria. Iran has taken over the country’s education and construction sectors,” he said.
According to Osman, the Assad regime has ignored Iran's activities while likening Turkish forces in the region to “invaders”.
“The Turks have repeatedly said they don’t have any territorial ambitions in Syria; that their sole objective is to safeguard their national security,” Osman said, pointing out that the PKK terrorist group “still maintains a presence near the Syria-Turkey border”.
He also said that the FSA was “ready” to take part in operations east of the Euphrates.
“Preparations are already underway; we have many well-trained fighters,” he said.
“The only problem is the U.S. troop presence in the region,” he added. “I'm hoping the U.S. withdraws and the Turkish army -- backed by the FSA -- expels the PKK from areas east of the river, where it is pretending to be fighting Daesh.”
“In reality, there is no Daesh presence in Raqqah, Al-Hasakah and Tal Abyad; therefore, we can carry out operations there,” Osman said. “But the U.S. wants to remain in this area, meaning that U.S. support for the PKK is hindering operations east of the Euphrates.”
“Fortunately, we cleared one end of the border [of terrorists] following the [Turkey-led] Operation Olive Branch. Now, there are civilian administrations operating effectively in these areas,” he added, referring in particular to Syria’s Afrin region.
Osman also hailed ongoing Turkish support for the region’s civilian population.
“Turkish NGOs remain very active in the area and have provided aid for numerous development projects,” he said. “The Iranians, by contrast, are operating in accordance with their own agenda and religious beliefs.”
He added: “The Turkish presence and the Iranian presence in Syria are completely different in nature.”
“If Syrian citizens can’t prove ownership of their property within a year, it will be confiscated by the regime,” Osman continued. “And the regime will then use this as an excuse to sell the property to Iranian buyers.”
According to Osman, the Assad regime never sought a political solution to the country’s seven-year conflict.
“The regime's only goal is to reestablish control of the country through a military solution,” he said.
“Damascus doesn't care about Astana, Geneva or any other talks,” he added. “Regime officials only attend these meetings as a result of Russian pressure. The regime doesn't want negotiations, which would mean granting the people their rights.”
*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara