New Syrian Rebel Chief Plans Final Push against Assad

By Laub, Karin | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

New Syrian Rebel Chief Plans Final Push against Assad


Laub, Karin, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


MAARET MISREEN, Syria The new Syrian rebel chief said hes been moving between safe houses since taking up command, even changing quarters twice in one night when he feared regime spies.

Grappling with largely untrained and at times undisciplined fighters, Salim Idris said in an interview that he is trying to turn local militias into a united force of some 120,000 men for a final push against President Bashar Assad.

The challenges keep him awake at night, said Idris, a former general who defected from the Syrian army five months ago and was chosen as rebel chief of staff in a meeting of several hundred field commanders this month in Turkey.

Idris is very afraid a cornered Assad might unleash chemical weapons on the fighters. He said old friends of his still in the regime have warned him that the military, which already fired several Scuds, is training more ready-to-fire missiles on rebel strongholds in Syrias northwest.

Logistics also pose a nightmare. The 55-year-old, who studied in Germany and taught electronics at a Syrian military college, communicates by Skype with his officers. With power out most of the time, he has had important conversations cut short by a dying laptop battery, said Idris, who spoke with a professorial demeanor and wore a black suit during a brief break from the war zone. …

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