ATMEH, Syria: A Syrian rebel commander has accused the West of being complicit in the "unprecedented massacres" committed by President Bashar Assad's forces by refusing to arm the rebels with anti-aircraft weapons.
Rebel officer Ahmad al-Fajj, a brigadier-general in the regular Syrian army before his defection "in the first days of the revolution," spoke in the rebel Free Syrian Army-held village of Atmeh on the Turkish border.
"The free peoples of the world -- Europeans, Americans -- must understand that their governments are indirectly responsible for the killings in our country," Fajj, 64, said in an interview with AFP on Tuesday.
"We asked all the arms dealers and traffickers in the region to sell us anti-aircraft missiles. They told us they needed the green light from the CIA and Mossad, and the light was red," he said.
"They won't sell us anti-tank weapons for the same reason. All we have to defeat Bashar's tanks are the RPGs we manage to retrieve from the enemy."
He claimed that with surface-to-air missiles the rebels would be able to defeat the regime forces "in a week, a month at most."
General Fajj, who bore an odd resemblance to the late Hafez al-Assad, former president and father of Bashar, said he could not fathom the West's reluctance to supply the rebels with the necessary anti-aircraft equipment.
Western nations fear that such weapons may fall into the hands of militant Islamists operating in the country.
"There aren't many Islamists, less than a thousand in the whole of Syria. They have no power," he asserted. "We control the liberated areas and I can guarantee you there is no chance they'd get hold of missiles.
"If Western countries had helped us from the beginning, they wouldn't even be here as we wouldn't need them. I assure you that after our victory they will not pose a problem. If they do we'll deal with them. The Syrian people don't support them, they're on our side.
"I can promise the free peoples of the world that if surface-to-air missiles are given to us, they will not fall into the hands of Islamist groups," he said.
As the U.N. General Assembly opened in New York Tuesday, Fajj complained: "Democratic countries only support us with words. This is shameful for the world. They can see what's happening, buildings being destroyed by air strikes, and they do nothing."
Fajj, commander of the rebels on the front line in western Aleppo, had been leading a four-day-old FSA assault on a crucial army post, "base 46," which lies on the main road between the northern city and Turkey.
"We are surrounding them. Yesterday a helicopter flew past to drop them bread. They can't get reinforcements because we hold all the roads.
"This base is the only obstacle on the road to Aleppo. If we take it, we can join up with our fighters in the city, which would be a key victory," he said.
"We have time anyway," he concluded. "We will defeat them by ourselves. It'll take longer and many people, civilians in particular, will die as a result. The French revolution didn't get any outside help. This is our revolution."