EXCLUSIVE – The leaders of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are in Washington, DC, where they will meet with White House officials on Tuesday. Its objective is to increase cooperation between the FSA and the Trump administration, and at the same time to warn about the consequences of giving up control to Russia and Iran.
Last week they presented their case before Congress.
The Free Syrian Army was described to Fox News as the military wing of the Syrian opposition, and has a small number of members who have been trained and armed by the Pentagon through the train and equipment program that ended in 2015. The FSA says it fought successfully against ISIS and Iranian militias. They claim to have approximately 60,000 troops. Its leaders say it has been reformed and now employs rules of engagement similar to those of the US military.
Meanwhile, its leaders warn of an imminent catastrophe in Idlib, one of the last important strongholds of the opposition in Syria. They say they are facing an attack on three fronts from Russia, Iran and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Meanwhile, the Russians, Iranians and Turks are ready to start another round of talks at the end of the month. But the members of the FSA delegation have warned the Trump administration not to trust the Russians in Syria.
"The Russians are still lying, they never really do what they promise in the negotiations," said Osama Abu Zaid, who was a senior negotiator with Russia during the fall of Aleppo and the Astana talks.
Abu Zaid added: "The evidence is clear that Russia will not allow us democracy or independence, Russia is fighting with all its might to preserve the brutal security apparatus it has built for the Assad regime." This is our main challenge now: rebuild security services in institutions led by professionals working to protect the Syrians and their democratic freedoms. "
The Russians responded in Moscow on Monday: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of not wanting to "maintain the territorial integrity of Syria."
Members of the FSA delegation are pushing for more help from the Trump administration. "We aspire to such cooperation because we can not trust Russia, which provides unlimited air support, all kinds of military support and political support in international forums for the regime," Saad Fahd Al-Shweish, also part of the FSA delegation that was The former head of the Raqqa Provincial Council told Fox News. He added: "We can not accept Russia as an ally or partner as long as this support continues."
Since the start of the uprising against the Assad regime in 2011, estimates of the number of Syrians killed range from 400,000 to almost half a million.  Yasir Al-Haji heads the foreign affairs office of the Syrian provisional government. He said the main purpose of his current trip is "to alert the administration of the Russian-Iranian threat to the Syrians and the future of the Syrians." He warned: "Iran in particular seeks to control Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and carve a land bridge from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean, Iran wants to become a great power, possibly also with nuclear weapons, which will make it even more difficult to face them" .
Khalid Aba, another crucial member of the delegation, is also the political leader of the Levant Front, also known as Jabhat al-Shamiyah. He said his group was investigated by the CIA and that they led the rebel fight against ISIS in Aleppo.
He said: "Russia sees in Syria an opportunity to expand its global influence at the expense of the United States, wants to acquire a Mediterranean port, control oil wells, preserve its Assadist proxy and use Syria's key geopolitical location as means of influence in the Middle East – all this will give Russia greater influence in future negotiations with the United States on other issues.So, while Russia uses the regime to justify its presence in Syria, Russia is in fact an occupier. "
The FSA is not alone in its concerns: David Adesnik, a Syrian analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), a non-partisan research institute focused on national security and foreign policy, told Fox News that 2017 was a very good year in Syria for Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Assad, but 2018 could provide an opportunity for the Trump administration to act.
"The way to begin to change this is to help the local partners who worked with us defeat ISIS to take the next step and consolidate their control of the territory they liberated in the northeast of Syria," Adesnik said. "Those areas have important oil and gas assets, which Assad wants to control, if our partners have them, it would be the most important card on our hand at the negotiating table."
Another FSA leader who attends the talks is Mustafa Sejari. He is the founder of the Motassem Brigade, which according to him was supported by the Pentagon. The Sejari brigade has the merit of leading the indictment against ISIS in northern Syria. Sejari told Fox News that he will not abandon the fight, "because it is impossible to return to the days leading up to the war." History teaches us that dictators can not succeed in suppressing the popular will. The Syrian people have already decided to fight for their freedoms, and there is no going back. "