By Samuel Burke, CNN
If the West doesn’t arm the Free Syrian Army, extremist groups will take hold of the war-torn country. That’s the assessment of Syrian opposition leader Ghassan Hitto, who in past weeks, went from being a Texas-based I.T. executive to prime minister of the Syrian National Coalition, Syria’s government in exile.
“Do we wait until thousands and thousands more of Hezbollah fighters continue to pour into Syria? Do we wait for more Iranian soldiers and Iranian influence in the region?” Hitto said to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
Hitto is a Syrian-American who's just been appointed the first interim prime minister of the Syrian opposition. He has temporary headquarters in Istanbul, but told Amanpour he'll soon name his government and move into Syria.
The Obama administration has said it is reluctant to arm the rebels because, it says, it doesn’t want arms falling into the hands of extremists.
“Waiting for this red line and waiting for another red line and another line of a different color is just waiting too long,” Hitto said. “The interim government is the alternative – the solution to bring order into Syria.”
The Assad regime and its brutality has allowed foreign elements to intervene inside Syria, according to Hitto – saying this paved the way for Israeli airstrikes in the past week.
But how does the opposition prevent a ‘free Syria’ from becoming a headquarters for al Qaeda?
“The Syrian people are known for being moderate. They're known for rejecting any type of foreign ideology, any type of ideology that enforces its ideas on the people,” Hitto said. “They are ready to go back and carry on with their normal lives.”
Hitto does not believe the time he has spent living in America will make him appear as foreigner.
“First and foremost, I stay away from all the political issues. And I present myself as a technocrat, as one who's going to put a government together, that has a government together that's ready to serve the people,” he said. “People are driven by their needs. And when we focus on their needs and we focus on what they want, they go along with that.”