(CNSNews.com) - Brigadier General Salim Idris, who Sen. John McCain has called a "fine leader" and who leads the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which is supported by the Obama administration, told Al Jazeera in a May 8 video interview that “Israel is an enemy country” and that Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and the Lebanese terrorist group Hizballah are "Israeli collaborators."
“Israel is an enemy country,” Idris said, according to a translation of his remarks made by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “I say this loud and clear. It occupies Syrian lands. The FSA will not change its position regarding that country before it withdraws from the Syrian lands, and recognizes the legitimate rights of the Arab Palestinian people.”
In the same Al Jazeera interview, Idris accused Bashar al-Assad and Hizballah (which is designated a terrorist group by the U.S. government) of being “Israeli collaborators.”
“As for us being Israeli collaborators--the only Israeli collaborator in the region is the criminal Bashar,” said Idris. “The Israeli collaborators are the people who put on the show of the 2006 war--Hizballah and its leader Hassan Nasrallah. They diverted all their forces to the slaughtering of Syrians. Their scheme is totally clear. They used to hide behind the pretext of resistance and the fight against Israel, but now it has become clear that they are implementing a sectarian, Iranian, Safavid plan in the region.”
Idris defected from the Syrian Army last year and was elected chief of staff of the Syrian rebel's Supreme Military Council in December.
“General Idris's group was intended to be the moderate pathway for military aid to the Syrian opposition,” the New York Times reported on Aug. 13.
At a May 30 press briefing, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said: “Of course General Idris is a key component of the future of the Syrian opposition. He is head of the SMC. The secretary has been personally impressed with him in his occasions of meeting him in Istanbul. And even in Istanbul, let me just remind you, just a couple of weeks ago the group there, voted--or decided to make sure all military aid is going through him.”
At an Aug. 21 press briefing a reporter asked Psaki whether Secretary of State John Kerry agreed “with the assessment that … the moderate opposition on the ground” in Syria was “just not ready.”
As part of her answer Psaki said: “Continuing to work with the opposition, including the SMC, including General Idris, is a priority of the secretary's and one that he's very focused on and he works with his team closely on, on a daily basis, as well as his counterparts at DOD, as well as the White House, as well as officials around the administration.”
On CBS’s “Face the Nation” on June 2, Sen. John McCain recalled a trip he had made the week before to Turkey, and then across the border into a rebel-held section of Syria, where he met with some leaders of the Syrian rebellion.
“So I met them,” said McCain. “General Idris, who is the commander of the military inside Syria, escorted me in and out. He's a fine leader.”