Riad al-Asaad

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Riad Mousa al-Asaad
رياض موسى الأسعد
Native name
رياض موسى الأسعد
BornFebruary 2 1961 (age 60–61)
Allegiance Syria (1980–2011)
Syrian opposition Syrian National Coalition (2011–14)
Syrian Salvation Government (Since 2017)
Service/branch Syrian Air Force (1980–2011)
Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army (2011–14)
Years of service1980–2014
Commands heldFree Syrian Army
Battles/warsSyrian Civil War

Riad Mousa al-Asaad (Arabic pronunciation: [rijɑːdˤ muːsa ɐlʔæsʕæd]; Arabic: رياض موسى الأسعد, born 2 February 1961) is a Syrian military leader and politician. He is the Deputy Prime Minister for Military Affairs of the Syrian Salvation Government, a position he has held since 2 November 2017. Before this, he was a military commander of the Free Syrian Army.[2] He was a former Colonel in the Syrian Air Force who defected to the opposition in July 2011.[3]

A number of his family members were executed by the Syrian government.[4] Despite the similar surname, he is not a member of, nor related with, Syria's ruling al-Assad family.

Establishment of the Free Syrian Army[edit]

Following the outbreak of violence in Syria in March 2011, Colonel Riad al-Asaad had announced his defection from the Syrian Air Force on the 4th of July 2011. He initially joined the Free Officers Movement after this defection.[5]

On the 29th of July 2011, al-Asaad along with other defectors declared the establishment of the Free Syrian Army, with the intention of fighting an insurgent war to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad.

Colonel Asaad opposes any exile solution for Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and seeks for fighting until his government is overthrown.[6]

On 22 September 2012, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) announced that it had moved its command centre from Turkey to "liberated areas" inside Syria. In November 2012, in order to get more support from Saudi Arabia, the FSA leadership was still planning to move into Syria, a FSA general al-Sheikh said.[7] The same general falsely claimed that the FSA moved its centre in Syria in September 2012.[8]

UN ceasefire attempt 2012[edit]

After UN military observers entered Syria, al-Asa'ad announced a ceasefire for all forces, committed to the Kofi Annan peace plan for Syria. However, after a few days he has reannounced continuation of attacks led by rebels because the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to him, did not make peace as promised.[9] On 31 May 2012, al-Asa'ad urged Kofi Annan to scrap his peace plan which he claims failed.[3]

Position within the Free Syrian Army[edit]

Colonel Kasim Saaduddin, a member of the FSA, stated that al-Asaad does not have control over the Free Syrian Army, which al-Asaad himself denied in the interview.[1]

On 8 December 2012, in Antalya, Turkey, Asaad was replaced by Brigadier General Salim Idris as effective military commander of the Free Syrian Army.[10]

Criticism from opposition protesters[edit]

Riad al-Asaad has received criticism from some opposition protesters in the city of Salamiyah. A protest on 3 August 2012 claimed that "Mr. General Riad al-Asaad, while our city protested for the first time, you were working for Assad's regime".[11]

Assassination attempts[edit]

In an interview with the Voice of Russia made in early August 2012, al-Asaad claimed that the Syrian government attempted to assassinate him several times and for that reason, he is being guarded by the Turkish intelligence.[12]

On 25 March 2013, he was the victim of a car bomb explosion near Mayadin, in eastern Syria. He was taken to Turkey for treatment,[13] where his right leg was amputated.[14][15] In his 2015 book, The Syrian Jihad, analyst Charles Lister cites a "senior Ahrar al-Sham leader" as telling him the rebel group had "secretly traced the assassination attempt on Riad al-Asaad back to Jabhat al-Nusra."[16]

Syrian Salvation Government[edit]

In late August 2017, Riad al-Asaad attended a conference in Idlib, held by Tahrir al-Sham, which established the Syrian Salvation Government on 2 November.[17] Riad al-Assad said that “Tahrir al-Sham has previously declared that it will be dissolve itself, which is an external and internal demand”. He said that they “did not attend the conference and we did not communicate with them after it ended, either”. However, the Hawar Kilis Operations Room, part of the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army, condemned al-Asaad and accused him of conspiring with al-Qaeda.[18]

On 2 November 2017, Riad al-Asaad was appointed Deputy Prime Minister for Military Affairs of the Syrian Salvation Government (a de facto alternative government of the Syrian opposition).


Riad al-Asaad has made controversial statements such as suggesting that suicide bombing is "an integral part of revolutionary action, of Free Syrian Army action."[19]

In an undated video uploaded on 26 March 2013, Colonel Riad al-Asaad defended al-Nusra Front, describing them as, "our brothers in Islam".[20] As part of the interview, he asserted that the FSA had provided direct support for al-Nusra in order to aid their fight against the Ba'ath government.[20]

In a 2016 interview with Turkish daily newspaper Yeni Şafak, Asaad said that the Democratic Union Party (PYD) was more dangerous than ISIL, adding that ISIL was a temporary fraction in the area while the PYD is a cause of permanent devastation which brings long term crisis to the region.[21] He asserted that the existence of PYD and ISIL violence was connected with the continuation of the Assad regime and that extremism in Syria would be vanished if Assad left power. He stated that the PYD and its armed wing People's Protection Units (YPG) aimed to establish a separate Kurdish state in northern Syria but it would not be possible. The group, he said, was spreading hatred among Turkmens, Arabs, Alawites and Kurds living in the area. He also asserted that the group, which claims to defend Kurds, both was supported by the U.S. military and regime forces, had killed hundreds of Arabs, Turkmens, and even Kurds who opposed their Marxist-Socialist strategy. "U.S. is equally responsible as Assad, Russia and Iran for killing hundreds of thousands of civilians in Syria," the FSA commander said. He stated that PYD was a plan of U.S. and Europe to sabotage Syrian people's resistance especially the Free Syrian Army.[22]


  1. ^ a b "Political Resolution on the Crisis in Syria is Impossible". Turkish Weekly. 10 August 2012. Archived from the original on 11 August 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  2. ^ Sen, Ashish (5 October 2011). "U.N. veto called green light for Assad". The Washington Times. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b Sly, Liz (25 September 2011). "In Syria, defectors form dissident army in sign uprising may be entering new phase". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Families of Syrian rebels killed in their homes, says UN". The Independent. 24 May 2012. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  5. ^ Al-Jazeera (5 July 2011). "Officers in the Syrian Army defect".
  6. ^ Shannouf, Rida (24 July 2012). "Free Syrian Army Commander Rejects Exile for Assad". Al-Monitor. Archived from the original on 26 July 2012. Retrieved 29 July 2012.
  7. ^ Syria rebels to reorganise, lead from front: general
  8. ^ Rebel army moves command centre inside Syria to organise fractured forces
  9. ^ "Sirija: bombaški napad na UN-ov konvoj pri ulasku u grad Daraa, u konvoju se nalazio i vođa misije general Robert Mood" (in Croatian). Advance.hr. Associated Press. 9 May 2012. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  10. ^ Oweis, Khaled Y. (8 December 2012). "Syrian rebels elect new military commander". The Star. Archived from the original on 10 December 2012. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  11. ^ "Who is the Free Syrian Army?". France 24 Observers. 8 October 2012.
  12. ^ العقيد المنشق رياض الأسعد: الحرب هي الخيار الوحيد للإطاحة بالرئيس السوري (in Arabic). صحيفة العرب - قطر [Al-Arab Qatar]. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2012.
  13. ^ "'I want to die': Free Syria Army chief cries out after losing his leg". Al Arabiya. 26 March 2013. Retrieved 26 March 2013.
  14. ^ "Syrie: le fondateur de l'ASL blessé". Le Figaro. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  15. ^ "Free Syrian Army leader wounded in bomb attack". ABC News. 25 March 2013. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  16. ^ Lister, Charles R., 'The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency', C. Hurst & Co, 2015, p. 115
  17. ^ "The Syrian General Conference Faces the Interim Government in Idlib". 18 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Euphrates Shield: Riyad al-Assaad is an intruder and conspirator". Al-Alam News Network. 28 August 2017.
  19. ^ "Inside Syria's War". Dateline SBS. 31 July 2012. Retrieved 22 December 2012.
  20. ^ a b "Free Syrian Army commander praises Al Nusrah Front as 'brothers' | FDD's Long War Journal". FDD's Long War Journal. Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  21. ^ "A Kurdish state in Syria is impossible: FSA commander". Yeni Şafak. 13 July 2016. Archived from the original on 13 July 2016. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  22. ^ http://www.aina.org/news/20160713202622.htm

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Office established
Commander of the Free Syrian Army
29 July 2011 – 8 December 2012
(as of 8 December 2012 only symbolically Head of State)
Succeeded by