Syrian rebel leader: We need weapons

(CBS News) ANKARA, Turkey - The U.S. announced this week that for the first time it will provide non-lethal aid to the Syrian rebels. One of the rebel leaders, Salim Idris, was a general in the army of Syrian dictator Bashar Assad until 10 months ago. That was when he defected. In a rare TV interview, Idris spoke to CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan in Turkey.

General Idris took command of the fighters in December. His safety is so precarious he does not sleep in the same place more than one night.

Margaret Brennan: You defected from Assad's army?

Salim Idris: Yes.

Brennan: You're fighting your friends right now. What is that like?

Idris: It is very sad. It is not so simple for us to fight against our friends and against our citizens because the army is destroying everything. It is not the army to defend the country. It is an army now to defend the killer, the murderer, Bashar (Assad).

Brennan: The U.S. says right now it's giving food and medicine.

Idris: Yes.

Brennan: What do you need?

Idris: What really we need is ammunition and I mean anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles.

The rebels need those heavy weapons to fight Assad's military -- armed chiefly by Russia and Iran. The Obama administration fears those arms may end up in the hands of extremists. Idris also asked the U.S. for training to turn his fighters into a unified army and to protect against a chemical weapons attack that he thinks Assad may carry out.

Watch an extended portion of Margaret Brennan's interview with Salim Idris below:

Brennan: If you spoke to President Obama and to the American people, what would you say to them?

Idris: I would say to him, 'Mr. President, you are watching what is going on since two years now. I am coming to ask you, please on behalf of the Syrian people, on behalf of those who are daily killed.' I think the regime in Syria, and the President Bashar (Assad) will not leave the power in a political negotiation. He must be forced to the leave the power.

General Idris says that with tanks and missiles, his fighters could defeat Assad's army within a month. Without them, he says the fighting will continue.

  • Margaret Brennan

    Principally assigned to the State Department, Margaret Brennan also serves as a CBS News general assignment correspondent based in Washington, D.C.