News / Middle East

    Islamist Bloc in Syria Rejects National Coalition

    A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (file photo)
    A fighter from the Islamist Syrian rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra (file photo)
    More than a dozen rebel factions - including some of the biggest armed groups in the Syrian insurgency – have said they are forming a new Islamist bloc and will no longer recognize the leadership of Western-backed political exiles.

    The move underscores the increasing disarray among the Syrian rebels, who have been battling for nearly three years to oust President Bashar al-Assad. Analysts say it will hamper long-running efforts of the West to boost the insurgency’s exiled political leadership and to shape a more moderate rebel military force inside Syria.

    Analyst Aron Lund says the new alliance against the political leadership of the Syrian National Coalition guts Western strategy on Syria.

    “It represents the rebellion of a large part of the ‘mainstream Free Syrian Army’ against its purported political leadership, and openly aligns these factions with more hardline Islamist forces,” said Lund, who has written studies on the rebels for U.S. and European think tanks.

    The Syrian National Coalition did not respond to VOA’s requests for an interview.
    The announcement of the new bloc came online on Tuesday with a video statement from Abdelaziz Salame, one of the leaders of the mainly Aleppo-based brigade Liwa al-Tawhid, one of the largest in the FSA.

    Salame declared that 13 rebel groups, including the al-Qaida-affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, had agreed to form the new bloc and no longer would consider the National Coalition as representing the rebellion.

    The groups are committed, he said, to fighting under an “Islamic framework” and want to establish a post-Assad Syria based on “the rule of sharia.”

    Aside from the Tawhid brigade, the backers of the new bloc include other sizeable FSA-aligned battalions such as Liwa al-Islam, and Suqor al-Sham, bringing them into a new formal alliance with hardline Islamist brigades.

    Notably, the alliance excludes, the larger al-Qaida affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has been battling some FSA units in northern Syria. The exclusion, analysts, sets up a split among jihadist factions and further complicates the opposition dynamic in Syria.

    Split to hamper western efforts to resolve crisis

    Still, the defection from the Syrian National Coalition of large brigades will seriously deplete the strength of the FSA, analysts say, undermining its military reach and the authority of its overall military head, General Salim Idriss, a defector from the Syrian army.

    “If this new alliance holds, it will likely prove the most significant turning point in the evolution of Syria’s anti-government insurgency to date,” said Charles Lister, an insurgency analyst with the British defense consultancy IHS Jane’s.

    “Having towed politically pragmatic lines since their emergence onto the scene in Syria, the key Islamist middle-ground players – Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam, and Suqor al-Sham – have finally made clear where their allegiances lie, with huge implications for the moderate opposition,” he said.

    The formation of the new alliance will likely add severe complications to U.S. efforts to persuade rebels and leading opposition activists to attend any round-table negotiations for an end to a civil war.

    In the wake of Mr. Assad’s acceptance earlier this month of a Russian-brokered deal to surrender his chemical weapons, the western nations had hoped to kick-start broad peace talks in Geneva.

    The head of the Syrian National Coalition, Ahmad Jarba, said his group would be prepared to attend and wants a transitional government to end the conflict in the country.

    But rebel fighters have warned that while Mr. Assad remains president they will not engage in political talks and have long chafed at the SNC’s attempts at diplomacy.

    Rebels had counted on U.S. strikes against Syria’s chemical weapons to help them tip the battlefield their way and to end the military momentum Mr. Assad’s forces have enjoyed since the early summer.

    With frustrations building, rebel infighting has worsened this month with serious fighting erupted between al-Qaida-affiliated jihadists, Islamists and Kurdish militants in in several strategic towns across northern Syria.

    Analysts say the battles underline growing turmoil among the anti-Assad insurgents.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Godwin from: Nigeria
    September 26, 2013 6:32 AM
    For the first time it seems Russia and Iran are right in wanting Assad rather than a tapestry of islamist jihadists fighting for extremist reasons taking over in Syria. However, the motive for wanting Assad rather than the terrorists has not proved to be in the overall interest of the region, especially with Assad showing himself as not capable of galvanizing peace and cohesion that have been lacking in that region for decades. Aligning with groups like Hezbollah and Hamas removes Syria's ability to be major regional player and dents whatever other reason Russia and Iran proffer for siding with Assad. His inability to come out boldly to denounce the Arab coordinated hatred and isolation of Israel negates whatever tends to be going for an Assad regime.

    The world is unwilling to accommodate another islamist regime in the Middle East because of the antecedents of islamist regimes like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Another one will be suicidal and detrimental to world and regional peace. In the face of failure of the Assad regime and the NSA. The only viable option remaining on the table is regime change that is devoid of both current players in the civil war, which calls for an intervention by the UN, NATO, EU, AL or any other interest group working under the auspices of the UN to neutralize existing functions and replace them with new one - if only interim administration that will usher in and organize election where all Syrian citizens will be eligible to participate - vote and be voted for. With Assad or the NSA on the Syrian seat, the problems in the Middle East are already multiplied.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora