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

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs