News / Middle East

New Syrian Opposition Coalition Initiatives Rejected by Jihadists

Members of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) attend a meeting of the National Coalition on November 9, 2013, in Istanbul. (AFP File)
Members of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) attend a meeting of the National Coalition on November 9, 2013, in Istanbul. (AFP File)
— A new effort by Syria’s western-backed opposition aimed at improving its authority inside Syria and achieving increased diplomatic support could be in trouble over the issue of participation in proposed U.S. and Russian-brokered peace talks known as “Geneva II.”   

The newly formed Syrian National Coalition which replaced the largely ineffective Syrian National Council over the weekend has moved quickly to name a partial cabinet to administer rebel-held territories mainly in the north and east of the war-torn country.  But the coalition is facing renewed hostility from Jihadist rebel fighters after indicating a willingness to participate in US and Russian-brokered peace talks in Geneva.

It took months of negotiations to pull the coalition together.  Coalition supporters say it will work more closely with revolutionary councils inside Syria and that it represents 90 percent of opposition groups. 

In a statement yesterday (Nov. 11) the SNC said it would participate in the Geneva peace talks, if humanitarian aid is allowed to reach besieged areas and the government releases thousands of political detainees. It also insists that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad be excluded from any transitional government that might be agreed when, or if, Geneva talks take place – a precondition rejected by Damascus.  The statement marks the first time the SNC’s leadership has said it is ready to negotiate. 

Jihadists balk

Jihadists have long rejected any talks regardless of stipulations.  Last September more than a dozen mainly Islamist brigades - including some of the most powerful rebel militias – broke with the coalition and its Free Syrian Army to form their own Islamic bloc, Jaysh Al-Islam (Army of Islam). The umbrella group has attracted more brigades in recent weeks and analysts say it now numbers 64 militias.

The Army of Islam’s political coordinator, Mohammed Alloush, the brother of one of the umbrella group’s top leaders, was dismissive yesterday of the SNC, warning, “Any political solution should be imposed from the field, not from foreign parties.” Islamist rebels deride the SNC as a puppet of Western and Gulf powers and say it is not representative of rebel fighters. 

Alloush complained the talks about talks aren’t focused on what the armed opposition groups want, including “toppling of the regime and putting its members on trial.” The leaders of the affiliated brigades of the Army of Islam warned earlier this month they would consider any participation in Geneva talks an act of betrayal and would seek to bring any SNC members involved before Sharia courts in rebel-held territory.

Fehim Tastekin, a Turkish columnist for the newspaper Radikal, says the SNC has been placed in a no-win situation, having to choose between either refusing to go to Geneva and face the loss of the support of the international community, “or agree to attend and lose Syria – that is, the armed opposition.”

The proposed peace talks to end the brutal 32-month conflict dubbed as “Geneva II” were scheduled for this month but the SNC’s failure to develop a clear stance, as well as disputes between Washington and Moscow over opposition representation have led to a delay.

Some hope remains

SNC sources say they still believe rebel fighters can be persuaded that political talks are the best way forward and in the coming weeks will seek to explain their position to brigade leaders using community activists to assist. One of their likely main arguments will be that Assad’s forces with the assistance of Shia fighters from Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah movement and from Iraq are making military advances and that with field conditions going against them it is better the talk now than later when the rebellion may be weaker.  

In early November, as well as making inroads into rebel-held suburbs south of Damascus, Assad’s forces recaptured, according to Syria’s armed forces and opposition activists, a strategic town to the southeast of Aleppo, once the commercial hub of the country. The retaking of Safira marked a rare success for Assad’s forces in the mostly rebel-held north.

SNC spokesman Khaled Hodja argues that “the military wing can be persuaded”, if it is clear Assad won’t be part of any transition.

But rebel fighters argue they still have the potential to score victory on the battlefield, pointing to their recent success in retaking on November 9 a strategic base in the northern Aleppo province that Assad forces had managed to overrun just a day earlier.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based monitoring group that relies on a network of opposition activists for its information, said the counter-attack launched by fighters, including some from two al-Qaeda affiliates, on the Syrian army’s 80th brigade base left at least 53 people dead – 33 rebels and 20 government soldiers.

The decision by the SNC to indicate a willingness to attend Geneva talks had majority support from the 114-members but was not unanimous. And an influential member of the SNC, Kamal Lebvani cautioned against optimism over the chances of reaching a negotiated settlement saying “It can’t be implemented because the fighters are the ones who decide things not us.”

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Anonymous
November 12, 2013 8:24 PM
All of this drinking tea by world leaders as thousands are being murdered or losing their homes, these past few years is totally disgusting. Assad is not wanted by the majority of Syrians. Assad has also commited crimes and attrocities. It's time the world leaders step in and put an end to bashar , and his thugs and let the Syrians speak for themselves. In the end the Syrian people will win anyways, but there will be a whole lot less of them and a whole lot more of them murdered by then.

It is time the world put an end to this genocide that has been happening. Assad has destroyed more of Syria and murdered more innocent Syrians than any person on Syrian Soil with heavy weaponry and warplanes, and that's a fact.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid