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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More