Thursday, September 26, 2013

Syria rebels reject Syrian National Coalition, call for Islamic leadership

    Thursday, September 26, 2013   No comments


Thousands of Syrian rebels have broken with the Western-backed coalition and called for a new Islamist front, undermining international efforts to build up a pro-Western military force to replace President Bashar al-Assad.

Ever more divided on a battlefield where Assad's better armed troops have been gaining ground, allies of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) were among 13 disparate rebel factions to disown the exile leadership and build an Islamic alliance that includes the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front, commanders said on Tuesday.


Details of the numbers of fighters involved and of how they would cooperate remained unclear. But, in an online video, a leader of the Islamist Tawheed Brigade said the bloc rejected the authority of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) and the Western- and Saudi-backed exile administration of Ahmad Tumeh.

A spokesman for Coalition president Ahmed Jarba, who was attending the United Nations general assembly in New York, said Jarba would head for Syria on Thursday to respond: "We are not going to negotiate with individual groups. We are going to come up with a better structure for organizing the fighting forces," the spokesman, Loay Safi, said.

The move is a setback for foreign leaders trying to bolster more secular rebel groups and to reassure voters skeptical of deeper involvement in Syria's civil war. Some may think again about help for the fighters, which ranges from weaponry from the Gulf to non-lethal aid from Europe and the United States.

For Assad, already cheered by Russian diplomatic assistance that undermined U.S. plans to bomb his forces following a poison gas attack, any more powerful rebel coalition could challenge his army's resurgence in the field. But that could be more than offset by a weakening of international backing for his enemies.

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