Factional splits in Syrian opposition hinder drive to topple Assad

The New York Times: Even as the government of President Bashar al-Assad intensifies its crackdown inside Syria, differences over tactics and strategy are generating serious divisions between political and armed opposition factions that are weakening the fight against him, senior activists say.

Soldiers and activists close to the rebel Free Syrian Army, which is orchestrating attacks across the border from inside a refugee camp guarded by the Turkish military, said Thursday that tensions were rising with Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council, over its insistence that the rebel army limit itself to defensive action. They said the council moved this month to take control of the rebel group’s finances.

“We don’t like their strategy,” said Abdulsatar Maksur, a Syrian who said he was helping to coordinate the Free Syrian Army’s supply network. “They just talk and are interested in politics, while the Assad regime is slaughtering our people.” Repeating a refrain echoed by other army officials interviewed, he added: “We favor more aggressive military action.”

The tensions illustrate what has emerged as one of the key dynamics in the nine-month revolt against Mr. Assad’s government: the failure of Syria’s opposition to offer a concerted front. The exiled opposition is rife with divisions over personalities and principle. The Free Syrian Army, formed by deserters from the Syrian Army, has emerged as a new force, even as some dissidents question how coordinated it really is. The opposition inside Syria has yet to fully embrace the exiles.

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