Syrian opposition groups stop pretending

Rania Abouzeid writes: The pretense that the so-called Syrian opposition-in-exile speaks for those inside the country, never firm to begin with, was further exposed late on Tuesday, in a two-minute video statement called “Communiqué No. 1,” which was issued by eleven armed rebel groups that are influential in northern Syria. Their message was simple: the Western-backed hotel revolutionaries jetting from capital to capital, claiming leadership in the political National Coalition and an interim government-to-be, don’t speak for them—and they won’t listen to them. The new coalition, which has yet to announce its name, also said it wants Islamic Sharia law to be the basis of any future government, and that the various opposition parties should unite within “an Islamic framework.”

There has long been a disconnect between those fighting and bleeding inside Syria and the political and diplomatic machinations of those in exile. What is new here is that at least three of the eleven groups—Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Islam, and Suqour al-Sham—are aligned with the military wing of the National Coalition, the Supreme Military Council, which is supported by the West and is what passes for the leadership of the loose franchise outfit known as the Free Syrian Army (F.S.A.). Now they have publicly thrown in their lot with Jabhat al-Nusra, which also signed on to the statement and is connected to Al Qaeda.

This public alliance of affiliates of the F.S.A. and of Al Qaeda, however, is more of a shift on paper than a marked change in how things work on the ground. There has long been operational coördination on a local level—for a particular battle or in a certain geographic area. All that has really happened at this stage is that a fig leaf has dropped.

The fighting men within Syria have long despised their political and military leaders-in-exile. It’s common to hear them say, “We are in the khanadik”—trenches—“and they are in the fanadik,” hotels. In late August, four of the leaders of the F.S.A.’s five fronts said that the National Coalition—their own political counterparts—had no legitimacy. They threatened to resign from the Supreme Military Council because of, among other things, “the lying promises of those states who claim to be friends of Syria,” who have not provided assistance “worthy of the sacrifices of the Syrian people.”

The disunity goes deeper. Colonel Abdul-Jabbar Agaydee, the top F.S.A. commander in the northern city of Aleppo and a man who doesn’t spend his time in hotel lobbies, has lambasted the Supreme Military Council, of which he himself is a member, saying it is “completely disconnected from reality.” [Continue reading…]

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