McClatchy reports: Seventy-two Syrian rebel groups on Saturday announced a new coalition to battle the government of President Bashar Assad. But hopes that moderate rebels would dominate the meeting were dashed when extremists gained more of the 17 executive positions than had been expected.
Col. Muhammad Hallak, who represented a moderate faction attending the three-day organizational meeting, accused Islamists, especially Ahrar al Sham, which is known to work closely with al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, of capturing more positions than its influence in the rebellion deserved.
A review of the names by McClatchy indicated that moderates hold only six or seven of the 17 executive positions.
Hallak also expressed skepticism toward the October document on which the new group, the Revolutionary Command Council, is based, saying it was written to ensure an Islamist government after Assad is toppled.
The announcement of the new umbrella group comes at a time when moderate rebels have lost territory to the Nusra Front, especially in Idlib province, where groups associated with the U.S.-backed Free Syrian Army coalition used to hold sway.
“The covenant itself doesn’t mention the idea of free elections and most of the groups represented in the executive office don’t believe in the original democratic values of the revolution,” Hallak said. [Continue reading…]