The Syrian Jihad: An interview with Charles Lister

Aron Lund interviews Syria analyst, Charles Lister: How would you characterize the Syrian insurgent movement at this point?

The armed opposition in Syria is so often characterized as divided, extremist, chaotic, and a danger unto itself, to Syria, and to the world. Perception doesn’t always add up in reality. Over the last twelve months, I’ve witnessed firsthand a real maturing of the armed opposition, especially politically. All these groups, whether big or small, feel the pressure of what they themselves call their “constituents.” After such a long time of brutal conflict, the armed opposition is feeling the pressure to find a way out of more war, but while securing the interests of the revolution. This has necessitated a more intensive engagement in politics and diplomatic engagement.

I think most people would be surprised by how capable many group leaderships are in engaging in serious political and diplomatic discussions. Ideological differences also don’t always add up to differing political agendas—though I realize I’ve been privy to meetings and conversations that most others haven’t, so it’s difficult to convince skeptics otherwise.

But it’s important to note that there are also major obstacles. The Islamic State is an obvious one, as is of course the Assad regime. But in my opinion, al-Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate, the Nusra Front, is the biggest challenge the opposition faces. [Continue reading…]

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