Their own men
Islamist rebels sever ties with the political opposition
Sep 28th 2013 | CAIRO AND ISTANBUL |From the print edition
SYRIA’S exiled opposition has long struggled to influence the course of the civil war. Its ambitions may just have been dashed for good by those who do the actual fighting. On September 24th eleven of Syria’s strongest rebel brigades jointly announced their rejection of the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC), the quarrelsome but broadly moderate Istanbul-based dissident leadership that is recognised by Western and Gulf governments. Syrians outside the country and those picked by foreigners have no authority, said a rebel spokesman. Moreover, he declared, Syria’s revolution must be pursued “within a clear Islamic framework”, based on sharia law as the sole source of legislation.
New associations come and go in Syria, but this one includes the most powerful and active front-line forces, ranging from moderate Islamists like Liwa al-Tawheed, which previously pledged allegiance to the coalition’s military wing, the Supreme Military Command, to jihadist groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al-Qaeda affiliate. The decision by groups such as Tawheed to partner with radical Islamists guts the military command, leaving it with few groups it can claim to control.
叙利亚新旧协会来来去去，但是SOC包含最强大最活跃的一线部队，包括温和派伊斯兰主义者Liwa al-Tawheed，其曾承诺效忠联盟的军事势力最高军事指挥以及诸如基地组织联盟成员，圣战组织Jabhat al-Nusra。诸如Tawheed等组织与激进伊斯兰主义者合作的决定破坏了军事命令，使得很少组织受控于SOC。
Islamist fighters of varying hues have grown to dominate Syria’s mosaic of rebel groups. Outside support for jihadists, which comes mostly from private donors and networks in the Gulf, has proven more reliable than the stop-start flow that foreign governments direct to milder-mannered, Western-approved rivals. Even some vetted fighters have long espoused the creation of an Islamic state, but quietly so as not to worry non-Islamist brothers-in-arms—let alone Syria’s myriad non-Sunni Muslim minorities. The decision to go public is in part down to Egypt, says one rebel man. The coup that ousted Muhammad Morsi, a Muslim Brother, showed that there is nothing to gain from paying lip service to democracy.
Western powers will now find their proxies have less influence than ever. In the month since America backed away from missile strikes to punish Syria’s regime for using chemical weapons, the SOC has become increasingly irrelevant. Strikes would have bolstered moderates, including Selim Idriss, a defected general who heads the military command. The ensuing deal between Russia and America whereby Syria’s regime must hand over its chemical weapons was perceived as coming at the expense of the rebels.
The opposition schism renders the prospect of a negotiated end to the conflict in the near future flimsier still. But the new joint fighting force could act as a bulwark against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), an al-Qaeda group manned largely by foreign mujahideen that is more radical than Jabhat al-Nusra. ISIS did not sign the statement, and has faced growing hostility as it seeks to expand its influence.