The official Syrian opposition (that is, the opposition backed by the U.S. because they want to bring “freedom” and “democracy” to Syria) seems to have one enduring characteristic these days: it keeps getting smaller. According to a detailed report by McClatchy News Service, posted yesterday, two new Islamist groups have emerged to absorb rebel fighting groups that have become disenchanted with the Free Syrian Army and its Supreme Military Council. One, called the Azzaz Declaration Signatories is in the North, and the second, the Army of Islam, is centered in Damascus. The Azzaz grouping is not further identified, but the force behind the Army of Islam is said, by an FSA spokesman, to be one Zahran Alloush. “Alloush’s father reportedly is a Salafist cleric in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and the family is said to have Saudi backing, fueling rumors that the new project is Saudi Arabia lashing out at U.S. policy by creating a parallel command to mount a more serious fight against Assad,” reports McClatchy.
Among the reasons cited for the further splits from the FSA are the slow arrival of U.S. aid, the failure of President Obama to attack Syria, last month, when he said he would, and the growing conflict between various rebel groups and the Al Qaeda-aligned Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS). While even otherwise Islamist groups have rejected ISIS’s ideology, the relationship of the Al Nusra Front — the other Al Qaeda aligned rebel group that has also clashed with ISIS — to the two new Islamist groupings is not made clear in the McClatchy article.
“Because we’re short on ammunition, short on supplies, some of our groups are going to them. The Islamists have their own supplies,” Louay Meqdad, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army told McClatchy. “We’re asking the international community: Please don’t leave our people to choose between joining the extremists and surrendering to Bashar Assad.”
The further factionalization of the armed opposition groups may have something to do with the announcement from Istanbul, today, that the Syrian National Council (SNC) will not participate in a Geneva II peace conference. “Nothing useful will come out for Syrians from attending the meeting,” George Sabra, a key member of the SNC, told RIA Novosti by telephone from France. Sabra told RIA Novosti that the SNC bailed out “due to the lackluster international response to the consequences of the Syrian war, among which he listed mass slaughter of civilians, food shortage and, recently, the use of chemical weapons.” He said that the SNC will quit the Syrian National Coalition, should the coalition decide to go to Geneva.
As the U.S.-backed Syrian opposition fractures into irrelevance, the U.S. Navy presence in waters within cruise missile range of Syria remains almost unchanged from the end of August, beginning of September. Four U.S. guided missile destroyers, loaded with dozens of Tomahawk cruise missiles, remain on patrol in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz, with two escort ships also carrying cruise missiles, is still cruising the Red Sea. If Obama were to issue the firing order, now, on whose behalf would they be bombing Syria?