The Corner

McCain’s Moderate Rebel Army: We’ll Quit If You Take al Qaeda Away

The deputy to General Salim Idriss — the Free Syrian Army commander Senator McCain would have us back — has announced that the mujahideen rebels’ supreme council will disband unless the West drops its demands to steer clear of violent jihadists and refrain from attempting to take over the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stocks. The Foreign Policy report is excerpted by Weasel Zippers, including this:

On August 22, four of the five front commanders threatened to resign from the SMC, promising to break “red lines” and work “with all forces fighting in Syria,” a clear reference to the war’s growing Salafist-Jihadist contingent. The statement was read by Colonel Fatih Hasun, who is the commander of the SMC’s Homs Front and the deputy chief-of-staff, that is to say, Idriss’s deputy and the most senior officer inside the country. Hasun added that rebels would no longer respect demands by outside powers that they not attempt to take over government-controlled chemical weapons sites. In addition to demanding action in response to the government’s use of chemical weapons in Damascus, Hasun also demanded better weapons and said they were tiring of the “false promises of those who call themselves Friends of Syria.”

While the resignation seemed tentative, Hasun was less equivocal about the other red line — the opposition’s Salafist-Jihadist groups, Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) — both of which the United States has designated as terrorist entities linked to al Qaeda. Directly behind Hasun on the wall was an Islamic flag, with a pre-Assad Syria FSA flag draped to the side, a nod perhaps to the Salafists. Sitting to his right was a bearded cleric in Salafist garb. He directly stated, “we call upon all” FSA units to work with all others fighting the regime. Adding insult to injury, on August 25 Muhammad Tabnaja, field commander in Latakia for the Ahfad al-Faruq Brigade in Latakia, resigned citing the lack of support from the SMC. […]

Coordination with Jihadists groups is not really new. Operationally they have all long [ACM: probably “along”] coordinated operations against regime forces, and this has grown with time….

If you’re up for regime change, this is the regime you’ll be getting.

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