Syria rebel chief seeks united rank
BEIRUT - The Associated Press
A rebel holds his weapon as he sits on a chair in Aleppo’s Bustan al-Basha district. REUTERS photoThe commander of Syria’s main Western-backed rebel group has urged all opposition fighters to join ranks in the struggle against President Bashar Assad’s forces, pledging to do everything he can to stave off rebel infighting.
In remarks broadcast Dec. 20 by a pan-Arab satellite television Al-Arabiya, Gen. Salim Idris said all rebels in Syria who believe in the “goals of the revolution” are “our brothers.” Idris spoke after a meeting late Dec. 19 in Istanbul with U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford.
His comments suggested he was trying to limit the damage from deadly infighting among moderate and extremist rebel factions ahead of a peace conference for Syria scheduled to be held in Switzerland in January. The faction that Idris leads, the Supreme Military Council (SMC) of the Free Syrian Army rebel umbrella group, has been dealt a severe blow by the rapid rise of Islamic extremist groups in Syria.
Earlier this month, the U.S. and Britain suspended nonlethal military aid to the opposition in Syria, after Islamic militants captured warehouses that contained a cache of machine guns and ammunition intended for Idris’ SMC. “The Supreme Military Council reaffirms that it is working to secure military and relief supplies to the fighters on the ground and to ward off strife, unite ranks and assimilate all fighters on the ground who believe in the goals of the revolution of the Syrian people,” Idris said.