On September 24, the Western and Saudi - backed Syrian National Coalition(SNC) suffered a serious setback when three armed groups affiliated to the Western - backed Free Syrian Army(FSA) joined al - Qaeda - linked groups and issued a statement in which they, along with other 13 groups, rejected the political leadership of the coalition. They promised to overthrow the Syrian government and impose a Taliban - style rule in Syria.
Referring to the Supreme Military Council(SMC), the statement declared: “All groups formed abroad without having returned to the country do not represent us. The National Coalition and its transitional government led by Ahmed Tomeh do not represent us and will not be recognized. ” It added that any future government in Syria should come from “those who suffered and took part in the sacrifices” - another clear reference to the SNC, which is made up by exiles backed by Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. One of the signatories to the statement was the al - Nusra Front, one of the two main al - Qaeda - affiliated groups in Syria, which the US has declared a terrorist organization. Three large militias previously loyal to the FSA’s Supreme Military Council also signed the statement, including Liwa al - Tawhid, Liwa al - Islam and Suqour al - Sham. These groups were considered the most important armed units of the FSA. Liwa al - Tawhid leader Abdulaziz Salameh read out the statement in a video posted online. He cited " the catastrophic failure " of the Syrian National Coalition(SNC) and its military wing, the FSA´s Supreme Military Council(SMC). For its part, Ahmad Jabra, the latest SNC leader, angrily condemned the statement, saying that the rebels who do not support him were plotting to “steal our revolution”. He even claimed that the Assad government was behind the factions that do not support the SNC. The statement came at a time when the SNC was already disappointed and isolated by the approval of a UN resolution to eradicate Syria ' s chemical weapons. “The(UN) Security Council resolution is a big disappointment for us, ” said a Coalition leading member, Samir Nashar. " It serves the interests of most regional and international powers, including the Syrian regime … but by no stretch of the imagination does it serve the Syrian opposition”. The SNC had actually called on the US to strike Syria.Fatal blow to SNCThe British newspaperThe Independentwrote that the statement by the 13 groups could be a “fatal blow” to the Coalition, citing Charles Lister of the defense firm IHS Jane’s: “The key middle - ground players - Liwa al - Tawhid, Liwa al - Islam, and Suqour al - Sham - have finally made clear where their allegiances lie, with huge implications for the moderate opposition. ” “These were the heavy lifters in the FSA and now they are sitting down and signing agreements with Nusra, ” said Joshua Landis, the director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. For its part, the newspaper McClatchy called the statement “a development that undermines the Obama administration´s efforts to build up Syria’s moderate opposition”. The decline of the FSA has led some of its member to have second thoughts about the armed struggle. According toThe Independent, some FSA officials visited Damascus a month and a half ago and met with the head of the Syrian National Security, General Ali Mamlouk. The negotiations resulted in local ceasefires and the disarmament of some FSA brigades and the return of their members to civilian life. A Lebanese official said that further meetings are in preparation to reinforce this trend. The same source added that significant changes have occurred in the ranks of the Syrian opposition after the so - called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria(ISIS), the second largest al - Qaeda - affiliated organization, became the most powerful group in the rebel camp and started to threaten the Syrian social fabric.ISIS defeats FSAActually, the FSA is losing its war to the ISIS in northern Syria. The ISIS has seized control of large areas along Syria’s border with Turkey, including the town of Azaz. “This is a sign the radical groups are still growing in power. This region could fall to the extremists, ” said an activist in the eastern town of Raqqa to Reuters. “We may see this become a trend. ” According to Lister, “from his appearance last spring, the ISIS´s strategy aims at controlling the border regions with Turkey and Iraq to facilitate the arrival of new recruits, supplies and funds. ” On the other hand, some rebel brigades are abandoning the FSA to join al - Nusra Front or the ISIS. In Raqqa, in northeastern Syria, at least two entire rebel brigades have joined al - Nusra Front. One of the groups, the Raqqa Revolutionaries, has about 750 fighters in total. Another group, the God ' s Victory Brigade, said in a statement on Facebook that all its leaders and fighters had pledged loyalty to al - Nusra Front. For its part, the Brigade Salahuddin 313 has pledged allegiance to the ISIS.Saudi interferenceThe decline of the FSA and the rise of al - Qaeda groups have worried Saudi Arabia, which fears it might lose its control over the armed opposition. Therefore, the Saudi Intelligence has started to promote a new force in order to maintain its influence among the Wahhabi Takfiri groups. In September, a new organization called “The Army of Islam” was created by fifty brigades under the command of Liwa al Islam. The group is especially active in the province of Damascus. The new group is headed by a Wahhabi leader, Zahran Alloush, who made his religious studies in Saudi Arabia and maintains close links with the Saudi intelligence chief, Bandar bin Sultan. According to the Lebanese newspaperAs Safir, the militia has called to fight against the “Alawite occupation and its Shiite supporters”.The opposition and Geneva conferenceIn this context, “the SNC and the FSA are being marginalized on the ground and are losing influence while the hardliners are making military gains, territorially, ” said Shashank Joshi, a London - based analyst who monitors Syria for the Royal United Services Institute, to the McClatchy newspaper. ”The only potential benefit from the current turning point of the rebel forces is that it will force the Syrian opposition coalition, which has shied away from committing to any talks without the precondition of Assad’s ouster, to show up at Geneva. That would be at least a cosmetic victory for the US and its allies. If the coalition remains opposed to talks involving regime figures, however, it runs the risk of being discarded by the US as “a lost cause, ” added Joshi. However, the alignment of formerly FSA - linked groups with al - Qaeda forces and the rejection expressed by the 13 large rebel groups show that the FSA and the SNC have lost its bargaining power ahead of any potential peace conference. Even if the Geneva takes place as planned, the Coalition´s decisions will neither be accepted nor recognized by the opposition inside Syria, so its presence is almost useless. Its lack of legitimacy and the rising power of al - Qaeda - linked groups mean that the war will continue on the ground despite the results of the conference. On the other hand, the radical and sectarian nature of many FSA - affiliated groups highlights the lies of the US proxy war in Syria. The claim of the US administration and its allies that by backing the FSA they are supporting “moderate” forces against those linked to al - Qaeda are only lies. An interview with pro - FSA members in northern Syria, conducted by Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande for Al Monitor, showed that “well over half of the fighters in the FSA believe they are fighting a war against Alawites, and more generally against the Shiites, as a result of Bashar’s alliances with Iran and Hezbollah. ” These lies about the alleged “moderate” nature of the FSA are fabricated in order to uncover the real aim, which is to set up a pro - US dictatorship in Syria, with the broader goal of isolating Syria’s main allies in the region: Iran and Russia. The several groups created by Washington to promote this policy, such as the SNC, and the handful of Syrian army deserters known as the Supreme Military Council are only empty shells. They lack popular support and real influence over the extremist groups that the US and its allies - Turkey and Saudi Arabia - have been financing and arming. These arms have helped the radical organizations to impose a reign of terror in the areas of the country under their control and to destroy any credible peace process.[box type = " info " font = " verdana " fontsize = " 9 " radius = " 10 "]Yusuf Fernandez is a journalist and the secretary of the Muslim Federation of Spain. He started to work for Radio Prague. He has been editor of several Islamic sites in Spanish and English and is currently editor of the Spanish site of Al Manar. He has also published articles in leading Spanish newspapers.[/box]