Despite some biased attacks and reservations about his persona in the media, Shaykh Moaz al-Khatib and the National Coalition are making political progress on the international arena: after the Turkish, GCC and Arab League recognition, French and Italian recognition followed and an ambassador to France would be installed. There is also an impending British recognition, yesterday the E.U. FM’s recognition followed while the HQ was set to be in Cairo.
However, it is the recognition inside Syria that matters most. The political opposition united and the local committees, activists, religious and civil leaders joined; last Friday was dubbed the Friday in support of the National Coalition with hundreds of demonstrations throughout the country.
For the military opposition, things seemed more restricted to general terms with a to be formed united military council on the agenda. Yet local military recognition is the most important one of all. Then the following video was released:
The developments came as a new video emerged purporting to show opposition fighters from at least 14 “battalions” announcing their rejection of the Syrian National Coalition. A fighter can be seen reading out a statement indicating that the groups, which include the powerful Liwaa al-Tawhid and the Jabhat a-Nusra, support an Islamic state in Syria. “We, the groups in the city of Aleppo and its suburbs, completely reject the conspiratory project which was named the National Coalition,” the fighter says. The video was posted on the web on Monday. “We agreed on establishing an Islamic state in Syria and rejecting foreign projects, including coalitions and councils imposed on us inside [the country],” the fighter says. The authenticity of the video could not be independently verified.
A spokesperson for Liwaa al-Tawhid told Al Jazeera that the video, despite being published on the group’s Facebook page, was not representative of the leadership’s position. “This video was done by members of the group without referring back to the leadership. The leadership will issue a statement soon,” he said. Ahrar al-Sham, a group whose name was among the signatories of the statement, said they had nothing to do with it. “Whether this statement is true or not, the Syrian people are all supportive of the coalition. We took to the street in mass protests on Friday and rallied under the banner ‘supporting the Syrian National Commission ” – Mohammad Saeed, an activist in Aleppo
Its co-ordinator told Al Jazeera that the statement “seems to to be the work of commanders from different groups who may not necessary represent the groups’ views”. The statement, if true, highlights the challenges facing the Syrian National Coalition, formed in Doha, Qatar, on November 11. The umbrella body has said it aims to strengthen it links with rebel fighters and unite them in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad.
Liwaa al-Tawhid, a brigade formed in July, is said to have at least 10,000 fighters. it is credited for the opposition’s control of vast areas in Aleppo province. The other group, Jabhat al-Nusra, a self-proclaimed jihadist group operating in Syria, has claimed responsibility for several bombings in the capital, Damascus.
The online statement has already been denounced by several opposition activists. “Whether this statement is true or not, the Syrian people are all supportive of the coalition,” Mohammad Saeed, an Aleppo-based activist of the Syrian Revolution General Commission activist network, said. “We took to the street in mass protests on Friday and rallied under the banner ‘supporting the Syrian National Coalition. “These groups have no right to support or reject the coalition.”
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Qaedist Jabhat al-Nusra rejects the National Coalition or any other authority above them. What was unclear is how many others they would be able to drag along with them, and the answer to that is 13 named groups in Aleppo and its countryside alone. That number alone is staggering, but what is worse is that the Tawhid Brigade is mentioned amongst them.
This Brigade is part of the Military Council of Aleppo and its leader, Abdul Qader Saleh, is second only to Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Agedi, the head of the council. However, Abdul Qader Saleh doesn’t seem to be present there, even though there are some familiar faces. If the Tawhid leadership is not represented here as the above quoted spokesperson mentions, then how much of the brigade do those speaking in its name in the video represent? At the same time, Ahrah al-Sham did issue a statement denying their part in the video. The focus there however is the talk of establishing an Islamic state, something Jabhat al-Nusra might have drawn others in with. Notice how they are very first group mentioned.
Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Agedi responded on Orient TV:
He distanced the military councils from the statement and stated that they recognize the coalition. He also mentions that the statement comes from some battalions who are not part of the FSA, and that they have the freedom and right to their own opinion. He also doesn’t think this video will have major consequences for the revolution in Aleppo.
Shaykh Moaz al-Khatib responded as well, his words weren’t that much different from those of Col. al-Agedi’s:
Yes there is bad news. A part of it was expected, while the extent of the rest is unclear even though it certainly remains limited for now. It is also something not being dealt with, let alone confronted head on. But the good news is: the FSA has joined the National Coalition, this is a Free Syrian state in the making insha’Allah.