Opposition commanders in the Syrian city of Aleppo have voiced their support to the Syrian National Coalition, a day after a video emerged showing fighters from at least 14 brigades announcing their rejection of the opposition bloc.
The powerful Liwaa al-Tawhid Brigade, along with the Aleppo Military Council and Transitional Military Council, in a video uploaded on YouTube on Tuesday, said they would co-operate with the newly formed opposition body, but called for greater representation in it.
They also said that the earlier statement by some local commanders rejecting the coalition was due to “the marginalisation of the revolutionary forces on the ground”.
“We call on [the coalition] to increase the representation of the revolutionary forces and to activate their role in the coalition’s offices and apparatus,” Tuesday’s statement, read by Abdel Qader Saleh, the head the Liwaa al-Tawhid Brigade, said.
The brigade, formed in July, is said to have at least 10,000 fighters. It has been credited for the opposition’s control of vast areas in Aleppo province.
In the earlier video posted online on Monday, a fighter could be seen reading out a statement that said: “We, the groups in the city of Aleppo and its suburbs, completely reject the conspiratory project which was named the National Coalition.”
Monday’s statement said that the groups, including Liwaa al-Tawhid and Jubhat al-Nusra, support an Islamic state in Syria.
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“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 said.
But on Tuesday, rebels said in the new statement that they supported a “civil state in Syria with Islam being the main source of legislation”, adding that the state would “respect all sects in Syria’s society”.
The rebels’ conditional support of the Syrian National Coalition, formed in the Qatari capital, Doha, on November 11, highlights the challenges facing the bloc.
The umbrella body has said it aims to strengthen its links with rebels and unite them in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad.
Monday’s statement from the Aleppo fighters prompted angry reactions from many Syrian 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.”
The latest development came as the UK on Tuesday became the tenth country to recognise the Syrian National Coalition as the sole representative of the Syrian people.
Suhair al-Atassi, the National Coalition’s vice-president, has told Al Jazeera that the new body wants to unite all the opposition brigades on the ground.
“The bloc will have an executive body inside made up of local committees and military councils,” she said.
“We will urge the international community to channel both humanitarian aid and military aid through this body. This will dry out or at least dwindle the informal funding,” al-Atassi said.
She said the international community should be serious about supporting the National Coalition with sufficient funds and by arming Syrian rebels.
A note on the title of the above Jazeera article “Aleppo rebels retract rejection of coalition:” this was not a retraction on the part of the military councils since they had no part in the earlier statement, in fact they were not even mentioned. It’s also not a retraction on the part of Liwa al-Tawhid. First, because its leadership did not release it even though the brigade was mentioned and some of its members were present, and even though it was released on their YouTube account. Second, because its leadership has been apologetic about the statement’s contents and motives. And finally, without Liwa al-Tawhid and Ahrar al-Sham there are still 12 more groups headed by Jabhat al-Nusra who have not and for the most part cannot and never will change their stance.
For more on Liwa al-Tawhid’s approach, see the following clip from an interview that followed on Orient TV with Abdul Qader Saleh: