40+ Syrian rebel groups forming alliance against Russia
Since Russia has been bombing mostly the anti-Assad forces instead of ISIS, 41 Syrian rebel groups have formed an alliance against the Russia/Iran coalition in Syria.
The Institute for the Study of War reported,
Russian airstrikes continue to primarily target Syrian opposition groups in areas far from ISIS’s core terrain. These strikes are concentrated in northwestern Syria, particularly in rebel-held areas of Idlib Province and the northern countryside of Hama Province. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed only three airstrikes targeting positions in known ISIS-held terrain between October 1 and October 3. However, local reporting only confirmed two of these strikes. The Russian air campaign in Syria appears to be largely focused on supporting the Syrian regime and its fight against the Syrian opposition, rather than combatting ISIS.
The rebel alliance issued a joint statement that was sent directly to Reuters via Ahrar al-Sham:
“…Russian military aggression in Syria and the blatant occupation of the country…as well as the targeting of civilians with air strikes in the Homs countryside in western Syria… Civilians have been directly targeted in a manner that reminds us of the scorched earth policy pursued by Russia in its past wars.”
The 41 member group includes those under the umbrella of the Free Syrian Army, and Ahrar al-Sham. The al-Sham members are in an alliance with the al-Nusra front (an Al-Qaeda affiliate) and have taken vast portions of Idlib province. The al-Nusra group did not participate in the joint statement.
The 41 groups which signed the statement did not include Islamic State or al Qaeda’s Syria wing Nusra Front, which is in an insurgent coalition with Ahrar al-Sham that captured most of Idlib province in the northwest.
Insurgents have renewed calls for their Arab backers to supply them with more powerful weapons such as anti-aircraft systems in light of the Russian intervention in the war but Monday’s statement appeared to be the most concerted rebel call for action against Russia’s move.
What are the ramifications of an alliance against the Russia/Iran coalition? It’s not pretty. They have called for assistance to other Arab states for heavy weapons to use against the Russian airstrikes.
The rebels in Syria – backed by the U.S.- are a mash of loose affiliations with all ilks of jihadists, including Al-Qaeda. Their loyalties are not necessarily with the West… so as this escalates, the U.S. is once again caught in the middle.