Syrian Rebel Unity Talks on Brink of Collapse

Lack of Cohesive Leadership Puts Rebel Role in Peace Talks in Doubt

The rebel Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has provided some indication that they intend to participate in next month’s Geneva peace talks, but their status as a rebel umbrella is looking increasingly in doubt, as internal factions bicker and efforts to bring in more groups look to be on the brink of collapse.

The Istanbul Conference, aimed at uniting the SNC with other opposition groups, including the leftist Kilo rebels, seems to be failing miserably, with international efforts to convince the SNC to ditch its Islamist leadership for more consensus-building moderates going nowhere fast.

The last minute attempt to bring more people into the Western-backed SNC is directly related to the Geneva talks, and the open concerns that having them negotiate on behalf of the rebels doesn’t make a lot of sense, in as much as they only represent a fraction of the divided rebellion.

The SNC’s own leadership is in tatters after last month’s resignation of President Moaz al-Khatib, and no one else seems to have even the limited amount of support he enjoyed. Khatib cited a lack of consensus in his resignation, and has expressed frustration with the number of SNC insiders that seem to be focused entirely on battling with one another for leadership over the group, with little attention being paid to adding to their umbrella organization.

Thus while they were virtually obliged to seek more membership in the lead-up to the June talks, they are also in about the worst position imaginable to actually make any deals to bring those people on board. This divided rebel leadership is reflected in that within hours after the SNC announced they would attend Geneva, their own spokesman issued another statement setting new preconditions on their participation.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.