The death of Zahran Alloush in a Syrian airstrike yesterday is putting new doubts on an effort to get peace talks going to end the ongoing civil war, with rebels claiming Alloush’s death as an “assassination” and accusing Russia of plotting to kill other rebel leaders to undermine the effort.
Alloush, the head of the Islamist group Jaish al-Islam, has been trying to paint himself as a relative moderate in recent days, and other rebels say he was destined to “play a crucial role” in post-war Syria. The UN is planning to start the talks on January 25.
But the talks were and are clearly speculative, and amid a bloody civil war it’s not surprising that everyone is continuing to fight in the lead up to talks which ideally will happen a month down the road. There was no sign any group had actually pulled out of the process since the strike, suggesting much of this is just rhetoric.
But Alloush’s position in the hardline, pro-Saudi part of the rebellion would’ve made him valuable for the portrayal of the talks as inclusive. Since the talks are almost certain to exclude several factions, that’s already an uphill battle.