Syrian Rebels’ New Leadership Islamist Dominated

Salafist, Muslim Brotherhood Blocs Overwhelmingly Head 'Unified Command'

A high profile meeting in Turkey has ended with the election of a 30-member ‘unified command’ for the Syrian rebellion, with the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood dominating the winners, cementing the view of Syria’s rebels as Islamist dominated as an undisputed reality.

Even the non-Islamist members appear to owe their positions to the Islamist leadership, with the command’s nominal leader Brigadier Abdelqader Saleh seemingly a figurehead installed to placate the West, while a second tier of “aides” underneath him is dominated by Muslim Brotherhood members who will handle the bulk of the day-to-day operations.

The group completely excluded the long-standing leadership of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), including its initial founder Col. Rial Assad and the Brigadier Mustafa al-Sheikh, who has been an outspoken opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood.

And while the rebel umbrella moves toward Sunni Islamist leadership, the most effective rebel fighting force by most analysts’ estimates, and the one that has continued to eschew umbrella factions, is the al-Nusra Front. The group’s leadership has been openly endorsed by al-Qaeda, and would likely find this new “unified command” far too moderate for their tastes, even as it adds to the difficulty of the Western efforts to throw money and weapons at a fashionably secular rebellion that arguably no longer exists even on the periphery.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.