Syrian Rebels Spurn Coalition, Call for Islamist Leadership

Groups Want Rebels Organized Under Sharia Law

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC), the Western-backed “leadership” of the rebellion, has faced an ever growing crisis of confidence, with its own membership mostly fighting over who gets to be “prime minister in exile” at any given time, and unable to organize much of anything.

But their claims of leadership over the rebellion are also being outright rejected by many of the fighting forces on the ground, with 13 powerful factions issuing a joint statement today saying the SNC doesn’t represent them in any way.

The SNC commands at least a little support from the Free Syrian Army (FSA), though at times it is unclear which organization is running which. There’s no pretense that the SNC can command much of anyone else, however, and that means the overwhelming majority of rebels remain outside their control.

Today’s statement included a number of al-Qaeda dominated factions and other major players in the civil war, and called for a new leadership, with the rebellion reorganized under an Islamic framework, and run according to al-Qaeda’s particularly harsh interpretation of Sharia Law.

The SNC had tried to court Islamists repeatedly by stocking its leadership council with moderate Islamist factions like the Muslim Brotherhood, but it’s more apparent than ever that this tactic has failed, and that the rebellion is flying apart at the seams.

This is a problem not just for coordinating attacks or keeping the rebels from fighting one another, but also for the Geneva 2 conference, which after months of delay is still waiting on the rebels to come to the table. The SNC gave some lip-service to participating, but only if the Syrian government capitulated to all of their demands before the conference began. Since the SNC can’t credibly claim to speak for most of the rebel fighters, however, even getting them to the table doesn’t mean they can hammer out a deal to really end the war.

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.