One day after al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra seized the major Syrian city of Idlib, the rebel Syrian National Coalition announced its intention to set up Idlib as the capital city of their new “government-in-exile.”
How this would work is unclear, as the SNC doesn’t have formal relations with al-Qaeda, and indeed gets much of its funding from the United States. Al-Qaeda seized Idlib capping off a round of gains around the nation’s northwest, mostly targeting US allies in the region.
Whoever will be using the city of Idlib and to what end, it’s clear the city’s residents want no part of that, and large numbers of civilians are fleeing to the surrounding area, both fearing a new Syrian push to retake the strategic city and very real concern about living under al-Qaeda rule.
Idlib’s value to the Syrian government is primarily its location along the nation’s main highway from Damascus to Aleppo. Control of the city is vital to Syrian military forces to reinforce their Aleppo offensive.