Russia’s sudden offer in the past few days to provide military aid to the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Syria surprised many, coming after weeks of airstrikes against Syrian factions that included parts of the FSA, and Russian military statements suggesting that in many ways, the FSA is so disunited it practically doesn’t exist anymore.
Many see Russia’s offer as an attempt to underscore their flexibility on the war, to contrast it with US portrayals of both Russia’s involvement in the ISIS war and their own involvement. Almost immediately, the reports suggested the FSA had “rejected” the Russian offer as insincere.
That may not be the case, however, as the Associated Press reported that since the offer, a former FSA fighter who now acts as a contact in Turkey has been setting up details of potential meetings between Russian officials and high-ranking FSA commanders in certain factions.
The man, identified as Abu Jad, said that they are waiting for “confidence-building steps,” but also conceded that there was “no consensus” across the FSA leadership on the matter. This likely enforces Russian comments about FSA disunity.
Pro-US rebels are accusing Russia of making this offer to try to divide the FSA, but the fact of the matter is the group is already heavily divided, with some factions openly aiding al-Qaeda and threatening suicide attacks against Russia while others are trying to portray themselves as purely secular forces averse to the Islamist factions.