With some 20 countries sending representatives to Vienna for weekend talks on Syria, one of the main focuses will be on a global list of “terrorist groups” active within Syria, aimed at settling which groups will be allowed into future unity talks and which are to be excluded.
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond predicted a lot of “horse trading” in the compilation of the list, but said virtually everyone, including the US, was likely to end up with some allies on the list who they have to sever ties with.
Though details on who is likely to end up on the terror list weren’t released, Hammond predicted major Saudi pushback for the inclusion of some of the more overt Sunni Islamist factions, like Ansar al-Sham, who they’ve been bankrolling for years.
With Turkey involved in the talks, its likely they’ll be pushing heavily for the inclusion of the Kurdish YPG on the list, as the group is recognized as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government already. The YPG is receiving considerable help from both the US and Russia, however, who will likely object to banning one of the key opponents of ISIS in Syria’s northeast.
Another US ally who might be on the outs would be the faction of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) that operates around Hama and Idlib. Though the parent FSA is more secular, that region’s FSA has been fighting side-by-side with al-Qaeda in offensives for months around Idlib.
The list’s primary use will be in deciding who to eventually invite to the talks by process of elimination, but inclusion on the terror list could also turn some currently fashionable allies for some countries into virtual pariahs, and turn some of the less significant groups that manage to avoid the list into more important players.