Efforts to unify Syria’s opposition appear to have run into trouble. But “even if the Seif plan gains traction (‘and that is far from guaranteed,’ says a Western diplomat in Doha), the chasm between civilian and military leaders is still wide,” reports suggest.
The Syrian National Council’s “record of political naivety and bickering and the poor representation within it of anyone inside Syria ….. has dismayed impatient foreign governments as much as [Bashar] Assad’s assorted Syrian opponents,” The Economist notes. “Tired of the SNC, most Syrians in the opposition camp welcome this belated focus on grass-roots figures.”
But the disconnect between rebel combatants and political activists remains a major cause for concern.
“Rather than encouraging fighters to work with civilian committees, many dissidents have grabbed onto the coat-tails of the fighters, hoping to boost their own credentials,” the report continues:
Seif wants to work with rebel commanders, but getting them to be represented on his new body will be tricky, since the rebel groups are so fragmented and so numerous. In any event, Western diplomats fear that it may already be too late for the politicians to form a front that could control the fighters on the ground.
Unifying the rebel factions would be easier if backers could agree which ones to supply. That is easier said than done. The Washington-based Syrian Support Group, which channels every sort of aid to the armed opposition and works closely with the American government, has struggled to persuade rebel militias to come under the command of provincial military councils. But as fast as units sign up, rival councils sprout in the same province.
“It is very hard to unite them, because countries such as Turkey and Qatar have personal links to certain groups or fighters,” says the Support Group’s Louay Sakka. “There is a lot of hand-picking and favoritism.”