Syrian rebels turn on each other as '...

Syrian rebels turn on each other as 'big tent' strategy collapses

Posted in the Chicago Forum

Michael Pizzi

Matawan, NJ

#1 Sep 20, 2013
Syrian rebels turn on each other as 'big tent' strategy collapses
by Michael Pizzi

September 20, 2013 | 4:00PM ET

With rebel infighting on the rise, Western-backed Free Syrian Army will have to confront its al-Qaeda problem

With the international limelight locked on the U.N.’s pursuit of a diplomatic solution for Syria, an al-Qaeda-linked rebel group wrested control over the town of Azaz along the Turkish border on Wednesday with relatively little outside attention.

On Friday, after two days of clashes, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which falls under the umbrella of the greater al-Qaeda network, signed a cease-fire pact with the Western-backed Free Syrian Army. The truce, brokered by a separate Islamist Brigade in the nearby city of Aleppo, called for the release of roughly 100 prisoners and referred the groups’ dispute over control of a nearby border crossing into Turkey to an Islamic court.

Though the sometimes-rival rebel groups have agreed to lay down arms for now, analysts say the two-day battle for Azaz points to an internecine trend among the armed opposition.

“This is a fight that’s been brewing for some time,” says Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and a foremost Syria expert.

“Both sides, particularly the FSA, have been trying to pursue a big tent strategy and work together with all the extremists, but that’s failing.”

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