paging general mustafa ahmad al-shaykh, please come to the press office

The announcement in Paris by the SNC that it is setting up a new “military bureau” to coordinate and funnel arms and support to the FSA has exposed a glaring rift in opposition ranks. SNC President Burhan Ghalioun, said that the commander of the FSA, Col Riyad al-Asaad, and Gen Mustafa al-Shaikh, who recently set up a “Supreme Military Council”, were on board the project. But Col Asaad told al-Jazeera that he had spoken to Mr Ghalioun the night before, that they had differed, and failed to reach agreement. He said the FSA had its own military strategy, did not want political interference, and would not coordinate with the SNC and its new military bureau. (Jim Muir, BBC, Mar 2)

Syrian opposition forms bureau to lead ‘Armed Resistance’
AFP Mar 1 2012

The opposition Syrian National Council announced Wednesday setting up a military bureau to supervise the “armed resistance” against the regime, as Washington raised fears of al-Qaida taking advantage of arming the rebellion, Naharnet reported. The umbrella exile-alliance of several opposition groups said in a statement:

The SNC has decided to set up a military bureau, acknowledging the importance of putting controls on the armed resistance in Syria and in support of the FSA. The new body will be made of officers and civilians and will be charged with organizing the ranks of the armed resistance forces, as well as assessing its needs and managing its finances and operations. The armed rebellion will be put under the political supervision of the SNC.

Mohammed al-Sarmini, a spokesman of the SNC, told AFP that the decision was taken in “coordination” with the FSA. He said the head of the SNC, Burhan Ghalioun, was to hold a press conference on Thursday in Paris to give further details on the new body. The White House said Tuesday that al-Qaida’s efforts to take advantage of violence in Syria meant now is not the time to send arms to rebels in Syria, days after Saudi Arabia and Qatar appeared in favor of arming the rebels in the face of a deadly crackdown by regime forces.

SNC and Free Syrian Army row over military leadership
Al-Akhbar, Mar 1 2012

The alliance between the SNC and the FSA appears to have collapsed on Thursday after the armed rebels claimed they had been excluded from the SNC’s new military bureau. Colonel Riyadh Asaad on Thursday said he had not been consulted about its formation and accused the SNC of trying to take control of the opposition. He told Al Jazeera:

The SNC needs to review its positions and stop acting like it’s the only player in Syria. We don’t want the SNC to intervene in our military work. The FSA are the people on the ground, not the SNC.

The Istanbul-based SNC announced on Thursday the establishment of a new military bureau to facilitate arms supplies into the country. It said it would deepen its cooperation with the FSA in January, but the recent move appears to have agitated the armed rebels, who fear the SNC’s military push will sideline them. The SNC hit back at the colonel, accusing Asaad of wanting to be the “ultimate leader” of the Syrian opposition. Ausama Monajed, spokesperson for the SNC, claimed Asaad had agreed to the plan before it was established. He told Al-Akhbar:

I was present when the President of the SNC spoke with Colonel Assad and he agreed to be part of the SNC military bureau. What he is saying is false. Colonel Asaad is afraid that he will lose control because now the SNC is in charge. All international countries and powers would not support anything that is purely a militia. Colonel Assad does not control the Free Syrian Army or the armed resistance inside, maximum five percent. Others are working independently, that’s why we created the military bureau. This has to be organized. It cannot carry on this way in a chaotic situation.

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