World Bulletin / News Desk
General Salim Idris, the commander of the Free Syrian Army, warned that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) in particular, which has thousands of foreign fighters in its ranks, was “very dangerous for the future of Syria” and needs to be confronted before it becomes even more powerful.
Speaking in Istanbul, General Idris, a former officer in the regime’s army, said he and his associates were dropping the precondition that Bashar al-Assad must leave power before the Geneva meeting takes place.
Instead they would be satisfied if his departure were to take place “at the end of the negotiation process” when General Idris will join forces with the remainder of the regime to mount an offensive against 'radical forces'.
However, the opposition would like to see evidence of good faith from the regime, which would include allowing supplies to get through to communities trapped by the fighting.
General Idris complained his men were having to fight a war on two fronts: they have, he claimed, fought al-Qaeda at 24 different locations in the last six months while at the same time facing poundings from President Assad’s warplanes and artillery.
U.S., allies reach out to Syria's Islamist rebels
According to the WSJ, the U.S. and its allies have held direct talks with key Islamist militias in Syria, aiming to undercut al Qaeda while acknowledging that religious fighters long shunned by Washington have gained on the battlefield.
Some officials in Western capitals remain wary about courting these groups, whose ultimate goal is to establish a state ruled by Islamic law, or Shariah, in Syria.
The Saudis and the West are pivoting toward a newly created coalition of religious militias called the Islamic Front, which excludes the main al Qaeda-linked groups fighting in Syria—the Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham, known as ISIS.
Over the past two months, the militias, which command the loyalty of tens of thousands of fighters driving the conflict in Syria, have begun to consolidate their ranks. In late November, they announced they were banding together and forming the Islamic Front.
A senior opposition official close to Gen. Idris said the general has welcomed the formation of the Islamic Front as a way to unify the opposition and exclude more extremist factions.