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article imageOp-Ed: Islamic Front in Syria refuses to talk to the US

By Ken Hanly     Dec 19, 2013 in Politics
Damascus - The Islamic Front an umbrella group of rebels who want an Islamic state in Syria has refused to have talks with the United States. Ambassador Robert Ford said that the US remains open to "talk to all parties and political groups in Syria".
Ford, no relation to Toronto's mayor, said: “The Islamic Front has refused to sit with us without giving any reason". Previously, the US regarded the western-backed Free Syrian Army(FSA) and the Supreme Military Council(SMC) and the Syrian National Coalition(SNC) as prime representatives of the rebels.
However, the FSA, the main umbrella group representing fighters on the ground has been losing ground and power to A-Qaeda-linked rebel groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and Al Qaeda in Iraq also known as the Islamic State in Sham (ISIS or ISIL). The Islamic Front is comprised of six mostly Salafist groups supported by Saudi Arabia and supporting a conservative interpretation of Islam as is the dominant type of Islam in Saudi Arabia. The group does not contain the even more radical Al-Qaeda linked groups but it has rejected the authority of the FSA and the Supreme Military Council. Another source claims that seven groups formed the Front.
Recently the Front seized the headquarters of the FSA and several warehouses of the SMC some of which contained aid from the west. The head of the FSA General Idris fled to Turkey. The US has asked for the material back from the Front and has cut off aid since the seizures: In Washington, State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said earlier that if a meeting with the Front did take place, the United States would expect the return of its stolen non-lethal assistance.The Syrian government rejected the idea of the Islamic Front being part of planned peace talks in January as unlike the US it considers all of the armed opposition terrorists and thinks that the Islamic Front is linked to Al Qaeda. While the group may not be linked to Al Qaeda, they certainly do not share the idea of the US for a secular, democratic state in Syria but are working for an Islamic state based on Sharia law more akin to that of their Saudi supporters but without a king.
There are only five weeks of planning left before UN peace talks begin in Geneva. It is still not clear who will represent the opposition. December 27 was put as a deadline by the UN mediator Lakhdar Brahimi for the two sides to name their delegations. There are signs that some in the west would like to forge an agreement that would isolate radical Islamists and result in a united front of Assad and western-backed rebels against Islamic radicals. Islamists may have other ideas and in spite of disagreements with Al-Qaeda-linked radicals will probably refuse to join in any such scheme. The Islamic Front's rejection of talks with the US may be a sign they disagree with western plans.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about islamic front, Ambassador Robert Ford, Syrian civil war, Syria
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