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North-south divide will ease Syria rebel tensions

Friday, February 13, 2015

Significance

Syria's beleaguered mainstream rebel movement suffered numerous territorial losses in 2014 at the hands of Islamic State group (ISG) and the regime. Partly in response to these losses, a wider realignment of rebel alliances is now underway. Rebel groups are shifting away from overambitious schemes to unify under one national umbrella or on an ideological basis, and are moving towards more pragmatic local coalitions that are creating a de facto geographical 'north-south' divide among the rebels.

Impacts

  • Any international fightback against ISG requires the overcoming of US and Saudi objections to LF and other Islamist rebels.
  • A nationwide Syrian rebel army will only materialise in the event of a US-led ground campaign against ISG.
  • Recruiting tribal militias will probably prove a cheaper and more practical option.
  • Saudi Arabia will prioritise the rebel scene in the south and Euphrates valley, leaving Qatar and Turkey to dominate the north.
  • Dire military conditions will reinforce the drive for pragmatic cooperation among Damascus rebels.
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