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Syrian Islamists Reject New Coalition Group

A group of Islamist leaders have refused to join the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, the Associated Press reports:

“We are the representatives of the fighting formations in Aleppo and we declare our rejection of the conspiratorial project, the so-called national alliance,” the statement [posted online on Sunday] said. “We have unanimously agreed to urgently establish an Islamic state and to reject any foreign project.” The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed, but the website it was released on carries al-Qaida and other militant statements.

The Syrian opposition has moved quickly after finally reorganizing itself into the new coalition in Qatar on November 11. A new headquarters was established in Cairo. France recognized the group as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people and welcomed one of its representatives as ambassador.

But connecting those efforts to fighters on the ground is still the biggest problem. That struggle will be compounded by Islamist fighters such as those who appeared in Sunday’s video. These groups, notably Jabhat al-Nusra, have so far been among the rebels’ most effective and destructive fighters. Failure to bring them on board threatens to lead to violent infighting even if Assad were to fall. On the other hand, the coalition, as well as its backers in the U.S. and Europe, might balk at welcoming this volatile element into the group.

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