E.U. Ministers Discuss Syria as Rebel Army Reforms
European Foreign Ministers are meeting in Cyprus today to discuss “how to best assist [Syria's] opposition while defusing a humanitarian crisis looming in Europe’s backyard.” The ministers are unlikely to support Turkey’s call for the creation of safe havens in Syria, but France and Britain will be pushing for an increase in humanitarian assistance and help for “the opposition to form a government,” according to French President Francois Hollande. The U.S. Government previously called for unity among the opposition to facilitate more effective international support.
One attempt at forming an alliance among the various militias and factions is underway in Syria, where elements of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) are being re-branded and reorganized as the Syrian National Army (SNA). General Mustafa al-Sheikh, head of the military council grouping rebel chiefs, explained that the move will consolidate “many groups that claim to be the FSA but do as they please.” Although the newly-appointed commander of the SNA, Major General Muhammed Hussein al-Haj Ali, said that the group “now includes military councils inside Syria, Syrian officers abroad, a few brigades inside, defected officers and civilians,” the head of the FSA has thus far rejected pressure to merge all forces with the SNA.
In another bid to bolster the rebel’s fight, American officials continued to urge Iraq to inspect air cargo that passes through its territory en route from Iran to Syria. Iran claims that the planes contain humanitarian supplies for the Syrian people but the U.S. suspects that the cargo includes weapons intended for Syrian government forces. Iraq requested evidence of the arms shipments before they begin screening flights.