Syrian Rebels Seize Airbase, Turkish Envoy Planned
Reports indicate that that Syrian rebels captured the Marj al-Sultan air base, an installation which is roughly nine miles from Damascus. “This is a blow to the morale of the regime, because it is close to the heart of the capital,” said Rami Abdul-Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Maath al-Shami, a Syrian activist, said the rebels ultimately withdrew from the base fearing retaliatory helicopter strikes. Another base used for training by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, which has supported Bashar al-Assad throughout the revolution, was also captured by rebel fighters.
The Syrian National Coalition announced that it will appoint an envoy to Turkey and open an office in Istanbul. Coalition leader Moaz al-Khatib met with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to discuss planning and strategy for the new Syrian opposition body.
Meanwhile, the Coalition struggles to win over the most capable Islamist rebel fighting groups. ”They are the hotel warriors, we are the men in the trenches. No one should be allowed to marginalize us, politically or militarily. These coalitions are just fighting over us and not for us,” said Yassir al-Karaz, a leader in the rebel Tawheed Brigade in northern Aleppo province. Rebel fighters have been promised representation in a military council which will function as an arm of the new Coalition. Walid al-Bunni, a spokesman for the Coalition, said, ”We face a difficult task because we must prove ourselves to both the fighters and foreign powers who have different demands. I think we will need a month or two to meet some of the fighters’ basic needs.”
Robert Naouss wrote an article discussing U.S. reluctance to fully support the Syrian opposition. He points to the fact that the U.S. is still unfamiliar with much of the leadership representing the opposition, while internal and external stability remain key concerns. U.S. intelligence officials worry that the transitional authorities will not be willing or able to deal with the threat of terrorism, and seek reassurances on cooperative measures. He concludes that the current U.S. policy towards Syria is a balanced one which recognizes the need for maintaining channels for dialogue, if and when opportunity for a negotiated settlement with the regime finally presents itself.