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Syrian Opposition Groups Unite
October 12, 2012

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Several Syrian opposition groups have given signals that they are willing to work together to oust President Bashar al-Assad from power. It was the first such announcement after nearly 19 months of protests, increasingly violent, against Assad's government.

Leaders and representatives of several large groups have been meeting secretly for a month in order to hammer out a joint way forward. The result is an organization called the Front to Liberate Syria. Among the groups who made the announcement were the Sukour al-Sham, operating in the key northern city of Idlib, and the Farooq Brigade, which controls large amounts of territory in the central city of Homs. Both of those cities have for months been targets of Syrian government operations.

Also joining the group were brigades operating in Aleppo and Damascus, the capital. The Front does not include groups whose preferred methods are the kind of car bombs that have killed dozens and destroyed multiple buildings in Damascus and elsewhere in recent weeks.

Ahmad al-Sheikh, the leader of the Sukour al-Sham, is the Front's leader and spokesman. Sheikh said that the group had 40,000 soldiers, with more set to join. Assad's government is thought to have about twice that number.

One key force missing from the newly formed group was the Free Syrian Army, which is thought to have at least 10,000 soldiers and recently moved its headquarters back into Syria, after months of operating in neighboring Turkey. Members of that group, which receives funding from Qatar and Saudi Arabia, voiced worries about the direction of the new group.

Across Syria, the opposition groups have operated largely autonomously until now, which has gained them their own authority over how they want to oppose government occupation but little else in the way of outside help. Such disparate direction has so far kept Western nations from offering funding or other kinds of aid.

Syria has been hurt by a ban on oil imports by the U.S. and the European Union. However, Assad still has powerful friends in China, Iran, and Russia.






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