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Supreme Military Council Command

A conference was held in Turkey to unify the military wing of the Syrian opposition, which includes more than 550 members of the Syrian military and revolutionary council commands, as well as brigade and battalion commands. A total of 261 representatives were selected from among these groups to form the Revolutionary Force Authority. Thirty members, including six members of each of the fronts (eleven officers and nineteen civil revolutionaries), were elected to form the Supreme Military Council. Two deputies from each of the five fronts were elected to serve under the commander-in-chief of the Supreme Military Council, including five military and five civilian deputies. Each front consists of five branches, five departments under the commander-in-chief and a revolutionary military council in each governorate. The commander-in-chief was elected by the Supreme Military Council Command.

Western officials have deemed SMC commanders to be more moderate in their political views than their more Islamist counterparts, although the SMC itself includes Islamist units and commanders. Although General Idriss was careful at first not to openly distance the SMC from more extreme factions of the opposition, such as Jabhat al Nusra, he stated that We dont work with Nusra. We dont share anything with them. However, the SMC has incorporated some members of the Syrian Islamic Liberation Front, an Islamist coalition, into its structure. SMC members also reportedly coordinate on the battlefield with the Syrian Islamic Front, a group that includes an extremist militia known as Ahrar al Sham.

Most observers believe that General Idriss does not exercise daily command and control over all SMC-affiliated soldiers. Instead, individual commanders who have affiliated with the SMC have done so on the assumption that their support would be rewarded militarily and financially, but have maintained control of their own forces. According to General Idriss, Fighters go to where there is money and weapons and if I had the means within one or two months everyone would join.... They will know that this is a national institution while the brigades and battalions will eventually disappear.

General Salim Idriss told a news conference March 06, 2013 in Brussels, Belgium "the [Assad] regime is using very heavy weapons. Long distance artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, Scud missiles." General Salim Idriss, head of the Free Syrian Army Supreme Military Council said, "We in the Free Syrian Army need, and it is very clearly to say, we need weapons and ammunition to stop [the] killing, to defend ourselves and to defend, to defend our citizens."

Saudi Arabia, a staunch opponent of President Bashar al-Assad since early in Syria's conflict, began supplying anti-aircraft missiles to rebels on a small scale about in April 2013. The shoulder-fired weapons were obtained mostly from suppliers in France and Belgium. The supplies were intended for General Salim Idriss, leader of the Supreme Military Council of the Free Syrian Army (FSA), who was still the kingdom's main point man in the opposition.

By May 2013 US President Barack Obama was reportedly considering supplying weapons to the Syrian opposition, a move the United States has resisted because of fears the arms could end up in the hands of al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants fighting alongside rebel forces.

In a letter to the US president on 30 April 2013, the commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army complained that "Assad is not taking your carefully phrased condemnations as warnings, but as loopholes," which justify the continued "small-scale" use of chemical weapons. General Salim Idriss underlined his plea for U.S. military assistance, saying the FSA under his command has "neither the training nor the equipment to counter the effects of Assad's chemical weapons or to destroy them." He also said weapons of mass destruction would "not be welcome" in a "future, free Syria."

Syrian rebels were defeated iN June 2013 in Qusair, a strategic crossroads near the Lebanese border, a painful new demonstration of the need for a strong command-and-control structure to coordinate weapons and fighters. David Ignatius reported that "The rebels Supreme Military Command distributed about 35 tons of weapons and ammunition, provided by Saudi Arabia. The supplies were distributed to the Tawhid brigade from Aleppo, the Ahfad al-Rasoul brigade from Damascus and other provinces, the Soukor al-Sham brigade from Idlib, and the Liwa al-Islam brigade from Damascus. But rebel sources said that only the Tawhid brigade was able to fight inside Qusair in a coordinated way."

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Page last modified: 08-09-2013 19:26:30 ZULU