BEIRUT, Dec 12: Syria’s Western-backed rebels were in disarray on Thursday after Washington and London suspended non-lethal aid following the loss of a key border crossing and arms depots to a powerful Islamist alliance.

The rebels’ decline comes ahead of January peace talks that ascendant Islamist rebel groups have rejected, raising concerns that even if the opposition struck a deal with the regime it would be unable to deliver. The talks, dubbed Geneva 2 after a previous meeting in 2012, will be held in the Swiss city of Montreux with an estimated 30 countries invited, including key regime all Iran and Saudi Arabia, a backer of the rebels, said.

The January 22 conference is aimed at ending the nearly three-year civil war, which has claimed an estimated 126,000 lives and displaced millions, including thousands now in tent camps blanketed with snow.

But no armed rebel groups have said they will join the talks, and Islamist groups have warned that anyone attending will be considered a “traitor”.

The Islamic Front, a powerful alliance formed last month, is now the largest rebel force, with tens of thousands of fighters. The alliance does not include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Al-Nusra Front, two hardline Al Qaeda affiliates.

But last week it withdrew from the FSA’s Supreme Military Council headed by General Selim Idriss, and over the past week it has seized the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border and arms warehouses from his forces.

The seizure prompted the United States and Britain to suspend non-lethal aid to the FSA, dealing a major blow to a group that appears caught between advancing regime forces and the increasingly unified Islamists.

“While there is definitely a case of Syria’s Islamists getting stronger, it is also clear that the Supreme Military Council (SMC) is growing weaker, that it has lost power,” said Aron Lund, a Sweden-based expert on Syria’s insurgency.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Idriss fled to Turkey and then Qatar after the border seizure, but a spokesman for the opposition National Coalition denied this, saying he was meeting with FSA and Islamic Front rebels in southern Turkey.—AFP

Opinion

Pariah regimes
21 Sep 2021

Pariah regimes

The world usually struggles to tame even real pariah and rogue regimes.

Editorial

What’s the game?
21 Sep 2021

What’s the game?

Such brinkmanship is being fuelled by incendiary rhetoric as well as inflexible demands of a unilateral nature.
21 Sep 2021

Gas price hike

THE proposed hike of 24pc-37pc in the gas price of the top 23pc residential consumers, who account for 43pc of the...
21 Sep 2021

Green Line buses

AT long last, the first batch of vehicles for Karachi’s Green Line bus project arrived from China on Sunday,...
20 Sep 2021

Banking for women

AS the old adage goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. How far the new State Bank initiative —...
Off the red list
Updated 20 Sep 2021

Off the red list

There are aspects of coronavirus management, especially by developed nations towards those less so, that smack of discrimination.
20 Sep 2021

Exciting frontiers

HISTORY was made on Wednesday at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral. It was not the launch of the first, or...