BEIRUT - Syria's new opposition leaders are struggling to win over powerful Islamist rebel combat units, whose radical elements question whether the "hotel warriors" of the fledgling coalition can offer their fighters any real support.
Islamists have established themselves as the most effective, best armed and fastest growing units in the 20-month-old uprising against Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Many of them are wary of the National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces, set up earlier this month in an attempt to unify Assad's fractured opponents and win greater international support.
"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.
Most rebels are conservative but politically moderate and willing to work with diverse opposition groups. But they were left to their own devices for months in an uprising they dubbed an "orphan revolution" and the challenge to bring them into the fold is made bigger by the rising role of radicals, including al-Qaida-style fighters in Syria.