Syrian rebels: We 'will fight Islamic State so it cannot reach Golan'

Syrian opposition forces operating near Israel border tell Israeli TV there will be "all-out war" against radical Islamist group in southern Syria without US ground invasion.

By REUTERS
September 11, 2014 21:53
4 minute read.
Islamic State

Islamic State militants parade in Mosul. (photo credit: REUTERS)

A representative of the Syrian rebels operating near Israel’s border in the Golan Heights told an Israeli TV station on Thursday , “We will fight against Islamic State so that it does not reach the Golan.”

The rebel spokesman told Israel’s Channel 2 that it is disappointed in the US decision not to launch a ground invasion against the Islamic State and that there “will be an all-out war against Islamic State in southern Syria.”

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Syria's Western-backed National Coalition opposition on Thursday said it was ready to work with the United States against Islamic State militants after President Barack Obama authorized US air strikes for the first time in Syria.

Saying it had "long called for this action" and had repeatedly warned about Islamic State, the coalition called again for its military wing, the Free Syrian Army, to receive support to form a "reliable and well-equipped force." "We urge the US Congress to approve the president's policy as soon as possible, and to allow the training and equipping of Free Syrian Army," coalition president Hadi al-Bahra said in a written statement.

The coalition, which is based in Turkey, has received support and recognition from the Western powers and Gulf Arab states that are among Syrian President Bashar Assad's most vocal opponents, but has struggled to win support on the ground.

Instead, hardline Islamist groups, including the Nusra Front, al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria, and Islamic State have come to dominate the battlefield.

The coalition also said it was "equally important" to realize that Assad's government was "the root cause of the violence, brutality, and sense of impunity prevailing in Syria", and urged action against it as well.

"The Syrian Coalition ... stands ready and willing to partner with the international community not only to defeat ISIS but also rid the Syrian people of the tyranny of the Assad regime," it said, using another name for Islamic State.

"Combating ISIS alone cannot bring about a stable and extremist free region," it said.

Joel Parker, a researcher who focuses on Syria at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University, told The Jerusalem Post that “US strikes against the Islamic State may weaken that organization, but there is no guarantee they would be able to unite the various armed rebel groups.”

“In fact, Western conditions on the nature of the fighting groups until now have tended to divide them into three major factions, the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic Front, and The Nusra Front,” explained Parker, noting that the US refused to work with the latter two radical Islamist groups.

“At times these three groups have cooperated, but more often they have competed with each other,” he said.

Moreover, said Parker, “After nearly three full years of active fighting against the regime, the rebel-controlled areas tend to suffer from lack of supplies, medicine, and have seen the return of polio in addition to mass human displacement and loss of property.”

“US airstrikes will not be able to turn back the clock in this respect.”

Islamic State fighters have seized major Iraqi cities and towns bordering Iran and Tehran has expressed concern about their rapid advance and the upsurge in violence.

"The so-called international coalition to fight the ISIL group ... is shrouded in serious ambiguities and there are severe misgivings about its determination to sincerely fight the root causes of terrorism," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham was quoted by state TV as saying.

She did not mention specifically a call by U.S. President Barack Obama for a broad coalition to root out Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and said some coalition members were "financial and military supporters of terrorists in Iraq and Syria".

Obama also said on Wednesday that he had authorized U.S. air strikes for the first time in Syria and more attacks in Iraq in an escalation of a campaign against Islamic State.

Tehran says it is not in talks with Washington about the insurgency in Iraq and is instead focused on resolving issues over the country's nuclear program.

"In the negotiations with America, no issue but the nuclear issue has been discussed," she said.

An unnamed US official told Asharq al-Awsat in a report on Thursday, “There will be no discussion at this time about Iran’s participation in this alliance,” referring to the US effort to form a coalition against Islamic State in the region.

Meanwhile, Turkey has hesitated at allying itself with the US against Islamic State, and US Secretary of State John Kerry plans to visit the country for talks on the issue on Friday, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

Turkey said it would only allow NATO countries to use its bases and airspace for logistical and non-combat purposes along with other kinds of support.


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