Skip to main content

Syrian rebels move toward unified command

By Mariano Castillo and Raja Razek, CNN
updated 12:08 AM EST, Sun December 9, 2012
In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war: In this photo provided by the anti-government activist group Aleppo Media Center, Syrian men help survivors out of a building in Aleppo after it was bombed, allegedly by a Syrian regime warplane on Saturday, February 8. The United Nations estimates more than 100,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began in March 2011. Click through to see the most compelling images taken during the conflict, which is now a civil war:
HIDE CAPTION
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
Syrian civil war in photos
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
67
68
69
70
71
72
73
74
75
76
77
78
79
80
81
82
83
84
85
86
87
88
89
90
91
92
93
94
95
96
97
98
99
100
101
102
103
104
105
106
107
108
109
110
111
112
113
114
115
116
117
118
119
120
121
122
123
124
125
126
127
128
129
130
131
132
133
134
135
136
137
138
139
140
141
142
143
144
145
146
147
148
149
150
151
152
153
154
155
156
157
158
159
160
161
162
163
164
165
166
167
168
169
170
171
172
173
174
175
176
177
178
179
180
181
182
183
184
185
186
187
188
189
190
191
192
193
194
195
196
197
198
199
200
201
202
203
204
205
206
207
208
209
210
211
212
213
214
215
216
217
218
219
220
221
222
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Opposition vehemently rejects claims it could use chemical weapons
  • 129 died Saturday according to an opposition group
  • Syrian rebels agree to operate under a unified command
  • It follows the unification of the political opposition to President Bashar al-Assad

(CNN) -- Syrian rebels across the country are moving toward a unified command, the latest step in a consolidation by the opposition as it seeks to garner stronger international support.

Under a preliminary agreement reached Friday by the disparate Free Syrian Army units, each Syrian province will have a civilian rebel council leader and a military council leader.

The commanders will be under the leadership of a newly named chief of staff, Gen. Salim Idris, Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad said. In all, the council would have 30 members, including the chief of staff and a deputy chief of staff.

All members of the new leadership team are Syrian and mostly are from inside Syria, he said.

Refugees stuck at the Syrian border
Inside Syrian city scarred by war
Syrians fighting block by block
Syrian family lives underground

It is premature to call the new group the Supreme Military Council, but the agreement is a step toward forming the higher military council, Almokdad said.

The united military front follows the creation of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, a new coalition of groups opposed to the leadership of President Bashar al-Assad.

The United States, in particular, had been pushing for the opposition to unite.

The American calls for unity came amid concerns about the increasing radicalization of some armed factions of the opposition. The stronger the radical groups become, the more the United States worries that the fighting -- not political efforts to find a solution -- will decide the outcome in Syria.

Efforts are under way for the United States to formally recognize the newly formed Syrian political opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, which France and Britain have already done.

Early next week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to Marrakesh, Morocco, for a meeting of the Friends of the Syrian People, a gathering of countries that support the political transition.

The Obama administration, while providing non-lethal assistance, is expected to take the first steps toward officially recognizing the National Coalition at that meeting.

The Free Syrian Army hopes for the same support now that it attempts to unify.

A new defense minister for the Syrian opposition coalition is expected to be named later this month, Almokdad said.

On Saturday, at least 129 people were killed throughout the country, including 16 children, the opposition Local Coordination Committees reported. Fifty-eight people were killed in the Damascus suburbs. Thirteen died in Daraa province, 20 in Idlib, 18 in Aleppo, 15 in Dier Ezzor, two in Hama, two in Homs and one in Raqqa, the group said.

Shelling occurred at 232 locations, according to the LCC, and rebels clashed with the Syrian army in 120 locations with the highest concentration in and around Damascus.

Syria's government maintains control of Damascus, while the rebels have taken large parts of northern Syria, including parts of the most populous city, Aleppo.

Concern about chemical weapons

Britain's foreign secretary on Saturday cited evidence that the Syrian regime could use its stockpile of chemical weapons against rebels battling government forces.

William Hague said that there was no simple "red line" which could trigger international military action, but that Britain and its allies had "contingency plans concerning chemical weapons" which he declined to disclose.

Recent U.S. intelligence suggests the Syrian government has started mixing chemical weapons compounds and loading them into bombs, though the bombs are not being moved to any delivery devices, CNN's Barbara Starr reported.

The concern is not only that the Syrian regime may use chemical weapons, but that they could fall into the hands of terrorist groups.

The Syrian foreign ministry on Saturday reiterated its position that it will not use chemical weapons, if it possesses any, under any circumstances, the state news agency SANA reported.

In two letters addressed to the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. Secretary-General, the ministry warned that "terrorist groups might resort to using chemical weapons against the Syrian people... after the terrorist groups recently took hold of a chlorine processing plant to the east of Aleppo city," according to SANA.

The Syrian government commonly refers to anti-government rebels as "terrorists."

"Syria is defending its people against terrorism supported by known countries, above all (the) USA," the ministry wrote.

The Free Syrian Army rejected any claim that it could have or use chemical weapons. "We do not plan, own, or have the capability to use chemical weapons against our own people," said political and media coordinator Louay Almokdad.

Another view on weapons

Fears of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government are "hysterical hype," former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski said Saturday.

Speaking with CNN's Randi Kaye, Brzezinski said it does not make sense that the Syrian regime would employ such weapons when doing so would in effect poison its own people.

The fighting in Syria is not along traditional fronts, but sporadic outbreaks of fighting, making chemical weapons not very effective, he said.

"It's more like a guerrilla warfare. How do you use chemical weapons against that," he said.

The real challenge, Brzezinski said, is creating a stable situation in Syria so the conflict does not spill into Jordan, Lebanon or Iraq.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT