EA WorldView

Syria: US Shifts Position — Again — on Co-operation with Islamic Front

Syria: US Shifts Position — Again — on Co-operation with Islamic Front
December 13
10:32 2013

In yet another shift of Washington’s position, a “senior U.S. official” has said that the Obama Administration will consider supporting an expanded Syrian insurgency that includes the recently-formed Islamic Front, provided the groups are not allied with Al Qa’eda and agree to back peace talks in Switzerland in January.

Through Robert Ford, the former American Ambassador to Syria, the US established contact with the Islamic Front, launched by seven leading factions in November. However, the initial talks were “inconclusive”, foundering on the Front’s resistance to any conference without an assurance of President Assad’s departure.

Then on Wednesday, Washington lashed out at the Front, declaring that it had seized the headquarters of the Free Syrian Army — backed by the US — at the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the Turkish border. The Americans cut off non-lethal aid to the insurgency in northern Syria in response.

See Syria Spotlight: The Real Story Behind US Cut-Off of Non-Lethal Aid to Insurgents?

The US claim was denied by the Front, the opposition Syrian National Coalition, and the FSA’s Supreme Military Council. All said the Islamic Front’s fighters had responded to a request by the FSA for protection after an armed group — possibly the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham — had raided the warehouses.

This may have prompted the senior US official to soften the American line, calling on the Islamic Front to return American vehicles, communications gear, and other non-lethal equipment from the Bab al-Hawa warehouses: “We want our stuff back.”

“We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front,” the official said, but he added that any movement toward including them in a US-backed coalition is a “work in progress”.

The Front has been pressing for inclusion in the SMC, and wants to be represented at the Geneva talks, according to rebel commanders. Front leaders are reportedly in discussions this week with the SMC commander, Gen. Salim Idriss.

Ex-Ambassador Ford is travelling to London on Friday to meet other international backers of the opposition, and then to Turkey for discussions with the Syrian National Coalition. He may also meet there with the Islamic Front, said the senior official.

Related Posts

About Author

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas

Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

Related Articles


  1. RedTornadoes
    RedTornadoes December 13, 12:12

    It looks as if Obama is going to have to accept a fait accompli he did so much to create.. At the same time, he guaranteed the relationship would begin by assuring mistrust on the otther side in his usual ever hedging, back and forth way. I’ve never seen a man so incapable of making up his mind.

    Flexibility is one thing and a worthy trait but this guy seriously has to lose his Hamlet act. One thing is indelible=-the low, self-discrediting impression he has made on the world.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Richard Rittenburg
    Richard Rittenburg December 13, 14:25

    not an entirely bad move. Democracy will never succeed until imams learn to tolerate dissent. The problem with US mideast policy is that we keep pushing democracy. They aren’t ready and it is a waste of time.

    Iran was a fairly good first try to find an islamic solution for a modern urbanized society. If you read Iranian constitution it actually has something equivalent to a bill of rights with minority protection and clauses that could be extended to include the right of protest and freedom of press. It only had two big flaws. Fatal flaws. Supreme controls military. Supreme can not be peacefully replaced or limited by the will of the people or parliament.

    Backing a sunni theocracy that is engineered by intellectuals might be the solution to mideast problems. If they copy Iran while correcting the structural it might just work.

    but this is obama. when it come to foreign policy he is neither that clever or adept. More likely he is just bungling it up.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Benzidrine
    Benzidrine December 13, 14:46

    “We don’t have a problem with the Islamic Front,”

    Apparently working to set up a theocratic fascist state isn’t a deal breaker for America. Didn’t expect that.

    Reply to this comment
  4. incyprus
    incyprus December 13, 15:26

    Obama has accomplished only one thing, to be the first black president in the US and that is good for history books. Everything else in his administration seems to be just a mirage including his healthcare plans that is so thin that it hardly matters, if it ever becomes to be. Next election will be a toss between Clinton or some moron from the other side. It makes a good theses, what went wrong with this country, or maybe a natural selection is in progress in geopolitics and history?

    Reply to this comment
    • Richard Rittenburg
      Richard Rittenburg December 13, 16:53

      It was a failure of rebel leadership. You don’t walk into a customer’s office and start talking about what you are selling. You walk into a customers office and start talking about what he wants to buy.

      If they wanted american weapons then they needed to start talking about what americans really want to see in the mideast. Political, social, judicial, and economic equality without regard to political beliefs, race, religion, or gender. Constitutional guarantees that minority rights are cherished and protected. They needed to sell it with such vigor that some amercians would sit back and wonder what kind of drugs these syrians were on. would they even welcome jews?

      2 years. and still – no sale. If he was your salesman and you were his boss what would you do?

      Reply to this comment
      • incyprus
        incyprus December 13, 17:51

        I’m not just talking(hardly) about Syria. US domestic and foreign policy in the last 20yrs or so have been what you expect from third world countries, certainly not from a system that once was an example of a modern governance that people looked up to.

        Reply to this comment
  5. NatTurner76
    NatTurner76 December 13, 17:08

    The reason Obama has done nothing in Syria is becuse the American people(liberal,conservative,independent) do not want be involved in the Syria civil war and do not trust the rebels. We have more pressing issues at home then Syria. It is not our problem. The economy sucks,income eqaulity is worse then it ever been etc. Syria is not our problem and we do not owe the Syrian people anything. They have allies in Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Let them handle it.

    Reply to this comment

Write a Comment

Leave a Comment

An Introduction to EA

Subscribe to EA via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to EA and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Donate to EA