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In a re-organization which may be linked to a shift in US and Saudi support for the insurgency, as well as an offensive in southern Syria, the Supreme Military Council has dismissed General Salim Idriss (pictured) and replaced him with Colonel Abdel-Ilah al-Bashir.
Idriss defected from the Syrian Army in July 2012 and was elected head of the SMC five months later. He had been supported by the US Government and leading Syrian lobbies in Washington.
However, Idriss’ base had eroded as most insurgent factions inside Syria expressed dissatisfaction with him and broke away from the SMC. The formation of the Islamic Front in November, supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, and then the Syrian Revolutionaries Front established a majority of the insurgency outside the SMC.
Commanders’ signatures collected after an SMC meeting confirmed the dismissal. An SMC spokesperson said Idriss was fired because of his “weak leadership and his wish to restructure” and a desire to “rebuild the institution with new leaders”.
Al-Bashir’s appointment appears to confirm reports that the US has decided to back “independent brigades”, renewing some covert military aid and co-operation with the Saudis.
Al-Bashir was head of the Quneitra Military Council, prominent in a current insurgent offensive in southern Syria. His deputy, Colonel Heitham Afeisi, is a leading member of the Syrian Revolutionaries Front, active on the northwest front.
Video: Islamic State of Iraq Convoy En Route to Deir Ez Zor Province
Claimed footage of Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham fighters moving to Deir Ez Zor Province — ISIS has lost many of its positions in the area in eastern Syria to Jabhat al-Nusra and other insurgents this month:
Video: Fighting in Sheikh Najjar Industrial Area, East of Aleppo
Heavy clashes have been taking place in the Sheikh Najjar industrial area, east of Aleppo — if Syrian forces take over the area, they will have opened a corridor to their areas in Syria’s largest city for the first time in months:
State TV’s coverage:
Picture: Regime Flag Raised in Babbila, South of Damascus, After Cease-Fire
Regime flags drape the Babbila town hall, south of Damascus, after the weekend’s cease-fire deal to lift the Syrian military’s siege:
A Syrian military commander with an insurgent:
The Syrian Red Crescent said it had reached Babbila and other suburbs such as Beit Sahem and Yalda, distributing food for 6,200 people with more deliveries in forthcoming days.
However, not everyone is happy with the agreement, seeing it as a surrender to President Assad:
Video: Insurgents Facing Regime Forces in Qalamoun
Footage of insurgents trying to hold back the offensive of Syrian forces and Hezbollah in the Qalamoun region:
Last week the Syrian military launched its attempt to take the city of Yabroud, northeast of Damascus.
US Steps Up Diplomatic Pressure on Assad Regime & Russia
US Secretary of State John Kerry stepped up the diplomatic pressure on the Assad regime on Monday, including Damascus’ ally Russia in his latest statement.
Kerry, who blamed the regime on Sunday for the failure to advance in last week’s Geneva II talks, said during a trip to Indonesia today:
The regime stonewalled. They did nothing except continue to drop barrel bombs on their own people and continue to destroy their own country. And I regret to say they are doing so with increased support from Iran, from Hezbollah and from Russia.
The Secretary of State added that “Russia needs to be a part of the solution”, rather than providing President Assad with military and economic assistance.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back, claiming “evidence that certain sponsors of the opposition are starting to create a new structure” in which “a course is being set to move away from the negotiations track and once again place bets on a military scenario”.
Head of Kurdish Faction Killed by Islamic State of Iraq
The Kurdish faction Jabhat al-Akrad has said the head of its military council, Alaa Japo, has been killed in fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham.
Reports last weekend indicated that Jabhat al-Akrad and the insurgent group Liwa al-Tawhid were pressing ISIS near Azaz in northwest Syria on the Turkish border.