New Syrian rebel coalition: tilt to Turkey

Syrian rebels announced formation of a new Revolutionary Command Council at a meeting in Gaziantep, Turkey. The RCC claims to represent over 70 rebel militias. It includes both the Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front, as well as more Salafist formations such as Ahrar al-Sham. It excludes the Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front. The RCC charter repeatedly uses the terms "the Syrian people," "civilian," and "revolution"—anathema to the Qaedist ideology of Nusra Front and ISIS. Each RCC affiliate is pledged to contribute at least 100 fighters to a proposed rapid intervention force. The RCC's elected head, Qais al-Sheikh, last week resigned from the Syrian National Coalition in protest of its poor performance. (Al Bawaba, Dec. 1) 

Days after the RCC meeting, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called for the US-led coalition against ISIS to aid rebels in Syria's second city Aleppo in holding out against regime forces. "After Kobani, we must save Aleppo," Fabius said, referring to the Syrian border town where the US has carried out dozens of air-strikes to help Kurdish forces resist an ISIS assault. (Al Jazeera, Dec. 4)

And the US and Turkey are said to be close to an agreement on a joint military action against ISIS. The Wall Street Journal, citing officials from both countries, reported that the deal would allow the US and its partners access to Turkish bases to launch air-strikes. The agreement would also provide for a "protected zone" along the Syria-Turkey border.

So Turkey, after using ISIS to crush or weaken the Rojava Kurds, will get its  "buffer zone" in nothern Syria. Meanwhile it grooms a "moderate" (sic) Islamist alliance to hold sway over the RCC, giving Erdogan conservative anti-Kurdish partners for the apres-Assad. Nicely done.

Turkey arming Nusra Front?

We have noted persistent claims that Turkey has been covertly arming ISIS. Now Al-Monitor reports that local Gendarmerie troops in south-central Adana province (see map) stopped and searched three trucks of the National Intelligence Service (MIT), which were found to be filled with missiles, mortars and other arms. The search was ordered by a local prosecutor who received a tip of an arms shipment to "al-Qaeda" in Syria. The prosecutor has been removed from his post and 13 Gendarmerie troops involved in the search charged with espionage. Video footage of the search has been barred from the Internet in Turkey. "Al-Qaeda" in Syria would actually refer to Nusra Front, although it is uncertain if the prosecutor was using the term with that exactitude. This is apparently getting lots of coverage in Turkey—and practically none in the US.