At the negotiations with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, on April 16 in Moscow, representatives of the Syrian opposition "inner wing" declared their readiness to start in the near future a productive dialogue with the national authorities.
"Now we are discussing in detail the possibility of negotiating: the opposition sides to participate in the dialogue, the agenda and how quickly it can be done," said the member of the opposing Popular Front for Change and Liberation, Qadri Jamil. "All the forces that had not previously opposed the dialogue, are now coming to the truth that negotiations are the only way out of a tragic situation," said the oppositionist.
Another influential opposition politician, State Minister for National Reconciliation Affairs, Ali Haidar added: "We are part of the opposition, which wants to solve the problems peacefully. For the sake of this slogan and process, we have come into government of Syria."
A day earlier, the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad decreed a general amnesty for those involved in anti-government activities and committed crimes in the civil war until April 16, 2013. According to the text of the document, all who took arms against the government, including deserters, are subject to pardon. The main condition is the voluntary laying-down arms and rejection of illegal activities. For those who have already been sentenced to death for war and other crimes, the punishment will be replaced by life imprisonment to be served in forced labor.
Who is today opposed to Bashar al-Assad’s regime? At present, all the opposition Syrian forces are divided into political and military components. The political wing includes "internal" opposition represented by a number of parties, social organizations and movements, legally or quasi-legally operating in Syria. This wing stands for radical political and social reforms by peaceful means.
The other wing represented by the "external" opposition mainly consists of dissidents - former Syrian citizens and politicians who were forced at different times to leave Syria for political and other reasons. Most of them are intellectuals of the Syrian diaspora in the U.S. and Western Europe. Until the present, this group upheld more radical demands - the unconditional resignation of the president and the government, the dissolution of parliament and a radical reorganization of the national army.
The military component of more heterogeneous and, for this reason, in recent times its actions are becoming more dangerous and unpredictable which threatens the spread of extremism from Syria to other countries in the Middle East.
Quite nominally the armed opposition can be divided into three main components: The Free Syria Army (FSA), the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood units and ideologically similar radical religious and political movements, as well as the al-Qaeda international extremist group forces.
The Free Syria Army was organizationally formed as an opposition military force by mid-summer 2011. It was created by mid-level officers who had absconded from the government army. The personnel were recruited from fugitive soldiers, mostly the Sunnis. Weapons, ammunition and warlike equipment were purchased in army depots by bribing soldiers and then by direct looting of arsenals.
The FSA command tried to establish based on unity of command a clear chain of military forces subordination, their territorial interaction, and coordinated control. However, these attempts proved ineffective, and by the end of 2012 the militants began to leave the FSA massively. Much of the deserters joined the Muslim Brotherhood units. Others left Syria illegally and are now hiding in the refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
Currently, the FSA as a military organization continues to lose its influence in the country. The reasons for this are, firstly, the increase in activities of the government army, whose command, though belatedly, have carried out personnel and organizational rearrangement of its forces and dramatically intensified combat and special operations against the rebels.
Secondly, the FSA command’s reckoning on the total degradation of the government army and the achievement of a quick victory over it on its own, has failed. On the contrary, the armed conflict became sharp and protracted, and ordinary deserters proved to be mentally unprepared for a long struggle against the regime. In turn, the FSA military-political leadership decided to conduct full-scale warfare against anti-government forces with the active use of aircraft and artillery, which led to an increase in casualties among the militants.
Thirdly, the opposition’s reckoning on direct foreign intervention in Syria has not justified. The United States and several countries in Western Europe and the Middle East failed to internationalize the internal conflict in the country. All their efforts in this regard run across a tough stance of Moscow and Beijing, who do not intend to allow the crisis in that country to be settled according to the Libyan scenario.
Fourthly, the opposition’s political wing never managed to establish effective communication with the command of the Free Syria Army. The reason for this were insurmountable differences both in the camp of political opponents of Assad, and in the FSA itself.
Currently in the military struggle against the government, the so-called Syria Islamic Liberation Front (SILF) is gaining momentum, whose core is the armed forces of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood international organization and the similar groups.
According to the Lebanese print media, the SILF consists of up to twenty "Islamic brigades and battalions" with total strength of about 40,000 people. Mainly Syrians from among the Sunnites who had served in the government army are fighting in their forces, as well as young people, who because of their religious beliefs share the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and policy.
The leadership of the Front is waging an armed struggle for the establishment in Syria of an Islamic state based on the Sharia Islamic Law. It stand for the indispensable ouster of the Alawite-Shia minority and the only power methods to achieve this goal.
The SILF formally recognizes the political opposition’s role but does not obey the SILF command and in military confrontation with the government forces prefer to act independently. Financial and material security of the Front is mainly provided by the Arab states ruling monarchies in the Middle East (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE), and some Sunni NGOs.
The main arms, ammunition and military equipment traffic for the militants is arranged through Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. Treatment of the wounded and learning the art of war is organized there too.
The third force in the military struggle against the Syrian government are the units of foreign militants who at the beginning of April 2013 have sworn their allegiance to the al-Qaeda international terrorist group. Their basis is the Jabhat an-Nusra movement ("Front of the winners"), which, for what it’s worth, includes up to 6-8 thousand Mujahideen mercenaries. "Soldiers of fortune" from almost all the Arab countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Europe, are fighting under this front’s banner. Syrian special services have data on the participation with these groups of Muslims from Russia and former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
The Jabhat an-Nusra militants financing is provided by the al-Qaeda leadership, standing for the creation of a regional "Islamic emirate". Mujahideens are the cruelest in their actions against the government army and the civilian population of Syria, have good military training and strong morale.
The armed stand-off in Syria is increasingly becoming inter-religious. In addition, it increasingly involves foreign forces in the name of Mujahideen mercenaries loyal to the al-Qaeda terrorist group. Its participation in the internal political conflict can not be hidden anymore, and it causes serious damage to all attempts by the Syrian opposition to nationalize the crisis in Syria.
According to Arab political scientists’ estimates, it is the radicalization and religious orientation of the opposition military wing’s actions prevents the warring parties from finding common ground that would allow them to combine efforts for a peaceful solution to the crisis in Syria.