BEIRUT -- An Al Qaeda affiliate is trying to broker a cease-fire among Syrian rebel factions that have been battling each other in recent days.
In a statement, the leader of Al Nusra Front complained Tuesday that the conflict between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other rebel groups was only benefiting Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government forces have made recent gains on the battlefield in part by taking advantage of the chaos among the fractured opposition forces.
"The battlefield will pay the price of the loss of a great jihadi field, and the regime will be reenergized after it was close to oblivion," warned Abu Mohammed Jolani.
His Al Nusra Front, an Islamist organization viewed by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, has joined more moderate Sunni Muslim rebel groups in battling the ISIS in recent days.
Even as Jolani complained that fellow Islamists in the ISIS were pursuing “a wrong policy ... that had a prominent role in exacerbating the conflict,” he warned that the clashes among rebel groups could also benefit outside powers. "The West and the [Shiite Muslims] will create for themselves a large foothold in the environment of this conflict if it continues," he said.
Syrian rebels have attempted to regain the initiative on the battlefield through the formation of coalitions that presumably espouse a more moderate view on Islam, in hopes of gaining more military aid. Their clashes with the ISIS over the past few days are widely viewed as an attempt to quell the fears of Western nations wary of supporting the rise of Al Qaeda in Syria.
The rebels hope to turn the tide of the conflict in their favor in the run-up to a peace conference scheduled to begin Jan. 22 in Geneva, though it is still not clear which of the insurgent groups might attend the talks.
They have been demanding that they first receive a guarantee of Assad's ouster from power, a condition that Damascus rejects, and any group that shows up in Geneva without that guarantee runs the risk of isolation within the opposition.
The head of the Islamic Front, a Saudi-forged coalition of seven of the strongest rebel factions on the Syrian battlefield, tweeted: "The military committee of the Islamic Front seeks to ... place the participants in [the Geneva talks] from both sides on the wanted list."
Bulos is a special correspondent.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times