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Yes, there are 70,000 moderate opposition fighters in Syria. Here’s what we know about them

27 November 2015

10:20 AM

27 November 2015

10:20 AM

Yesterday David Cameron told Parliament that there are ‘about 70,000 Syrian opposition fighters on the ground who do not belong to extremist groups’ who could help fight Islamic State. 

The Prime Minister’s number was the result of an internal assessment made by the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC), backed up by serving British diplomats overseas whose jobs focus on the Syrian opposition. Such a large number struck many as political exaggeration. The chairman of the Defence Committee, Julian Lewis, said he was ‘extremely surprised’. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn may issue a formal demand for clarification. So do these fighters exist and who are they?

Of course, the debate primarily centres around the issue of what it means to be a ‘moderate armed opposition group’ in Syria. Notwithstanding the storm surrounding this morning’s statement, this question has become particularly pertinent in recent days, as international diplomats discuss who should – and should not – be involved in a future Syrian peace process. 

As diplomatic efforts for Syria gain pace and as Saudi Arabia prepares to host a major conference bringing together 60-80 representatives of a broad spectrum opposition, the definition of “moderate” has been shifting. The most effective definition now must be based upon a combined assessment of (a) what groups are acknowledged as being opposed to ISIL and (b) what groups our governments want, or need to be involved in a political process.

Having studied Syria’s armed opposition since the first months of the country’s uprising in mid-2011, I can say with confidence that the Prime Minister and the JIC are about right.

[Alt-Text]


Many of the groups who fall within both these categories are armed factions the Islamist-averse United States’ CIA has already ‘vetted’ and assessed as ‘moderate’ enough to receive lethal assistance. Some others are recognised by Syrians as ‘mainstream’ members of the revolution – some moderately Islamic – and crucially, as being strongly rooted within local societies. Combined, these factions likely represent roughly 65,000 fighters. Representatives of all these groups look set to be invited to Saudi Arabia’s internationally-facilitated opposition conference in early-December. They are as follows:

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 19.38.51

While unlikely to be invited to grand opposition conferences abroad due to their comparatively smaller size, there are roughly 25-30 additional factions that would fall under this ‘moderate’ label. Combined, these factions represent another 10,000 fighters.

Making a total of 75,000 fighters, these 105-110 factions broadly represent what one could today label as ‘moderate’ in Syria’s context. This means they are explicitly nationalist in terms of their strategic vision; they are local in terms of their membership; and they seek to return to Syria’s historical status as a harmonious multi-sectarian nation in which all ethnicities, sects and genders enjoy an equal status before the law and state. They remain focused on fighting the Assad regime, however, as it represents a more immediate priority for most, in terms of self-protection, the defence of civilian populations and of course, pursuing the revolution’s ultimate objective. Beyond these factions, it becomes more complicated.

The biggest challenge for policymakers today is ensuring that any future political agreement on Syria is agreed and signed onto by those genuinely capable of enforcing it on the ground. Beyond the aforementioned armed factions, two ‘supergroups’ currently dominate opposition dynamics in Syria – Jaish al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham. Both are avowedly conservative Islamist movements and combined, field a total of roughly 27,500 fighters. Although the U.S. has for several years banned its diplomats from engaging with the more conservative of the two – Ahrar al-Sham – both it and Jaish al-Islam look set to be invited to Saudi Arabia’s opposition conference. Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia even tried to bring leading representatives of both factions to the most recent ministerial talks in Vienna, on 14 November.

Both of these groups and perhaps a small number of others are definitely not natural Western allies, no doubt about it. But they vehemently oppose ISIL being in Syria and have fought it successfully in the past – with far better results than our currently favoured allies, the Kurds. They have also proven willing behind the scenes to submit themselves to being single components of a broader opposition – or revolutionary – movement. Should they be included in a formal political process, they will become one of many factions involved. Should they be excluded, they could become immensely powerful spoilers. 

Had the West more definitively intervened in Syria early on, we would undoubtedly have more moderate, more cohesive and more natural ally-material opposition to work with. Unfortunately, things took a different path. Our subsequent obsession with the extremists and refusal to tackle Syria’s complexity has clouded our vision. A ‘moderate’ opposition in culturally attuned terms does exist in Syria, we need only open our eyes to it. Only these groups – and certainly not Assad – will ensure the real extremists such as ISIL and Al-Qaeda eventually lose their grip on power in Syria.

Charles Lister is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and a Senior Consultant to The Shaikh Group. He has spent the past two years coordinating an intensive process of face-to-face engagement with the leaderships of over 100 Syrian armed opposition groups, as one component of a multinationally-backed Track II process. His new book, The Syrian Jihad: Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and the Evolution of an Insurgency was published in November 2015.

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Show comments
  • Gok Dong

    Qatar allied to ahrar al sham no wonder Mr lister has to dance to his master s tune ,they pay his wages so he promotes support for jihadists as moderates .look at the moderates running Libya now .this guy is a jihadist apologist all over the net spouting QatarI propaganda .he was quite disingenuous in relation to Kurdish success against Isis consider that they were the first reverse of expansion for Isis ,where hv the moderates reversed Isis success,at best they kept status quo and often joined Isis.don’t be fooled by wahhabi dollars

  • no lie

    Send John McCain over ther and they will have 70,001 radical moderates. He can have his underware diaper “depends) explode on the land of jihadist islum

  • Randal

    Presumably now that the interventionists have got their vote and the oh so vital British bombing campaign has gotten into its swing, these 70k “moderates” will start showing up anytime soon.

    • Araminta Smade

      A friend of mine says you wish to say something Randal! I am a very good listener!

      • Randal

        Best if you confirm at the Telegraph site that I’m talking to the right person, I suppose.

        • Araminta Smade

          Some problems with an update on my email account. I’ll get back to you!

      • Randal

        Just thought it would make direct contact easier if we use email. I’ve set up a free email account – the address is my name followed by @ followed by innocent.com. You might like to set up a disposable free email account to make contact.

        • Araminta Smade

          I’ll try it out. I’ve copied it so you can now delete it!

  • Zuleykha

    OMG
    For getting 70K Syrian moderates, he says we have to forget the definition of moderate. Moderate is whoever Turkey and Saudi Arabia say they are moderates.
    Than he sees somehow through his own analysis that this still doesn’t work and adds: There is no alternative.

  • Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha

    The many shades of gray that separate terms like “moderate” and “extremist” when it comes to Syrian fighters make these terms vague at best.

  • SmartSurvival

    It’s worth noting that this Charles Lister chap works in Qatar and is being paid by the same Qatari government that is funding a large amount of this regime change. The same government that is known to fund and provide ideological support and training to the VERY radical groups in Syria. The same thing was done in Libya – Qatar is a filthy, arms-dealing, bloody little Gulf nation – and this Lister guys is being paid too much to care. Therefore, he will never mention anything of the Qatari-Turkish pipeline deal involving the Pars pipeline deal that was sidelined in favour of the Iran-Iraq-Syria deal. So never expect this man to tell the truth about anything related to Syria. The only thing I’d trust him to tell me is the time in Doha.

    • FkDahl

      Your comment gives me hope that there are more and more people who start to recognize how the system is set up and works … and Charles Lister is a cog in that machinery, trying to convince us that the enemies of yesteryear are our friends now, never mind they will be our enemies in the future.
      More and more people recognize that he Gulf dictatorships export so much evil but dont get called out for it.

  • Grey is a Lie

    I guess Merriam-Webster need to revise the meaning of the term “moderate”. Maybe Cameron and Obama should grant these “moderate” green cards to their countries so they can have freedom to be moderate there.

  • Angelis Dania

    “The most effective definition now must be based upon a combined assessment of (a) what groups are acknowledged as being opposed to ISIL and (b) what groups our governments want, or need to be involved in a political process.”

    When you define “moderate” in this way, without giving even feigned consideration to extremist ideologies and atrocities committed by those being categorised as such, you’re effectively stating that words mean whatever you want them to. After reading that, I realised that I could not understand the rest of the article, for who knows what else you’ve completely redefined along the way?

    • FkDahl

      Charlies Lister is paid by the Qatari’s , he is their mouthpiece. Or to be less blunt, he works for the Brookings Doha think tank, so who pays for that? Who sit’s on their boards?

      If Charles writes the wrong thing he will be called into his boss office ….

      From Wiki:

      “The Qatari government was named by The New York Times as “the single biggest foreign donor to Brookings”, having reportedly made a $14.8 million, four-year contribution last year.[68] A former visiting fellow at a Brookings affiliate in Qatar reportedly said “he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatar government in papers”.[68] Brookings officials denied any connection between the views of their funders and their scholars work, citing reports that questioned the Qatari government’s education reform efforts and criticized its support of militants in Syria. However, Brookings officials also reportedly acknowledged that they meet with Qatari government officials regularly to discuss the center’s activities and budget, and that the former prime minister of Qatar currently serves on the center’s advisory board.[68]”

  • SteveK

    “and they seek to return to Syria’s historical status as a harmonious multi-sectarian nation in which all ethnicities, sects and genders enjoy an equal status before the law and state.”

    So, I’ve have this bridge I’m selling….

  • https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/home Dean Jackson

    The so-called ‘War on Terror’ is an operation being carried out by the Marxist co-opted governments of the West in alliance with the USSR and other Communist nations, the purpose being to (1) destroy the prominence of the West in the eyes of the world, where the West is seen (i) invading nations without cause; (ii) causing chaos around the globe; and (iii) killing over one-million civilians and boasting of torture; (2) close off non-Russian supplies of oil for export, thereby increasing the price of oil, the higher price allowing oil exporting Russia to maintain economic stability while she modernizes and increases her military forces; (3) destroy the United States Armed Forces via the never-ending ‘War on Terror’; the ultimate purpose of the aforementioned to (4) bring about the demise of the United States in the world, opening up a political void to be filled by a new pan-national entity composed of Europe and Russia (replacing the European Union), a union ‘From the Atlantic to Vladivostok’; which will (5) see the end of NATO.

    Now you know why not one political party in the West requested verification of the collapse of the USSR, and the media failed to alert your attention to this fact, including the ‘alternative’ media. When determining whether the ‘former’ USSR is complying with arms control treaties, what does the United States do to confirm compliance? Right, the United States sends into the ‘former’ USSR investigative teams to VERIFY compliance, yet when it’s the fate of the West that’s at stake should the collapse of the USSR be a ruse, what does the United States do to confirm the collapse? Nothing!

    The fraudulent ‘collapse’ of the USSR (and East Bloc) couldn’t have been pulled off until both political parties in the United States (and political parties elsewhere in the West) were co-opted by Marxists, which explains why verification of the ‘collapse’ was never undertaken by the West, such verification being (1) a natural administrative procedure (since the USSR wasn’t occupied by Western military forces); and (2) necessary for the survival of the West. Recall President Reagan’s favorite phrase, “Trust, but verify”.

    It gets worse–the ‘freed’ Soviets and West also never (1) de-Communized the Soviet Armed Forces of its Communist Party officer corps, which was 90% officered by Communist Party members; and (2) arrested/de-mobilized the 6-million vigilantes that assisted the Soviet Union’s Ministry of the Interior and police control the populations of the larger cities during the period of ‘Perestroika’ (1986-1991)!

    There can be no collapse of the USSR (or East Bloc nations) without…

    Verification, De-Communization and De-mobilization.

    The West never verified the collapse of the USSR because no collapse occurred, since if a real collapse had occurred the West would have verified it, since the survival of the West depends on verification. Conversely, this proves that the political parties of the West were co-opted by Marxists long before the fraudulent collapse of the USSR, since the survival of the West depends on verification.

    The following is a discovery I made in April regarding the fake collapse of the USSR, and what that fraudulent collapse proves about the institutions of the West…

    When Soviet citizens were liberated from up to 74 years of horrific Marxist oppression on December 26, 1991 there were ZERO celebrations throughout the USSR, proving (1) the ‘collapse’ of the USSR is a strategic ruse; and (2) the political parties of the West were already co-opted by Marxists,* otherwise the USSR (and East Bloc nations) couldn’t have gotten away with the ruse.

    ZERO celebrations, as the The Atlantic article inadvertently informs us…

    http://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/12/20-years-since-the-fall-of-the-soviet-union/100214/

    Notice, however, the Kremlin staged anti-government demonstrations that took place in Russia (and other Soviet republics) in the years immediately preceding the ‘collapse’, yet ZERO celebrations after the ‘collapse’!

    For more on this discovery see my blog…

    https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/

    Conclusion:

    The West will form new political parties where candidates are vetted for Marxist ideology, the use of the polygraph to be an important tool for such vetting. Then the West can finally liberate the globe of vanguard Communism.

    ————————-

    * The failed socialist inspired and controlled pan-European revolutions that swept the continent in 1848(1) taught Marxists and socialists a powerful lesson, that lesson being they couldn’t win overtly,(2) so they adopted the tactic of infiltration of the West’s political parties/institutions. In the case of the United States…(continue reading at DNotice)…

    https://sites.google.com/site/deanjackson60/now-you-see-me-now-you-don-t

  • Roger Hudson

    How many of these ‘moderates’ are christian, jews or druze?
    The idea that moderates are fighting for a free multi-ethnic post Assad is nonsense. Destroy them all.

  • chris chuba

    So 50% of the moderates are Islamist’s. While the MSM relentlessly blame Assad for not attacking ISIS except in defensive battles, it is also true that these ‘moderates’ have spent ALL of their offensive operations against govt forces as well and have only fought ISIS in defensive engagements.
    In any case, the peace timeline that Lavrov / Kerry have agreed to consistent with the Vienna accord calls for a cease fire between Assad’s forces and the moderates as defined by Jordan. This is good, correct? This will allow native Syrian forces to fight ISIS.
    Now the sticking point, these ‘moderates’ are demanding that Assad and the Baath party has to be banned from post civil war elections, how is this moderate and why are we letting this demand prevent the Syrian army from fighting ISIS. If Assad is so evil and in a minority group then he will lose a fair multi-party election so such a demand is not needed. I think that these ‘moderates’ are scared that they will lose a fair election. The killing of a defenseless Russian pilot was not their first war crime.

  • Jack Kalpakian

    Using the label “moderate” for such a diverse group of factions that includes Islamists with known and documented violations of others’ human rights makes the author a participant in their atrocities. No ifs, nos, or buts. It was this very “moderate” opposition that rejected the idea that one can be neutral in its war against Assad, so since the author obviously supports it, he is liable for being called an endorser of their activities.

  • lojolondon

    Complete garbage – Obama has been giving weapons to ‘moderates’ (which are, in fact, what is left of Al Qaida!!) – and the weapons have turned up in ISIS / Daesh hands. You can believe they were captured if you like, I certainly think that ISIS has enough sense to set up ‘opposition’ groups that request the best firepower, and the West has been and is being conned, once again.
    If you follow the money in Syria, you will find Saudi Arabia as the principle drivers for ISIS/Daesh – financial and philosophical.

  • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

    If we exclude the Kurds (who will only fight for the Kurdish areas of Syria) there certainly aren’t 70,000 moderate terrorists in Syria. In fact there are so few moderate terrorists that even the head of the CIA proposed rebranding Al Qaeda in Syria as “moderate”. And the US spent $500 million to train moderate terrorists, with only 5 moderates remaining at the end – the rest either having been killed or defected to the immoderate terrorist groups.

    For 5 years, Syria has been subject to a foreign aggression by terrorist proxy. It is not for foreigners to decide who is or isn’t the president of Syria – especially not those foreigners who are responsible for the aggression in the first place. Charles Lister is affiliated with Brookings, a US Neocon think tank that wants regime change in Syria – anything he claims (including the lie that there are 70,000 moderate terrorists available to fight ISIS and bring “democracy” to Syria) should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/289489837/Syria-The-Crime-of-the-Century#scribd

    • Leon Wolfeson

      Yes, of course you want to exclude the Kurds from life, right, as you
      make number claims you have no evidence for. As you claim your friends
      were trained, nope.

      As you whine that Assad should be free to
      murder who he wants, when he wants, as you blame the West for Assad’s
      actions. You are associated with Putin, paid by him to make excuses for
      him, as you note that you need to be taken with a huge tub of salt.

      • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

        I don’t want to exclude the Kurds from life, I support the Kurds in their brave fight against the Turkish-backed ISIS terrorists. Either you can’t read English properly, or you deliberately lie and distort what people say.
        The foreign backed terrorists have already murdered 250,000 Syrians in their bid to topple Assad and install a radical Islamist regime. The Syrian Arab Army has every right to defend Syria. Putin is defending Syria from a foreign backed terrorist aggression, and should be supported by all decent men and women who understand what is going on.
        You are either a moron, or a paid hasbara troll. None of your deluded rantings should be taken seriously.

        • Leon Wolfeson

          So you support killing them all, as you said, in your conspiracy theory, I hear you. As you talk about how you and your friends are just warming up in your killing, right. As you say you have a right to murder civilians, and there’s a right to invade and bomb other countries.

          Mass murder and NBC attacks, you say, are something every “decent” person should support, as you show your anti-disabled bigotry, scream about your hash bar habit, pretend to be a mental health professional and blame the Jews, of course.

          • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

            Are you totally insane?
            I oppose invading other countries and murdering their people. I’ve never said anything about killing Kurds, whom I support. As for ISIS and Al Qaeda terrorists unleashing death and destruction on Syria, the Syrian Arab Army has every right to repel and kill these murderous foreigners. Every country has the right to defend itself.
            I think you need to see a psychiatrist.

            • Leon Wolfeson

              No, I’m not like you, as you support every last invasion, by the right people. As you deny your posts, and as you say that refugees are terrorises, over and over.

              As you obviously want to kill me, in “defence”…
              As you impersonate a mental health professional.

              • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

                I don’t support any invasion. Stop your lies. Syria is being invaded by foreign backed terrorists. Go and get yourself informed instead of spewing rubbish.
                I’m not in the health sector, but anybody can see that you are either a professional troll, or insane.

                • Leon Wolfeson

                  So you ignore your backing Russia, as you scream Syrian refugees are foreign backed terrorists, as you say not murdering them is spewing rubbish, and I need to be mindwiped for you.

                  So you admit you’re as you scream that you’re everyone, and you class not loving mass murder as insane, of course, everyone to you must love mass murder to be sane.

                • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

                  Assad is defending his country against a foreign aggression, ignoramus.

                • Leon Wolfeson

                  Yes, yes, those evil Syrian refugees, foreigners attacking him. How dare they!

                • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

                  Are you insane? Are you incapable of any logical reasoning? It’s Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are backing ISIS and Al Nusra in a bid to topple the Syrian government. Are you telling me a government has no right to defend itself and its people against foreign backed terrorists? Do you realize what you are saying?

                • Leon Wolfeson

                  No, I’m not like you, as you demand others share your goals, as you tell me a government has every right to murder as many of it’s own people, at any time, as it wants, by any means.

                  I understand what you’re saying, in your Chlorine Bomb love

                • FkDahl

                  Me thinks Leon is a troll, aiming to distort this discussion.

                • http://www.modern-britain.com ModernBritain

                  The foreign backed terrorists are ISIS, Al Nusra, FSA etc. Stop lying and twisting what other people say beyond recognition.

                • Leon Wolfeson

                  Yes yes, the refgees are ” ISIS, Al Nusra, FSA etc.” And FSA as well, right.

                  I’m agreeing with your take on the evils of not meekly being shot for the great glory of a Russian puppet state. That you think it’s evil, that is.

      • Cyril Sneer

        “You are associated with Putin, paid by him to make excuses for
        him”

        Oh the old Putin bot accusation – so you think the OP is paid by the Kremlin? *smirk*

        Your accusation says more about you than it does him.

        • Leon Wolfeson

          Thanks for identifying another one of your usernames.

  • Charles Nankin

    1. Cut off the foreign funding.
    2. Cut off the funding from their oil sales.
    3. Prosecute and counter Islamic adherence in Europe and the US, with arguments that are prepared to counter dangerous ideologies, by focusing on what people say not what they do, and by drastically overhauling the govt benefits system across Europe.

  • Charles Nankin

    “they vehemently oppose ISIL being in Syria”

    “and have fought it successfully in the past”

    “they are explicitly nationalist in terms of their strategic vision”

    loose with the truth?

  • Jamie

    “Many of the groups who fall within both these categories are armed factions the Islamist-averse United States’ CIA has already ‘vetted’ and assessed as ‘moderate’ enough to receive lethal assistance. ”

    Anybody with a cursory knowledge of Latin American and Asian history will, of course, take the CIA’s definition of “moderate enough” with a pinch of salt, including as it does the infant-massacring death squads of El Salvador and Guatemala in their own continent and the Khmer Rouge in the east.

  • Kasperlos

    What a disasterous mess! Who in their sane mind would involve themselves in the affairs of over 100 murderous armed factions in such an alien world! And Cameron has already seen to it the first wave of tens of thousands of Syrians and their culture brought to these isles. It’s all lunacy writ large! As HM Forces are to advance forward to the sunset sands, Cameron opens the path for the enemy to advance here! Have they all gone insane, do they believe we all are on an opiate and won’t notice the absolute bizarre circus going on at Westminster? One hundred factions! And France and Britain struggle to keep illegal migrants from storming the Chunnel and motorway at Calais! What do their sinister affairs some 2,000 miles distant, in a monsterous world that for millenia has slaughtered, butchered, pillaged, plundered and remains to this very day encased in the crude bosom that was the 7th century, have to do with the UK. Somerset, Argyll, Hampshire, York, Lancashire, Wales, Kent. These are names that should be on our minds. These must be the objects of our attention, to root out from them every last vestige of Daesh plotters, supporters, instigators, adherents who operate with seeming impunity. The dirty business of Mohammedism must remain mired in the Middle East, but the urgent clean up must be done here at home. The message will get to the factions that Britain is not a place for them and their cult.

  • John Steadman

    It is astonishing that anyone can believe that Assad’s would-be ‘moderate’ successors are any other than Islamists of one sort or another. The notion that it is possible to procure a non-Islamist democratic regime anywhere in the war-torn middle-east is absurd.

  • new_number_2

    Charles Lister should be doing Jackanory.

  • Sean Lamb

    Lister puts 1/3 of his “moderate” fighters in the “Southern Front”. This is what the WSJ said about the “Southern Front” on 13 November.
    “In southern Syria, meanwhile, Nusra Front, a local Islamist faction
    called Al-Muthana and other radical jihadist groups have gained ground
    against secular rebel groups. In the past month, at least 30 rebel
    commanders and fighters from these moderate factions have been
    assassinated, their colleagues said…..
    Caught between the regime and extremists, many moderate opposition
    figures are now choosing to flee, not fight. Rebel ranks in the south
    are hemorrhaging officers and rank-and-file fighters, many of them
    leaving for Europe, said a Southern Front commander, a defector from the
    Syrian army who goes by the nom de guerre Lt. Col. Najm. “Each day I
    ask about someone, they tell me, ‘He’s gone,’ ” Col. Najm said.
    “Fighters on the front lines are quitting and migrating, too.”
    …..

    Many southern Syrians are no longer convinced. The exodus of
    mainstream rebels to Europe has left warlords, profiteers and Islamic
    extremists with more control, according to residents, activists and
    rebel commanders.

    “They sold out the revolution. It is all gangs
    now,” said Umm Abdou, a native of Daraa, who with her three sons is
    waiting in Jordan to join her husband in Germany.”

  • Tony #liberal

    Utterly BS

  • Radford_NG

    Any number of maps (including from the BBC) show that about a quarter of Syria—-in a north/south western strip—-is controlled by the Arab Socialist Republic of Syria and its allies.

    At the northern end,around the cities,are various rebel groups (and also some in the south):as listed above.The substantial northern group is the al-nasra front (once allied to the Islamic S.S.(daesh);now allied to al-qaeda).In the western hills along the boarder are Turkman tribes supporting Turkey (which is supporting the Islamic S.S.) and which is is in turn supported by NATO and the EU—-and to which [Turkey] large amounts of our money has just been promised (see news channels) and which is demanding accelerated membership of the EU.

  • Steven Barr

    After we’ve found the moderate Syrian rebels why not look for the vegetarian tigers, the cuddly piranhas and the tree dwelling hippos?

  • hyufd

    Indeed while Assad may be able to hold Shiite Syria the majority of the nation is Sunni + only rebels can win there

    • FkDahl

      So is the majority of SAA…Sunni….

  • Thaddeus lovelock

    Seventy thousand moderates is not a lot out of a country of 22 million people. But it is something. I wonder if they will turn on each other once Assad has been defeated ?. The Arab world seems very fractious.

  • Steve Ennever

    ‘Here’s what WE know about them’ – No, no, nooo… my dear, Lister.
    Here’s what you wish us to believe you know about them.
    Unfortunately for you, the internet is rife with information.
    And as soon as any poor soul tries to use the term ‘moderate’ they lose any sense of credibility.

  • Taste McGovern

    oh, for F’s sake, traditionally, UK does not support democracy, in the ME, unless you’re a puppet, this has been the case for hundreds of years, so, it’s no different now, it’s quite obvious by what’s happened already and whats happening now, democracy and stability, and, more importantly ‘Nationalist’ countries are a no no. this is why Syria being targeted, this is why the propaganda is strong. UK government after Assad, not ISIS. Radical Islam is a favoured by UK, and also instability, divide and rule, no different with Syria. Pull your tired imperialist/colonial heads out of your arses, it’s over, and grow up children…

  • objective_analyst

    Saudi Arabia is now the standard bearer of moderation? Simon Collins just so you know Ahrar Alsham is a salaphi jistadist group formed by AlQaida leaders. Also, Nusrah front, Qaeda’s branch in Syria also fights ISIS so, should the world accept it as moderate? is not it just easier to help Assad, who all the minorities in Syria see as the lesser evil and are living under his rule, to wipe these groups off? Is not it easier to pressure Turkey, Saudi, and Qatar to just stop funding and arming these groups?

    • Cyril Sneer

      “Is not it easier to pressure Turkey, Saudi, and Qatar to just stop funding and arming these groups?”

      Yes but this is not what America wants so it doesn’t happen.

  • Marvin

    The West is arming and funding people without knowing where their allegiance really stands. I cannot understand why the western powers can spend billions bombing the sand dunes of Iraq and Syria, which is ok, but for all combined to put boots on the ground is “TABOO” Maybe they don’t want this to end.

    • Harryagain

      Well Muslims killing one another is a good thing.
      And they all go the paradise too!
      Just keep clear until they’ve finished and then pick up the debris.
      And definitely don’t let ANY come here.

  • Badger

    There are no moderates and your complicated ways of branding people as moderates aint convincing me.

  • Tony

    Charles Lister is a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center and a Senior Consultant to The Shaikh Group.

    This says it all really.

    • Clive

      As I said below, members of the Brookings Doa Center include Madeleine Albright and Zbigniew Brzezinski – a former US Secretary of State and a former US National Security Advisor

      • Tony

        What’s your point?

      • Mr B J Mann

        Didn’t Albright back illegal regime change in the Ukraine and support J!hadis and Mujahadeen in the Balkans.

        Doesn’t she also insist on the international community intervening when a state can’t protect its citizens?

        Considering the US can’t protect its own people from its own police: shouldn’t

      • new_number_2

        “Brzezinski, known for his hardline policies on the Soviet Union, initiated in 1979 a campaign supporting mujaheddin in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which was run by Pakistani security services with financial support from the Central Intelligence Agency and Britain’s MI6.[43] This policy had the explicit aim of promoting radical Islamist and anti-Communist forces.”

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zbigniew_Brzezinski#Afghanistan

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