West suspends aid for Islamist rebels in Syria, underlining their disillusionment with those forces opposed to President Bashar al-Assad

A spokesperson for the Free Syrian Army said the move was rushed and mistaken

Britain and America's decision to suspend deliveries of non-lethal aid to Islamist rebels operating in northern Syria came after fighters from the Islamic Front drove the Western-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) out of bases and warehouses contained American-supplied equipment in the north-western Syrian province of Idlib.

The significance of the British and American action is that it underlines their disillusionment with the Syrian rebels opposed to President Bashar al-Assad, whom they once lauded as the future rulers of Syria. Washington and London have been trying to target aid to groups opposed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the umbrella group for al-Qa'ida in Iraq and Syria, and the al-Nusra Front, another extreme jihadi Sunni military organisation.

In this case Britain and US are moving against the Islamic Front, an alliance of leading rebel groups including Ahrar al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Liwa al-Haq, Ansar al-Sham and the Kurdish Islamic Front, set up last month and with good relations with the al-Nusra Front. Its precise links to Saudi Arabia are unclear, but the Saudis have started to take a stronger leadership role in funding Syrian rebels since last summer, replacing Qatar which previously cooperated with Turkey in supporting the insurgency in Syria.

Saudi willingness to spend seemingly limitless funds and the creation of the Islamic Front has inevitably weakened the FSA's Supreme Military Council and the Western-backed National Coalition, and is likely to increase fragmentation and extremism among rebels inside and outside Syria.

Louay Meqdad, a spokesperson for the FSA, said the move by the US and Britain was rushed and mistaken. “We hope our friends will rethink and wait for a few days when things will be clearer,” he said.

American intelligence officials estimate that there are 1,200 rebel military units ranging from groups based on extended families to those able to field several thousand fighters. Although opposed to ISIL, the Islamic Front is avowedly Sunni and sectarian in its orientation and opposed to a political solution of the civil war.

An important development in recent weeks in Syria has been the divergence between Saudi and American policy aims as a result of Saudi frustration that President Obama did not launch a military attack on Syria as after pro-Assad forces apparently used chemical weapons on a mass scale in Damascus on 21 August. In practice, this means that the Washington does not want to see Mr Assad replaced in the short term and one senior former US diplomat has called for confidential talks with the government in Damascus on combating al-Qa'ida linked groups.

Saudi impatience with US policy was further exacerbated by the interim deal last month between a US-led delegation and Iran on limiting Iran's nuclear programme. But it is doubtful if Saudi Arabia can truly adopt and stick with a separate policy from the US in Syria in which it funds a Sunni army 40,000 to 50,000 strong that is hostile to both al-Qa'ida linked movements and to Mr Assad. Belief that these groups are essentially warlords on the Saudi payroll is unlikely to increase their appeal to Syrian nationalists or to jihadis.

Saudi Arabia might be able to keep the war going in Syria but neither the rebels nor Mr Assad can win a decisive victory. The Syrian Army has recently succeeded in clearing the main Damascus to Homs road and are advancing on the town of Yabrud which is a notorious rebel strongpoint to the west of the main road in foothills of the Qalamoun Mountains.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Arts and Entertainment
Ella Henderson's first studio album has gone straight to the top of the charts
music
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

Life and Style
fashion
News
Paul Nuttall, left, is seen as one of Ukip's key weapons in selling the party to the North of England
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand labelled 'left-wing commie scum' by Fox News
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC's Antiques Roadshow uncovers a TIE fighter pilot helmet from the 1977 Star Wars film, valuing it at £50,000
TV

TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow

News
people

Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'

Sport
Steven Caulker of QPR scores an own goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Queens Park Rangers and Liverpool
football
Arts and Entertainment
artKaren Wright tours the fair and wishes she had £11m to spare
News
i100
Life and Style
Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh been invited to take part in Women Fashion Power, a new exhibition that celebrates the way women's fashion has changed in relation to their growing power and equality over the past 150 years
fashionKirsty and Camila swap secrets about how to dress for success
Arts and Entertainment
Joy Division photographed around Waterloo Road, Stockport, near Strawberry Studios. The band are Bernard Sumner (guitar and keyboards), Stephen Morris (drums and percussion), Ian Curtis (vocals and occasional guitar), Peter Hook (bass guitar and backing vocals).
booksNew book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Operational Risk Manager - Asset Management

£60,000 - £80,000: Saxton Leigh: Our client is an leading Asset Manager based...

Year 5/6 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Permanent Year 6 TeacherThe job:This...

KS1 & KS2 Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: KS1+KS2 Teachers required ASAP for l...

Year 2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Year 2 Teacher The position is to wo...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past