Tuesday, September 4, 2012
The Idlib Revolutionary Council’s Dispute with the Muslim Brotherhood
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood’s tendency to fund rebel groups based on ideological affinity has caused resentment among rebel groups that do not benefit from the Brotherhood’s largesse. In Idlib province, the Idlib Revolutionary Council and its military wing, the Shuhada Idlib Brigade, have assumed a lead role in the quarrel with the Brotherhood.
The dispute began in early July when Ahmed Sid Yusuf, a member of both the Syrian National Council and the Muslim Brotherhood, held a meeting in Istanbul to discuss the distribution of funds in Idlib province. According to the Shuhada Idlib account of the meeting, opposition activist Tarif Saeed Issa gave a financial report, stating that €642,000 had been distributed from the beginning of March through early June. The Shuhada Idlib envoys grew upset upon learning that €311,000 had been distributed to the Tawhid Brigade and other units in the Idlib countryside while their group had only received €9,000. During the ensuing argument, the Shuhada Idlib Brigade representatives left the meeting (or were thrown out).
In mid-July, the Shuhada Idlib Brigade and the Idlib Revolutionary Council organized their own meeting in Antioch, Turkey which included representatives from associated rebel groups and political activists. The statement released following the meeting called on rebel financiers to recognize that 2/3 of rebel groups in Idlib province were represented at their meeting, and therefore 2/3 of the external funds going into the province should be distributed through the Idlib Revolutionary Council network, and identified Abu Mohamed Battal from the council’s External Executive Office as the point of contact for potential funders. (The 2/3 figure given by the statement cannot be verified and important Idlib province rebel groups did not attend the meeting).
On August 28, the Shuhada Idlib Brigade and the Idlib Revolutionary Council held a follow-up meeting in the Rihaniyya refugee camp near the Turkish city of Antakya. The statement released after the meeting demonstrated that the problems identified at the first meeting have not been resolved. They again called on the Muslim Brotherhood and the national council to distribute funds according to the relative size of the group, not ideological affinity.
There are two takeaways from this. First, the Muslim Brotherhood has not changed its funding policies, alienating many powerful rebel and opposition groups. Second, the fact that important groups such as the Idlib Revolutionary Council are still calling on the Brotherhood to change its distribution policy implies that the Brotherhood remains an important source of overall funds for the Syrian rebels.