Syrian opposition backtracks on claims it was 'infiltrated' by Assad regime after infighting

Syrian opposition backtracks on claims it was 'infiltrated' by Assad regime after infighting
The opposition Syrian National Coalition has backtracked on a previous statement claiming that some members were secretly working for the Assad regime, amid continued internal divisions.
2 min read
22 April, 2022
The opposition Syrian National Coalition, headed by Salem al-Meslet (left), has been beset by in-fighting [Getty]

The opposition Syrian National Coalition (SNC) earlier this week denied accusations made by a senior official that other members of secretly working for Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Mohieddin Harmoush, the interior minister of the SNC's self-proclaimed Syrian Interim Government, said last month that the regime had "infiltrated" the opposition body, saying that he had "confirmed information" that some members of the the body had ties to the regime.

The SNC has been beset by internal divisions which have been exacerbated recently. Fourteen members were expelled earlier this month on the grounds that the body needed to be "reformed".

The opposition convened an emergency press conference on Tuesday, which Harmoush attended to say that his statements "were not supported by enough proof and evidence", according to the Arabic news website Arabi 21.

"After I received information from exclusive sources about two people from the SNC who had ties to the regime, I was asked to follow up and gather proof and evidence," Harmoush said at the conference.

"After following up, it turned out that the information I had received about a relationship between [SNC members] and the regime was not supported by evidence, and therefore they were not true," Harmoush added, backtracking on his previous allegations.

However, Harmoush was criticised afterward by Mohammed Yassin Najjar, the leader of the National Action Movement for Syria, an opposition group recently expelled from the SNC due to the divisions.

He told Arabi 21 that Harmoush's statements about regime agents in the SNC were "strange" and questioned why the body had waited two weeks to deny them.

Najjar called for the group's Interim Government to resign over the affair, saying an independent committee should be formed to investigate Harmoush's previous statements and accusing the SNC's leadership of trying to slander certain members.

Since June 2021, the SNC has been led by Salem al-Muslet, who also heads the Syrian Tribal Council and is seen as close to Saudi Arabia.

The umbrella group has little authority on the ground in opposition-held areas, where the hardline Islamist Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) has set up a "National Salvation Government" to rival its "Syrian Interim Government".