BEIRUT, Lebanon — Several dozen rebel groups in southern Syria have broken with the main political opposition group in exile, a local commander said in a video posted Wednesday, dealing a potential new setback to Western efforts to unify moderates battling President Bashar Assad's regime.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition, the political arm of the Free Syrian Army rebel group, has long struggled to win respect and recognition from the fighters. It is widely seen as cut off from events on the ground and ineffective in funneling aid and weapons to the rebels.
In the video, a rebel in military fatigues read a statement with about two dozen fighters standing behind him, some holding a banner with FSA emblems.
FSA spokesman Louay Mikdad told the Associated Press that the video is authentic and identified the man speaking as a captain in one of the rebel groups, Anwar al-Sunna, which posted the video.
The rebel in the video said political opposition leaders have failed to represent those trying to bring down Assad.
"We announce that we withdraw our recognition from any political group that claims to represent us, first among them the Coalition and its leadership, which have relinquished the principles of the homeland and the revolution," he said.
He named 66 groups that he said support his statement. The man suggested rebel groups would reorganize, saying that "we are unifying the forces of the revolution militarily and politically," but did not explain further.
Mikdad said the video should serve as a wakeup call to the Coalition. "We respect what they (the rebels) are saying," he said. "We think our brothers in the Coalition … should listen to the people inside and they should open a direct dialogue with them."