Ahmed al-Jarba, the leader of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), has called for the unification of all rebel and opposition groups fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad regime, citing that the "rules of the game has changed." Now into the 29th month of bloody fighting, the call for unification is actually the best move for all parties involved in opposing al-Assad, including uncertain nations such as the United States. If al-Jarba's plan comes to fruition, three strategic benefits will occur. The rebels will be able to coordinate large-scale offensives. Fringe Islamic groups will be isolated from the main opposition contingency, legitimizing the rebels. On-the-fence actors and countries could enter or support the conflict and finally remove Assad.
The first benefit is also the first step. Al-Jarba's plan involves unifying the army under the command structure of the Free Syrian Army (FSA). Shortly after the plan was announced, the FSA's Chief of Staff Salim Idris traveled to the coastal region of Latakia, where loosely-organized rebel groups have made substantial territorial gains.
By increasing coordination with the rebels in Latakia, the FSA has already streamlined its campaign. However, if the rebels were able to not just coordinate, but also share a centralized command structure, operations would be much smoother. Changing a plethora of rebel groups into one large organized military force would create a larger and deadlier foe for al-Assad's fearsome army. The territorial gains today would pale in comparison to an organized army's system of linked strongholds.
Additionally, the move would marginalize Islamic radical groups, which have been a major problem for a while. Many of the Al-Qaeda backed groups have completely ignored Idris's command and the rest of the FSA and SNC for that matter. There have been reports of the Islamic rebels fighting with moderate FSA-friendly rebels and murders of non-combatants. Given their track record, these Islamist rebels aren't going to unify, and that's for the better. If the moderate rebels that make up the majority of the opposition can unite, the Al-Qaeda linked Islamists will be a separate minority, paving the way for further action.
Finally, for countries such as the United States, it's been difficult to pledge support or even know what's happening on the ground given the diversity of rebel groups. While many countries don't support al-Assad, it's difficult to jump into the conflict in any capacity. The government's recent deployment of heavilyarmed Hezbollah fighters has emphasized the FSA's need for supplies, but there's a lack of accountability and legitimacy which undermines attempts at aid. If the rebels unified and proved to be a legitimate force, however, then they could gather more support. The recent assessment by the CIA making Syria the number one priority means that the U.S. has to change policy on Syria. Unification is the answer to all these problems.
Whether this works is ultimately up to the will of the rebel groups. It probably won't be easy, and it probably won't be fast. However, al-Jarba has the best plan, and it's about time.