The latest announcement of a broad coalition of rebel groups, calling itself the Revolutionary Command Council, is a clear sign of rising Islamist influence in opposition-controlled northern Syria – particularly that of Salafist group Ahrar al-Sham.

The RCC’s formation was announced over recent days during a news conference in Gaziantep, Turkey, and with the issuing of statements outlining the group’s goals. At first glance, it is an interesting merger of militias fighting under two different banners: the mainstream Free Syrian Army and the Islamic Front, a conservative, largely Salafist alliance.

Notably, the new alliance excludes the Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and some hard-line Islamist groups active in the north, such as Nusra’s close ally Jund al-Aqsa. […]