Salim Idris is the chief of staff of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), the command structure of the armed wing of the Syrian opposition, the Free Syrian Army. A former general in the Syrian army, Idris defected in July 2012.
Idris was elected to his current position during a December 2012 meeting of over 250 rebel leaders in Antalya, Turkey, at which the SMC was established. Western and Arab sponsors of the rebel opposition began pushing for the formation of the 30-member council (also referred to as the Supreme Military Command) following the November 2012 Doha Conference. The Doha Conference established the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, which superseded the Syrian National Council as the primary external political opposition group. The SMC was intended to forge a more unified command structure to coordinate the military operations of largely disparate rebel forces on the ground in Syria and enable external donors to have greater confidence in where their funds were directed.
Idris’s influence is largely dependent on the financial support from Western and Gulf donors that he channels to SMC member brigades in the field. He is seen as a moderate and has been generally well received in the West, and he has said that he and the other members of the SMC are committed to not coordinating with jihadist forces in the field or providing them with arms. For this reason, when the United States decided to provide military aid to Syrian rebels in June 2013, Idris and the SMC were identified as the principal conduits through which military support would be sent in an effort to prevent weapons from reaching jihadist groups.
Idris received a PhD and military training in what was then East Germany and taught at the Syrian Academy of Military Engineering near Aleppo before his defection.