Politics 3

Syrian Opposition’s Getting Organized

A Syrian living in Turkey shouts slogans during protest against government of Syria's President Assad in front of Syrian consulate in Istanbul

Leaders of various Syrian opposition groups have been sequestered in Qatar, along with Arab League envoys while the United States and the United Kingdom keep a close eye on things. Well, they’re coming out of it more organized, and have elected themselves a new leader to unify the disparate groups.

By no means is this an indication that the violence will end anytime soon, or that their new leader is even effective, but the various groups are on board and have agreed that this new bloc will represent the entirety of the rebellion.

Trouble formed when the Syrian National Council bristled at any attempt to “undermine” the revolution, i.e., any attempt to undermine what they believed was their rightful place at the head of said revolution. It became clear after the United States, the United Kingdom, the Arab League and just about every Syrian opposition group in Qatar criticized them for being made largely of long-time exiles and had no direct connection to any rebel fighters on the ground.

Eventually the SNC cracked, and the opposition council agreed to form a new coalition with intent to form a provisional government after “gaining international recognition.”

Already, the Arab League declared the coalition legitimate and urged more opposition groups to join the coalition. Also, the Gulf Cooperation Council’s six member states have recognized the coalition. It’s unknown what the United States and United Kingdom will do, but most believe they will follow suit once regional governments have solidified support.

The bloc is now called the “National Coalition of Forces of the Syrian Revolution and Opposition.” For the record, it’s not much different of a title in its original Arabic. They should probably find a way to trim that down.

Moaz al-Kathib, a moderate activist Imam from Damascus, was elected its leader. A former member of Syrian parliament was elected vice president, as was Suheir Atassi, the country’s leading female secular feminist activist.

The list of countries that have officially recognized the council are: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and others — but those are the biggest and closest. This is as a result of the Arab League’s recognition, as they are all members.

What’s interesting is that Lebanon, largely considered a vassal state to Syria and had Syrian troops within their borders (even after Syria claimed they were gone), will now be on the hook for recognizing the rebellion against their parent state’s regime. Lebanon’s been slowly drifting away from Syrian control, but by no means had ties been completely cut.

The only other nations bordering Syria that haven’t officially recognized the coalition — and stay tuned on that — are Turkey and Israel. Obviously, they are no friends to Bashar al-Assad. Which means, aside from their ports on the Mediterranean Sea and possibly forcing their way through Lebanon, the Syrian government will not be able to leave their borders.

Time will tell how this goes, but the unity deal appears to have worked out with the rebels pleased and the long-standing exiles who left the country years ago tempering their expectations of a rise to power.

Question: Do you think this unity coalition will hold?