Monday, November 12, 2012

Under pressure Syrian opposition as yet closes the ranks

Syrian anti-government groups struck a deal Sunday under intense US and international pressure to form a new opposition leadership that will include representatives from the country's disparate factions fighting to topple President Bashar Assad's regime.
The opposition has been deeply divided for months. The agreement, reached Sunday after more than a week of meetings in the Qatari capital of Doha and after an earlier US sponsored attempt to form a coalition failed,  will provide the outside world with a unified adress and will secure the continuation of international support and weapon deliveries.
Moaz al-Khatib
Moaz al-Khatib
The new leadership will be called the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. Islamic preacher Mouaz al-Khatib was elected president of the new coalition. Leading opposition figures Riad Seif and woman activist Suheir al-Atassi were elected vice presidents. Mustafa Sabbagh was voted the coalition's secretary-general. The body will in time form a government in exile. It  includes a military council that will coordinate military activities inside Syria.   
The new coalition will include activists from inside Syria as well as rebel commanders. The largest current opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which initially resisted the idea of a new leadership council, viewing it as a threat to its claim of primacy, gets 22 of the 60 seats in the new coalition.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner released a statement saying that America congratulates the opposition and looks "forward to supporting the National Coalition'.The US was instrumental in calling the meeting in Doha in the first place (see below). Other countries like Turkey, Qatar and France also uttered support. The mood in Syrian opposition circles was euphoric. To what extend the new body will be succesful in coordinating the opposition in practice remains to be seen.  

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