Syrian Opposition Unite
After a week of internal squabbling the Syrian opposition have formed a new coalition in Doha.
Sunday, the closing day of a week-long Syrian opposition conference held in Doha, saw the formation of a new opposition group: the Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. The decision was preceded by a scramble for seats in the new bloc proposed by opposition stalwart Riad Seif. The members of the coalition elected Islamic preacher Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib president. Seif, along with female activist Suheir Atassi, were elected vice-presidents. Al-Khatib is considered a moderate; many are hoping he will reign in the extremist elements within the opposition. The preacher was previously an imam at Damascus’ historic Umayyad mosque.
The plan was propelled forward by an increasingly impatient US government after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed frustration with the previous opposition group, the Syrian National Council (SNC). The new seating arrangement will see the SNC reduced to 22 chairs in a 60-member coalition. The coalition is intended to have a more broad-based appeal among the opposition, including military officers and provincial leaders of rebel-held areas. The make-up of the SNC was largely dominated by exiled opposition figures. The coalition is already being touted as a potential Syrian transitional government.
The US is promising to bolster its support—aid and resources—for the new opposition grouping. The SNC’s leader, Abdelbaset Sieda, is skeptical that foreign aid will come after months of stalemated war backed only by strong words and no action from the international community.
The coalition was met with the swift arrival of the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers, Ahmet Davutoglu and Hamad bin Jassim, at the conference. The US was also quick to congratulate the opposition on the formation of the National Coalition. Other foreign nations, including Britain and France, have pledged greater financial support for the rebels. The response from Damascus was rather less cheery—instead derisive—dismissing any attempts by the opposition to overthrow the government as “political folly,” according to Syrian Information Minister Omran Al-Zoubi.