News / Middle East

US: Stronger Syrian Opposition Could Weaken Foreign Support for Assad

Members of the Syrian opposition chat with Nasser al-Qudwa, deputy to the Arab League and U.N. envoy to Syria, at the meeting of the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council, in Doha, Qatar, November 8, 2012.
Members of the Syrian opposition chat with Nasser al-Qudwa, deputy to the Arab League and U.N. envoy to Syria, at the meeting of the General Assembly of the Syrian National Council, in Doha, Qatar, November 8, 2012.
— Syrian opposition leaders opened talks in Qatar on Thursday aimed at creating a broader, more unified council of rebels and politicians fighting embattled president Bashar al-Assad. U.S. officials said stronger opposition leadership could help weaken foreign support for President Assad.

State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Syrian opposition leaders are having "serious and substantive" conversations in Doha and that the United States is "eager for a good outcome."

"We would like to see what the Syrian people would like to see and what they have been calling for, which is a political structure that is broadly representative of all of the groups and the regions of Syria, that is better connected to the situation on the ground," she said.

Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized the importance of these talks, saying the main opposition Syrian National Council, or SNC, "can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition" because "there has to be a representation of those who are on the front lines fighting and dying today to obtain their freedom."

Washington has grown increasingly frustrated by the SNC's failure to include more opposition leaders inside Syria, its personality-driven leadership struggles and its inability to attract a broader cross-section of Syrians, particularly minority Alawites and Kurds.

Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst with the Washington-based Cato Institute. She said, "Amongst many Syrians within the country, they look askance at the exiled Syrians as not having their 'skin in the game' [i.e. a vested interest], as not fighting on the front lines.

"And in some respects, I think that made America's backing of the SNC - even if it was tentative - a sort of kiss of death [causing ruin] further for the SNC. It is not very much respected," said Innocent.

Secretary Clinton's judgment that this "can not be an opposition represented by people who have many good attributes but have, in many instances, not been in Syria for 20, 30, 40 years" leads some in the SNC to say that the United States is trying to select new leadership for Syria's opposition.

State Department Spokeswoman Nuland said that is not what is happening in Doha.

"We are not inside the room where the Syrians are making these decisions. These decisions will be made by Syrians," said Nuland. "What we are doing - as are some 20 other countries who have representatives out in Doha observing - we are available for conversations with all groups, making ourselves open so that we can meet them and talk to them. But decisions have to be made by Syrians."

Among the plans under discussion in Doha is the creation of a group to coordinate the revolt's military campaign and later choose a temporary government. The SNC would receive about one-third of the seats in that new group.

Nuland said that properly representing all of Syria's ethnic groups in a unified opposition is critical to internal and external support.

"So that people inside Syria will feel comfortable with this group, that their own views will be represented, that they will be protected in a future Syria that this group would be working on, and so that those doubters in the international community who are still clinging to Assad will see that there is a better future," she added.

On three occasions, Russia and China have vetoed tougher United Nations action against President Assad.

Nuland said the international community is hoping for a new opposition leadership structure that better coordinates assistance to areas of Syria that are no longer under government control. This includes the non-lethal assistance being offered by the United States and more direct military support being offered by some Persian Gulf states.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid