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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid