News / Middle East

Syrian Opposition in Turmoil as Khatib Quits, Hitto Rejected

Syrian opposition chairman Sheikh Mouaz Al-Khatib (center, left) chats with the Coalition’s newly elected interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto (center right).Syrian opposition chairman Sheikh Mouaz Al-Khatib (center, left) chats with the Coalition’s newly elected interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto (center right).
x
Syrian opposition chairman Sheikh Mouaz Al-Khatib (center, left) chats with the Coalition’s newly elected interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto (center right).
Syrian opposition chairman Sheikh Mouaz Al-Khatib (center, left) chats with the Coalition’s newly elected interim prime minister, Ghassan Hitto (center right).
Syria's opposition movement was in disarray Sunday, as the head of the main exiled opposition group resigned, and rebels inside the country rejected the group's appointment of an interim prime minister. 
 
Syrian National Coalition leader Mouaz al-Khatib announced his resignation on his Facebook page. He complained that the international community has not done enough to help the Syrian people defend themselves from the forces of President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting a two-year rebellion against his autocratic rule. 
 
In his statement, Khatib said he is keeping his promise to resign if members of his coalition crossed certain "red lines." He did not say what those are. Khatib had objected to last week's coalition appointment of American-educated businessman Ghassan Hitto as an interim prime minister for rebel-held parts of Syria. 
 
Hitto's appointment at an opposition meeting in Istanbul weakened Khatib's authority as coalition chief. 
 
Rebels defiant
 
The opposition's turmoil deepened, with a rebel spokesman inside Syria saying the mainstream Free Syrian Army refuses to recognize Hitto as prime minister. Louay Almokdad told Western news agencies that Hitto was not properly elected because there was no consensus on his candidacy.  
 
Other rebels have said they do not need a prime minister because they already are governing areas under their control. 
 
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he was sorry to hear of Khatib's resignation. But, speaking in Baghdad Sunday, the top U.S. diplomat said the Syrian opposition is "bigger than one person" and leadership changes within it are "almost inevitable." Kerry said Washington has worked closely with Hitto in the delivery of aid to Syria and has confidence in his abilities. 
 
Hitto received a majority 35 votes out of 48 cast at last Tuesday's coalition meeting. But several prominent dissidents boycotted the vote, accusing Hitto of being a pawn of Syria's Muslim Brotherhood and outside powers such as Qatar, which welcomed his election. 
 
Moderate record
 
Khatib, a moderate Islamist, had led the coalition since November, when the exiled movement restructured itself to try to present a more united front to its Western and Arab backers. 
 
He fled Syria last year after winning the respect of many Syrians for serving as the preacher of Damascus' Umayyad Mosque and opposing Assad's rule, despite being jailed several times. 
 
Earlier this year, Khatib offered a dialogue with Syrian officials in return for the mass release of opposition detainees, angering coalition members who insist on Mr. Assad's ouster before any talks. Damascus ignored the proposal. 
 
In his Facebook message, Khatib said his resignation will enable him to support the Syrian revolution with a "freedom that is not available inside the official institutions." 
 
Arab League awaits
 
Arab diplomats said Sunday the Arab League had invited Khatib and Hitto to represent Syria at a two-day summit in the Qatari capital, Doha, beginning Tuesday. It is not clear which Syrian opposition figures will attend. The Arab League suspended the Assad government's membership in the bloc in 2011, and most members have called for his ouster. 
 
Carnegie Middle East Center director Paul Salem said the Syrian opposition has been plagued by infighting since the start of the anti-Assad revolt in 2011. "The opposition has been very disunited, not presenting a convincing front either to those fighting inside Syria or to the regional or international community which would want to help them." 
 
In one positive development for the opposition, some members of President Assad's minority Alawite sect gathered in Cairo on Sunday to express support for the rebellion and distance themselves from his government. Syrian activists have long accused Assad of scaring Alawites into believing they face slaughter by majority Sunni rebels if his government falls. 
 
Rebel gains in south
 
In the latest fighting in Syria, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said rebels have seized a 25-kilometer strip of land near Syria's southern border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The group said the rebels captured several military checkpoints in the strategic region in recent days, further weakening Mr. Assad's control. 
 
Israel said its forces in the Golan returned fire at a Syrian position on Sunday. It was not clear if Syrian troops or rebels triggered the Israeli response. Israeli troops have come under fire from Syrian territory several times in recent weeks, prompting Israel to warn that it will hold the Syrian government accountable for any breaches of a decades-old cease-fire between the two longtime enemies.
 
Elizabeth Arrott in Cairo contributed to this report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MUSTAFA from: PAKISTAN
March 24, 2013 10:40 PM
Very sad affairs. ALL sponsors of syrian peoples painful life must learn that this opposition is hungry of power as to enjoy their life at the cost of common syrian. They do not have plan or even thinking to serve syrian peoples. Those who wants to change the regime must know the facts that this opposition can create more and more problems to common people with the funding of Saudi arabia, Qatar and Turkey. The weapons from West will be used to increase mess of common people.

by: Dr. Dorathea Ludlum from: EUC
March 24, 2013 4:06 PM
We have known for a considerable time by now that the whole orchestration of the "Syrian Opposition" has been a facade of the Muslim Brotherhood - including the affiliation with Al Qaeda and Al Nusra and Hamas. What is new to us is the extent to which the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood has been commandeering international food donations from Europe and selling it at cut throat prices to the ordinary Egyptian citizens... using starvation as a tool of coercion to cement their permanent political hold on power. if this is not revoltingly cruel, it is quite expected of this squalid terrorist movement.
In Response

by: Suleiman Hamdi from: Lebanon
March 24, 2013 6:12 PM
How does Hizbullah differ from the Muslim Brotherhood ?? both are "squalid terrorist movements" yet the EU has never managed to designate Hizbullah a terrorist entity... how come?? they are destroying my country!! - I would argue that the Hizbullah is far more malignant than the Muslim Brotherhood.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More