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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid