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

    Ethiopia's Anti-terrorism Law: Security or Silencing Dissent?

    Yonatan Tesfaye was detained in December 2015 on charges under Ethiopia's Anti-Terrorism Proclamation; eleven statements from his Facebook page were used as evidence

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora