News

Syrian Opposition Needs Unity But Continues to Splinter

Nofal Al Dawalibi (l), son of former Syrian PM, speaks to journalists before a news conference to unveil a plan to form Syrian interim government in Paris, France, April 26, 2012.
Nofal Al Dawalibi (l), son of former Syrian PM, speaks to journalists before a news conference to unveil a plan to form Syrian interim government in Paris, France, April 26, 2012.

As violence continues in Syria, and the United Nations struggles to get its truce observers into place, the Syrian opposition is splintering into even more factions.

Syrian forces continue to shell opposition strongholds.  The opposition refuses to back down.  And civilians continue to bear the brunt of the violence.

But in the far calmer surroundings of Paris, another Syrian opposition group was born last week, with plans to form a government-in-exile.  It claims to have the support of opposition fighters and therefore to be "the legitimate representative of the Syrian people."  

That is a phrase much used in this conflict.  At a meeting in Istanbul last month, the international organization the Friends of Syria declared a different group, the Syrian National Council, “a” legitimate representative of the Syrian people.  The group’s leaders say that means they are “the” legitimate representative.

Syria-watcher Chris Doyle, who has hosted various Syrian opposition figures at his London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding, is concerned about such competing claims.

“I think it’s really important to emphasize that just as the regime has no legitimacy and never did, the only way a Syrian movement can have legitimacy should be by the endorsement of the Syrian people through a ballot box,” he said.

Doyle says it is not realistic to expect the varied Syrian groups to unite under one political banner.  Rather, he suggests a loose coalition sharing only the goal of ousting President Bashar al-Assad.

But the president continues to have considerable support among some groups in Syria.  Former senior British and United Nations official Mark Malloch-Brown, now with FTI Consulting, says that makes it particularly important for the Syrian opposition to come together.

“The opposition doesn’t have the luxury, and shouldn’t allow itself to be irresponsible enough, to remain permanently divided," he said. "There needs to be an opposition negotiating platform.  And somehow or other these groups have to show the statesmanship to come together in some way to agree on terms.”

There are few signs of that so far.  And that may make it more difficult for the international community to convince Assad supporters inside Syria to change their allegiance.

“If they want a stake in the future political arrangements of the country, Assad needs to be jettisoned," said Malloch-Brown. "And so I think you will see tensions develop between the broader regime establishment and the Assad family.”

Malloch-Brown says making that happen will require help from Assad’s key foreign supporters, particularly Russia - help he says may eventually come if efforts to start negotiations fail - and as a last resort to avoid Western military intervention.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices
. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs