News / Middle East

    Syrians Postpone Selection of Opposition Prime Minister

    Syria opposition still not settled on when and how to establish a transitional government to replace Assad regime.

    Progress in rebel efforts to create alternative government has been stalled by some in Syrian National Coalition who believe another route to peace may be achieved by UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, shown here with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Mouallem. on September 13, 2012.  (AP)Progress in rebel efforts to create alternative government has been stalled by some in Syrian National Coalition who believe another route to peace may be achieved by UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, shown here with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Mouallem. on September 13, 2012. (AP)
    x
    Progress in rebel efforts to create alternative government has been stalled by some in Syrian National Coalition who believe another route to peace may be achieved by UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, shown here with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Mouallem. on September 13, 2012.  (AP)
    Progress in rebel efforts to create alternative government has been stalled by some in Syrian National Coalition who believe another route to peace may be achieved by UN-Arab League special envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi, shown here with Syria’s foreign minister, Walid Mouallem. on September 13, 2012. (AP)
    David Arnold
    The Syrian opposition has once again postponed choosing a prime minister to lead a provisional government that would replace the 42-year-old regime headed by incumbent president, Bashar al-Assad.
     
    Officials said the Syrian National Coalition postponed the vote, scheduled for Tuesday, because opposition factions in Qatar and Turkey were still debating the timing of creating a transitional administration.
     
    “We postponed the meeting because we need more discussion,” the coalition’s spokesman, Walid al-Bunni, told VOA Monday. He said the election to choose a prime minister will now be held no later than March 20. 
     
    The major point of disagreement is whether to choose a new government now or wait to see if U.N. negotiations can offer a political solution. “That’s the main problem,” Bunni said.
     
    Faction hopes for UN negotiation
     
    Some opposition leaders have argued that a quick decision was needed to prevent the two-year civil war from turning Syria into a failed state with separate regions ruled by rival military factions. Other opposition factions have been looking for a political solution to come from the negotiations led by the U.N.-Arab League envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi.
     
    The prospect of a political solution to the civil war has been an ongoing undercurrent in opposition politics. The chairman of the opposition coalition, Moaz Al-Khatib, made his own unilateral offer to negotiate with the Assad regime in January, but he was criticized by other coalition leaders.
     
    Brahimi, who has shuttled between Damascus, Moscow and other world capitals pushing for a negotiated settlement over the past six months, praised Khatib’s initiative.
     
    However, previous efforts to draw Assad into negotiations have failed. Assad has agreed to three ceasefires -- two with the U.N. and one with the Arab League -- but no ceasefire has resulted.
     
    The elephant in the room that nobody talks about is who’s going to fund it?
    The opposition inside Syria has been highly critical of the U.N. efforts, claiming that the failed ceasefires have only given the regime more time to prosecute the war with air and armored attacks on rebel-held regions. The U.N. estimates the past two years of fighting have killed more than 70,000, forced about a million refugees into neighboring countries and left more than 2 million displaced inside Syria.
     
    Follow the money
     
    Despite their differences with the U.N. effort and each other, all the Syrian opposition factions insist that any transitional government and its prime minister will need major financial backing if it is to succeed.
     
    “The elephant in the room that nobody talks about is who’s going to fund it,” said Amr al-Azm, a professor of Middle East history in Ohio who stays in close touch with the opposition leadership in his native Syria.
     
    “You put a government together and it’s got to have money,” says Azm. “Whoever gets selected as the next government body entity, are they going to have access to proper funds or not? If they don’t have access to those funds, then it’s nonsense.”
     
    Funding questions also stymied the first of Syria’s umbrella of opposition forces, the Syrian National Council. The Council’s leaders were reluctant to form an opposition government unless they had major support from the international community.
     
    Recently, Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been singled out as potential financial backers for a replacement government in Damascus.
     
    The Council is now part of the overall Syrian National Coalition and has close ties to Turkey. The link to Qatar, according to Azm, is through the Coalition’s secretary-general, Mustafa Sabbagh.
     
    His (Khatib's) constituency is actually outside on the ground which makes him quite valuable
    “And then you have Moaz al-Khatib floating on top of all of that, with no real constituency within the coalition,” Azm said. As a Damascus cleric who left Syria just over a year ago, Khatib, now the Coalition’s chairman, remains a major force in the coalition.
     
    “His constituency is actually outside on the ground which makes him quite valuable,” Azm says of Khatib’s support from the demonstrators who initiated the protests for reform that turned into an armed rebellion.
     
    Names being discussed for prime minister
     
    Coalition rules prohibit members from running for prime minister, but several potential candidates began campaigning when a front-runner, Syria’s former foreign minister, Riad Hijab, withdrew from the race.
     
    Salem al-Moslet, 55, is one of three potential candidates for prime minister from among the old Syria National Council grouping. Moslet served as the council’s leader of Syria’s tribal groups. The other two Council candidates are Burhan Ghalioun and Osama Al-Qadi.
     
    Ghalioun, now a sociology professor at the University of Paris, was a president of the Council until forced to resign in a dispute with other Council factions.
     
    Qadi, a native of Aleppo, is now president of Concordia College of Canada and founded a non-profit think tank in Washington, D.C.

    You May Like

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Anonymous
    March 12, 2013 7:59 PM
    UN Negotiations with Bashar al Assad??? He is a criminal, who has killed thousands of Syrians with aerial bombardments, tanks, and snipers. There should be no dealing with Bashar al Assad, he should be arrested and held accountable to the New Syrian judicial system which would likely serve him several thousand death penalties for the thousands and thousands he has killed.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    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 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 Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora