“The Formation of Syria’s National Coalition: An Assessment and Analysis,” By Amr al-Azm

Dr. Amr al-Azm

The Formation of Syria’s National Coalition: An Assessment and Analysis
By Amr al-Azm
Syria Comment – November 13, 2012

Following talks with a number of people who attended the Doha meeting of November 8-11, this is my assessment of the newly formed “National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition”. The coming together of the various Syrian opposition factions to finally strike a deal based on a 12 point agreement that would unify them under the umbrella of a newly created coalition body is remarkable considering the obstacles that had to be overcome. It faced intense opposition by some groups, particularly the SNC, which viewed this as a blatant effort to sideline them. Its members have fought for a leading role in the new group.

The original Riad Seif plan called for a council of 51 seats, a joint supreme military council, a judiciary commission and the formation of a provisional government selected from technocrats.

The new National Coalition that emerged in Doha on Monday ended up comprising of 65 seats. The SNC was earmarked 22 seats, the local administration councils were allocated 14 seats (one for each of the provinces in Syria), national figures were allocated initially 8 seats, eventually rising to 10 seats, with the balance (19 seats) to be distributed amongst the various remaining opposition groups and entities. The new coalition eventually managed late on Monday evening to eventually select Moaz Al-Khatib (a cleric and former imam of the Ummayad Mosque in Damascus) and two deputies (with a third still to be named by the Kurds) who are Riad Seif (both prominent dissidents and activists). A third position, which is until now poorly, understood is that of Secretary General, to be occupied by Mustapha Sabagh (head of the Syrian Business men Group). It is rumoured (by Al-Jazira and others) that the position would carry sweeping powers to rival even those of the head of the coalition Moaz Al-Khatib and seen as a principle demand by the Qataris.

Yet there are few details regarding the structure of the new coalition, or the mechanisms for decision-making within it. Nor is there a timeline for achieving its political goals in place. This all points to a clear lack of strategy and planning on the part of those who put this coalition together and those currently leading it. This in turn raises a number of serious challenges that need to be quickly addressed if this coalition is to have a chance of succeeding and not succumb to the same malaise that afflicted its much vaunted predecessor the SNC which is now reviled and delegitimized by many within the opposition and having lost credibility amongst its chief backers in the international community.

Immediate Challenges: The most immediate challenges are going to be those pertaining to strategic planning as well as transparency and legitimacy. These coupled with an ability to produce quick if not immediate tangible results to satisfy high expectations (often unrealistic) by the opposition.

  1. The most critical challenge of all is the clear lack of an agenda or any strategy and planning for the next steps by the new coalition and its leadership. This is further exacerbated by the lack of any real political experience at the international and domestic levels by those heading the coalition. This lack of experience and ability to strategize will very quickly affect the organizational and implementation abilities of the coalition. Left unaddressed this could easily lead to major errors, poor performance, mismanagement, dysfunctional decision making processes, ultimately degenerating into stasis and stagnation mirroring what happened to the SNC before them.
  2. The Doha meeting was expected to also produce a provisional government of technocrats. This did not happen and there are clearly a lot of reservations both within the SNC and the opposition at large for such a proposal. Yet the ability of the coalition to form such provisional technocrat government (relatively smoothly) will be taken as a critical sign by the international community of the measure of stability and maturity that the Syrian opposition has reached (or not!!!)
  3. The actual number of SNC members versus the officially stated figure of 23. Many of the names that appear on the list are known SNC members or belong to entities already represented in the SNC yet have been given independent seats separate from those belonging to the SNC. Whilst the figures fluctuate due to the fact that some may have already resigned from the SNC, it has been suggested that there are at least 10 names that are not listed with the SNC but are still members or represented within it. These include Riad Seif, Najib Ghadban, Mustapha Sabagh to name but a few. This discrepancy has already been noted by many and whilst there has been no major outcry as yet, that is more likely because people want to give the new coalition a chance. At the first sign of trouble however it will represent a soft underbelly on issues of transparency. Also makes for a poor start.
  4. The selection of representatives to fill the 14 seats of the Local Administration councils for the provinces is quickly proving to be controversial. Already there are voices being raised from within the provinces in Syria (the real people who are engaged in local administration) that they have not been consulted and that they object to many of those appointed. The selection was always going to be problematic but the lack of a clear and transparent mechanism is a serious problem that will have to be quickly addressed. Already there are accusations (unsubstantiated as yet) of cronyism profiteering and nepotism with the ink not even dry yet.
  5. There are prominent opposition entities inside and outside Syria such as the NCC (National Coordination Committee) that have yet to join in addition to any new entities or major defections that may emerge in the future for which no clear mechanisms or strategies for their inclusion appear to have been devised.

Suggested Responses: The following suggestions are made to help address the challenges raised above and are listed in order of priority rather than to reflect the above order of the challenges listed above.

  1. The first and most immediate response should be the bringing in of a team of professional consultants to assist and advise the leadership of the new council particularly on setting a agenda and matters strategy and planning. Ideally this team should have been in place to step in the minute the coalition was formed so that they could heat the ground running. Rapid demonstration of results is critical as there is a golden window right now that should be exploited to the maximum. Any errors will be quickly seized upon magnified and amplified. Its not too late yet but this should be a top priority. (you don’t want a re-run of some of those awkward meetings between Secretary Clinton and the SNC).
  2. A second priority is the need to quickly form the provisional technocrat government. All efforts should go into encouraging and helping/supporting the formation of this provisional government preferably before the meeting in Marrakesh. Whilst the Arab League and the GCC with perhaps one or two international countries such as France might be will to recognize the new coalition immediately, it is significant that the EU has chosen to be more circumspect opting to wait and see before formally committing. Given the challenges ahead that may be a wise choice.
  3. It is also critical that the issues of honesty and transparency highlighted above are addressed as quickly as possible. Whilst it is perfectly understandable that a significant amount of negotiations and horse-trading went on during the preliminary meetings prior to the announcements, it is essential that the outcome appears to be as honest and as transparent as possible. The glaring discrepancies mentioned above should not be discounted just because no one has yet objected aggressively. My suggestion is that the list is amended and relabeled to accurately reflect the true proportions. Those who wish to take up their seats in their new designation in the coalition should publicly resign from the SNC explaining why they have chosen to do so. I think if done quickly it will pass without much fuss. Failure to address this issue promptly will result in serious blowback. I sense a head of steam building already particularly from those on the ground inside in the provinces all you will need is a trigger. Also efforts should be made to encourage and, if need be, pressure the coalition to continue to work to be as inclusive as possible, again with a view to avoiding the errors of its predecessors.

In conclusion, this coalition will be given its honeymoon with the opposition in general and the internal opposition in particular. Its predecessor, the SNC, was given a honeymoon after all. But this will not last for long. The poor performance of the SNC and its causes are well known to most people. It will not take them long to conclude that due to the unfortunate overpopulation of SNC members in the new coalition, the virus that struck down the SNC has been transferred to the new coalition and that it is now stricken with the same malaise much to the embarrassment of all.

*Amr Al Azm is an associate professor of Middle East history and anthropology at Shawnee State University in Ohio.

Comments (256)


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1. Albo said:

I suggest we leave the heated exchange of the last post in its place.

About Al Azm. Well he listed a lot of caveats here.
As he said the European Union is still waiting before it recognize them. It remains to be seen if they are really united now and if they adequately represent Syrians. The first isn’t a given, the second is certainly not true.

About technocrats, the problem with them, as we saw in post crisis governments in Europe, is that people rarely trust technocrats, for bad, demagogic reasons or good.
So even more people would deny the coalition its popular legitimacy. This is probably why they haven’t formed it yet. As far as I’m concerned, as long as they don’t form a broader coalition in a more neutral country, I think their legitimacy is zilch.

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November 13th, 2012, 9:44 am

 

2. Philippe Magnan said:

What is the FSA leadership saying about the National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition? Will its leadership have a seat at the table?

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November 13th, 2012, 11:01 am

 

3. ann said:

At UN, Threats on Embassies in Syria Blamed on “Hacking,” Churkin Cites Benghazi

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, November 13 — After a reported threat against embassies in Damascus, Russia on November 12 proposed a draft press statement which would express grave concern the threats emanating from the Damascus military council of the Free Syrian Army and call on those who made them to repudiate the provocative statements.

The draft was blocked, by France, and a new “silence procedure” deadline was set for November 13 at noon.

An hour before that, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was asked, what about the press statement? He asked, which one? (There was also pending Friday a statement on Syria military action in the Golan — which Syria told Inner City Press was “orally approved” by the UN mission UNDOF.)

After Churkin asked, which one, Inner City Press specified, the threats against embassies to leave Damascus in 72 hours. Churkin replied that the response had been that the website with the threat had been hacked. He said he’s not sure of the technical details, but it may be that there are two competing groups.

Churkin mentioned other recent attacks on diplomatic premises, citing in particular the attack on the US facility in Benghazi in Libya.

[…]

http://www.innercitypress.com/syria1hack111312.html

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November 13th, 2012, 11:41 am

 

4. ann said:

Enemy inside the gates: Syria’s main foe is ‘foreign-sponsored terrorists’ – 13 November, 2012

http://rt.com/politics/syria-crisis-assad-russia-experts-597/

Syrian President Bashar Assad is not caught in a traditional civil war, but is rather struggling against an extra-state-sponsored war of terrorism to bring down his government, according to Russian experts.

Today, Western countries are implementing the primitive tool of ‘state-sponsored terrorism’ to influence the internal situation in foreign countries, argues Pavel Zolotarev, deputy director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Citing the situation in Syria, which has been engaged in a protracted conflict between a rebel opposition and pro-government forces, Zolotarev said that President Assad is not involved in what could be considered a “normal” civil war. Rather, the Syrian president is primarily fighting against foreign terrorists using foreign weapons, he told RT in a telephone interview.

“This is a very dangerous situation,” the analyst said, stressing that sovereign states have the right to change their leaders through “internal political movements and legitimate elections,” without fear of outside interference.

Zolotarev’s remarks closely mirror those of the Syrian president himself, who told RT in an interview in Damascus last week that the Syrian crisis “is about terrorism and the support coming from abroad to terrorists to destabilize Syria.

“This is our war,” the Assad stressed.

Earlier, Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said Russia is holding firm to the position that the Syrian crisis must be resolved by the Syrian people and without the use of force.

“The main criterion is the participants’ readiness to act by peaceful means without external interference, through dialogue and negotiations,” the diplomat stressed. “In compliance with the agreements recorded in the Geneva communique by the Action Group we will continue contacts with the Syrian government and all opposition groups based on a constructive approach.”

Meanwhile, Victoria Panova, associate professor of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, told RT that the Syrian opposition movement could not be considered a grassroots movement because the Syrian opposition “would not be able to do anything without the support of the West and some Arab countries.”

Panova personally believes that President Assad “has been a weaker leader than his father,” Hafez Assad, who served as president of Syria from 1971 to 2000, and this allowed a rebel opposition to not only assert itself, but to garner foreign support.

Most disturbing for Panova, however, is not the question as to when or if the Syrian government under Assad falls, but what power structure will fill the void.

“In the event that even greater civil unrest unfolds if Assad is deposed, the West would not be able to take sides in the unrest because it would have been responsible for putting the new regime in power,” she noted.

All of these conditions make for a potentially “volatile situation” in the event that Assad is forcibly ousted from power, she concluded.

[…]

http://rt.com/politics/syria-crisis-assad-russia-experts-597/

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November 13th, 2012, 11:47 am

 

5. ann said:

Despite rebel unity deal, Syria has enough firepower to fight – November 13, 2012

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/11/13/despite-rebel-unity-deal-syria-has-enough-firepower-to-fight/

“Syria has more than enough weapons for fighting the rebels,” said Igor Korotchenko, a retired colonel of Russia’s military general staff who is now editor of National Defense magazine. “As long as Bashar Assad has the money to pay his military, it will keep fighting.”

He said Syria has more than 1,000 tanks, along with a system of repair shops created during Soviet times and enough experienced personnel to service the weapons.

Analysts say it is difficult to come up with reliable figures on the Syrian air force and air defenses because of the extreme secrecy surrounding its military matters. Assad’s regime — its forces stretched thin on multiple fronts — has significantly increased its use of air power against Syrian rebels since the summer.

For now, government jets and helicopters are largely out of reach of the rebels’ arsenals, and Assad projects confidence at every turn. In an interview last week with Russia Today TV, Assad vowed to “live and die” in Syria, saying the conflict will never drive him into exile.

[…]

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2012/11/13/despite-rebel-unity-deal-syria-has-enough-firepower-to-fight/

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November 13th, 2012, 12:00 pm

 

6. sf94123 said:

Great work (challenges and recommendations)- Few questions :
Does the national coalition have any influence over rebels, warlords and jihadists in Syria?
How does the national coalition plan to end the killings “civil war” in Syria?
Are they waiting for the collapse of the current government or planning to negotiate with it?

The daily killings MUST be stopped first! Your thoughts please! Thank you.

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November 13th, 2012, 12:01 pm

 

7. Observer said:

I love it.

Here we go again with Majbali, the stick in his throat is getting bigger.

I was the first to admit that many old money families may have had their wealth in dubious ways.

Nevertheless, the confiscation never established that fact first.
Second, there was no recourse or discussion.
Third, there was no compensation if it was deemed a legitimate ownership.

So, Majbali, it seems that your hatred of old money has transcended generations and therefore the children are guilty of the deeds of the fathers.

With logic like yours the children of the Prethident should then receive the fate of Hamza Alkhatib?

Not in my book, they are not responsible for the deeds of the fathers. Stolen properties and moneys should be returned in a cout of law not simple arbitrary confiscation.

And again Majbali, I have posted before that the connected civil servants under the Ottoman empire acted in an oppressive manner because the system was oppressive. Members of many families did take advantadge of this situation and it is tyranny that did this to the Levant and this current example is another one of tyranny and will be the dustbin of history.

Again I have absolutely nothing against you and I will maintain that there is NO dialogue only complete destruction of the regime just as the dissolution of the Ottoman empire had to happen as it was rotten to the core. Good riddance to both and to all oppressive regimes. Include in this KSA and Israel and yes Iran and yes Thouria Alathad.

Now people call for dialogue when the knife is near the jugular

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November 13th, 2012, 12:26 pm

 

8. ann said:

5. sf94123 said: The daily killings MUST be stopped first! Your thoughts please! Thank you.

Welcome back San Fransisco. Here’s something maybe worth reading:

http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=16644&cp=all#comment-333725

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November 13th, 2012, 12:39 pm

 

9. Uzair8 said:

AJE blog about 2 hrs ago:

Iran will bring parties to the Syrian conflict to Tehran next week to participate in a “national dialogue,” Iranian media reported Tuesday, quoting a senior official.

The meeting will focus on promoting diplomacy and ending the violence in Syria, Iranian deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian told the Arabic-language Alalam channel.

He said the meeting would take place “next week” but did not give an exact date.

“Representatives of the Syrian government will hold talks with representatives from tribes, political parties, (political) minorities and the opposition,” he said, without elaborating.

[…]

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/topic/syria/iran-host-syria-national-dialogue-meeting

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November 13th, 2012, 12:50 pm

 

10. Amjad of Arabia said:

“As far as I’m concerned, as long as they don’t form a broader coalition in a more neutral country, I think their legitimacy is zilch.”

Oh gosh, so they’ve lost the backing of the Bong-literacy-is-like-so-overated-duuuude *snooooooort* demography. I’m sure that will be of concern to them.

Where does power come from? In advanced societies, it comes from strong institutions. It places like Syria where there aren’t any institutions worth the paper Albong wraps his weed in, it comes from the barrel of a gun. The political opposition can only exert influence on the armed groups if they can provide those groups with the means to carry on the war; weapons, supplies, medical aid, refuge for their families, uniforms, bullet proof armor, better weapons, and controlling the amount of retarded belly aching that goes on every time a shabiha khara has a bullet put through his head.

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November 13th, 2012, 1:12 pm

 

11. Albo said:

Your usual logorrhea notwhistanding, not having the backing of some 40% of the Syrian population should be of concern. Not that they really are intent on finding a solution, anyway, other than protracted civil war.

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November 13th, 2012, 1:23 pm

 

12. Albo said:

“literacy-is-like-so-overated-duuuude”

True story bro, overated.

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November 13th, 2012, 1:33 pm

 

13. Aldendeshe said:

Readers of my non-fiction book Epicenter may recall that Chapter Five predicts this future headline: “ISRAEL DISCOVERS MASSIVE RESERVES OF OIL, GAS.” That chapter is based on prophecies in Deuteronomy that specifically indicate that “oil” and “hidden treasures” under the sea and the sands will be found in Israel in the last days of history. It is also based on the prophecies of Ezekiel 38 & 39 indicating that Israel will be significantly prosperous in the last days, before a Russian-Iranian-Turkish alliance forms against her and seeks to destroy her.

__________________________________________________________________

The Christian Bible is proven right again:

Deuteronomy 33″:19. “They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand.”

What is usually found in the seas, and in the deserts in the Middle East? Gas and Oil! These are the hidden treasures and Israel is beginning to find these treasures.” 40,000 Syrians died and Syria is destroyed all because the Semite wants to send a pipeline to Europe via Turkey so they can cash in on that find. But the Bible also says that Israel will be destroyed around the time of this find, and that Syria will discover a mountain of gold under the Euphrate’s river, in the days after Israel (ZIONISM) is destroyed.

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November 13th, 2012, 2:32 pm

 

14. Visitor said:

Let’s throw some cold water on the love-u-4ever-can’t-live-without-u gang of noon-time sleep walkers.

France just announced recognition of the coalition as the ONE and ONLY legitimate representative of the Syrian PEOPLE. Britain and the rest of the EU will not be late in coming forth with similar recognition.

It goes without saying. The GCC and the AL have already done so.

The US will do likewise for sure.

We can now extrapolate easily by saying that Lavrov’s Geneva fig leaf is out in the wind with poor Lavrov left out in the Siberian cold freezing his balls off.

Kudos to Superpower Qatar.

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November 13th, 2012, 2:37 pm

 

15. MarigoldRan said:

At this point the Western powers and the Arabs would recognize a MULE as “the sole representative government of the Syrian nation.” Anything is better than the current regime. This goes to show just how unpopular the Assad regime has become.

The Iranians are trying to hold a “peace conference.” The Russians are spewing some nonsense about negotiation. They just don’t get it, do they?

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November 13th, 2012, 3:10 pm

 

16. 5 dancing shlomos said:

puppets recognize a puppet as the legitimate puppet.

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November 13th, 2012, 3:11 pm

 

17. Albo said:

9 months ago they recognized the SNC as one legitimate representative, now they call this coalition the only representative. They talk the talk but you’ll have to wait and see if they walk the walk.

Hollande has been threatening to intervene against your friends in Mali for months now, to no avail. He says he’ll just back an African force now, someday. Meanwhile his economy is going south, and his popularity polls are historically low. So don’t expect a second French Mandate anytime soon.

Funny oppositionists, talking tough but always pleading foreign forces to bail them out.

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November 13th, 2012, 3:12 pm

 

18. 5 dancing shlomos said:

president assad is unpopular with belly crawlers.

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November 13th, 2012, 3:13 pm

 

19. Tara said:

Now that France has recognized The coalition as the One and Only legitimate representative of the Syrian people, how quickly someone will take a motion at the General Assembly to strip Batta’s regime from legitimacy?

I really really want to know…I need a 45 days advanced notice to take a vacation. I want to go to NYC to say Bye Bye to Shushu and her father,….the brilliant and beautiful.

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November 13th, 2012, 3:14 pm

 

20. Citizen said:

Just as in the days of the classical Greek myths, hubris has its price.
Mr. David Cameron must guard , that the private death squad to assassinate him also by the law of the jungle!!!!
http://stratrisks.com/geostrat/9313
British SAS Training Rebels For Assassination of Assad

As British Prime Minister David Cameron prepares to use the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Syria to put an end to the massacres the Syrian regime is committing throughout the country, British Special Forces are training rebels to assassinate the Syrian president and his commanders, the London Daily Star reported.
UK government sources told the newspaper that British assassination squads are in Syria to train rebels on how to target President Bashar al-Assad and his warlords. Some troops hailing from Britain Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Section (SBS) and the Airborne Infantry of the British Army (Paras) are also in the country to teach Anti-Assad fighters techniques on the accurate use of weapons and explosives against Assad regime forces, the sources said.
Unlike the previous position of the United States and Western countries not to arm the Syrian rebels, U.S. president Barack Obama and Cameron are considering to intervene in Syria and to enforce a no-fly zone, the sources added.
Earlier this week, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad showed defiance when he appeared on Russian television warning against any intervention. Assad promised to take the fight till the end. “I’m Syrian, I was made in Syrian and I have to live in Syria and die in Syria,” he said.
During his visit to Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, Cameron urged the United States to pressure the international community to offer more help to Syrians who were forced to leave their country due to ongoing violence.
“Right here in Jordan I am hearing appalling stories of what has happened inside Syria and one of the first things I want to talk to Obama about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis,” Cameron said.
Since March 2011, an overall death toll of more than 37,000 was recorded by the monitoring group, the Observatory of Human Rights. The New York Times said more than 20,000 members of the Syrian army have defected and joined the Free Syrian Army across the country.

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November 13th, 2012, 3:16 pm

 

21. Citizen said:

Syrians supporting Assad turn into ‘dead men walking’
http://rt.com/news/syrian-actor-rafeh-murdered-rt-232/

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November 13th, 2012, 3:37 pm

 

22. zoo said:

#18 Tara

France is the only western country that has recognized the NSCROF as the ‘sole’ representaive of the Syrians to please the golden cow Qatar.
US and UK refused to use that qualifier.
Yer, France’s message is clear for the next step:
Bring in the other opposition groups, unite with the armed forces then we may recognize you as a government, but don’t expect us to give you any weapons.
A long and painful way to go for the NCSROF…

French ministers disagree on Syrian opposition

http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/french-ministers-disagree-on-syrian-opposition.aspx?pageID=238&nID=34554&NewsCatID=351

France’s Defence Minister said today it was still too early to recognize the newly created Syrian opposition coalition, calling for more to be done to unite the armed factions under its umbrella, Reuters reported.

Paris, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s harshest critics, has said it would recognize a provisional government that included all strands of society.

But it has ruled out arming rebel forces, concerned weapons could get into the hands of radical Islamists.

“What happened in Doha is a step forward,” Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in Paris.

“We consider it to be significant. It is still not sufficient to constitute a provisional government that can be recognized internationally. But it’s on the right track.”

He said that while political unity was important it had to be accompanied by the unification of the various armed groups.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:00 pm

 

23. zoo said:

The moment of truth for the Moslem Brotherhood double game?

Egypt’s Brotherhood slams Israel over Gaza strikes
By AYA BATRAWY | Associated Press

http://news.yahoo.com/egypts-brotherhood-slams-israel-over-gaza-strikes-155226468.html

….
In its statement, the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party referred to Israel as a “Zionist occupier” and a “racist state,” placing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on the “fringes” of the “far right.”

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November 13th, 2012, 4:11 pm

 

24. annie said:

The latest Qunfuz piece (another of my favourites with Rime Allaf and Maysaloon)

Qunfuz

Robin Yassin-Kassab
Finally, Leadership

Following my previous comment on the astounding failures of Syrian political elites, I must report some optimism. The Syrian National Council has accepted its place within the new Syrian National Coalition (it makes up a third of the new body), and the Coalition has won recognition by the Arab League, France, Japan and others.

The Coalition’s choice of leaders is the most inspiring sign, one which suggests both that the Coalition is no foreign front, and that another, much more positive aspect of Syria is finally coming to the fore.

President Ahmad Muaz al-Khatib is a mosque imam, an engineer and a public intellectual. He is Islamist enough for the Islamists and less extreme Salafists of the armed resistance to give him a hearing, but not Islamist enough to scare secularists and minority groups. He has written books on the importance of minority religious rights and women’s rights in a just Islamic society. His speeches since assuming his position have reached out to minorities and to the soldiers in Asad’s army, who he described as victims of the regime.

Vice President Riyadh Saif is a businessman, former MP, and a liberal democrat.

And Vice President Suheir al-Atassi, daughter of foundational Ba’athist Jamal al-Atassi, is a human rights activist, a secular feminist, a founder of the Syrian Revolution General Commission, and a key activist of the grassroots Local Coordination Committees. She is the sort of person who should have been representing the Revolution at the highest level from the very start.

All three leaders have been active participants in the revolution inside Syria, and all three have suffered imprisonment. All three are known and respected by Syrians inside the country.

The Local Coordination Committees have joined the Coalition, and noises of optimism are bubbling up from revolutionaries inside and outside. As a minor anecdote, I notice that a pro-revolution Alawi friend of mine is expressing optimism about the future for the first time in a long while.

But in some quarters the bickering and sniping continues unabated. Rim Turkmani of the Building the Syrian State group complained to the Guardian that the Coalition was formed in response to outside pressure. This is partially true, and it’s a great shame, a stain on Syrian political elites, that it took threats, promises and cajolements from Qatar, France, Britain and America to achieve this compromise. Yet urgency – the suffering of the people – demands that all strands of Syrian opposition support the Coalition. Though there is still a very long way to go, Asad is losing on the battlefield. By force of arms, areas of the country have been liberated (or partially liberated, as they still suffer terrible bombing). To allow the splintered military leadership to rule in these areas without any central coordination and advice, without any common system of law, would open the way to a warlord-riven and sectarian future (Asad opened this door initially; there’s no need for political elites to push it further open).

Seemingly insistent on Syrian self-reliance, it is a contradiction for Rim to also say that the ‘international community’ should first agree on Syria, +36and that Syrians should then take their lead from this foreign consensus.

The real unity which matters right now is not that of the political opposition, but that of the international community. Once an international consensus is agreed it is going to be much easier to unite the opposition, and more importantly, end the regime. Russia and China are going to view this group as hostile to them. They are key players in this conflict, and you simply can’t solve a conflict if you do not involve all the players.

This strikes me as totally unrealistic. There is never going to be international consensus on Syria, no more than there’s ever going to be consensus on Palestine. In the one case Russia backs an unworkable regime; in the other America backs its unreasonable ally. When coupled with the notion of negotiations with the regime, which Building the Syrian State also subscribes to, Rim’s stance becomes almost criminally unrealistic. It has been obvious for over a year that the regime has decided (as its shabeeha scawl on the walls) “al-Asad or we’ll burn the country.” The ceasefire plans of the Arab League, Kofi Annan and al-Akhdar Ibrahimi have come and gone, and Asad’s campaign of torture, shooting, shelling, and aerial bombardment has escalated steadily. After two years of burning, staring into the abyss of Somalisation, Syria does not need to wait for further proof of the regime’s inability to compromise. There should be negotiations with representatives of people and communities who are scared by the revolution (and this will be facilitated by the fall of the regime, when such people will finally be able to represent themselves), but not with criminals who don’t want and aren’t capable of negotiations, who use talk of negotiations to buy more killing time. The only subject for negotiations with the regime is the terms of its surrender, and negotiations can only be held after it has stopped its violence and released the prisoners.

I met Rim Turkmani in London (and she’s intelligent, principled and highly educated as well as friendly and civilised – I hope she’ll forgive me for disagreeing with her in public) and heard her make this analogy: “We have to negotiate with the regime just as the parent of a kidnapped child has to negotiate with the hostage taker, because the child’s survival is of paramount importance.” If I can twist the metaphor somewhat, I would respond that the regime has kidnapped ten children and has already killed eight while negotiations continue. It’s killed eight in gales of laughter, and given interviews to the newspapers about how good the killing felt. It’s time not for a negotiator, but for a marksman.

Rim also says the Coalition doesn’t represent all of the fighters or people on the ground. Of course this is true. That’s why the Coalition has a great deal of work to do. It may be too late (after nearly two years of elite bickering) for a political leadership to assert control over many of the fighters, particularly the Salafis, but someone has to try. Efficiently coordinating funds and weapons deliveries would be a great start, and would stop the rise in importance in Gulf-funded al-Qa’ida types. As for the unarmed revolutionaries, many don’t wish to be ‘represented’ by any body. What they want is for the regime to be neutralised, and then to be able to express themselves in democratic elections. It’s the Coalition’s job to achieve these two aims. With forty thousand dead and the country in ruins, there is no more time to waste.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:13 pm

 

25. Syrialover said:

Good to see it said and that it’s now out there, thanks AMR AL-AZM (lead post above). It’s putting public pressure on those who want to still fool around and play personal politics.

It lines up with what the UK representative Jon Wilkes has just said about the importance of building the skills of opposition technocrats.

Wilkes also said that the UK is ready to help train them now.

Go for it Moaz Al-Khatib!

(What Wilkes has been saying: http://www.joshualandis.com/blog/?p=16696&cp=all#comment-334670)

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November 13th, 2012, 4:19 pm

 

26. Citizen said:

US call Syrian opposition a legitimate representative of syrian people.

legitimate ? wich legitimate ? is it know-how? Or Is it democracy of coercion? have you asked the opinion of the Syrian people?Do you think that the opinion of the Syrians is not important? is it external dictatorship taking into account the interests of the West! the time will correct your illusion painfuly!

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November 13th, 2012, 4:27 pm

 

27. Tara said:

Zoo

The link is confusing. Has France recognized it or not? Who’s speaking for France? The foreign minister or the defense minister? Does France need its ministers to form a coalition too?

What about Morsi? Shouldn’t Egypt be the first Arab country after the GCC to recognize the coalition?

I doubt Qatar has gone through all that pain for nothing.. We will soon find out during “liberation of Damascus” if the FSA has quality weapons. I liked the name of this past Friday: Marching-to-Damascus.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:28 pm

 

28. annie said:

Sorry, forgot the link of the Qunfuz article

http://qunfuz.com/2012/11/13/finally-leadership/

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November 13th, 2012, 4:28 pm

 

29. Syrialover said:

And before we get the usual cats chorus fussing about the UK offering to train opposition technocrats and who should be recruited, let’s recall:

– the UK has long been a desired source of external studies and training for most Syrians, much preferred over Soviet bloc and non-English speaking countries.

– it will be an astronomical improvement to have Syrians running the show who got there because of qualifications and relevant experience, instead of who their daddies and uncles are.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:29 pm

 

30. Visitor said:

I said not long ago when Mr. Cameron was visiting the region that if he is seeking to form the coalition of the willing, then his efforts should be welcomed and encouraged.

If he also wants to send MI6 death squads to Syria in order to arrest or kill Bashar, then that’s even better. Do it. Syrians will not consider it a hostile act from Britain against Syria. They will consider it a very very friendly, courteous and civilized act, the equivalent of the British Secret Service attempting to eliminate Hitler. Nothing to worry about.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:40 pm

 

31. HANZALA said:

This cannot possibly be good for Assad. FSA capture dozens of military vehicles in Harasta. A few days old but have not seen it posted.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:44 pm

 

32. HANZALA said:

FSA capture military base and some type of radar installation in Ghouta. 20 KM from presidential palace. NOV 12.

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November 13th, 2012, 4:57 pm

 

33. True said:

Wazzup feeble-minded apologists?

I can’t believe you’re still in support for Batta waq waq!!! open up your eyes and see your surroundings, it’s happening you bloody dweebs!!

Man can’t wait to enjoy the sun and view from Qurdaha

Qurd wala enit ma tefham!!

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November 13th, 2012, 4:57 pm

 

34. Syrialover said:

ANNIE #23,

Thanks for posting that very good piece by Qunfuz.

Here’s an excerpt from it which should be repeated as a mantra:

“President Ahmad Muaz al-Khatib is Islamist enough for the Islamists and less extreme Salafists of the armed resistance to give him a hearing, but not Islamist enough to scare secularists and minority groups…. His speeches since assuming his position have reached out to minorities and to the soldiers in Asad’s army, who he described as victims of the regime.”

http://qunfuz.com/2012/11/13/finally-leadership/

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November 13th, 2012, 5:05 pm

 

35. True said:

The second Dar’a is declared the Southern buffer-zone is the second when Batta will start begging for immunity deal. But no way hosay, the FSA is coming to your bedroom to show you some serious lessons in manhood, at that time you’ll waq waq for every innocent soul and displaced Syrian.

I’ll start drinking lots of fluids from now and saving the mother nature call till I visit elmal3oon in Qurdaha.

I think elQrood should be shipped to Iran for good, minorities right my as***********

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November 13th, 2012, 5:09 pm

 

36. zoo said:

Annie

It took 2 years for the incomplete and under influence coalition to be born thanks to Qatar, France and the US sticks and carrot approach.
It may take more months and years to unite all the other opposition groups who are in strong disagreement as well as the divided and polluted armed forces. In addition the chance it wins on the ground are far from certain.

In the meantime Syrians on both sides are dying and the country is deshumanizing itself and falling prey to non-Syrians with their own agendas.
I agree with Rim Turkmani. One should do anything to save a kidnapped child, even negotiate with the holders who are also Syrians.
In refusing that, the opposition is bearing a large part of the responsibility of all the death that will incur. It will be stained and will never be able to acquire a real legitimacy.

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November 13th, 2012, 5:13 pm

 

37. Syrialover said:

The question of what happens to the Syrian embassies in countries recognizing the opposition has got loudmouthed regime thug tweeter Syrian Commando nervous:

https://twitter.com/syriancommando/status/268262704601497600

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November 13th, 2012, 5:14 pm

 

38. Syrialover said:

I guess that means the day the US formally recognizes the opposition, those sleazy Jaafaris (father and daughter) will be put out onto the pavement with their belongings in New York.

Never mind the misery of permanent unemployment soon-to-be-ex-UN representative Bashar Jaafari, your smartass little daughter Sherry Jaafari has ways of earning money…

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November 13th, 2012, 5:31 pm

 

39. True said:

Hey gals and lads,

It’s been a while and I’m happy to see some of you are still hanging around here, and kicking some apologists bums.

Our great revolution has gone through ups and downs and our spirits, at lest mine, have gone similarly highs and lows. There were moments where I felt it’s not happening and the Batta is just gonna stick around till 2014, but every time i felt losing hope I did look at those courageous men who put their souls on their hands and decided to pay for our existence and freedom. Thanks to everybody for doing anything to keep this revolution alive, to keep the hope of having a better Syria.

OTW, Annie, N.Z, Sheila, Tare, Aboud, Zenobia, Husam, Haytham Khoury, Khalid Tlass, SL, majedkhaldoun, REVLON, VISITOR, Observer ….. etc I hope you all doing well.

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November 13th, 2012, 5:32 pm

 

40. Tara said:

Hi True

Long time no see! Welcome back. Hope your family doing well.

I can’t tell you how proud I feel being Syrian nowadays. Not only we taught the word it’s first alphabet but also we defined what dignity and pride is. And of course, we owe all of this to the Heroes of the FSA.

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November 13th, 2012, 5:37 pm

 

41. Warren said:

Saudi student jailed for plot to attack Bush’s home

A Saudi student who plotted to bomb the Texas home of ex-President George W Bush and other targets has been sentenced to life in jail.

A judge said he had no doubt Khalid Aldawsari, convicted in June of trying to use a weapon of mass destruction, was serious about his plans.

The FBI found bomb-making materials in the 22-year-old’s Lubbock, Texas home just before his February 2011 arrest.

Nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams were also on his list of targets.

At the sentencing in Amarillo, Texas, Judge Donald Walter said: “The bottom line is that but by the grace of God there would be dead Americans.

“You would have done it. In every step, it was you all alone.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-20320165

__________________________________________________________________

Another Sunni terrorist prosecuted!

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November 13th, 2012, 5:50 pm

 

42. Citizen said:

Now let’s see a mirror image of supreme written: Syria’s special operations team takes aim Cameron’s head! Britains will consider it a very very friendly, courteous and civilized act. Nothing to worry about….

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November 13th, 2012, 6:01 pm

 

43. Amjad of Arabia said:

“not having the backing of some 40% of the Syrian population should be of concern”

Oh really? Really? I mean, seriously? Oh dear sweet heaven, were you sent by Satan to punish anyone with an IQ above that of a cactus? So I guess Obama with the support of *just* 52% of Americans isn’t going to be able to do his job?

True

“OTW, Annie, N.Z, Sheila, Tare, Aboud, Zenobia, Husam, Haytham Khoury, Khalid Tlass, SL, majedkhaldoun, REVLON, VISITOR, Observer ….. etc I hope you all doing well.”

Ssshhhhhh…I go under the name “Sixth Pillar” now. It’s a sexual innuendo,hehehehe.

“Man can’t wait to enjoy the sun and view from Qurdaha”

Mmmm…..coastal climate always does wonders for me. How big do you suppose Ar’or’s villa in Qurdaha should be? How about Abdulrazak Tlass’s palatial house?

Visitor

” Do it. Syrians will not consider it a hostile act from Britain against Syria. They will consider it a very very friendly, courteous and civilized act”

The day NATO starts to bomb the Assad gangs, I will put up a radar in Homs to help the F-16s find their way.

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November 13th, 2012, 6:06 pm

 

44. True said:

Tara,

Long time no see indeed, how’ve you been? hows your little daughter?

Yes indeed Syrians have written their names in gold, and soon will redefine the meaning freedom.

I share your hope of having us represented genuinely for the first time in the next General Assembly meeting.

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November 13th, 2012, 6:08 pm

 

45. Tara said:

True

I am in anticipation of the ” Liberation of Damascus”. The way to the presidential place has to go through Damascus proper. Will Batta burn Damascus
proper too? Will he unleash air bombardment and blind bombs?

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November 13th, 2012, 6:26 pm

 

46. True said:

Aboud,

I’ll keep calling you Aboud instead of Amjad, this name has really bad memories for apologists beside it’s the name you were using every time you were interviewed by BBC.

Tbh I’d rather to have the big villa for myself :), listen up dawg, we should build a resort in Qurdaha for FSA heroes and keep Qurdahans there to do the service around, any service tsk tsk tsk.

Have you seen elBatta lately? I hear he’s hiding in Tartous waq waq

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November 13th, 2012, 6:28 pm

 

47. True said:

Tare,

elBatta has burned Damascus already. Have you seen videos from al-Tadamon or al-Yarmouk? his Shabiha didn’t leave a tree or a stone in place.

The original plan was to bombard Damascus from the mountain of Alwai colony in 86, but FSA has flipped the table and showered this settlement with mortars last week showing a high heel and sending a message to Batta.

Are we still on for Mana2iesh breaky bi elsha3lan?

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November 13th, 2012, 6:35 pm

 

48. Tara said:

True,

We sure are. But as I told Dawoud before, you are paying.

..I just got strange feeling imagining the moment. A melancholic one..every time, Damascus and it’s verandas , or the Hamidieh come to my mind, the same exact feeling strikes me.

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November 13th, 2012, 6:51 pm

 

49. ann said:

Islamist Savages …

Syria: Murder of priest leaves Christians in fear – Wednesday, 14th November 2012

Catholic Charity helping those suffering Christian persecution worldwide

http://members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/msg/1352848624.html

A YOUNG UK-based mother has given a powerful testimony of the suffering of close family and friends in Syria reeling from the savage murder of their parish priest.

The young married woman with two daughters described how Christians and others in her native city of Qatana, south-west of the Syrian capital, Damascus, were being terrorised by extremists demanding they leave the country or risk being killed.

Reporting on telephone conversations and other contact with friends and family in Syria, she said the local community was traumatised by the killing of Fr Fadi Haddad, 43, parish priest of Qatana’s Orthodox parish of St Elias.

The priest’s naked body was discovered on the side of a road outside Damascus on 25th October, several days after he had been abducted. His eyes had been gauged out and his body mutilated.
The young mother explained how Fr Haddad, a close family friend and neighbour in Qatana, had gone missing after setting off by car to negotiate the release of a Christian dentist from the city who himself had been kidnapped a few days earlier.

The woman, who cannot be named without risk to her family’s safety, told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need: “My family and friends very much feel under threat.

“People from the area have said that extremists have gone through the streets shouting ‘Alawites to the grave, Christians to Beirut’. They want to kick us out. They say that if Christians refuse to leave they will end up in the grave like the Alawites.”
“Nobody seems to care what is happening to us Christians in Syria.
“The government we had in the past was bad but at least we were safe. At least we could walk the streets. You’d never think you might be bombed by extremists. Not anymore. Now it’s very scary.
“Now they are bombing churches. Look at what has happened to our churches in places like Aleppo and Homs.”

She said that the frequent attacks on churches meant people were often too afraid to go to church and that Christians’ fears were heightened by rumours spread on Facebook and other social media.
“The extremists threaten us Christians when we want to celebrate major feasts like Christmas and Easter. They don’t want us in the area at all.”

The woman said her family had warned against efforts to track down the priest’s killers in case of retaliation, adding that her mother was still traumatised by the sight of the disfigured face of the clergyman whose body she had prepared for burial.

She said the family were devastated by the killing of the priest who was in the same class at a school with her brother and who had taught her at the local Sunday school.

The fate is unknown of the kidnapped Christian dentist, whose freedom Fr Haddad had tried to secure.

A ransom of up to 50 million Syrian pounds (US$700,000) had been requested for the dentist’s release.

The ransom reportedly rose to 750 million Syrian pounds after the abduction of the priest and the dentist’s father-in-law who was travelling with the cleric when they were kidnapped. The latter’s fate is also unknown.

Stressing the fear for Christians in Syria, the woman said: “I cannot sleep at night. Whenever I call my family and I can’t get through, I immediately start fearing the worst. I feel I am living a nightmare every day.”

She described how her niece had a lucky escape when a bomb went off in Damascus last month opposite her school. Fortunately, she was at home that day.

She said that many Christians and others had tried to leave but there had been a clampdown on visas to neighbouring countries.

The woman said that her mother was terrified of bombs blowing out the windows of her home and that at various times had abandoned her bedroom and slept in the hallway.

The young woman and her husband moved to the UK several years ago and now have permanent residency here with their children but most of their family are still in Syria.

She asked for prayers and support, urging that action be taken to protect her people in Syria, especially Christians.

In a statement, Greek Orthodox Patriarch Ignatius IV Hazim, who led Fr Haddad’s funeral service and who had originally ordained Fr Haddad in 1995, described the priest as “a martyr of reconciliation and harmony”.

He added: “We strongly condemn this brutal and barbaric act against civilians, the innocent and the men of God who strive to be apostles of peace.”

[…]

http://members4.boardhost.com/acnaus/msg/1352848624.html

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November 13th, 2012, 6:58 pm

 

50. True said:

Tara, this feeling will be reality soon, hopefully by next March elBatta will be hanged in al-Marja square.

Hehehhe I just remembered how at the beginning of this revolution we all were accused of being blogging from one boiler-room in Jordan, and how we do shifts and get paid by jeffrey feltman :) poor studious aologists.

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November 13th, 2012, 7:01 pm

 

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