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Syria needs a united opposition

Brutal slaughter of government troops shows the deep danger of lack of control over fighting troops

Gulf News

The Syrian opposition needs to put its house in order and build a more coherent structure. There is little hope for a coherent struggle against Bashar Al Assad’s regime without a unified leadership.

For example, the ceasefire over the Eid weekend was observed by the Free Syrian Army (FSA), but ignored by independent extremist groups, who chose to re-ignite the fighting for their own purposes.

Inside Syria, the rebel units are not following a unified military plan and videos of brutal slaughter of government soldiers by opposition forces point to the deep dangers created by lack of discipline.

The opposition has to seek to uphold the moral high ground that it still has from months of peaceful marching. Without genuine political control over the armed units, the Syrian struggle can easily slip into disastrous sectarian and regional chaos.

The FSA contributes about half the units inside Syria, while outside Syria, the Syrian National Council does not get much support from rebels. An important meeting started yesterday in Doha when many friends of the Syrian opposition hoped to help the disparate groups come up with a more united front.

The US has taken a lead in proposing a new and more inclusive structure, which is being referred to as the Syrian National Initiative. It makes sense to propose this new structure to the Syrians at the meeting, but it is less encouraging to read that US may be promoting the respected dissident Riad Seif as the head of a new government-in-exile which will be dubbed Syrian National Initiative.

There is an important distinction between helping the opposition become more coherent and imposing outside direction. The decision on who should lead the renewed opposition has to come from the Syrians themselves and cannot be imposed by the US State Department or any other non-Syrian body.

Far too many people remember the previous American adventure in Iraq when they wanted to impose Ahmad Chalabi as the leader of the new government, but failed miserably.