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Syrian coalition leaders need long-term plan

Syrian opposition should form a new and inclusive political structure to bolster the struggle against the regime

Gulf News

The Syrian opposition is struggling to implement its new unity, following the creation of the umbrella National Coalition for Syrian Opposition and Revolutionary Forces at the meeting in Qatar two weeks ago. It is important that this search for unity succeeds since only a coherent opposition can defeat the government.

The Syrian coalition’s leaders have the huge incentive of controlling access to foreign support to encourage groups which are still holding out against unification. The Qatar conference made it clear that the Syrian coalition would be the sole representative of the Syrian people, and the GCC, Arab League and many foreign governments — including the US, France and Britain — have recognised the Syrian coalition as the government of Syria.

However, this has not worried some Islamist units of fighters, who openly deride the “hotel warriors”. The nationalist and other Syrian groups who form the majority of the Syrian coalition, do not want to have their revolution against Bashar Al Assad hijacked by a minority of religiously motivated groups. The problem for the Syrian coalition’s leaders is to bring such valuable fighters into the structure of the Syrian coalition, without losing support from western powers who are wary of what they see as extremist groups.

The Syrian coalition leaders need to make long-term plans. Al Assad’s regime still has plenty of life left in it and the regime lives in denial of its impending defeat. The Minister of Information still uses the totally discredited description of the Syrian opposition forces as foreign terrorists. He claimed “the opposition does not have any popular support and most of them aren’t even Syrian”. This means that the Syrian coalition has a huge series of successive tasks. It has to win over all the fighting groups and then battle the government. It will be vital that it produces a political answer to the violence and starts to welcome all Syrians to help form a new and inclusive political structure.