The new leader of the Syrian opposition must impose discipline on the rambling opposition groups that are resisting Bashar Al Assad’s government.
He needs to prove that the opposition is a coherent force before he can make any progress in motivating international support, so as to challenge the government more effectively and win international recognition as the legitimate government of Syria.
It was good news that the Doha Conference came to a conclusion by electing George Sabra as the leader of the opposition. Sabra is a Christian and a veteran left-wing dissident who was repeatedly imprisoned by the regime, but in order to show more inclusive leadership, the Doha Conference then chose a senior figure from the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammad Farouq Taifour, as Sabra’s deputy.
Other contenders are still seeking some kind of input into a yet-to-be created senior group, which might include people like Riad Seif, who was a possible candidate for the leadership himself and who presented the reform plan.
Some senior SNC members said that Saturday’s meeting was the beginning of what could be days of negotiations over the size and mission of any leadership group. However, these discussions on how such a senior group might be formed have to move on to a conclusion.
The opposition leadership has to be encouraged to impose order since billions of dollars of foreign aid will not be forthcoming if the opposition continues to be in its previously confused state.
People are dying every day in Syria and while the war has dragged on for months there is an urgency in moving towards a more decisive phase of opposition to Al Assad’s regime.
The US State Department has promised that it will recognise a new and more coherent opposition that unites different factions and includes people from both inside and outside Syria.
Such recognition as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people means withdrawing recognition from Al Assad’s government, which would be a huge step for the opposition.