Monday, October 03, 2011

Syrian Opposition Groups Formally Unite

One of the longstanding problems with the opposition groups in Syria is that Bashar al Assad's regime has been able to continue suppressing the opposition and world leaders have been unable to find someone within the opposition to back.

That's changed as the Syrian opposition has formed a national council along the lines of what Libyan rebels have done with their transitional council.
The unification of Syria's largely leaderless opposition movement is almost certain to improve coordination with the international community, whose backing could add crucial momentum to the seven-month uprising. Until now, Western leaders have been unable or unwilling to provide the kind of support that could help the opposition overthrow Mr. Assad, the Washington Post reports.

Western diplomats have frequently identified the lack of a unified opposition movement as one of the Syrian uprising’s biggest obstacles. Without a coherent opposition or any clear sense of who or what would replace Assad, world powers and many ordinary Syrians have been reluctant to throw their weight behind efforts to unseat him, fearful of a power vacuum in the strategically located nation.

The council includes the Local Coordination Committees, which has organized most of the protests across the country; the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood; and Kurdish groups; among others, the Associated Press reports. Almost half the members are from inside the country, according to the Washington Post, overcoming a key concern that the council would rely to heavily on exiles.
This means that the Syrian opposition will be able to demonstrate to world leaders that they are a viable alternative to Assad and his despotic regime.

Assad's regime continues its brutal crackdown against the opposition and a recent spate of assassinations has raised the spectre of civil war and one has to consider Assad's willingness to use assassination as a tool of foreign policy. I wouldn't put it past his regime to murder individuals, even those loyal to his regime, in order for him to remain in power by dividing and conquering opposition groups and relying on sectarian divisions to maintain his hold on power:
The latest series of assassinations in Syria, including the recent murder of the son of the grand mufti, reveals a muddled and complex picture of the state of the uprising in the country. The killings could lead Syria spiraling down the path of a bloody civil war, with sectarian vendettas likely to characterize the next chapter of the revolution. If, however, it turns out that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is behind the targeted murders, these acts will likely backfire and unite religious sects against the regime. The flashpoint city of Homs was last week the scene of several targeted assassinations.

On Sept. 25, a surgeon at Homs’ general hospital, Hassan Eid, was shot dead as he got into his car. Aws Abdel Karim Khalil, a nuclear engineering specialist and charge d’affaires at al-Baath University, was gunned down as his wife drove him to work. Mohammad Ali Aqil, deputy dean of the architecture faculty, and Nael Dakhil, director of the military petrochemical school, were also killed last week, both the Syrian official news agency and activists reported. Khalil and Eid are said to belong to the Alawite sect of Islam, to which Assad is also affiliated, while Aqil was a Shiite Muslim and Dakhil a Christian.

It is possible that armed dissidents were targeting suspected regime informants and collaborators. But it is equally possible that the regime was carrying out targeted killings against leading members of minority Shiite, Alawite and Christian sects to create tensions between them and the majority Sunni Muslims. If the revolution develops into a sectarian war, the regime will likely present itself as an independent party seeking to unite a divided nation and thus emerge as victorious in the mayhem.
Assad already relies heavily on the Alawite minority to remain in power, but he needs others to be cowed into backing him to maintain his grip on power. Fueling fears by Christians of a Sunni Islamist takeover would play into Assad's hands.

The fact is that Assad will use all means of violence at his disposal to remain in power. He will cynically murder those loyal to his regime to stoke those fears of sectarian warfare, even though all but a few loyalists have suffered for decades under his brutal regime.

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