Four key tests face the Syrian opposition

Rami G Khouri writes: The rapid developments in recent days in the world of the Syrian groups fighting to overthrow the regime of President Bashar Assad will be a game-changer if the new coalition of opposition forces actually becomes a unified movement that achieves four critical and linked goals: coordinating internal military action, generating legitimate and credible local governance bodies in areas liberated from government control, connecting with Alawites, senior security personnel and other regime supporters to convince them of their safety in a post-Assad Syria, and managing a rising flow of international diplomacy and aid. That is a tall order, but for the country and ancient culture that gave the world its first alphabet and musical notations, among other wonders, it is doable.

The new “National Coalition for Revolutionary Forces and the Syrian Opposition” was agreed upon during a weekend marathon negotiation and political pressure cooker in Doha, Qatar. This kind of reconciliation and consensus-building exercise has now become a hallmark of the dynamic Qatari approach to resolving thorny issues among Lebanese, Palestinians, Yemenis, Sudanese and now Syrians: lock the recalcitrant participants in a luxury hotel for a few days, shower them with fine hospitality and promises of substantial aid in the future, focus the world’s media and political attention on them, and tell them they cannot leave until they have reached an agreement.

The Syrian opposition coalition that was born through this kind of Qatari midwifery faces many hurdles, but it also carries the hopes of tens of millions of Syrians and hundreds of millions of Arabs who wish to see it prevail. It has already been recognized as the legitimate Syrian government by heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt, the U.S., Germany, Italy and France. Pulling recognition from the Assad family regime and bestowing it upon this new opposition coalition is one of the few safe moves that foreign countries can make, given their hesitancy in offering serious weaponry to the opposition groups, for fear of promoting the fortunes of Islamists among them. This is an easy step, but we will soon discover if it is also meaningful. [Continue reading...]

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