The Syrian National Coalition—the new Syrian opposition umbrella group—recently won recognition from the more than 100 countries in the “Friends of the Syrian People” coalition, but –wary of their experience in Libya—Western countries still remain hesitant to provide arms.
Al Jazeera, last updated: December 12, 2012
Al Jazeera via Inter Press Service
More than 100 countries have recognised a new Syrian opposition coalition, opening the way for greater assistance to the forces fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad, including possibly military aid.
Backing for the Syrian National Coalition, formed in Qatar in November, was given at an international conference of the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Morocco on Wednesday.
The opposition had been under intense international pressure to create a more organised and representative body to channel any aid extended by foreign countries.
While the coalition welcomed the move, the opposition said they were looking for more tangible political and financial backing and that they want members of Assad’s government to be brought to the International Criminal Court.
International recognition of the Libyan opposition gave it a huge boost in the battle against Muammar Gaddafi last year, and was later backed by Western air strikes.
Military intervention does not appear to be in the cards for Syria, where the government has the powerful backing of Russia, China and Iran.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said the meeting in Marrakesh had made “extraordinary progress”.
He noted that the European Union is now renewing its weapons embargo on Syria every three months, rather than annually, to be more flexible as the situation on the ground changes.
“We want to have the ability to continue or to change our attitude on this point,” he said.
“The fact that the coalition, which is asking for the right to defend itself, is now being recognised by a hundred countries – yesterday the U.S. and first France – I think this is a very important point.”
The conference’s final statement said Assad had lost all legitimacy but stopped short of calling for him to step down, something attending ministers did say individually.
The statement also warned that any use of chemical weapons “would draw a serious response” from the international community.
“I believe that of all the meetings we have had so far for the friends of Syria, this will turn out to be the most significant,” British Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the final news conference.
The conference members also announced new humanitarian assistance for Syrians, including $100m from Saudi Arabia and a fund to be managed by Germany and the United Arab Emirates for the reconstruction of the country after Assad falls.
Western countries have been reluctant to send arms to Syria, not the least because of their experience in Libya, where the West actively backed one side in a civil war in a country that later became awash with armed groups.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO secretary general, said from Brussels that international recognition of the Syrian opposition coalition was a “step in the right direction of a political solution”.
“Clearly, there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria – we need a political solution,” he told Al Jazeera. “We don’t have any intention to intervene militarily.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that recognition of the Syrian opposition coalition contradicts earlier international agreements aimed at starting a Syria dialogue that would include all sides in the conflict.
Germany’s lower house of parliament will debate whether to send patriot missiles and 400 soldiers to the Turkish-Syrian border.
Germany is considering arming the border at Turkey’s request to keep the war in Syria from spilling over.
David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), a non-proliferation think tank focusing mainly on the Iranian nuclear program whose objectivity has been called into question by observers. Albright, the “news media’s ‘favorite’ expert” on Iranian nuclear issues, argued in a recent panel discussion hosted by the neoconservative Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Foreign Policy Initiative that Congress should intervene in the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts if a “good deal” is not reached. According to one journalist, Albright has “left a trail of evidence indicating that he has embraced the Iran alarmist line coming from the United States, Israel, and the IAEA.”
Michele Flournoy, co-founder of the “liberal hawk” Center for a New American Security, has been widely mentioned as a possible successor to Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, despite her at times militaristic policy positions. “Rather than proposing a different course for the administration’s foreign policy,” quipped one conservative writer, Flournoy “appears to possibly be the person to entrench it for rest of Obama’s term.”
The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neoconservative think tank and advocacy group based in Washington, has endeavored to undermine the Obama administration’s negotiations with Iran. FDD executive director Mark Dubowitz recently voiced support for measures by hawkish members of Congress that seek to give Congress a greater role in the negotiations, such as getting an “up or down vote on” any deal. Dubowitz has also suggested that Congress “defend the sanctions architecture” on Iran even if an agreement is reached.
The Center for Security Policy (CSP), run by notorious Islamophobe Frank Gaffney, has rabidly opposed negotiating with Iran over its country’s nuclear program. With the deadline to reach an agreement fast approaching, CSP fellows have argued that it would pose “an existential threat to Israel” and a “deadly threat to U.S. national security.” They have also urged Congress to “repudiate the nuclear talks and any agreement resulting from them.”
AIPAC, “America’s pro-Israel lobby,” has attempted to influence the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 by supporting hawkish congressional measures that many analysts say could derail the diplomatic process. The lobby has strongly endorsed a letter from Reps. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to broaden the scope of demands in a potential agreement, which many observers have criticized as containing “distortions of the truth.”
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