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.
Ray Takeyh is an Iran-hawk who has recently migrated from the Council on Foreign Relations to the neoconservative Hudson Institute. Takeyh has been a vociferous critic of the Obama administration’s diplomatic efforts aimed at peacefully resolving the Iranian nuclear dispute, framing a potential agreement as the “most advantageous path to nuclear arms” for Iran and arguing for a “revamped coercive strategy” against the country.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, notorious for reigning in the rights of workers in his home state, has staked out hawkish positions on foreign policy in advance of his expected run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has called for the United States to have a “strong presence” in the Middle East, has said he would not rule out U.S. “boots on the ground” in the fight against ISIS, and has said he would “absolutely” reject any nuclear deal with Iran if he becomes president. Walker has also spurred ridicule for saying the “most significant foreign policy decision” of his lifetime was Ronald Reagan’s decision to fire striking air traffic controllers in 1981.
Stephen Hadley, a former national security advisor to President George W. Bush, has advocated a hardline towards Russia in the wake of the 2014 Ukraine crisis. Among his recommendations is for the CIA to covertly arm Ukrainian rebels. He said in November 2014: “If I were in my old job I would be thinking about lethal assistance—yes. But you know this is why you have a CIA, you know this is why you have covert action and I would be thinking—do we want to do it explicitly to send a message to Putin? Or do you want to do it covertly?”
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy recently published a letter signed by former officials from both the Bush and Obama administrations that has been framed as critical of the Obama administration’s nuclear negotiations with Iran. However, the letter, which was also signed by prominent neoconservatives, has been described by one signatory as “very much in line with current U.S. policy.”
Gary Samore, a former adviser to the Obama administration who is now the president of the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), recently signed onto an open letter published by the “pro-Israel” Washington Institute for Near East Policy that several media outlets have framed as a warning from President Obama’s “ex-advisers” about the “Iran nuclear deal.” Samore, however, appears to disagree with this interpretation of the letter, saying in a recent CNN interview: “If you look through the substance of the letter, you'll see that the positions we take on the key unresolved issues are very much in line with current U.S. policy.”
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