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Leaders of Syrian Uprising - Syrian National Coalition

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Leaders of Syrian Uprising - Syrian National Coalition

New opposition leadership faces an uphill battle to unite political factions, rein in the armed groups, and win the support of the population.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces was unveiled on November 11 2012 in Qatar, 19 months after the beginning of the Syrian Uprising. It was yet another attempt to unify Syria’s fragmented opposition under one leadership, backed by the Gulf Arab states, Turkey, and Western governments.

Who Are the Members of Syrian National Coalition?

Syrian National Coalition (NC) brought together dozens of opposition groups and dissidents with the aim of becoming Syria’s transitional government after the fall of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime:

  • Leadership: Moderate Islamist preacher Moaz al-Khatib was elected as the group’s leader. Its vice-presidents are a dissident industrialist Riad Seif and Suheir al-Attasi, an anti-regime activist from a prominent Syrian family, both secular figures.

  • Syrian National Council (SNC): The formerly leading opposition alliance was awarded 22 seats in the 65-member Leadership Council. SNC is an umbrella group of diverse political parties and dissidents, the strongest being the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, a moderate Islamist group.

  • Local administration councils: Parallel government structures established on opposition-held territories in all of Syrian provinces were allocated 14 seats.

  • Dissidents: 10 seats were reserved for prominent opposition leaders representing a variety of political groups, and Syria’s religious and ethnic minorities.

  • Other groups: The remaining 19 seats go to grassroots activist organizations such as the Local Coordination Committees, and various political groups, ranging from Islamist to secular liberal.
See here for a full list of Syrian opposition groups.

What Are the Objectives of Syrian National Coalition?

NC’s stated goal is the overthrow of the regime and transition to a democratic Syria. Unlike some opposition groups inside Syria who favor gradual transition, NC rejects dialogue with Assad and supports armed struggle against Syrian government troops.

NC’s next step is to form an interim government with a military council and a judicial authority, establishing a clear alternative to Assad, and following the downfall of the regime become a transitional governing body.

How do you get there? The leaders of the new alliance expect foreign governments to provide financial support and supply heavy weapons to Syrian rebels. However, while Gulf Arab states promptly recognized the NC as the “sole representative” of the Syrian people, most Western governments made their recognition contingent on the coalition first gaining legitimacy on the ground.

Does Coalition Have Support Inside Syria?

While the majority of the Syrian population may dislike the regime’s brutality and corruption, it remains wary of Syria’s divided and squabbling opposition. One of SNC’s main problems was being perceived by many as a group of foreign-backed exiles detached from the horrors of daily life in conflict-ridden Syria.

The new opposition leadership may have more potential to plug the credibility deficit. Khatib and his deputies all served time in regime jails and fled Syria during the uprising. Nevertheless, NC still faces enormous challenges in keeping in check dozens of loosely linked political groups under its umbrella, while building up popular support by forming alternative government structures that can provide basic services and ensure security.

Does Coalition Control the Armed Opposition?

But the biggest danger is for NC to remain largely irrelevant to hundreds of armed opposition groups, many of which fight completely independently of the main rebel command, the Free Syrian Army. The rebel ranks include hardline Islamist fighters, some of them linked to Al Qaeda, whose presence is one of the main reasons why the West has been reluctant to back the opposition in a more substantial manner.

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