By: Randa Slim (Randa Slim is an adjunct research fellow at the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation and a scholar at the Middle East Institute. You can follow her commentary on Middle East affairs @rmslim.)
Source: Foreign Policy Magazine Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Seven months into the uprisings, the Syrian opposition has yet to develop a united voice and platform. Unless these disparate groups unite and present a credible and viable alternative to the Assad regime, both Syria’s fearful majority and the international community will find it difficult to effectively push for meaningful change in Damascus.
The divisions among the Syrian opposition groups remain daunting, despite prodding from abroad and some progress toward unification. The Syrian National Council (SNC), recently formed in Istanbul, Turkey, remains a work-in-progress. The Damascus-based National Coordination Committee (NCC) is at odds with the SNC. The organizations disagree on two of the most urgently contested issues: dialogue with the regime and foreign intervention. Meanwhile, youth activists are divided among three national coalitions. The military defectors formerly divided between the Free Officers Corps and the Free Syrian Army have coalesced under one organizational umbrella, but according to officials in both the Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army, there are no formal communication channels yet between the two entities.
This fragmentation and disunity poses a formidable challenge. It makes it difficult to assess who is representing whom, the level of public support each enjoys among Syrians, and the role each is playing in the protest movement. While it is impossible to know which side commands a majority, a critical mass of Syrians has clearly opted for regime change. In this quest, they are laying their lives on the line. The challenge is whether the different leadership centers in the opposition could overcome their differences and coalesce under a unified organizational umbrella akin to Libya’s Transitional National Council…To continue reading the article, click here.