A significant impediment to peace in Syria has been the fragmentary opposition and its inability to come together under a single flag. The Assad regime has benefited from this disunity, and proven to be remarkably durable. Those external players who might have been supportive have stayed their hands for the most part, or worked through proxies to arm several of the groups fighting the Assad government. There was also legitimate concern that the opposition groups that were demanding support were not representative of the Syrian people in the broadest sense. All this may change if a deal brokered in Doha on Sunday holds together until this coming Friday when there is to be a donors’ conference in London. Deals of any sort in the current febrile environment are notoriously short-lived. Now, a new body called the ‘National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces’ is being promoted as the single entity that will manage the political and military affairs of the many opposition groups as well as being a focal point for humanitarian and military assistance.
If there is one thing the Assad regime fears it is a united opposition and political recognition for an entity that could lead to the formation of a credible government in the event of Assad falling – which is as yet far from certain since he still enjoys considerable support in some parts of the country and in the military despite defections. A very large fly in the ointment could be the Syrian National Council that was formed in August 2011 with much the same purpose as the new body – to represent the Syrian people internationally. The SNC, on its part, was concerned that the new body could lead to its eventual dissolution but, having been given 60 seats in the new body, is willing to go along with the Doha deal. It is envisaged that Alawite, Kurdish, Christian and other minorities will have places in this parliament-in-waiting, which nobody is yet referring to as a government. The supporters of the new body are hoping for swift international recognition, and the Friday moot in London could be a step along the way to that.