Can Syria's opposition groups figure out how to pull together? (+video)
At a gathering in Qatar, Syria's opposition groups have been trying to overcome disarray in their ranks – and lay the foundation for eventual post-dictator leadership.
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Such a command chain has been impossible to establish, despite a year of effort. Even defecting Syrian Army commanders based in Turkey, for example, have been unable to boast of having the real loyalty of those on the ground who fight in the name of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) or other anti-regime militias.Skip to next paragraph
In Pictures Battle for the heart of Syria: inside Aleppo
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“I don’t want to go too far in pessimism, but the situation in Syria is very dangerous,” Mr. Brahimi told Al Hayat newspaper. “I believe that if the crisis is not solved in a right way, there will be the danger of Somalization. It will mean the fall of the state, rise of warlords and militias.”
Rebel forces have made gains, and even established a de facto buffer zone across northern Syria adjacent to the Turkey border. But they complain that lack of outside help – in the form of military equipment such as surface-to-air missiles and heavy weapons – has led to stalemate. Damascus enjoys close support from Russia, Iran, and the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah militia, and has claimed to be under attack from "foreign-backed terrorists."
Supporters such as the US, Qatar, and especially Turkey have clandestinely provided light weapons, ammunition, and even antitank weapons to challenge Mr. Assad's armored units. But inside Syria, fighters frequently blame the US and other Western donors for their reluctance to give them decisive help – including creation of a no-fly zone – that they argue would shorten the war and lower the death toll. (The Monitor reported earlier on how attacks are tearing at the fabric of daily life.)
Some argue that the US may be expecting too much, too quickly, from a country where political expression has been heavily repressed.
"My expectation, after [decades] of dictatorship, is for Syrian society to emerge a little bit blinded by the light, very diverse, with lots of different ideas, and I consider this to be healthy," says Nadim Shehadi, a Middle East expert at the Chatham House think tank in London. "I don't think it would be viable for the opposition to emerge fully united with a strong leader. The problem does not lie with the opposition; the problem lies with the United States expecting this."