BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE
It was a move the Syrian rebels and those fighting to end the reign of Assad called too little, too late. Russia called it a mistake destined to fuel the ongoing war in the country. The Obama administration has decided to endorse the Syrian Opposition Coalition, as the legitimate group representing the Syrian people against President Bashar al-Assad. It is unknown if at all, such a recognition would have the effect of forcing the Assad regime to step down.
A day after the U.S. President endorsed the opposition, representatives of more than 100 nations including organizations, gathered in Morocco for a meeting of the Friends of Syria to support the opposition and express their desire for the Assad regime to step down. Western and Arab countries gathered with one voice to call for a change of leadership in Syria in recognizing the Revolutionary Coalition Forces as Syria’s sole legitimate representative, a move likely to anger the Assad regime, as it is targeted to signal the need for a “sustainable political transition,” after more than 40,000 people have lost their lives in a war almost two-year-old.
The recognition and U.S. endorsement came barely hours after the Obama administration had designated the militant Syrian group, Al-Nusra Front a terrorist organization, affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The reason given by the U.S. government was due to series of suicide attacks and car bombings perpetrated by the group, which led to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, since the beginning of the war. Syrian opposition groups have voiced their disagreement with the designation, since the Al-Nusra group has emerged as one of the most effective oppositions in the fight against the Assad regime.
The fact is there are many rebel groups currently in Syria, fighting to overthrow the government. Now that the U.S. has made clear it would support the Syrian Opposition Coalition, it remains unclear how far the recognition will go to bring an end to the reign of Assad. Just this past month, Al-Nusra and several other groups fighting along with it, expressed their opposition to the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, a group the U.S., Western and Arab nations have just endorsed.
As other rebel groups fight in Syria, Al-Nusra is not the only militant group that has so far, shown its lack of support for the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. Other groups in Syria now see the need to join forces with Al-Nusra against the Syrian Opposition, a show of the looming conflict ahead in the event a U.S.-Western backed opposition became successful in toppling the Assad regime.
The result would be internal unrest and ethnic rivalry as different groups fight for a position in a new Syrian government of a post Assad regime. There is the likelihood of another civil war as groups against the legitimacy conferred on the U.S.-Western backed opposition fight to gain recognition in a new Syria. As of the time of writing, it was reported by the New York Times that Syrian forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, fired scud missiles at rebel fighters. This took place just a day after the U.S. endorsed the Syrian opposition, an indication of how far the conflict has escalated and the readiness of the Syrian regime to fight to finish.
Unless the American backed Western recognition is properly coordinated and carefully thought through, it may not achieve the goal sought without more blood sheds. So far, the leader of the newly endorsed Opposition Forces has taken issue with the Obama administration’s decision to classify Al-Nusra as a terrorist organization. The leader, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, has called for a review of the decision and one of the reasons he gave was the fact that all the rebel groups fighting in Syria, have one goal in mind, which is the fall of the Assad regime.
The United States must avoid a situation where one group is given so much power that it puts other groups against it, while it is clear all are fighting to achieve the same end, which is the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. Though, it is necessary to pull support behind a genuine and legitimate group, the United States should have tried more to convince Russia. The current support for the opposition is likely to strengthen the Assad regime as long as it continues to enjoy the backing of Russia. Though, Russia said for the first time through its Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov, that the regime is losing to the opposition, without a no-fly-zone it is almost impossible to cripple the regime and with the support of the government in Moscow for the Assad regime, a resolution to such effect would suffer a veto by both Russia and China at the UN Security Council.
Even if the opposition forces are successful enough to overthrow the regime, supporters of Assad especially the Alawites, may later team up with other groups to fight a new U.S.-Western backed government in Syria. Such a result would destabilize the region and force a repeat of the situation in Iraq. While vetting the groups is essential to establish a genuine opposition, the U.S. along with the Friends of Syria must use a coordinated approach that brings together representatives from all groups fighting against the Assad regime.
It is no doubt a difficult task since the U.S. is unwilling to support a terror group with weapons and funding however, it can be achieved with proper planning and strong will among nations. Russia and China must be called to the table to end their support for the Assad regime or else, the Syrian war will likely not end soon. President Assad has characterized the more than 21 months conflict in Syria as a war against terror. There are those in Russia and China who believe he is right and unless they are proven wrong, the Syrian imbroglio may spread beyond imagination.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment,’ ‘Murder of Diplomacy’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ a fiction. Follow on Twitter @san0670.
Categories: Foreign Affairs