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Cairo: A Rehearsal for the Split of the Syrian Opposition

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The Obama Administration’s position on Bashar Al Assad has obviously shifted from demanding his “immediate departure” to accepting his prolonged stay in power as a “guarantee” to continue the war against terror. That means Al Assad’s strategy has paid off and he has every reason to continue his slaughter against his people, calling all of his victims terrorists.

But will Syria stabilize under Al Assad?

The Cairo meeting of the Syrian opposition held last week can give a part of the answer. The number of participants was less than the first Cairo conference and many of the influential figures and forces were absent. Even the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) announced it will not officially participate, though some of its members did go “on individual bases”.

The SNC said it did not receive an official invitation. It spokesman, Salem Al Sult, referred to the official position of the umbrella group saying “it was included in the joint communique issued by SNC and the Syrian Coordination Committees (the internal opposition’s umbrella). It is centered on the necessity of the departure of Al Assad to rebuild Syria on democratic and pluralistic bases”. However, the last Cairo communique did not mention the future of Al Assad.

However, the Cairo conference was not without significance. One of the Syrian Kurdish leaders, Abdul Hakim Bashar, commented on the conference in sharp words. “It is significant in as much as it reflects a change in the strategies of the participants. They do not exclude now the possibility of a dialogue with the regime and the continuation of Al Assad in power to find a solution even if such a solution contradicts the goals of the revolution”.

In the views of some prominent opposition figures, the Cairo meeting will lead to a split in the already weak body of the Syrian opposition. The risks of dismantling the opposition outweighs by far any benefits gained. Instead of dismantling what is left of this opposition, efforts should have focused on rebuilding it as viable partner in the future of Syria.

The argument here is almost self-evident. When there are political moves on the ground, among the population in general, it usually finds a way to form a kind of political representation that reflects its aspirations. If it is left on its own, or if its aspirations are falsified by its own representatives, it will not take long to find a new representation emerging that is more capable of reflecting the aspirations of its own base.

A split in the Syrian opposition will virtually end the existence of a “third pole”. The map of the fight will include only two, the regime and the Jihadists, exactly as Al Assad hoped all along. The part of the opposition that will join the regime will be a weightless quantative addition to the machine of the ruthless Assad clan. And the part that will remain in the battle field will join the Jihadists, if only to seek survival.   

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