A group of more than 100 nations calling for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down formally recognized a newly formed Syrian opposition coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.
Delegates at the “Friends of Syria” conference hosted by Morocco endorsed the Syrian National Coalition on Wednesday.
A veteran observer of Syrian political history and current affairs, Joshua Landis, talked with senior reporter David Arnold about what may happen next in Syria. Landis is director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma and author of the Syria Comment blog.
Below are excerpts of Landis’ remarks. Check the audio file below for a fuller version of the interview.
How will political moves mesh with fighting on the ground?
Well, that’s the major problem now. America has promoted this civilian leadership that is pro-Western – as pro-Western as you’re going to find and as secular as you’re going to find – and it needs to glue them on top of a rather Hobbesian world out there in Syria, a battleground with a lot of militia leaders who America looks at with great trepidation because they’re not following human rights, they are pretty brutal, and they’re quite Islamist.
Do the armed rebels take the political opposition seriously?
Now, whether they can get it to stick, or whether the military guys laugh at these people, we just don’t know. And a lot of that is going to depend on how much money they get from the United States. And what kind of backing they are able to bring to the table.
Will the political moves lead to a long-term solution?
If the American government wanted this secular, this civilian leadership to come up with a provisional government, they failed to do that in a few meetings in Cairo and elsewhere; so America is trying to herd cats here.
Is this the best opposition front Syria can get?
The Syrian opposition turned out to be as fragmented as ever, and this is causing the United States and the European allies to tear their hair out. But that’s what they have and they’re working with it as best they can. And they’ve promoted this military council that has foresworn extremism and said it’s not going to be too Islamist. That’s about the best they’re going to get and they’ve got this new civilian leadership and now they’ve got to bring the two together. And that’s going to be some heavy lifting for the United States because it’s not obvious they are going to get together.
Listen to a fuller version of the interview with Joshua Landis – 2:20
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David Arnold coordinates the Syria Witness project at Middle East Voices and reports on Middle East and North Africa affairs for both Voice of America and MEV. The Syria Witness project publishes on-the-ground citizen reporting, giving Syrians the opportunity to offer to a global audience their first-person narratives of life on the streets of their war-torn country.