The Middle East Channel

Syrian opposition leader resigns and an explosion injures FSA head

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), announced his resignation on Sunday via a statement written on his Facebook page. Al-Khatib wrote, "I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution." He has repeatedly voiced ...

AFP/Getty Images/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA
AFP/Getty Images/ GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Ahmed Moaz al-Khatib, the head of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC), announced his resignation on Sunday via a statement written on his Facebook page. Al-Khatib wrote, "I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution." He has repeatedly voiced frustrations, particularly with the lack of international support to Syrian opposition fighters. There is also speculation that his resignation was related to last week’s election of Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of an interim opposition government. Hitto is a moderate Islamist and an American citizen; and his victory provoked the resignation of several coalition members. Additionally, the Free Syrian Army (FSA) has rejected Hitto, saying he did not have consensus support and was forced on the coalition. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Free Syrian Army founder and commander Colonel Riad al-Assad, was severely injured in an explosion while conducting a tour in the eastern town of Mayadeen, south of Deir al-Zour. Al-Assad reportedly lost his leg, and is currently being treated in Turkey. According to a report, the C.I.A. has been increasingly assisting Turkey and Arab governments in airlifting arms and equipment to Syrian opposition fighters. The United States has consistently refused to offer lethal aid to opposition forces. But, the involvement of the C.I.A., despite acting mostly in a consultative role according to U.S. officials, shows a possible shift in the Obama administration’s willingness to support the opposition with lethal resources.

Headlines

  • In a surprise visit to Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pushed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop the flow of Iranian arms into Syria.
  • Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has raised customs rates on dozens of "non-essential" imports in efforts to address declining economic conditions.
  • Lebanon’s Najib Mikati is defending his resignation and that of his government over the inability to approve an electoral commission and the failure to agree to an extension on the internal security chief’s term. 

Arguments and Analysis

Syria: the failure of our so-called international community (Desmond Tutu, The Guardian)

What on earth will it take for this to finally happen? For two years, our so-called international community has allowed complex power plays to take priority over the terrible suffering of Syrians. It is so uncaring and cynical. If your loved ones were trapped there, would you not be moved to act? Would you care for politics rather than safety in the face of such carnage?

In the absence of a political solution, there is simply no excuse for the lack of concerted, neutral humanitarian efforts to reach the millions who are suffering everywhere in the country. Surely it is in the interest of anyone who cares for the future of Syria to keep families safe and children unscathed?

Iraq: ten years of hubris and incompetence (Zaid Al-Ali, OpenDemocracy)

"Ten years after the 2003 war, the Iraqi government credits itself with a number of achievements. All foreign soldiers have left the country, the 2005 constitution was approved by 80% of the population, several rounds of elections have taken place in the absence of credible accusations of massive fraud, and the annual state budget has reached unheard of proportions.  And yet, the country has millions of poor who live in slums without access to any government services to speak of, and millions of others have left the country never to return. The government is once again rearming. Women’s rights have regressed. Political tensions, fueled by corruption, violence and sectarianism, appear to be worsening. 

There are many causes for this state of affairs, too many to address in any single analysis.  This article focuses on the rules that are designed to govern the political process, namely the 2005 constitution. The constitution was rushed, is undemocratic, and is rigged to encourage political tensions, instability and crisis. This is not "post-hindsight" analysis: in the summer of 2005, a few weeks before the referendum that was organised to approve the constitution, two of the world’s leading legal scholars travelled to Baghdad and studied the then draft constitution. They wrote an analysis which was circulated to key officials, but was not published at the time. Their conclusion was that, if applied, the constitution posed a "grave risk to state and society". Their prophetic prognosis went unheeded and we are still paying the consequences today."

If We Won’t Save Syria, Save the Syrians (Morton Abramowitz, The National Interest)

"The Syrian humanitarian situation worsens daily. It is also gradually destabilizing the region. The total displaced Syrian population, internally and externally, now exceeds the numbers in Darfur, where the displaced two million or so were at least in much warmer weather and more easily managed by the foreign humanitarian community.

While making such a comparison is painful, the more than two million displaced within Syria are all over the country, often in terrible circumstances, particularly with the present cold weather. They eke out survival with limited help from foreign humanitarian agencies. Their future looks abysmal.

… In previous massive human disasters, the United States has always aggressively taken the lead-for Indochinese refugees, Iraqi Kurds, Bosnians, Kosovars, Iraqis displaced from our second Gulf War and many others. We made things happen very impressively, preserving first asylum, resettling millions of refugees in this country, or providing the oomph and money to get nations to do some of the same. The voice of the United States now seems muted. Even many American humanitarian agencies are unduly quiet, perhaps afraid to bite the hands that feed them.

You would think that given our decision not to arm the rebels, we would be at least be aggressive in getting humanitarian help for a dying country and the humanitarian agencies would be out there urging the same. I can attest to the dedication and perseverance of those actually managing our humanitarian-emergency programs, but the voices of our high-level officials, public and private, are more quiet than usual. None even saw fit to attend the worldwide Kuwait pledging conference."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

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