The Syrian opposition is getting organized; good for them, but this is not news. The bigger story is where they are meeting: Istanbul. Turkey is continuing to move towards a Syrian policy based on regime change. From the Washington Post:
Syrian dissidents meeting in Istanbul on Sunday announced the formation of a council uniting most of their country’s fractious opposition groups, a step that activists hailed as a potential breakthrough in the months-long standoff between a largely leaderless protest movement and the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
The Syrian National Council aims to represent the opposition in dealings with the international community and to offer an alternative to Assad, something that has been lacking since ordinary Syrians began swarming the streets in March to stage anti-government demonstrations.
Turkey’s willingness to actively promote and host such a meeting signals that not only has it firmly come down on the side against Assad but that it is taking a more active role in the domestic politics of its neighbors. Even just months ago, Turkey might have been more cautious meddling in Syrian affairs, but the Arab spring has forced a huge rethink of Turkish foreign policy. Ankara is likely concerned about Syria’s Kurds, who signaled last week that they are changing their tune and closing ranks against Assad. There have been renewed calls from Syria to unite all Kurds in an independent country, which worries Turkey.
Turkey’s era of getting what it wants by being friendly with its neighbors is over; in its place is an active, interest-driven foreign policy. That does not mean Turkey’s life will be a bed of roses, or that its foreign policy will move from triumph to triumph. This is a tough neck of the woods, and the Turks have some interesting decisions to make.