The Arab League tried to gather the various councils and organizations claiming to represent the “Syrian opposition” in Cairo this week. Only a few people showed up: the international envoy groups, none of which were Syrian. The effort to unite Syria’s dissidents and opposition groups in a united front has since been postponed.Syria’s opposition groups abroad viewed the Cairo conference as a precursor to dialogue with the regime and objected to it on the grounds that Assad must relinquish power, or at least stop killing civilians, before any talks take place.The Free Syrian Army, meanwhile, continues the fight against regime forces in Syria. With coordination from the United States, the Washington Post reports today, the Gulf sheikdoms are sending weapons and explosives to rebel forces. The Obama administration seems to be giving up on a political solution to the crisis:
The U.S. contacts with the rebel military and the information-sharing with gulf nations mark a shift in Obama administration policy as hopes dim for a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Many officials now consider an expanding military confrontation to be inevitable.
According to rebels interviewed by the Post, large shipments of weapons have gotten through to their forces. Equipment is being stockpiled in Damascus and elsewhere. Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood, with funding from the Saudis and Qatar, has also opened supply channels to the rebels.There have also been indications that a “second front” may be opening in the fight against Assad:
Administration officials also held talks in Washington this week with a delegation of Kurds from sparsely populated eastern Syria, where little violence has occurred. The talks included discussion of what one U.S. official said remained the “theoretical” possibility of opening a second front against Assad’s forces that would compel him to move resources from the west.
The prospect of protracted and violent conflict in Syria grows more likely every day. Violence has spread to Lebanon and, more sporadically, Turkey. Will Iraq be next? How long will Assad hang on to power in the face of an increasingly well-armed and determined rebel army?Syria’s opposition leaders abroad are unable to establish a united front, al-Qaeda and other veterans of the Iraqi civil war may be operating in Syria, and weapons are flowing to the Free Syrian Army. The future of the Middle East looks more and more… interesting.