The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Syria Opposition Council Talks Collapse

The Telegraph reports:

Syrian opposition groups were due to convene in the Qatari capital Doha on Thursday to appoint a new and supposedly more representative leadership. But on the eve of the conference three of the dissident bodies included in the US-backed initiative refused to attend, diplomats and opposition figures told the Daily Telegraph.

“There are too many people against this initiative for it to work now,” said a western diplomatic source in Doha.

We saw this coming. The Syrians meeting in Doha are too detached from the actual war in their country to claim to be the rebellion’s true leaders. The Syrian National Council, once seen as the likely core of the next government, if Assad were to fall, is at odds with other opposition groups and too fractured within to form any sort of representative group. Moreover, opposition leaders are upset at foreign countries, particularly the U.S., the Arab League, Britain and France, for trying to force their chosen candidates into positions of leadership.

This meeting was doomed from the start, in the sense that no well organized, legitimate rebel government in waiting could emerge. It is clear that there really isn’t anyone in control of the various rebel brigades fighting Assad. They are able to collaborate militarily but they have very little oversight and too many of them believe that the real competition will take place on the ground in Syria rather than in international conference halls.

If somehow the rebels manage to topple the Assad regime without even a plan to establish a clear leadership structure in its place, what comes next won’t be pretty. The trouble in Doha should not stop American and other efforts to put together and support some kind of coalition that could at least reduce the duration of any anarchy in Syria and perhaps limit the intensity of human suffering that now seems to lie in wait for far too many people.

Published on November 8, 2012 12:36 pm