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article imageOp-Ed: Official Opposition

By Paul Iddon     Dec 13, 2012 in World
Obama's recent comments about the Syrian opposition makes one ask the following, can the Syrian opposition topple Assad and bring into fruition a democratic Syria?
As you know U.S President Barack Obama has declared his country is officially recognizing Syria's Opposition Council that is fighting against Assad as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. He stipulated that, “Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibility. To make sure that they organize themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, that they commit themselves to a political transition that represents women's rights and minority rights.”
A pretty standard and elementary policy declaration on his behalf. But does Obama's statement of recognition and support in itself represent a turning point in the war?
The presidents statement was soon followed by a Russian official stating that Assad's forces are continually "losing more and more control and territory." And Russia, along with China, being one of Syria's only allies stating this signals that the situation on the ground in Syria may in fact be shifting in the favour of the opposition.
The U.S and U.K have both hinted at the strong possibility of a cornered Assad unleashing his chemical stockpile on his enemies. Obama has declared that Assad would be crossing over a 'red line' if he were to unleash chemicals against his opponents. This announcement coupled with the recent, unconfirmed, rumour that Syria has fired one of its Scud missiles at rebel forces once again brings one to ponder if the United States and its allies will intervene, and if they do to what degree will they do so militarily.
One also wonders if Obama has placed upon the shoulders of the opposition the responsibility of becoming the representative of the Syrian people as opposed to already being their representative. What I mean by this is that the rebels can expect U.S support in turn for what Obama said, that being the respect of the rights of women and minorities, rights that many of the Islamists in the Free Syrian Army would not support or promulgate.
Obama was indecisive when it came to supporting the hundreds of thousands of Egyptians that poured onto the streets in January of 2011 to campaign against the dictatorial president Mubarak. However he did back the United Nations mandated no-fly-zones over Libya against Colonel Gaddafi's forces last year. Nevertheless that intervention went well beyond the scope Security Council mandated authorization, that was for the safeguarding of the skies above Benghazi, not the regime change implemented by ragtag rebels which NATO gave provided airpower for.
That explains to some extent why Russia and China have been so adamant in opposing United Nations Security Council resolutions that condemned Assad, rightfully so on a lot of counts, for the actions he has taken against the uprising in Syria. Russia certainly has strategic interests in Syria under Assad which include, but are not limited to, a port naval base on the Mediterranean. Russia has furthermore contended that it wishes to see mediation between the two sides and possibly the succession of Assad, however it doesn't want such a meditation or succession aided or forced upon Syria from the outside. It also holds the view that Assad's ousting would likely make the conflict worse.
Whilst Obama did voice the possibility of concordance with Assad in his lauded speech to the 'Arab world' from Cairo in 2009, U.S policy has favoured the rebels more so than Assad. Obama's administration has repeatedly called for the dictator to step down. Furthermore, regional allies of the United States openly support the arming of the Syrian opposition. Turkey, a NATO ally of the U.S has provided a refuge for thousands of Syrian refuges fleeing the terror in Syria. As well as this, its territory is being used to funnel arms to the opposition fighting it out with Assad's forces.
Should Assad cross Obama's 'red line' the U.S and/or its NATO and regional allies may directly confront him. How such a showdown would transpire is something one doesn't want to speculate too much about given the fact that all matter of things could go wrong.
The Arab Spring is officially dead. In Egypt where popular protest led to the capitulation of Hosni Mubarak and the subsequent end to his 29-year rule there is the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood will completely take over and implement Sharia on all Egyptians. One doesn't even want to speculate about Libya's future. As for Syria's future the question about what a rebel victory will look like is very unclear.
If Syria is to become a democratic and secular society then of course the victors have a responsibility to ensure that is implemented and Damascus doesn't simply see to the rise of a new regime. One that could be a much more fundamentalist regime which could have, even more serious, geopolitical ramifications for the rest of the region. Which is probably the primary reason that Israel has remained lukewarm with regard to any endorsement of the opposition or even any harsh condemnation of Assad. Essentially, it is better the devil you know.
Speaking of geopolitical ramifications, even if Assad falls and the Islamic fundamentalists reign supreme and do actively take over the country and establish their own dictatorship they may be opposed to the Shia Hezbollhah militia in Lebanon. This could in a limited regard serve Israel's interests as it could potentially see the new regime in Damascus pitted against Hezbollah which would see it ensure that Syria isn't used as a conduit line for Iran to supply that Lebanese militia with arms. Which is essentially the role Syria plays under Assad.
However such a regime wouldn't necessarily be friendly to Israel neither, and may even launch further operations once Assad is gone, against Israeli forces on the Golan Heights in a bid to reclaim that territory. Or even advance beyond it to claim further territory.
For the meantime the future is certainly uncertain. But Obama's statements that have elevated the Syrian opposition to the status of the official representatives of the Syrian people is certainly a highly noteworthy development in of itself.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
More about syrian rebels, Syria, Bashar alAssad, Syrian civil war, Syrian opposition
 
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