Syrian opposition collapsing?

posted at 9:21 am on March 25, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Some American politicians want the US and NATO to intervene on behalf of the Syrian opposition seeking to defeat dictator Bashar al-Assad, while others fear the assistance will only serve to enable Islamist terror networks that have gained the upper hand in the rebellion. The question may be moot after today, however, as there may not be a cohesive opposition to support any longer. CBS reports this morning that the leader of the Syrian rebel coalition has suddenly quit — to seek “more freedom” in action against the Assad regime:

The SNC supposedly rejected the resignation, but that doesn’t mean too much. The problem goes deeper than al-Khatib’s status, as this Washington Post article explains:

Syria’s opposition coalition was on the verge of collapse Sunday after its president resigned and rebel fighters rejected its choice to head an interim government, leaving a U.S.-backed effort to forge a united front against President Bashar al-Assad in tatters.

The resignation of Moaz al-Khatib, a moderate Sunni preacher who heads the Syrian Opposition Coalition, climaxed a bitter internal fight over a range of issues, from the appointment of an interim government to a proposal by Khatib to launch negotiations with the Syrian regime.

His departure plunged the opposition into disarray at a time when the United States and its Western allies are stepping up their support for moderates opposed to Assad’s regime. Khatib’s coalition was expected to play a key role in identifying the recipients and channeling the assistance.

The US needed al-Khatib to front the SNC, in part to justify intervention while assuring people that it would not end up boosting the Nusra Front, a group which the US declared December to be a terrorist network affiliated or connected to al-Qaeda.  The problem for al-Khatib and those who want to paint a moderate face on the Syrian uprising is that the Nusra Front has been the real strength of the rebellion.  Where the rebellion has succeeded in “liberation,” the Nusra Front has also succeeded in imposing strict shari’a law:

Building on the reputation they have earned in recent months as the rebellion’s most accomplished fighters, Islamist units are seeking to assert their authority over civilian life, imposing Islamic codes and punishments and administering day-to-day matters such as divorce, marriage and vehicle licensing.

Numerous Islamist groups are involved, representing a wide spectrum of views. But, increasingly, the dominant role is falling to Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States for suspected ties to al-Qaeda but is widely respected by many ordinary Syrians for its battlefield prowess and the assistance it has provided to needy civilians.

Across the northeastern provinces of Deir al-Zour and Raqqah, where the rebels have been making rapid advances in recent weeks, Jabhat al-Nusra has taken the lead both in the fighting and in setting out to replace toppled administrations. It has assumed control of bakeries and the distribution of flour and fuel, and in some instances it has sparked tensions with local fighters by trying to stop people from smoking in the streets.

Here in the war-ravaged city of Aleppo, more than half of which has been under rebel control since July, Jabhat al-Nusra is also widely identified as the leading force behind the Hayaa al-Sharia, which loosely translates as the Sharia Authority and is known simply as the Hayaa.

Based out of the city’s former Eye Hospital, which was damaged during the fighting and then occupied by Jabhat al-Nusra as its headquarters, the Hayaa is also backed by other rebel units, including the Tawhid Brigade, the city’s biggest fighting force, and the Ahrar al-Sham, a homegrown Islamist force that has played a relatively minor role in Aleppo but is powerful in several other provinces.

Now even the fig leaf provided by al-Khatib is falling away, and so is the supposedly moderate “coalition.” His resignation followed the attempt by the Muslim Brotherhood and Qatar to force al-Khatib to accept their puppet as the official representative for the Syrian coalition, a move the US opposed.  The overall commander of the rebel forces refused to recognize the appointment as legitimate, and more than a dozen coalition commissioners resigned before al-Khatib walked away.

The question remains: who benefits now from American intervention?  It doesn’t seem as though the answer is “the moderates.”


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Can both sides of this conflict lose??

Illinidiva on March 25, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Here’s another great opportunity for Obama to do something really destructive and continue to aid the Syrian opposition. I used to think that the conspiracy mongers who thought Obama is a secret Muslim were crazy. I’m not so sure anymore.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Obama Reverse Midas Touch strikes again ……. the pattern repeats itself.

All those dictators replaced/will be replaced by extremists.

You wonder about Occam’s Razor……

Sir Napsalot on March 25, 2013 at 9:33 AM

Can both sides of this conflict lose??

Illinidiva on March 25, 2013 at 9:26 AM

What she said x a million!

annoyinglittletwerp on March 25, 2013 at 9:36 AM

CBS reports this morning that the leader of the Syrian rebel coalition has suddenly quit — to seek “more freedom” in action against the Assad regime:

Ah! The rebel version of the “I resign to spend more time with the family” meme.

Doesn’t Moaz al-Khatib understand just how badly collapse will reflect on the rat-eared devil?

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:37 AM

Can both sides of this conflict lose??

Illinidiva on March 25, 2013 at 9:26 AM

I wouldn’t wish for it. Assad may be a belligerent tyrant and a homicidal maniac, and so were Saddam Hussein, Moammar Qaddafi, and Husni Mubarak – but, trust an Israeli on that, they are the good guys of the Middle East. The opposition is worse by a nautical mile.

Archivarix on March 25, 2013 at 9:42 AM

This whole Arab Spring thing isn’t working out too well .
What o forgot is when you ” lead from behind ” you
lose whatever authority you had to influence anyone .
o simply has no morals or principles to lead anything .

Lucano on March 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Unconfirmed rumors Assad was shot by his bodyguard. Been trying to follow up on it. Russia Today says his inner circle says he’s fine, but Chavez was just peachy, going to recover from cancer any minute now—and shortly after his death was announced, was too putrefied (as in dead too long) to permanently embalm.

Lamestream isn’t going with it because it’s next to impossible to confirm or refute.

Sekhmet on March 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

I used to think that the conspiracy mongers who thought Obama is a secret Muslim were crazy. I’m not so sure anymore.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM

I think it less that Obama is praying to Mecca five times daily than, not having been raised as an American, having spent time going to school in an Indonesian madrassah, and otherwise being taught that the Muslim terrorists have a legitimate viewpoint; he just doesn’t see the world in the same terms as an American would.

BTW, notice how the media keeps running the picture of the rat-eared devil in Jerusalem with the US/Iraeli flags in the background and not the picture of him speaking to the PLA under a 60-foot image of Arafat, the godfather of modern terrorism?

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

I used to think that the conspiracy mongers who thought Obama is a secret Muslim were crazy. I’m not so sure anymore.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 9:30 AM

We’ll make a fine birther out of you yet. :]

Archivarix on March 25, 2013 at 9:47 AM

Good! Assad is a mongrel, but not a suicidal lunatic.

OldEnglish on March 25, 2013 at 9:47 AM

New York Daily News has an article about the rumors

Sekhmet on March 25, 2013 at 9:49 AM

Gateway Pundit is also following the story

Sekhmet on March 25, 2013 at 9:51 AM

The Eurozone in a death spiral.

The Arab Spring a complete joke unless the intent was installing radical Islamic terrorists to power.

Iran about to have nuclear weapons.

The Taliban about to be in control in Afghanistan.

That Hillary Clinton may be one ugly woman, but she has political survival skills. Spend four years creating problems, traveling the globe for no purpose, and lying her ass off about what happened at Benghazi then exiting to let somebody else deal with her messes.

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

I get confused with the al’s..Is We-al-hateallbutus in cahoots with al-Qaeda, al-Khatib, or al-Nusra Front?

docflash on March 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

So the Obama Administrations strategy is succeeding. We are heading down the path of replacing dictators with Islamist Tyrants who are not only philosophically opposed to democracy, but also engaged in open warfare with our country. We’ve admitted as much by declaring these “rebels” largely to be “terrorist organizations”.

We’ve seen this movie several times before. It was called “Egypt” and the sequel was called “Libya”. Neither ended well for us.

This latest move is not simply moving from the pot to the frying pan. It’s moving from the pot into the fire.

Marcus Traianus on March 25, 2013 at 9:53 AM

For a laugh, here’s the story with Robo-Mecha Assad supposedly in faked footage. Either this is a guy who knows jack, and the tinfoil is strong with him, or the regime’s spin is 2AM-and-just-popped-a-blue-pill-in-a-bar-full-of-ugly-women desperate.

Sekhmet on March 25, 2013 at 9:55 AM

This latest move is not simply moving from the pot to the frying pan. It’s moving from the pot into the fire.

Marcus Traianus on March 25, 2013 at 9:53 AM

My theory is that he wants to make the region so hostile and filled with Islamic terrorist regimes that they will indeed drive the Jews into the sea. And done in such a way that the US isn’t able to intervene. It’s the only way the rat-eared devil’s policies in the region make any sort of sense…. Support whoever hates the Jews the most.

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:58 AM

Long live the Syrian civil war1 Let it continue for decades, as long as they are killing each other, they aren’t killing Israelis.

rbj on March 25, 2013 at 10:01 AM

In what way are we not at war with Syria?

…a U.S.-backed effort to forge a united front against President Bashar …

Ah, in the way that we will do nothing to actually win, but everything to get peripherally involved, lose and blamed.

Smart powah.

WitchDoctor on March 25, 2013 at 10:02 AM

I think it less that Obama is praying to Mecca five times daily than, not having been raised as an American, having spent time going to school in an Indonesian madrassah, and otherwise being taught that the Muslim terrorists have a legitimate viewpoint; he just doesn’t see the world in the same terms as an American would.

BTW, notice how the media keeps running the picture of the rat-eared devil in Jerusalem with the US/Iraeli flags in the background and not the picture of him speaking to the PLA under a 60-foot image of Arafat, the godfather of modern terrorism?

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

I think you are right, and you explain the issue in a rational way.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 10:05 AM

No good will come of this.

trigon on March 25, 2013 at 10:15 AM

I get confused with the al’s..Is We-al-hateallbutus in cahoots with al-Qaeda, al-Khatib, or al-Nusra Front?

docflash on March 25, 2013 at 9:52 AM

“Al” is the Arabic word for “the”. Stop with the questions that make conservatives look like ignorant hicks.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Some American politicians want the US and NATO to intervene on behalf of the Syrian opposition seeking to defeat dictator Bashar al-Assad, while others fear the assistance will only serve to enable Islamist terror networks that have gained the upper hand in the rebellion.

Have the Israelis picked a side yet? Seems they have the most to lose or gain on the outcome.

If they haven’t picked a side, perhaps we shouldn’t either. I’m pretty sure we have a common interest in the outcome.

farsighted on March 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Does someone on this blog believe that obama really wants the moderates to prevail?

GaltBlvnAtty on March 25, 2013 at 11:11 AM

The question remains: who benefits now from American intervention? It doesn’t seem as though the answer is “the moderates.”

Have the Israelis picked a side yet? Seems they have the most to lose or gain on the outcome.

From the Israeli point of view, the best outcome is continued fighting to a stalemate. Assad has been a thorn in Israel’s side for years, particularly by sending Syrian troops to invade Lebanon. But Israel certainly doesn’t want a hard-line Sharia-law government legitimized in Syria on its northern border, after Egypt is now controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood on its southern border. The Syrian rebels are not friendly to Israel, but they are indirectly helping Israel by weakening Assad as a threat, so Israel is willing to stay out and let them fight.

We should have learned from Libya the consequences of supporting a rebellion to oust a dictator, without knowing the political goals of the rebels. Our own ambassador was killed in the very city (Benghazi) we intervened to “save”.

Right now, the best thing we can do about Syria is…nothing. We don’t really have any friends there, so why get involved?

Unlike the Cold War, we probably don’t need to fear that Russia will intervene in Syria. If Russia supported Assad, there may be a backlash by Islamic terrorists in Chechnya. If Russia supported the rebels, there would probably be a backlash in Russia itself by Orthodox Christians who resent Muslim expansion on Russia’s southern border.

Steve Z on March 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Right now, the best thing we can do about Syria is…nothing. We don’t really have any friends there, so why get involved?

Steve Z on March 25, 2013 at 11:21 AM

Sounds like a good plan to me. Besides not having any friends there we have lots of enemies. And people who hate us for “intervening” in the past. The hell with’em.

farsighted on March 25, 2013 at 11:28 AM

Barry does not want to upset the Iranians.
Nor do something that would benefit Israel.

albill on March 25, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Al Quaeda and Iranian Revolutionary Guards are killing each other and we need to spend American blood and treasure to stop this because John McCain has daddy issues.

/Jim Morrison comparison

boko fittleworth on March 25, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Secular despots are more tractable than theocratic crazies.

SEE: Iran.

A lesson that we may one day learn… after some politician actually reads a Koran.


God forbid.

profitsbeard on March 25, 2013 at 1:12 PM

“Al” is the Arabic word for “the”. Stop with the questions that make conservatives look like ignorant hicks.

thuja on March 25, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Wasn’t al-Gebra the father of modern math?

Special Forces Grunt on March 25, 2013 at 1:20 PM

Does someone on this blog believe that obama really wants the moderates to prevail?

GaltBlvnAtty on March 25, 2013 at 11:11 AM

The magical Muslim moderates? 3/4 of them left in a Volkswagen bus this morning.

BL@KBIRD on March 25, 2013 at 1:52 PM

It goes something like this:

- Thanks for all the weapons you sent us from Libya.

- Buzz off.

MarkT on March 25, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Just let them keep killing each other for as long as they can. Everyone wins.

The Notorious G.O.P on March 25, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Happy Nomad on March 25, 2013 at 9:43 AM

I think this is right.

Secular despots are more tractable than theocratic crazies.

SEE: Iran.

A lesson that we may one day learn… after some politician actually reads a Koran.

God forbid.

profitsbeard on March 25, 2013 at 1:12 PM

Assad is essentially pro-Islamist and rabidly anti-Israel and Iran’s key ally in the region. It is a gross error to describe him as a secularist in the vein of Qaddafi.

What we’re seeing here is a civil war between groups of Islamists. I’d originally wanted the US to aid the opposition, but now I think the best outcome would be indefinite civil war to exhaust the blood and treasure of both sides. Whichever side wins will be much weaker than Assad was at the start of the war.

Doomberg on March 25, 2013 at 3:08 PM

The question remains: who benefits now from American intervention?

Certainly not America.

VorDaj on March 25, 2013 at 4:52 PM