|Syrian opposition is facing turmoil as the head of the opposition coalition Moaz al-Khatib resigned on Sunday and the so-called “Free Syrian Army” rejected the group’s appointment of an interim prime minister.
“I announce my resignation from the National Coalition, so that I can work with a freedom that cannot possibly be had in an official institution,” Khatib said in a statement published on Sunday on his Facebook page.
He had also objected to last week’s coalition appointment of American-educated businessman Ghassan Hitto as an interim prime minister for the areas controlled by the armed groups.
Shortly after Khatib announced his resignation, the so-called “Free Syrian Army” refused to recognize Hitto as prime minister, spokesman Louay al-Mekdad said.
Al-Mekdad told Western news agencies that Hitto was not properly elected because there was no consensus on his candidacy.
Other rebels have said they do not need a prime minister because they already are governing areas under their control.
These moves left the US-backed efforts to forge a united front against the Syrian opposition in tatters.
“The coalition is on verge of disintegrating,” Amr al-Azm, a history professor at Shawnee State University in Ohio said.
There nonetheless seems to be little doubt that an initiative launched last fall in the Qatari capital, Doha, to create an inclusive and representative opposition body is falling apart, added Azm.
Syrian MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD opposition leader resigns
March 24, 2013 22:53
The president of the Syrian National Coalition Moaz Khatib has announced his resignation from office just four months after being elected.
The head of the Western-backed opposition group has stepped down amid high tension in the coalition. He said in a statement that he is resigning “to be able to work with freedom that cannot be available within the official institutions.”
“I had promised the great Syrian people and promised God that I would resign if matters reached some red lines. Now I am fulfilling my promise,” the statement on Khatib’s Facebook page says.
However, hours after the announcement was made the Syrian National Coalition released a statement saying the opposition bloc has refused the resignation of its leader al-Khatib.
“They are asking Mr. Moaz al-Khatib to go back to his work as the president of the Coalition,” the statement said.
The Turkey-based Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has been rife with internal fighting among its various factions. Lately the body has been struggling to form an interim government, which would serve as replacement for the current government of Syrian President Bashar Assad in the event of an overthrow or resignation.
The SNC managed to elect Ghassan Hitto as prime minister of the provisional government, but his candidacy sparked protest from some members of the coalition. At least 12 members of the council resigned following the election, which ground the process of forming the cabinet to a halt.
Syria’s main armed opposition group, the Free Syrian Army, refuses to recognize Hitto as prime minister.
“We in the Free Syrian Army do not recognize Ghassan Hitto as prime minister because the (main opposition) National Coalition did not reach a consensus,” at the March 18 vote, FSA political and media coordinator, Louay Muqdad, told AFP.
“I speak on behalf of the [rebel] military councils and the Chief of Staff when I say that we cannot recognize a prime minister who was forced on the National Coalition, rather than chosen by consensus,” he added.
Muqdad called on Coalition members to “make right what was wrong.”
Members of the Coalition have been disagreeing on other important issues, including whether or not they should negotiate a political solution of the Syrian crisis with Assad’s government, and who should be on their negotiators’team.
To some, such internal divisions are to be expected when seen in the light of wider developments. Journalist and political commentator Alaa Ibrahim believes a major reason for al-Khatib’s resignation was because of the uncontrollable bloodshed in the country and that many opposition factions seem to acting independently.
But the reasons for such behavior by the different sectors of the opposition are no surprise to Ibrahim, when the rebels’ foreign backers are themselves at odds with each other at times, which as Ibrahim expressed means “we see more disagreement. Often we’ve seen the US would like to advance a political solution at some point, to be contradicted by the United Kingdom and France, as we’ve seen recently the weapons embargo regarding sending weapons from the EU to Syria. The UK and France were acting in complete disengagement with what the US was at least declaring it wants to do (of course that position changed afterwards). So, everyone knows some of the external opposition operating abroad is directly linked to Western powers – and regional powers also – and they will act accordingly.”
The resignation was announced just after the SNC was invited to attend an Arab League summit. Both Khatib and Hitto were expected at the event in Qatar’s capital, Doha. The League was anticipating formation of the provisional government by the coalition with the intention to give it Syria’s seat in the organization.
The Arab League suspended Syria’s membership in November 2011 as Damascus rejected demands that President Assad step down. The Syrian government accuses some members of the league, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, of waging a proxy war against it by supplying arms and paying militants fighting in Syria.
هذه النقاشات حصلت يوم السبت وامتدت حتى ساعات الفجر الأولى من يوم الأحد، دون الوصول الى نتيجة، مع الخطيب الذي كان مطلبه أن لا يدعو وزير الخارجية القطري حمد بن جاسم، رئيس ما يسمى بـ “الحكومة السورية المؤقته” غسان هيتو لحضور مؤتمر القمة العربية الذي يعقد في الدوحة يوم الأربعاء المقبل.
وبعد نصف ساعة من طلب حمد بن جاسم من مجلس وزراء خارجية الدول العربية الموافقة على تسليم مقعد سورية لـ “الإئتلاف السوري المعارض”، أعلن الخطيب في بيان صحافي استقالته من رئاسة “الإئتلاف”.
يذكر أن العراق والجزائر تحفظتا على تسليم مقعد سورية لـ “الإئتلاف” في حين نأى لبنان بنفسه ووافقت الدول الباقية. ويرى مراقبون أن استقالة الخطيب أتت بدعم كبير لموقف الجزائر والعراق وإفشال المسعى القطري في هذا المجال.
مصادر مطلعة قالت لموقع “العهد” إن الضغوط التي أتت بـ “غسان هيتو” رئيساً للوزراء كانت من قبل السفارة الأميركية في اسطنبول في تركيا، بعد أن أقنعت الخطيب ومن رفض تشكيل الحكومة المؤقته، بأنه لن تتم دعوة هيتو لحضور قمة الدوحة.
من جهة ثانية، أضافت المصادر أن “الولايات المتحدة الأمريكية قالت لمعاذ الخطيب خلال مؤتمر برلين الذي عقد منذ شهرين تقريباً، إنها سوف تحميه من “جماعة الإخوان المسلمين” في حال استمراره في سياسة الحوار التي دعا اليها بعد مؤتمر جنيف، الذي عقدته أطراف في المعارضة السورية”، لافتةً الى أن “هذه الأطراف هي على خلاف مع “الإخوان المسلمين” ومع “الائتلاف السوري” المعارض”.