Syrian opposition splintered ahead of peace talks

Last Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 14:49

Beirut: Within minutes of opening a Twitter account this past week, the leader of Syria`s main Western-backed opposition group received an onslaught of criticism.

"Welcome to Twitter Mr Western Puppet," one comment to Ahmad al-Jarba read. Others called him a Saudi stooge and scorned the opposition`s perceived ineffectiveness.

The comments reflect the deep disillusionment and distrust that many Syrians have come to feel toward the Syrian National Coalition, Syria`s main opposition group in exile.

They also underline the predicament of who will represent the Syrian opposition at an upcoming peace conference in Geneva marking the first face-to-face meeting between Syria`s warring sides.

The Geneva talks have raised the possibility of a negotiated end to a conflict activists say has killed more than 120,000 people. But with a fractured opposition, many have little hope for strong negotiations with emissaries of President Bashar Assad.

"Each of them represents himself and maybe his wife," said an anti-government activist in the central Homs province, who uses the pseudonym Abul Hoda. "Nobody here pays any attention to what they say."

The Syrian National Coalition is seen by many as a disparate group of out-of-touch exiles with inflated egos and non-Syrian allegiances.

Syrians often deride it as the "five-star-hotel opposition" for spending more time meeting in luxury hotels than being on the ground in Syria.

Damascus-based opposition groups call members of the coalition traitors for demanding US military airstrikes against Syria following a chemical weapons attack in August that killed hundreds.

But groups known as the "internal opposition" are themselves seen as aging and submissive to Assad`s government, incapable of playing an effective opposition role for fear of arrest.

More importantly, the rebel factions that hold the real power on the ground won`t go to Geneva. Some of the most powerful Islamic brigades have distanced themselves from the coalition.

Meanwhile, rebels are losing ground to a crushing government military offensive.

PTI

First Published: Monday, December 2, 2013 - 14:49

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