EU countries have rushed to formally recognised the so-called ‘Syrian opposition made of a loose band of groups opposing Assad, but who have little else in common. The UK was so keen to declare recognition that a mere four days after voicing concern, Hague was happy to follow France. In the mad rush, to legitimised this fractious organisation, one group has been notably overlooked – The Syrian people. Here’s why…
On the day the Anti-Assad opposition groups found enough consensus to present themselves as a viable political alternative to the Assad administration, the UK government needed assurances that the group was not linked to any Islamic fundamentalist rebels who have been bombing innocent people on the streets of Syria. Hague also wanted the coalition to set out a credible plan for political transition and widen its support among the Syrian people as conditions for official British recognition. After only a few-days, and with no evidence that the opposition can stay united let alone achieve any of the UK’s assurances, British Foreign Minister Hague, on behalf of the British people, has formally recognised the group as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people; something even the US has held back from doing.
So why the rush and why not consult the Syrian people? The answer lies with the Middle Eastern countries that have also recognised the anti-Assad group. Already they are positioning themselves to secure lucrative business deals within a toppled Syria. It is inconceivable to expect cash-strapped EU countries not to be salivating over the prospects of an mostly untapped market for Western businesses. This isn’t about democracy, this isn’t even about oil – its much more important than that!
The US is more aware than most of the dangers of getting it wrong – again. It would take the lead in any military intervention in Syria, which would be expensive in cost, time and lives. Those issues will be minimalised only if the preparation, of which the coalition is a part, worked 100% in the West’s favour; all that is far from certain.
This coalition is the second attempt to unite the opposition against Assad. The first, failed due to terrorist activity by some group members and, more crucially infighting amongst the factions as each claimed greater legitimacy from the Syrian people than other group representatives.
This second attempt is led by Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib. The West hailed him as a moderate; citing his trips to the UK as evidence. Assad studied in London and was regarded as favourable at one time. But Khatib has very anti-semetic views and has made insulting comments about minority Muslim sects; none of which bodes well for a lasting coalition.
The EU has different domestic worries than the US and a greater urgency. The rush is to legitimise and arm the coalition before the cracks show, market opportunities are lost and the legitimacy of Western-imposed opposition is shoved onto the 95% of Syrians who do not want western intervention, because that’s democracy.