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This week, Qatar spearheaded a remarkable effort to topple the oppressive regime of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. The four-day marathon talks held in Doha aimed to form a united opposition that will head various rebel groups to lead the uprising. The Western governments welcomed the move, which was seen as a positive step to end the four decades-old rule of Assad’s family.
At the end of the talks, the Syrian National Council, the main political opposition, signed an agreement to form a new coalition called ‘Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces”.
The opposition finally agreed under mounting pressure to accept other Syrian rebel groups, who were unwilling to join their ranks due to inefficiency and inaction.
In the initial deal, SNC agreed to elect Ahmed Moaz Al Khatib as the head of the newly-formed bloc, with prominent dissident Riad Seif and opposition figure Suhair Al Atassi as Khatib’s deputies.
The US-backed agreement stated that the parties agreed to work for Assad’s overthrow and reject any dialogue with the government.
It also authorises the establishment of a national judicial commission. Furthermore, it outlined that after the opposition body gains international recognition, a provisional government will follow, and a transitional government will take place when the regime falls.
Qatar’s Prime Minister HE Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani said that he would lead discussions with Arab League foreign ministers, the United States and European allies for the new coalition to obtain full recognition.
Through international recognition, the opposition group would be granted the status of a legitimate government in Syria or in exile. The alliance was promised arms and humanitarian aid by their international supporters so that they can fulfil their mission. Prior to this progress, Assad appeared on a Russian television channel last week to show his firm grip on power and vowed to ‘live or die’ in Syria where he had lived from birth.
His words were aimed at the international community, who repeatedly called for an end to his military rule. Assad signalled that he is neither stepping down nor leaving Syria, and instead, warned the west to refrain from meddling in Syria’s internal affairs. If it continues, the price of the invasion will be more than the world can bear, he said.
Since March 2011, the uprising has claimed 37,000 lives in Syria and the number is expected to surge as long as Assad is in power. The international community fears that the civil war would spread to neighbouring countries, further deepening the conflict that threatens the fragile stability of the Middle East.
Violence has already spilled into Lebanon, Turkey and Israel. Recently, an air strike and bomb attack by Syrian government killed 16 people in the opposition-held town of Ras Al Ain, sending scores of civilians to refugee camps in Turkey. The Turkish government said it will take measures to defend its territory and avoid the spread of violence.
After unity talks in Doha, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel and Syria to exercise restraint after Israel responded by firing warning shots when a mortar from the Syrian side hit the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. The attack came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the state was ‘ready for any development’, referring to the Syrian crisis.
Syria’s neighbours back the international community, particularly the US, on the need to enforce a no-fly zone to restrict Assad government’s air power so as to prevent a spillover of the conflict to nearby countries. However, foreign powers have been reluctant to proceed further due to Russia and China vetoing sanctions on Syria. In September, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the US is yet to address the Syrian crisis and is only giving ‘non-lethal support’ to the opposition due to presidential elections.
US President Barack Obama’s failure in managing the Syrian revolution shows the weakness of his foreign policy. Now that Obama has been re-elected, US should step up efforts to expedite the fall of Assad and boost support to the opposition group. Time is right for Obama to resume his mission in Syria, and he must learn lessons from the past four years of his administration.
Iran, Syria’s closest ally, will soon elect its next leader to succeed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Whoever wins the 2013 elections, both countries will face greater challenges. For Tehran, more restrictions will come on their nuclear ambitions.
For Syria, it will be a crucial stage for them considering the aftermath of the revolution.
Over the years, the Middle East countries have struggled to achieve political reforms.
The Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen proved that only time will tell when a country is ready to face real change. Former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who ruled for 42 years, was beaten to death by angry rebels. On the other hand, former President Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 30 years, was sentenced to life imprisonment.
After Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s ‘live or die’ declaration, it is clear to us that it will only be a matter of time when a ruler will be ousted from power.
Having gone through the dark days of Syrian revolution, as we come to the end of the year, it is time to say that enough of the Assad regime. The future is bright for Syrians.