The election of a moderate Islamist as provisional prime minister by the Syrian National Coalition is unlikely to make any significant impact on the current course of events. The election was a clear move by the SNC to avoid being sidelined as developments on Syria spin out of control, with Russia and the US trying to reaching a deal on the handover of chemical weapons in Syria and the opposition finding itself stuck in a groove, its voices and opinions going unnoticed. The opposition decided to go ahead with the election of a prime minister despite opposition from Washington, which is hoping to convene, along with Russia, a peace conference in Geneva that could come up with a transitional administration. The SNC action also shows growing schism between the rebels and the US, with both sides working in parallel, even opposite directions.
The SNC has long sought recognition as a government in exile, but has been hindered by internal divisions and varying pressures from its Arab and Western backers. The election of 48-year-old opposition campaigner Ahmad Tumeh is meant to show it can still perform its duties.
With the forces of Bashar Al Assad making steady and continuous gains in the battlefield, the opposition will have to do more than elect a premier. The huge losses the rebels have suffered until now are because of the lack of unity and coordination, and the infiltration of Islamists, especially Al Qaeda, which made the West wary of offering their full support to rebels.
At the same time, US President Barack Obama made it clear that the use of force against Syria is still an option, though his previous statements had given the indication that Washington would finally settle for a diplomatic solution if Syria agrees to hand over chemical arsenal. But subsequent reports have spoken about the difficulty in implementing any deal in this regard. Guaranteeing the transfer of chemical weapons is a difficult task even in best of times, and when all of Syria is in conflict, and completely inaccessible for the outside world, the West will have to rely completely on Assad to make good his promise. That ultimately would mean falling in Assad’s trap. It must be this realization which prompted Obama to say that the option of military strike is still on the table.
While a diplomatic solution is the best in any conflict, in the case of Syria, diplomacy is unlikely to bring any results. Assad has consistently defied all pleas from the international community to stop killing his people. Limited strikes against Damascus can have a limited impact, but Assad must be shown that his crimes against humanity will not go unpunished•