Rockets and missiles continue to fall on Gaza and Israel, acting as an exploding signpost for the ongoing tragedy, mainly for the Palestinians, that is the lack of a peaceful and just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the same time Syrians continue to die in even greater numbers on all sides in the continuing rebellion and government crackdown. A revolution does not simply stop turning just because the world’s media shifts its attention to the latest hotspot.
This is highlighted by Britain and the rest of the European Union’s decision to recognise the National Coalition of the Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. I think it is safe to surmise that weapons and money will start to flow on a more regular basis to the groups under the umbrella of this coalition from western powers as suggested as a policy recently by the British Prime Minister. The leader of this new coalition, Ahmad Muath Al Khatib, has been characterized by some as an extremist for some of his past remarks against Shiite Muslims and Jews. Joshua Landis on the other hand, who is the Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, on his informative site Syria Comment, points to some of the more moderate and positive language used by Al Khatib;
“My brothers, we lived all our lives, Sunnis, Shiites, Alawites, and Druze, as a one-hearted community. And with us lived our dear brothers [Christians] who follow Jesus, peace be upon him. We should adhere to this bond between us and protect it at all times.”
Statements however only go so far in determining the standpoint and future vision of a leader. The coalition that Al Khatib is the head of is hardly a harmonious or solidified apparatus. The Kurds have rejected the coalition which is a worrying prospect for relations post-Assad. Not just for any new central government in Damascus but also for Turkey which borders Syria and continues to battle with its own Kurdish population and their separatist elements. Despite these problems facing the Syrian coalition it will be the actions of Al Khatib in leading the coalition that will help determine the future direction of the revolution and if and when they succeed in overthrowing the Assad regime, the future relations between the different populations within the country. The foreign support for the coalition can only go so far in moderating the rebellion; it will ultimately be down to Syrians to make sure that everyone is protected in the new Syria.
By Jonathan Woodrow Martin