Persistent divisions and a brutal crackdown have prevented Syria’s dissidents from presenting a united front against the Assad regime.
BY KATE SEELYE | SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
The buoyant images of Libya’s rebels, who are currently tearing down the last vestiges of Muammar al-Qaddafi’s regime, have also underscored the challenges facing the fragmented opposition in another Arab country — Syria. Five months after the start of an uprising against President Bashar al-Assad that has left more than 2,200 people dead, dissidents are still struggling to forge a united front that could duplicate the role played by Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC).
The NTC was created just 12 days after the start of the Libyan uprising, quickly organizing resistance to Qaddafi within the country and lobbying for support on the international stage. By contrast, the opponents of Assad’s regime have held gatherings in Antalya, Turkey; Brussels; Istanbul; and even Damascus, the Syrian capital, to shape the opposition’s leadership and articulate a road map toward a democratic Syria. But as of yet, Syrian activists in the diaspora have failed to establish an umbrella group that has earned the endorsement of the only body that can confer legitimacy — the protest organizers inside Syria. Although Assad’s brutal crackdown has undoubtedly made this a difficult task, the absence of a united front has hindered the opposition’s ability to effectively communicate to regime-change skeptics that there is a credible alternative to the Assad government.
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