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Uniting Syria

BERLIN – Syrian opposition activists regularly express disappointment with the level of international support that they receive. Although the last meeting of the so-called “Friends of Syria” (a group of countries that convenes periodically to discuss Syria’s situation outside of the United Nations Security Council) brought more financial aid, the degree of genuine outside commitment to their cause remains questionable.

The United States, the European Union, Turkey, and most Arab countries agree that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime is no longer legitimate. They have intensified sanctions against the government, and have provided different kinds of support to opposition groups. Some states have delivered automatic weapons, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenades. But arms deliveries have dried up, and the rebels’ pleas for anti-aircraft weapons remain unanswered.

Moreover, neither Syria’s neighbors nor Western governments are willing to intervene militarily. Indeed, despite expressions of solidarity, they have refused to establish a protection zone for Syrian civilians along the border of neighboring states, or to impose a no-fly zone for Syrian military aircraft. As a result, Syrian opposition groups believe that they have been left to confront Assad’s brutal regime alone.

But Syrian oppositionists must recognize that the lack of decisive international action is not only the result of Russia and China vetoing any meaningful action in the Security Council, or NATO countries’ unwillingness to enter into another war in the region. In fact, the international community is waiting for Syria’s disorganized opposition to transform itself into a coherent, effective force as much as the opposition is waiting for the international community. This entails forming a common platform that represents all relevant groups, including the Local Coordination Committees, the Syrian Revolution Coordinators Union, and the Free Syrian Army’s military councils.