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New SNC leader wants international aid without conditions, FSA says Assad 'doomed'

Published time: November 10, 2012 16:38
Edited time: November 10, 2012 20:38

Syrian National Council member George Sabra (C) shakes hands with Syrian National Council (SNC) chief Abdel Basset Sayda after the results of the 11-member executive committee in Doha November 9, 2012 (Reuters / Mohammed Dabbous)

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The newly elected leader of the Syrian National Council (SNC) said that the international community should aid the opposition with no preconditions. Meanwhile, a representative of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) told RT that Assad is ‘doomed.’

George Sabra, who was elected the SNC’s new leader on Friday night, said he is disappointed that their foreign backers have not provided the opposition with the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and weapons it desperately needs.

"We get nothing from them, except some statements, some encouragement," while the allies of Syrian President Bashar Assad "give the regime everything," he told AP.

Sabra made his remarks during an SNC conference in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday.

The SNC and rival opposition groups are currently in talks to forge a unified group that will replace Assad's government if it falls. The unification has been promoted by Western and Arab nations.

The outcome of the meeting will not only be crucial for the SNC, but also for the future of the country’s opposition.

Supporters of the plan hope the international community will quickly recognize the new, organized body and respond by donating billions of dollars in aid.

The SNC has been repeatedly accused of being out of touch with those fighting on the frontlines.

“There is the Free Syrian Army. There are the people who are revolting in Syria, and they have no links with the external people who are claiming to represent them. I don’t think [the SNC] had credibility before and I don’t think they have credibility at the present moment,” president of the Arab Lawyers Association, Sabah Mukhtar, told RT.

Until now, the SNC has been reluctant to join with other groups, fearing it would lose much of its influence. However, senior figures say the organization is now willing to do so, but the details of such a deal would need to be worked out carefully.

Previously, the SNC proposed holding a national congress inside ‘liberated’ Syrian territory. A new government or government-in-exile would then be elected. 

“Such a government would be responsible to extend its authority all over the country and of course delegitimize the Assad regime. This is the responsibility of the international community – to support such a government and its role to end the Assad regime,” SNC member Dr. Radwan Ziadehe told RT.

The SNC conference in Doha has been marked by infighting, with opposition groups failing to agree on a final body to build a broader coalition against the Syrian government.

Criticism from the Western world

Last week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested a “shakeup” of the Syrian opposition, accusing the SNC of not representing the fighters on the frontline of the conflict. She added that the SNC “can no longer be viewed as the visible leader of the opposition.”

The group was quick to respond to Clinton’s criticisms.

“Any discussions aimed at passing over the Syrian National Council or at creating new bodies to replace it are an attempt to undermine the Syrian revolution by sowing the seeds of division," the SNC said in a statement.

 Sabra acknowledged that some of the criticism was justified, but said the SNC's flaws should not be a reason to withhold international aid.

“Don’t hang [your] delay to provide Syrians what they need, what they want, on the neck of the opposition…We have our responsibility, no doubt about that, and we will carry this responsibility, but we need the international community to carry their responsibility also,” he said in a statement.

Criticism within the SNC

Western countries are not the only ones becoming increasingly critical of the SNC. One of the group’s founders, Adib Al Shishakly resigned Friday, citing the organization’s lack of transparency and failure to reform.

The group also came under fire two days ago after the SNC elections failed to promote a single woman to a panel of 41 decision-making roles.

Female delegates rushed to the podium to protest the results, claiming the new leadership fails to reflect the key role of women in the push to topple Assad.

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Looking ahead

Whatever the outcome of the conference,the opposition likely faces a long and difficult road ahead.

In an exclusive interview with RT earlier this week, President Assad showed no sign of backing down, saying he will "live and die in Syria."

The comment prompted threats from Fahad Masri, the head of the FSA's media department.

“In his statement to your channel, [Assad] said he would not leave Syria. We know this very well…He and his people will not manage to leave the country. The Free Syrian Army will not let him do this. He will not get out of Syria alive. He will be lucky if he meets the same fate as Muammar Gaddafi,” Masri told RT's Arabic channel.

The Free Syrian Army is another Syrian opposition group that has vowed to restructure its organization in an effort to secure more international aid.