US President Barack Obama has recognized the main Syrian opposition group as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people. This brings the US in line with its allies, including Britain, France and several Arab states.
"We've made a decision that the Syrian Opposition Coalition is now inclusive enough, is reflective and representative enough of the Syrian population that we consider them the legitimate representative of the Syrian people in opposition to the Assad regime," Obama said in an interview with ABC.
The recognition marks a major boost for the Syrian rebels seeking to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad.
"Obviously, with that recognition comes responsibilities," Obama said in the interview on Tuesday. "To make sure that they organize themselves effectively, that they are representative of all the parties, that they commit themselves to a political transition that respects women's rights and minority rights." government.
Russia is “surprised” by the US move, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov commented on Wednesday. He said that Washington is apparently betting on a military victory for the Syrian rebels, which goes against the Geneva agreement – the international roadmap for a peaceful solution to the crisis.
The recognition of the coalition by the US is likely to indemnify the hostilities in Syria, believes Conn Hallinan, a contributing editor at Foreign Policy in Focus.
“It opens the door for a much more direct intervention into the civil war in Syria. It will mean that the heavy weapons will come in. Potentially you could end up with a no-fly zone. Really, it's pretty much an open declaration of war against the Assad regime,” he told RT.
Critics contend the coalition and the Free Syrian Army (FSA), which supports the opposition body, are closely connected with Islamists. The FSA’s newly elected joint command is estimated to be composed mostly of Muslim Brotherhood-linked commanders and excludes the most senior officers who defected from Assad’s more secular military.
“People here in Washington don’t seem to understand… If you do like the government in Cairo, then you will love the government that comes to power in Damascus. You will see a Sunni Muslim Islamist government, a Muslim Brotherhood-style government, that is absolutely intolerant, fundamentally hostile to the West,” retired US Army Colonel and military author Douglas Macgregor told RT.
The recognition comes after the US Department of State declared a key Syrian rebel group – al-Nusra Front – a terrorist organization. The move was taken despite the group’s success in fighting the Assad regime and protecting rebel strongholds.
The rebel group has been blacklisted for the alleged links it has to Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). US officials have expressed concern that al-Qaeda loyalists and radical Islamists are planning to take control of the opposition movement and influence any post-Assad government.
The al-Nursa Front, which is believed to have 6 to 10 thousand militants in its ranks, is defiant towards the Syrian Opposition Coalition, also known as Syrian National Coalition. The body was formed after a conference in Doha in mid-November and has since been recognized as a legitimate representative of the Syrian people by the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, France, Turkey, Italy, the EU and now the US.
The news comes as a group called Friends of Syria are set to meet in Morocco on Wednesday. The meeting of the international collective formed by the US may be missed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton due to urgent health issues. The group is to discuss how the participating countries can bolster the Syrian Opposition Coalition and provide humanitarian relief for Syria.