“…Kerry’s announcement may be seen as support for Moaz Al-Khatib, leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, who is under siege within the opposition for both his willingness to negotiate with Damascus and his resistance to setting up a provisional government, as was reported this week by As-Safir and translated by Al-Monitor.Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, the Coalition’s secretary general, is behind the pressure on Al-Khatib. Al-Sabbagh represents a faction within the coalition backed by Qatar, which has no interest in a political solution. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on March 14 called for lifting the arms embargo on support for the rebels, which could embolden more hard-line elements within the opposition, as well as those in Washington who want the US to provide arms to the rebels.
This column has reported time and again on the possibilities for, and urgency of, a political solution, including engaging Iran, which has officially, through the P5+1, expressed a willingness to strengthen cooperation in dealing with Syria, as Seyed Hossein Mousavian wrote last week. The military option, encouraged by Qatar and its acolytes within the opposition, will only accelerate the killing and state collapse in Syria that is taking place. It can and might get worse, absent a negotiated transition.
Geoffrey Aronson wrote this week that outgoing Commander of US Central Command, Gen. James Mattis, believes that even Assad’s demise “would not end the story but rather create conditions for continuing sectarian conflict in Syria and perhaps throughout the region.” Mattis said, “I believe [Iran] will arm militias inside the country to try to create a Lebanese Hezbollah-type effect, and they would redouble their efforts via-a-vis Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen and elsewhere. I think that’s, on a strategic plane, what we would see as part of their shift.”
In other words, as we wrote in December, in any endgame scenario, “the ‘final days’ may be more illusion than reality.”…….
In an Al-Monitor exclusive, Asmaa al-Ghoul writes on Salafists from Gaza that have joined Jabhat al-Nusra to fight the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Ghoul‘s superb report includes conversations with jihadists, family members of fighters killed in Syria, a leading Hamas official, and a top expert on Salfism. Her article reveals the passion among those in Gaza’s Salafi community for the struggle in Syria, and connections to wider Salafist movements and to patrons in the Gulf.…”