Obama backs Syrian rebels - so why are they frustrated?
US formally 'recognises' Syrian opposition but with no promise of assistance it's seen as a 'half-step'
THE NEWS that President Barack Obama has formally recognised Syria's main opposition coalition as "the legitimate representative" of the Syrian people has been met with concern that the conflict will escalate.
The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary Forces was formed last month and only a small number of countries have so far recognised it as the legitimate representative of Syrians – but they now crucially include the US as well France and Britain.
Obama told ABC News that the National Coalition was now inclusive, reflective and representative enough for Washington to take this "big step".
However, the president did not commit himself to providing arms to the rebels or to supporting them militarily with airstrikes or the establishment of a no-fly zone.
The New York Times called this "the kind of half-step that has led to mounting frustration in Syria".
Andrew J. Tabler, a Syrian expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, agreed. "The recognition is designed as a political shot in the arm for the opposition," he said. "But it’s happening in the context of resentment among the Syrian opposition, especially armed elements, of the White House’s lack of assistance during the Syrian people’s hour of need. This is especially true among armed groups."
The Washington Post pointed out that the move is likely to anger Russia, which has claimed it is a violation of earlier accords. The paper quotes Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov claiming the US’s move contradicted earlier agreements that foresaw the "commencement of an all-Syria dialogue" that would include all sides of the conflict.
The Daily Star Lebanon is also concerned that the conflict will continue with many more lives lost, claiming there is "no clear winner yet in a battle where neither side seems to have advanced".
Reaction on the BBC’s website comment page reminds the West that President Assad still has his supporters. 'Project Mayhem' wrote: "Well done, Obama, you are now supporting the terrorists. You obviously haven't learned anything from Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan and you are obviously oblivious to the fact that you are helping fan a sectarian war."
'Capsule' wrote: "We deplore car bomb attacks in places like Northern Ireland and support people who are carrying out similar in Syria. Of course, it's OK for them to do it over there because they're rebels, and therefore goodies. What a morally consistent world we live in." ·