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Syria: What can the SNC’s Ahmad al-Jarba achieve?

Raed Omari

Published: Updated:

The Syrian National Coalition (SNC) has finally elected a new president, Ahmad al-Jarba, but the hope is that this time his election is the product of an unalterable consensus and based on a unified vision on what should be done next.

Now it is crucial that the SNC under al-Jarba's leadership works vigorously on changing the stereotypical image of Syria's main opposition group as divided, lacking cohesion, vision and, more importantly, dynamism and political maneuvering.

Changing the SNC’s image

Yes, the Syrian opposition coalition was divided and fragmented, with some of its members perceived internationally and even inside Syria, as 'pragmatic,' 'politically immature' and, at times, 'power-hungry.'

This is not a personal opinion of the SNC. The same perception of the SNC as divided was once expressed by one of its leaders.

"We should not be divided. We cannot be divided. There is no point at all behind being divided. We need to be cohesive and united," said Syrian veteran secular dissident, Michel Kilo, in an interview with Al Arabiya News Channel.

Criticism, or I would rather say the 'conviction of mistakes' of the SNC, has also come from one its prominent figures just very recently. Speaking following the close run-off vote, senior SNC official, Adib Shishakly, was quoted by news agencies as saying, “A change was needed … The old leadership of the coalition had failed to offer the Syrian people anything substantial and was preoccupied with internal politics. Ahmad Jarba is willing to work with everybody.”

The SNC needs a shift from being "shy and symbolic" to being a fully-fledged opposition force in high-profile international gatherings.

Raed Omari

Aside from the international community's indecisiveness on the ongoing violence in Syria, it is completely unacceptable – sincerely absurd – that the SNC has been unable so far to present itself to the world as a coherent opposition power, politically and logistically backing its claimed military wing, the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Seemingly, all outspoken members of the SNC have reached consensus on what needs to be done but dispute how things should be done and “who should we ally with and who should lead.” This indecisiveness is reflected in their modest achievements so far and the number of times they have changed their leadership.

More international recognition

A lot of work is awaiting al- Jarba. But what is urgently required from the newly-elected president is to exert relentless efforts to actually activate the SNC and again change its divided image.

Enjoying his reputation as a well-known tribal figure, a heavy-weighted opponent of the Assad regime and a former political prisoner, al-Jarba can do a lot, especially amid speculations over him being close to Christian opposition campaigner Michel Kilo, as well as Saudi Arabia and other Arab states.

Al-Jarba is required to travel outside of Ankara to seek more international recognition of the SNC and in the Arab world, especially in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Jordan.

This active role and strong presence of a unified opposition with well-defined plans and a cohesive agenda will be of immense service for the SNC in international gatherings on Syria, like the periodical Friends of Syria meetings and the projected Geneva II peace conference.

In other words, the SNC needs a shift from being "shy and symbolic" to actively participating in the conflict as a fully-fledged opposition force in high-profile international gatherings, showing it is capable of running a post-Assad Syria.

However, al-Jarba's main missions now is to convince the Obama Administration of the SNC's ability to ensure that any possible provision of lethal weapons to the Syrian rebels will reach the FSA only and not the radical groups, mainly the al-Nusra Front.

This is not an easy job as it lies at the heart of the logistic abilities of the SNC and its control of the opposition fighters and highest coordination with the FSA. Some U.S. senators have reportedly said they introduced legislation that would prevent President Barack Obama from providing military aid to Syria's opposition fighters, saying the administration has provided inadequate information about what they described as risky intervention.

To sum it up, why the Obama Administration, the leading anti-Assad camp, is still reluctant, or not that enthusiastic enough, to work with or intensively support the SNC is a question that all the members of the 2011-founded opposition body need to consider.

Why a number of important states are still not recognizing its representation, speakership and leadership of the Syrian rebellion, is also another question that the coalition is required to find answers for.

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Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.