Syria's fractured opposition has finally demonstrated some unity. At a meeting in the Qatari capital Doha the various groups fighting against the Assad regime have now chosen a common leader. Could the new agreement lead to a turnaround in the civil war there?
Representatives from the various opposition groups elected the moderate Sheikh Ahmed al-Khatib to the post of President. He is to head the newly-formed "Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Force". Al-Khatib's nomination and acceptance took some tough negotiations. After being held several times by security forces in Syria, he fled the country three months ago.
Until now, the only group represented and widely accepted outside the country has been the Syrian National Council. However, it has proven both inefficient and divided in the last months. Before the meeting last week, calls for a common representative body had grown too loud to ignore.
The new confederation wants to coordinate the battle against the Syrian government with a "Military Council", as well as take over administration of the areas that are under the control of opposition forces. Its stated long-term goal is to overthrow Assad and set up an interim government. But will all the members of the group really pursue a common agenda? Can it really control all of the armed groups who are fighting in Syria? And can the opposition now count on more support from outside the country?
Let us know what you think: Opposition Unity Deal - New Hope for Syria?
Habib Saleh– is a journalist from the Syrian city of Tartus and a member of the opposition Syrian National Council. He describes himself as secular, left-leaning and nationalistic. Mr. Saleh served a 14-year jail sentence for writing reports that criticized the Syrian government. He fled to Germany via Lebanon, but his family still lives in Syria.
Kristin Helberg- She studied political science and Journalism in Hamburg and Barcelona. First she was a freelance correspondent in Syria from 2001 to 2009. She worked for various radio stations such as ARD, DRS and ORF, as well as for German newspapers such as die Tageszeitung. In 2009 she returned to Germany and lives in Berlin where she works as a freelance journalist. Her main emphasis still focuses on the Middle East and she travels and reports from there regularly.
Tom Goeller –born 1958, he studied American History and Politics at the University of Bonn/Germany. He has been a journalist for various media, among them BBC and ARD. From 1997 to 2004 he was a political analyst of international affairs with the German Weekly "Das Parlament" and the US correspondent in Washington, D.C. From November 2004 until end of 2010 he was the correspondent for Germany of the US daily “The Washington Times” and of the Egyptian monthly "Egypt Today". He now works as a freelance journalist and political analyst of US and Middle Eastern affairs.