Syrian Opposition Forms New Unity Group

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 12 2012 10:32 AM

Syrian Opposition Forms New Umbrella Group

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A Syrian man who looks after over shops to make sure they are not looted walks past destruction in Aleppo, Syria

Photo by John Cantlie/AFP/Getty Images.

After more than a week of meetings, Syrian opposition groups reached a unity deal on Sunday in Qatar, opening up possibilities of foreign aid and support for the effort to topple Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The deal wasn't easy to reach, but divided opposition groups, under pressure from Arab and Western countries, needed to replace the fading unity of the Syrian National Council with another umbrella coalition capable of accepting centralized aid and international recognition. That group will be called Syrian National Coalition for Opposition and Revolutionary Forces. The body elected prominent preacher Maath al-Khatib as president. The coalition includes both groups currently in Syria and opposition activists working in exile.

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The New York Times piece on the new coalition does a good job breaking down some of the challenges facing both the unification of opposition forces, and what they'll encounter going forward. Chief among them: Fighting on the ground in Syria is largely splintered, and the group is expected to form the Revolutionary Military Council in order to direct military and financial aid to the Free Syrian Army rebel groups and al-Assad defectors. The coalition is seeking international recognition as well, which would at least in theory imbue the group with the political authority needed to provide needed oversight to, and representation for, the Free Syrian Army.

The new coalition has been greeted internationally with cautious optimism. Russia was a bit more qualified with their welcome to the group, indicating that they'd like to see negotiations with their ally al-Assad, the Guardian reports. But that's something many opposition groups and leaders have taken completely off the table.

Meanwhile, Israel fired into Syria on Monday after a Syrian mortar shell hit Golan Heights, Reuters reports. That's after the country fired a "warning shot" in response to mortar fire on Sunday. 

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.