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Syria’s Next Leader: Will He Come From The SNC Or Militias? – OpEd


The Assads did an exemplary job of ensuring that a new generation of leaders was unable to emerge in Syria. It will take years to develop leaders who have national reputations and deep institutional roots in Syrian society. In all likelihood, they will have to fight their way to the top in the nasty Darwinian process now unfolding in Syria. Just as Assad emerged out of the dark inner-sanctums of military cliques and conspiratorial confabs, Syria’s new leader will probably emerge from one of the militias now taking the fight to the Syrian army on the streets of Homs, Idlib, or another provincial city of Syria. These militias are not united today, but they will become so over time – at least that is the hope. To defeat the Syrian army and Assad regime, they will have to produce a united leadership – one that can coordinate nation-wide military efforts through a centralized command structure. It is logical to assume that Syria’s new leaders will ultimately emerge from the new military leadership which will be responsible for destroying the Assad-built military. Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud, Reza Pahlavi, and Ataturk are three of the greatest leaders the Middle East has produced. Each commanded a local militia, which he eventually turned into a national army. Will such be the case in tomorrow’s Syria?

Can the Syrian National Council ride the revolutionary tiger to the finish line, establishing itself as Syria’s future government? Will its well-heeled civilian leaders be able to take control of the military effort now being waged in the cities and towns of Syria? Will they be able to deliver the quantities of money and arms that will help cement their relationship and leadership among the fighters on the ground? Only time will tell. I have published a new poll in the upper left corner of Syria Comment asking this question. Weigh in.

This question is all important today. Western statesmen and Middle Eastern leaders alike are trying to decide whether to supply arms and money to the opposition. This forces them to choose winners. Should they give their aid to the SNC and let this fractious body decide how to distribute it? (It is worth noting that the SNC executive committee just voted Burhan Ghalioun to a further two month leadership term.) Should they turn to Colonel Asaad, the putative leader of the Free Syrian Army, who only a week ago called the SNC leaders “‘traitors?” Should they try to deliver aid directly to the militia leaders within Syria, who seemingly do not take orders from either the SNC or the FSA? Will Saudi Arabia and the US agree on which leaders to back? Or will their differences over secularism versus Islamism prove too hard to overcome?

These are some of the questions that are now bedeviling world leaders in their continuing effort to bring down the Assad regime.

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Syria Comment - Joshua Landis

Joshua Landis maintains Syria Comment and teaches modern Middle Eastern history and politics and writes on Syria and its surrounding countries. He writes “Syria Comment,” a daily newsletter on Syrian politics that attracts some 3,000 readers a day. It is widely read by officials in Washington, Europe and Syria. Dr. Landis regularly travels to Washington DC to consult with the State Department and other government agencies. He is a frequent analyst on TV and radio.

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