New Syrian coalition links
Links from all over the place on this question are below.
I think it's a good sign even if it had to be pushed together by outside forces. There are still too many Muslim Brothers on the coalition board, though. But in the leadership it is nice to see the kind of people who were behind the original protests against Assad rather than the militias of former regime officials, Muslim Brotherhood brigades and sundry Salafi nutters. I suspect the test of this new coalition will be how effective it is in maintaining at least the outward appearance of unity and implementing its goals of forming competent united organizational structures for aid to refugees and a joint military command. The French are very keen to get things going by having this turn into a one-stop shop for coordinating aid, as a first step. And one senses that the GCC, the French, the Brits and some of the others gung-ho on acting fast are rather peeved off with the slow movement of the Obama administration and would like to present it a success to nudge it along.
The question for the Obama administration, now reviewing its Syria policy, is still the same: who to arm, and whether the risk of arming these groups means reproducing Libya: militias across the country, trans-border violence, arming extremists, etc. No one wants a Somalia — much less a 1980s Afghanistan.
My question yesterday, in an off-the-record briefings with French officials, was how this affects the Lakhdar Brahimi track, which implies that the Assad government still represents Syria since he is negotiating with them. The answer I received suggested no one wants to outright kill the Brahimi track — indeed there was suggestion that continuing to pursue a ceasefire was desirable, and that even without recognition a deal secured with the Assad regime would be amenable. Yet, accepting this coalition, which rejects negotiations with Assad, suggests otherwise. Of course, arguably the Brahimi track is dead and buried. Nabil Arabi suggested as much a few days ago, in comments I am told were not picked up by the papers or news agencies.