For newly recognized Syrian rebel coalition, a first dispute with US (+video)
In Morocco, the 'Friends of Syria' recognized the new rebel coalition. But the day was marred by reports of Scud fire by the Assad regime and by a dispute with the US over designating a group as terrorist.
A group of more than 100 countries and organizations including the United States recognized a new rebel coalition as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people at a “Friends of Syria” meeting in Morocco Wednesday.
The recognition, which followed more than a year of international pressure on Syria’s disparate opposition groups to better organize themselves and begin preparing for a post-Assad Syria, was overshadowed by reports that the regime of President Bashar al-Assad has started firing Scud missiles at rebel strongholds.
The broad international recognition of the Syrian National Coalition, which came a day after President Obama added the US to a growing list of countries endorsing the collection of Syrian opposition groups, was also marred by disagreement between the new coalition and the US over recent US action targeting Syria’s Al Qaeda-affiliated anti-Assad forces.
The coalition’s leader, Sheik Ahmad Moaz al-Khatib, called on the US to reconsider its decision Tuesday to list Syria’s Jabhat al-Nusra, or al-Nusra Front, as a foreign terrorist organization, saying no action should be taken against any rebel forces whose goal is “the fall of the regime.” No group fighting Assad should be considered a terrorist organization, he said.
The Assad regime refers to all of the forces fighting it as “terrorists.”
The US maintains that the al-Nusra Front is one and the same with Al Qaeda in Iraq. Defense of the group from within the new rebel coalition is likely to sharpen US concerns that Islamist extremists are gaining ground in Syria’s fight and could even threaten to take control of at least parts of Syria as Assad’s control continues to deteriorate.