U.S. Officially Recognizes Syrian Opposition Coalition
On December 11, U.S. President Barack Obama announced the U.S. now officially recognizes the Syrian Opposition Coalition as “the legitimate representative of the Syrian people.” Deputy Secretary of State William Burns restated the position while attending the “Friends of the Syrian People” in Morocco, adding: “the regime of Bashar al-[Assad] must and will go.” Burns announced U.S. plans to provide $14 million in humanitarian aid to help families in war torn Syria prepare for winter, in addition to another $50 million dedicated to civil society and opposition groups organizing against the regime. Delegates from the more than a hundred countries taking part in the “Friends of Syrian People” conference also made the unanimous decision to recognize the coalition and called on Assad to step down.
The U.S. Department of State simultaneously designated all variations of Syrian rebel group al-Nusrah Front, as affiliates of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), hereby adding them to the Foreign Terrorist Organization list. A teleconference transcript from senior administration officials provided an in-depth explanation for the decision, citing AQI connections, suicide attacks, and summary executions. In her daily press briefing, State Dept. spokesperson Victoria Nuland clarified what both decisions mean regarding how the U.S. will engage the opposition in the future.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood called the decision “very wrong,” due to the “grey atmosphere” in the country, claiming that it is too early to categorize factions of the opposition. The Syrian National Council issued a letter opposing the decision, and many Syrians have called for protests, asserting that members of al-Nusrah have “provided for the basic needs of the Syrian people” and are the “revolution’s most effective fighting force.” Council on Foreign Relations released a piece on December 11, with differing opinions from Max Boot, Brian Fishman, Ed Husain, and Andrew Tabler, on what U.S. policy should be in Syria.