New York Times, by Michael Gordon (Washington, DC, Nov. 29, 2012) — The United States is moving toward recognizing the Syrian opposition as the legitimate representatives of the Syrian people as soon as it fully develops its political structure, American officials said Thursday.
The move, which could be announced at a “Friends of Syria” meeting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to attend in Morocco on Dec. 12, is the most immediate decision the Obama administration confronts as it considers how to end the government of Bashar al-Assad and stop the violence that has consumed Syria. Britain, France, Turkey and the Gulf Cooperation Council have already recognized the opposition.
“They are a legitimate representative of the Syrian people’s aspirations,” Robert Ford, the American ambassador to Syria said Thursday at a conference on the Syrian humanitarian crisis. “They are making real progress and I expect that our position will evolve as they themselves develop,” he added.
Among the questions being debated within the administration as it weighs recognition are a host of legal issues about the implications of recognition, the effects on the efforts of the United Nations envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, to negotiate a political transition, the attitude of the Russian government and, most importantly, the state of the opposition.
The United States wants to use recognition as a reward to get the opposition to take the steps it promised at a recent meeting in Doha, Qatar.
“We’ve been looking for them to establish a leadership structure that’s clear to everybody, but also discrete committees that can deal with the various issues that they are assuming responsibility for,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman said Thursday. “We don’t want to get ahead of the game here.”
Mr. Ford made his comments as American officials described a deepening refugee crisis with the approach of winter. The number of internally displaced people inside Syria has soared to more than two million and the government, Mr. Ford asserted, had often interfered with the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Mr. Ford also said that Iran had helped the Assad government use the Internet to track down opposition figures. He noted that the rebels had made gains, but suggested that the government was still capable militarily. “The fighting is going to go on,” he said.