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The Syrian Opposition

The Syrian Opposition is a blanket term used to refer to the numerous groups, individuals, and organizations which are at work within Syria with the goal of opposing the Assad regime. In 2011, what had begun as brutally suppressed urban riots evolved into a cross country civil war. The Assad regime, confronted with protests by the Sunni majority calling for him to step down and for liberalization of the government, undertook violent measures to suppress the riots. This quickly turned the riots into a revolution, and large numbers of army units began to defect with their weaponry and turn against the Syrian government. While there were numerous groups, two emerged as the leaders, The Syrian National Council and the Free Syrian Army. However, both of these groups were criticized for not representing the makeup of the nation.

In 2012 the SNC was replaced with National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. This new group much more resembled a national government. It is comprised of elected representatives from most involved parties. What is more, it gained the support of the FSA and numerous other military forces operating within the country. The National Coalition has been acknowledged as the sole legitimate representative of the Syrian people by many nations. It was seen as the responsible recipient of donations, arms, and material for the campaign against Assad. It has also served as an umbrella by which to bring together all of the military groups operating in Syria.


The goals of the National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army are to remove Assad and his supporters from power. They believe that then they will be able to draft a new constitution which represents all people equally. Their key demand is that Assad must go. Many fear that if he is allowed to remain, in any capacity, he will split the nation along sectarian lines, or will prevent any meaningful changes from coming to pass.

The National Coalition must also portray itself as a professional organization which respects human rights and the rule of law. The Assad regime has done all that it can to paint the National Coalition as a group of terrorists from outside the country. National news has not even acknowledged that there is a civil war. Here, you must demonstrate to the world that you are committed to democratic change and are not going to abuse the rights of the Syrian people. This can be difficult. The regime is made up of Alewite loyalists. While Alewites make up a minority of the Syrian population, they have enjoyed disproportionate benefits and largess from the President Assad, also an Alewite. This has engendered a large degree of hatred towards the Alewite minority. Some people fear that if the opposition acts too aggressively the Alewites may break away with Assad and create a separate nation. This would devastate the Syrian nation. Alewites would take with them the best and richest portions of the nation, this must be avoided.

You must also demonstrate to the world that you are a nationalist movement, not a jihadist movement. This should be easy enough, Syria is a very secular nation by many standards. However, jihadist groups have strongly established themselves in the fight against Assad, and the growing strength of ISIS, The Al-Nusra Front, and other Islamist groups threatens to neutralize and marginalize your forces

Lastly, the Syrian opposition must secure the support of the international community. Currently, Assad has the upper hand in terms of arms and supplies, and the support of Russia, Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah has been a huge help to Assad's forces. The Syrian opposition must demonstrate to the world that it can be trusted. It must also do everything it can to demonstrate that the Assad regime is vile and utilizing the support of nations such as Russia and Iran to target civilians. You must do all that you can to tip the scales of international opinion towards your groups, though this is looking like an increasingly difficult task, given the focus of most outside countries on the threat represented by ISIS. Your forces have been supported by the Saudis and by Turkey, and have gotten some support from the West, but it is looking more and more like the Americans and the Turks may be reaching the conclusion that they'll have to make peace with Assad, rather than plausibly being able to demand his removal. If this happens, it is TERRIBLE news for the so-called moderate opposition.


The National Coalition serves as the mouth piece for the opposition. They will mainly be engaged in dealing with other nations and conveying the needs of the Syrian people. The FSA is engaged mainly in military operations, but has subjugated its will to the National Coalition as a sign that the Syrian Army will be controlled by civilians after the war. At this point in the conflict, the National Coalition and the FSA must work together to gain international support. Both groups need to mold the message of the media into their favor and present the opposition in the best possible light. It is important that the structure of the opposition is seen to be trustworthy and that it is clear to donors that the two groups are capable of working together and thus, well managing any contributions.

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