Seven months into the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the Syrian opposition remains starkly divided on several key issues. According to the BBC, these issues include "the question of whether or not to encourage foreign intervention, whether there should be regime change or dialogue, and whether there should be armed rebellion or peaceful protest."
The Syrian National Council (SNC), which was recently formed in Turkey, and the Damascus-based National Coordination Committee (NCC) are the two main opposition groups that have emerged in Syria. While both blocs agree on overthrowing the current regime, the NCC calls for dialogue with Assad's regime (on the condition that the regime ends the violence against protestors), while the SNC vehemently rejects any form of dialogue.
While the SNC and the NCC both originally rejected foreign intervention, the SNC membership now seems divided on the issue. According to Foreign Policy Magazine, "some SNC members, especially the youth activists, have been calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone and the protection of civilians including a NATO-led intervention akin to the one in Libya." The NCC calls instead for economic sanctions and other political maneuvers to counter Assad's regime.
Military defectors organized under the Free Syrian Army (FSA) mark yet another facet of Syria's opposition. The FSA has repeatedly mounted attacks on Syrian security forces and Syrian security forces and army, worrying many that the crisis will escalate into a civil war. A majority of the opposition agrees that protests should remain non-violent, however many youth activists are growing impatient with the slow progress on the political front.
Many protestors are weary of both opposition blocs, saying they aren't representative of the people and their demands. In an article titled, "Opposing (Some) Arab Opposition Groups," As'ad AbuKhalil warns against endorsing Arab opposition groups simply because they oppose dictatorial regimes. He says, "Some Arab opposition groups may promise democracy and rule of law, while they carry the agenda of a sponsoring tyrannical government… It is our duty…to speak out against those opposition groups who promise to take the people from one form of tyranny to another."
As the protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad continue on a daily basis in Syria, the deepening divide in the muddled Syrian opposition will continue to hinder a resolution to the crisis. In the words of Steven Heydemann, senior advisor for Middle East initiatives at the US Institute of Peace, the Syrian revolution will be "a marathon" if Syrians cannot unite.
(Photo: A Syrian protestor living in Egypt attacks a member of the Syrian opposition delegation before the delegation was due to meet with Arab League Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo November 9, 2011. Watch New TV's report on the altercation here.)