The Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) and the Syrian Negotiation Commission (SNC) are in dire need of internal renewal and a new political strategy given the deadlock of UN-led peace negotiations. A forthcoming opposition gathering on 4 February in Doha with more than 80 Syrian opposition leaders, activists and academics might offer an opportunity to do so. However, the event’s public face is Riyad Hijab, who is no longer part of the SOC and is seen as pursuing an internal leadership takeover.
It is likely that the event will be part of a series that seeks to create a new centre of opposition without creating a new opposition body. Yet, neither Hijab’s internal politicking nor possible legitimacy/efficiency gains from implementation of a parallel SOC internal reform plan will generate a new political strategy for the opposition. This requires creative and pragmatic diplomacy that focuses on, for example, negotiating crossline arrangements between all conflict parties that improve local security and facilitate travel, trade and aid to improve the desperate situation of the Syrian people — in line with the UN’s call for a ‘safe, calm and neutral environment’ (SCNE).
The habits of dialogue and compromise that can gradually develop in this manner could be leveraged at a later stage to address the more complex issues of power sharing and reconstruction once an appropriate window of opportunity has opened up.
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