Developments on the ground in Syria have taken a dramatic new turn in recent days and represent an important opportunity for some self-proclaimed friends of the Syrian people.
Rebels of various persuasions, from the mainstream Free Syrian Army to the conservative Islamists of the Islamic Front, have found common cause in trying to stem the influence of Al-Qaeda.
Countries in the West and elsewhere have been warning against the rising influence of these militants in Syria for months, perhaps using this as an excuse to avoid getting involved in the crisis. Now is their chance to support the rebels who openly declared that their goals have nothing to do with those of religious extremists trying to hijack the uprising against the regime.
Support doesn’t mean intervention – Syrians have been clear that they do not want outside parties to interfere. However, they have been disappointed by an international community that issues warnings and condemnations against the regime but fails to follow through. They have also seen how the government’s allies offer support to Damascus, which has no qualms over using every possible type of violence to achieve its objective of remaining in power.
The situation is complex, but this shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction. There are many shades of gray when it comes to the opposition, but some aspects are crystal-clear: The situation on the ground is fluid, and the long-awaited Geneva II is on the horizon.
Countries that have taken an interest in Syria’s future must approach with care. They must ensure that current developments won’t end up being just another “missed opportunity.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 06, 2014, on page 7.