Amr al Azm, a Syrian American who teaches Middle East history at Shawnee State University in Ohio, calculates that the Brotherhood effectively controls half of more of the seats in the new Coalition.
Analysts of Syrian politics point out that the Brotherhood has had almost no role or presence in Syria, since Assads father, Hafez, conducted a murderous crackdown against the Brotherhood in Hama in 1981, killing at least 10,000 civilians. Since Syrians took to the streets in March 2011 to demand Bashar Assads overthrow, Brotherhood members have proved the most astute of the émigré politicians in the tactics of political organization.
There are other reasons for Washington not to jump too fast into supporting the Coalition, even though open U.S. pressure was a reason that it was set up to replace the Council. The Coalition is fairly fragile, said Azm. Its a totally untested entity. Plus the fact is the people themselves are untested.
The third cause for concern appears to be Khatib, a widely respected cleric, whose views on Syrias future do not square with the U.S. governments preferred course of action. In July, shortly after émigrés met in Cairo and drafted two documents of intent on running Syria, Khatib posted a statement on his web site, expressing disappointment that the documents did not refer to Islamic Sharia law.
It was part of a wider Brotherhood campaign to stir up anti-Cairo feelings, Azm recalled. It wasnt just about Sharia. They were worried that the plan was too secular. He said the posting may come back to haunt Khatib.
Unless theres a screen-save out there with the full text, it would be difficult to prove that Khatib said that, however. There was a gap in the postings on the site yesterday from November 2011 through September 2012.
Members of the Coalition and the Council will meet western leaders in London Friday to discuss western government plans to step up humanitarian aid to Syrians fighting to overthrow Assad and possibly open the way to an increased flow of weapons.
But the meeting of real importance is a conference in Marrakesh in early December between a U.S.-sponsored group, the Friends of the people of Syria and the new Coalition. Should the United States still be unable to endorse the Coalition at that meeting, Syria observers say the Coalition will be severely weakened.