It will help us weigh in on behalf of the moderates, Ford testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And it will enable the coalition to move ahead in attracting more support as it develops a political transition process.
But the coalition leaders never got their act together, U.S. officials said, so the funds were never delivered. The entire $63 million remains in the United States instead of being dispersed in Syria, where community leaders in opposition-controlled territories say people are suffering because of the lack of basic services. Part of the money was intended to be delivered in grants, with the idea of coalition leaders parceling them out to needy communities to build the coalitions credibility on the ground.
If U.S. policy rests on this coalition, its a very bad thread, Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Institutions Doha Center in Qatar, said in an interview.
This coalition will never, in my view, be the executive body we were hoping for, Shaikh added, noting that its main legitimacy comes from the international community not from Syrians.
Only Friday did the coalition barely avoid collapse with an 11th-hour agreement in Istanbul to add 51 new members mostly liberals and moderates to act as a counterweight to the domination of the group by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.
That decision took eight days to reach five more than scheduled for the entire conference and the coalition then postponed until June other pressing matters, such as selecting a new leader and naming an interim government that ideally would be poised to take charge in the case of Assads ouster.
Under relentless international pressure, chiefly by Saudi Arabia, the U.S., Britain and France, the coalition early Friday added 43 members in addition to eight whose membership had been approved earlier in the week.
In a bid to dilute the Islamist influence of the Muslim Brotherhoods bloc, the Saudis threw their support behind Michel Kilo, a Syrian Christian who arrived in Istanbul with a list of 37 additions to the coalition membership. The 63 members of the group balked, saying it amounted to a takeover.
The coalition was willed into existence in November, after the United States announced that it no longer had confidence in another opposition group, the Syrian National Council, which also was dominated by members of the Muslim Brotherhood. But the Brotherhood remained the dominant group in the new coalition.
The Obama administration is not the only international supporter of anti-Assad efforts to express frustration with the coalition during its recent marathon conference.
During the coalitions conference in Istanbul, Eric Chevalier, Frances envoy to Syria, dressed down the group after it agreed to expand its membership by just eight seats. During the rant, caught on video and posted online, Chevalier said the group was undeserving of international help. There was an agreement, between the leaders, 22. You end up with eight. There is a problem, he said.
Coalition members can be seen in the video wandering off into the hotel lobby, muttering in Arabic: Where are the arms?