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Who comprises the Syrian opposition?

December 14th, 2012
08:33 AM ET

Caroline Magee is a student journalist and guest writer for

The United States, along with several European and Gulf countries have now recognized the Syrian opposition. But who exactly is the opposition?

National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces

This is the opposition group that is being internationally recognized as representative of the Syrian people. Indeed, it was created in Doha, Qatar for the express purpose of unifying the different opposition groups.

The Coalition is a political organization. Its goal is to replace the Assad regime and to support the Free Syrian Army (explained below). While many of the smaller rebel coalitions have now rallied around this group, it has faced criticism from other groups parts of the coalition, especially specifically the al-Nusra front and leaders of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, for being disconnected from the front line (the Coalition is establishing a base in Cairo) and because of ideological differences over Islam.

Free Syrian Army

This is the primary armed component of the opposition. It is comprised of defectors from the Assad regime’s army and is led by Selim Idris, who is a former Syrian army officer.

Al-Nusra Front

The United States has placed this rebel group on its list of terror organizations; administration officials say it is a branch of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Leaders of the Coalition say al-Nusra is relatively small, but also say they have been one of the most effective anti-Assad fighting forces in Syria. Because of al-Nusra’s fighting strength, many in the Free Syrian Army have protested the U.S. designation.

Kurdish Supreme Committee

This is the governing body for Syria’s Kurdish population. It receives support from the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (the PYD), which has a Turkish equivalent – the Kurdistan Workers’ Party – that the United States calls a terrorist organization.

The other group associated with the Kurdish Supreme Committee is the Kurdish National Council, which has had friction with the Turkish PYD over the group’s alleged past support of the Assad regime.

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