Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2013

The Syrian Opposition's Leadership Problem

Yezid Sayigh

March 2013

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Syria’s opposition still lacks political leadership two years after the start of the country’s uprising. In exile, the Syrian National Coalition of Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (National Coalition) professes to provide a representative framework for diverse civilian councils and rebel groups operating within Syria’s borders, but it does not lead them. It must empower the grassroots structures to become the opposition’s real political leadership inside Syria and shift its focus to frankly engage key political constituencies and state institutions to split them from the regime if it hopes to bring about lasting, democratic change.