The Washington Times on January 2, 2012, reported that a Syrian opposition leader says most of his colleagues now support international military action to oust President Bashar Assad “but they might not be brave enough to express it openly.” Excerpts below:

Samir Nashar, a member of the Syrian National Council’s executive board, said the “majority of SNC leaders agree with international military intervention as early as possible,” although no consensus has been reached.

“The people in the minority are the people who are still hoping that the popular uprising alone would force Bashar Assad to step down or might trigger, if it lasts longer, a certain coup d’etat within the regime,” Mr. Nashar told The Washington Times at his Istanbul apartment.

“But this has not happened 10 months later, the people on the ground are definitely growing restless and desperate, and there are no guarantees that such a coup would occur.”

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby on January 2 said Syria’s regime has withdrawn heavy weapons from inside cities and freed about 3,500 prisoners but continues to kill protesters even with foreign monitors in the country, the Associated Press reported.

The Obama administration reportedly has begun exploring how to help the opposition, though few think that a Libya-like operation is likely anytime soon.

Mr. Nashar said the U.S. has a “historic opportunity” to improve its image in Syria.

“The vast majority of the Syrians I know were completely supportive of what NATO did [in Libya],” he said.

“People think that the Syrian regime is even worse than [Moammar] Gadhafi and much, much more brutal. And that’s why they do expect that, if things were to get worse, there has to be international military intervention to rescue the Syrian people.”

The opposition activist, however, left the door open for a deal that would grant Mr. Assad immunity from international prosecution in return for his resignation, calling it “a possibility that we are willing to consider seriously at this stage.”

“It all depends on the timing,” Mr. Nashar said. “If this were to happen now, it might be the beginning of an actual solution, and the people would be interested in granting Assad such an exit strategy.

“If it were to happen later, when the number of casualties is even higher and the level of brutality and violence against the people has become unforgivable, then this might not be an option anymore.”


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