Syrian opposition factions sign pact. Deep divisions persist

The two major Syrian opposition groups came to an agreement about how to move toward a democratic transition despite deep divisions that threaten to scuttle the pact before it is implemented.

The sticking points for the rank and file of both organization are related to international intervention, including the insistence by many for a no fly zone.

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"Of course it's a positive development," said Khaldoon al-Aswad, a member of the executive committee of the NCC. "We have been trying to create some form of political alliance from the beginning of the uprising in March."

However, the agreement was swiftly criticized by rank and file members of both parties, underscoring the weakness of the parties and other groupings in Syria, where all political activity has been tightly controlled for more than 40 years by Assad and his father, Hafez.

"The reaction so far has been very negative," said Amr al-Azm, a U.S.-based member of the Syrian National Council. "The vast majority of the SNC were unaware of this agreement and they are very discouraged." He added that many in the opposition have criticized council leader Burhan ­Ghalioun for signing an agreement that did not call for international intervention in Syria.

Many protesters want an internationally enforced no-fly zone over Syria, buffer zones on the borders and even the supply of arms to rebel fighters.

Another SNC member, Rami Nakhle, posted on Facebook that he was expecting the group's general assembly to refuse to ratify the agreement. "We might be living the first democratic experience in ages," he wrote. "You can say that it is like the Syrian government signed an agreement and the people's council refused it."

The distrust between the two groups can be traced to the fact that many leaders of both organizations do not live in Syria and have spent most of their lives abroad. There are also personal rivalries as well as religious schisms that reflect the divisions in Syrian society.

In short, it appears that neither side is ready to unite and pool their resources and influence in order to bring down Bashar Assad. This is good news for the dictator whose hold on power may be slipping, but has not stopped his attempt to beat down the rebellion by using terror tactics.

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