Saudi Arabia legitimizes terrorists after Riyadh talks

The talks of the representatives of the Syrian opposition in Riyadh had success in creating the so-called Supreme Council. The new organization consists of 32 people who in their turn will elect 15 representatives to negotiate with the officials in Damascus. Due to the Saudi mediation, a number of armed groups and extremist organizations' representatives became the new organization’s members. One of the goals to legitimize and give coherency to the political groups of controlled radicals, which was previously set by Riyadh and Washington, has now been achieved.

Opposition demands

The opposition's final statement at the Riyadh conference called upon the United Nations to force the Syrian President to abolish the death sentences of the opposition members, to set political prisoners free, and to allow humanitarian convoys into the Syrian area controlled by them. Will the Saudi and Turkish convoy carry weapons to the rebels, as was the case previously? This was not mentioned.

The Syrian opposition also demands that Assad vacates his position as the Syrian president at the beginning of the transitional period. According to the final document, the talks of the joint delegation formed by the opposition and the Syrian government are to be held within the first ten days of January.

The participants of negotiations

The new political structure should unite representatives of the so-called moderate opposition and a number of armed groups. Among them, there is a large Islamist organization Ahrar ash-Sham, created by the former Al Qaeda members, promoting the establishment of the Syrian Sunni Islamic State. In addition, the new structure includes the representative of the Jaysh al-Islam, an umbrella organization that combines the radical Sunni formations, in particular, Jabhat al-Nusra (the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda).

It is significant that representatives of the Kurdish groups did not participate in the Riyadh negotiations. The Turkish authorities insisted on it as a significant part of the Syrian Kurds oppose the Turks and are not controlled by Ankara, in contrast to the Iraqi Kurds.

The legitimization of Terrorism

Activities of the Western powers in Syria in recent years, in fact in supporting the anti-Assad rebels, legitimized the “fight against terrorism” in the opinion of the international community. Russia's intervention in the conflict demonstrated the virtual nature of the struggle and the real objectives of the West which previously were couched in anti-terrorist rhetoric.

The West and its Gulf State allies need a new way to legitimize their participation in the process. Now, the instrument of this legitimacy can be the "united Syrian opposition." It will articulate the demands of the US, Turkey and Qatar, and may sanction the Gulf states to be involved directly in the conflict, including their military presence, if necessary.

The Ahrar ash-Sham and the Jaysh al-Islam are actually waging a war against the Russian and Iranian proxies in Syria. Their possible participation in the negotiation can either ruin it, in fact, or turn it into a political blackmail tool against the West's opponents in Syria. Their refusal to participate in negotiations with terrorists or to make concessions will be regarded as a rejection to negotiate at all. It is interesting that the creation of the Supreme Council took place just before the start of the Russia-US UN consultations on Syria in Geneva.


The Saudis' main task now is to consolidate these newly created structures. The representatives of the Ahrar ash-Sham have demanded more power and seats in the new organization, threatening to quit the structure.  Despite their declaration of leaving the talks there is a chance to return them in process.Now Saudi Arabia has to normalize relations between the members of the opposition in order to turn the structure into an effective mechanism that puts pressure on Syria, Russia and Iran.