Middle East

Syria: Hadi al-Bahra, National Coalition chief

Syrian National Coalition President Hadi al-Bahra speaks to members of the media during a news briefing at the United Nations headquarters in New York Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Hadi al-Bahra has welcomed US air strikes against Islamic State in Syria

As the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces (SNC) enters the third year of its existence, its current president, Hadi al-Bahra, is facing challenges on several fronts.

Elected to lead the main Western-backed Syrian political opposition coalition in July 2014, the soft-spoken Mr Bahra has in recent months increased his media appearance in the US, calling on the West not to forget the role of the moderate Syrian opposition in the face of the rise of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

Having joined the SNC in May 2013, he was soon elected to the coalition's Political Committee, and was chosen to represent the opposition's delegation at the Geneva II peace conference in January 2014.

Those talks, which were ultimately unsuccessful, seemed to have only one moment of progress - a shared minute of silence between the opposing sides to honour the victims of the conflict, an idea proposed by Mr Bahra.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Hadi al-Bahra (right) was the Syrian opposition chief negotiator at the failed Geneva II peace talks

Hadi al-Bahra also publicly commemorated the victims when he presented Jon Stewart, host of US TV program The Daily Show, with a book with the names of the first 100,000 Syrians killed in the conflict when he appeared on the show in September 2014.

Taking up his post as SNC president at the same time the IS made its territorial gains in Iraq, he has blamed the group's success on both the Bashar al-Assad regime and the US.

He asserts that the Syrian regime has allowed IS to exist within the country to counter the Free Syrian Army (FSA), a situation made worse, he says, by the "reluctance" of the US to increase lethal aid to the FSA.

Urging the West to be more "aggressive" in its arming of the FSA, he has warned that the IS are no longer a Syrian or regional issue, but one that has the potential to be a threat to the US and Europe.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mr Bahra has sharply criticised the US for not providing more lethal arms to the FSA

However, the SNC has itself been the subject of criticism. Many consider its members as being disconnected from the reality on the ground in Syria, and as being too susceptible to influence by outside powers.

Mr Bahra has been cited as a prime example of this latter charge. Born in Damascus, he has spent the majority of his adult life living outside of Syria.

An industrial engineer by training, he was educated at the University of Wichita in the US. Like his predecessor Ahmad Jarba, he has close ties to Saudi Arabia, having lived since there since the 1980s. He has built his career there, managing hospitals and various businesses.

Since becoming president of the SNC, Mr Bahra has addressed the criticism aimed at the coalition.

In November 2014, he acknowledged that the opposition has "made a lot mistakes and it is now our duty to fix these." Soon after his election, he said the SNC had "started to arrange our own house and correct the mistakes that hindered our progress. Our hearts and minds are open to criticism and advice from all Syrians".

As such, he claims the coalition is working on creating a clearer structure with better defined powers, while also making a push for the SNC and its leading members to "completely return" to Syria.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Topics